Secretary-General Describes ‘Real Progress’ in Strengthening UN Mediation Efforts, Presents Guidance Aimed at Making Mediation More Effective, in General Assembly

13 September 2012

Secretary-General Describes ‘Real Progress’ in Strengthening UN Mediation Efforts, Presents Guidance Aimed at Making Mediation More Effective, in General Assembly

13 September 2012
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly


128th Meeting (AM)

Secretary-General Describes ‘Real Progress’ in Strengthening UN Mediation Efforts,

Presents Guidance Aimed at Making Mediation More Effective, in General Assembly

Assembly President Outlines Vision That Guided Commitment to Issue,

Saying Timely Resort to Mediation Can Save Innocent Lives, Alleviate Suffering

The General Assembly today welcomed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s highly-anticipated report on strengthening the role of mediation in peaceful dispute settlement, adopting a consensus resolution encouraging Member States to make use of the newly-published United Nations guidelines on effective mediation.

Commending the Assembly for promoting mediation as a key means to realize the purposes and principles of the Charter, Secretary-General Ban said he wished to see the United Nations and all its partners make full use of the potential of mediation to prevent, manage and resolve disputes and conflicts. “We need to have the know-how, operational dexterity and the partnerships to undertake mediation professionally and effectively,” he added.

Mediation could only succeed where there was commitment to solving a conflict through dialogue and real leverage to back it up, he said, expressing regret that some tragedies afflicting the world today showed “the terrible price that is paid for the absence of international unity or political will from the parties.”  And while not all conflicts were amenable to mediation, stakeholders must remain engaged and constantly on the lookout for opportunities for dialogue.  “Our commitment to resolve disputes and conflicts peacefully is a central tenet of the [Charter], and mediation is a key tool,” he said.

“We must be up to the task,” he continued, reporting that the United Nations had been effective in mediation efforts in dozens of disputes and conflicts in all regions.  “Real progress” was being made, particularly through expanding the participation of women and women’s organizations in peace processes.  As more parties were opening up to the promise of mediation, expectations were growing, and adequate resources would be needed to sustain the Organization’s broadening range of initiatives.

The Secretary-General then introduced the United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation, annexed to his report (see Background).  Explaining that the Guidance had drawn on the experience of the United Nations system and Member States, he hailed the result as a “foundational document” for the Organization’s mediation efforts and for all those interested in peaceful dispute settlement.  He announced that the Guidance would be officially launched on 27 September at a high-level event featuring a panel discussion with eminent mediators.

Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said that the world body’s adoption of a resolution taking note of the Secretary-General’s report and encouraging Member States and regional and subregional organizations to use, as appropriate, the Guidance in mediation efforts, the development of mediation capacities and cooperation reflected the eagerness of the membership to actively pursue the issue. “This is a special day for mediation,” he declared, praising the in-depth and comprehensive analysis provided by the Secretary-General’s report.

Sharing the vision that had guided his commitment to advancing the issue throughout his tenure as Assembly President, Mr. Al-Nasser said that he believed that dialogue among civilizations offered a complementary approach to preventing and peacefully resolving conflicts.  Indeed, it was no secret that some of today’s conflicts emanated from cultural or religious differences and misconceptions.  On such matters, the Alliance of Civilizations could be particularly vital, he said, noting that that initiative should be strengthened so that it could more effectively fulfil its mission.

“On our part at the General Assembly, we should keep the momentum building on mediation and continue to focus on the challenges before us,” he said, stressing that the timely resort to mediation and other peaceful means was not only cost-effective but could lead to saving innocent lives and alleviate suffering.  “[Mediation] is the best way out in a crisis situation, if used as a preventive measure,” he added.  For such reasons, he was particularly pleased that incoming Assembly president, Vuk Jeremić, of Serbia, had proposed the peaceful settlement of disputes as the theme for this year’s general debate, set to begin on 25 September.  He believed the Assembly president-elect would further that concept “for the common good of humanity and for a more peaceful future for all.”

Ahead of action by the Assembly, Ertuğrul Apakan ( Turkey) introduced the draft resolution on strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution.  Although a “follow-up” to the previous text on the matter (document A/RES/65/283), the new resolution did not repeat major themes and sections as previously documented. 

Rather, he said, it emphasized progress that had been made, while reiterating the work that still needed be accomplished.  He then underscored the three central points in the resolution, including taking note of the Secretary-General’s report and Guidance on Effective Mediation, the promotion of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the in-depth consideration of the issue.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Mediation, the representative of Finland next addressed the Assembly, stating that the implementation and use of mediation was “well under way” and had gained increased political attention.  However, further strengthening of the Organization’s mediation capacity and efforts was of utmost importance, considering that, after two decades of decline, the number of conflicts was on the rise again.  It was vital, then, to ensure proper resourcing of the United Nations mediation efforts with new, as well as older, low-intensity conflicts.

Continuing, he said that enhanced partnerships and better coordination remained key components in mediation efforts, with regional and subregional organizations as important contributors to the process.  “Promoting contracts and links between mediation communities and networks is essential” when addressing the challenges of a diverse field of mediation, he stressed.  While noting the increased inclusion of women in all stages and levels of peace processes, he pointed out that a great deal remained to be done and encouraged further efforts to enhance their presence. 

“There is no one-size-fits-all formula to successful mediation”, he stated.  However, certain guiding principles were common.  In this regard, the Secretary-General’s Guidance for Effective Mediation was a practical reference document that noted the complex challenges of achieving peace and the unique process necessary when there was a multiplicity of actors.  He called upon the international community to disseminate and use the Guidance and urged all delegations to actively participate, at the highest level, in the planned event to officially launch the initiative later this month 

Among the other speakers taking the floor, the Head of Delegation for the European Union said persistent conflicts worldwide fuelled the need for strengthened mediation capacities.  He appreciated the way in which the Guidance was prepared, with an “inclusive” consultation process that produced a useful tool for mediators and mediation support teams across the world.  The Guidance included essential elements to be addressed when setting up a mediation process and he encouraged its wide dissemination.  Noting that the Guidance did not offer a “cookie cutter” solution to a crisis situation, he welcomed the importance attached to issues such as inclusivity of mediation processes, coherence, and coordination.

Stressing that mediators must act strictly within the established normative framework, he said that United Nations mediators’ contact with actors indicted by the International Criminal Court should be limited to essential contact only, for example, to what was required in order to save lives.  He recalled previous Secretary-General reports, which established that mediators should leave justice to follow its course. The European Union attached great importance to mediation and continued to enhance its own capacities in that regard.

Venezuela’s representative reiterated the need for all States to refrain from threatening or using force against the territorial or political integrity of any State, which contravened international law and the Charter.  He appreciated the United Nations’ efforts to improve its mediation capacities, saying it was essential that conflict prevention be carried out in strict accordance with the principles of neutrality and impartiality.

Welcoming the efforts of the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, he recalled that Mr. Brahimi had led the independent panel on Safety and Security, whose 2008 report stated that increasing attacks against United Nations personnel and facilities were the product of “the end of neutrality and impartiality in the policies of the Organization”.  The United Nations must avoid the temptation to promote the indiscriminate, biased and politicized use of coercive measures, including the use of force.  It must act in a neutral and impartial manner.

Speaking next, Indonesia’s representative noted that his Government had participated in the Group of Friends and the open-ended consultations that had led to the Assembly’s mediation resolution last year.  He appreciated that the Secretary-General’s report had been developed in consultation with States and other relevant stakeholders.  It outlined helpful ways to mainstream the use of mediation globally, and reinforce capacity-building at regional, national and local levels.  Indonesia ascribed to a stakeholder approach and fully supported the use of strong partnerships, including with regional entities.  He urged more support for enhancing local, national and regional mediation capacities.

In addition, the Assembly should intensify its engagement with relevant actors, notably regional and subregional organizations.  Noting the non-binding nature of the Guidance, he said its use and dissemination by States, regional and subregional organizations and other relevant actors must be voluntary.  He supported the reference to that effect in the draft resolution.  He also supported the reference calling on the Secretary-General to regularly brief States on his mediation activities.

The representative of Burkina Faso stated that mediation was “the best way to settle conflicts, especially in Africa” where conflict had impacted and compromised peace.  The Guidance served all stakeholders in the mediation process, and he called for the strengthening of mediation capacity with regional and subregional partnerships in mediation, notably, among others the African Union.  He said he was confident that the resolution would strengthen such capacity building toward this end. 

Finally, the representative of Sudan said that there was “no doubt” that mediation and forgiveness were concepts that would lead to sustainable reconciliation.  However, the vision of the Security Council needed to be consistent with that of the General Assembly and that it was important the Council not adopt approaches that challenged that vision.  The two bodies “must speak with one voice,” he stated. 

He recalled the successful efforts in South Africa after Apartheid and said that it was important to build on that experience, one based on forgiveness and tolerance.  His country had taken this approach with tribal conflicts and he called upon the United Nations to take this approach in Darfur, instead of an “unfair judicial regime” which complicated the process towards peace.  Sudan, he said in conclusion, had achieved great success with mediation and he appealed to the international community to support such efforts.

Explanation of Position

Argentina’s delegate, explaining his position, joined consensus on the resolution and thus reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to the United Nations Charter and its conviction that multilateralism was an essential principle for international peace and security. Only through peaceful dispute settlement could just and lasting solutions be found. That included mediation, which, as stated in the Guidance, had its own logic and might or might not coexist with other peaceful dispute settlement methods such as facilitation, good offices and efforts at dialogue. In that context, he underlined the specific role entrusted to the Secretary-General by the Charter in the field of good offices and mediation.

The Guidance referred to the needed consent of the parties to become involved in a specific dispute settlement process, he said.  However, it was clear that Member States’ higher obligation to solve their disputes by peaceful means could not be subject to any consent whatsoever.  That was why a mandate given by the international community to the Secretary-General could not be conditioned by the consent of the parties to a dispute.  Argentina reiterated its expectation that the good offices mission entrusted to the Secretary-General might bear fruit. That had been done in various resolutions of the General Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonization on question of the Malvinas Islands. He pressed the United Kingdom to honour its commitment to the United Nations Charter and resume negotiations with Argentina, with a view to finding a peaceful solution to that dispute at the earliest possible date.

Right of Reply

The United Kingdom’s representative, responding to comments by Argentina’s delegate, said his Government had no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.  The United Kingdom attached great importance to the principle of self-determination, as laid out in article 1 paragraph 2 of the United Nations Charter, and article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  That principle underlined his position on the Falkland Islands.  There could be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until those islanders so wished.

He said the democratically elected representatives of the Falkland Islands had expressed their views when they visited the United Nations for the 2012 Decolonization Committee.  They asked the Committee to recognize that they — like any other people — were entitled to exercise the right of self determination.  They reiterated the facts that the Falkland Islands had no indigenous peoples and that no civilian populations had been removed prior to their peoples’ settling on the islands over eight generations ago.  They confirmed that they were — and had always been — the only people of the Falkland Islands and did not wish for any change in the status of the islands.

Argentina’s delegate reiterated the statement made by the President of Argentina to the Decolonization Committee on 14 June 2012.  The Government recalled that the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands were an integral part of Argentina’s national territory.  Being illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, those islands were the object of a sovereignty dispute between both countries, which had been recognized by various international organizations.  The illegal occupation by the United Kingdom had led the General Assembly to adopt numerous resolutions, all of which recognized the existence of the sovereignty dispute and urged both countries to resume negotiations, so as to find as soon as possible a peaceful and lasting solution.

He said Argentina regretted that the United Kingdom was trying to distort historical fact.  That distortion showed the lack of the United Kingdom’s certainty with regard to what it considered its rights.  He reminded the United Kingdom of its commitment, expressed unequivocally by both countries, to undertake efforts with a view to a friendly solution to the sovereignty dispute, in line with the General Assembly’s mandate.

He said the United Kingdom should immediately resume negotiations with Argentina on the sovereignty of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the adjoining maritime spaces, to find a just solution to the present controversy.  The principle of self-determination — the only “element” alleged by the United Kingdom — was clearly not applicable to the controversy.  He regretted that the United Kingdom continued to generate expectations among the islanders, in violation of international law.  He reaffirmed Argentina’s sovereign rights over those islands, as they were an integral part of its national territory.

The United Kingdom’s delegate said his Government reiterated that it had no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.

Argentina’s delegate reiterated the 14 June 2012 statement by Argentina’s President in the Decolonization Committee, recalling that the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and the adjoining maritime spaces, were an integral part of Argentina’s national territory.  Being illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, they were the object of a sovereignty dispute between both countries, recognized by the General Assembly, which had called for a solution.  He reaffirmed Argentina’s legitimate sovereign rights over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and adjoining maritime spaces.


The General Assembly met today for a joint debate on the “Prevention of armed conflict:  Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution”.  Delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s 122-page report on Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution (document A/66/811), outlining progress made in implementing resolution 65/283 in the context of mediation trends.  The annexes to the report contain the Guidance for Effective Mediation and the views of Member States.

To address challenges and maximize opportunities to peacefully resolve disputes, the report notes that the United Nations, Member States and other actors must continue to promote the use of mediation and collaborate to ensure greater coherence in their initiatives.  To that end, the United Nations had supported mediation efforts in numerous countries and regions around the world, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Côte d’Ivoire.

Further, the United Nations had enhanced its operational readiness to implement and support mediation efforts, the report continues.  A key innovation in that regard was the 2006 establishment of the Mediation Support Unit in the Department of Political Affairs, now acknowledged as the central hub for mediation support within the Organization.  Between 2008 and 2011, the Unit provided a range of support services to more than 35 mediation, facilitation and dialogue processes.

Another critical rapid response tool was the Standby Team of Mediation Experts, the report states, who were deployable within 72 hours.  They were specialists in process design, constitution-making, gender issues, sharing of natural resources, power-sharing and security arrangements.  Longer-term needs were met by the Department through its mediation roster, which had some 240 pre-vetted thematic, operational and senior mediation experts hailing from 70 countries.  Some 37 per cent of them were women.

The Guidance for Effective Mediation (annex I) was drawn from extensive consultations, and based on inputs from Member States; subregional, regional and other international organizations; non-governmental organizations working on mediation; women leaders and groups; faith-based organizations; the World Bank; the Peacebuilding Commission; and the broader United Nations system.

As a reference document for mediation, the Guidance aimed to generate better understanding of the mediation approaches, the report states, as well as provide insights on how to design and manage effective mediation processes.  It aimed to assist the United Nations and other relevant actors to mediate more professionally and, where required, arrive at more cohesive and complementary approaches.  All mediators and support actors were encouraged to follow it in their efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts peacefully.

To strengthen the role and effectiveness of mediation, more emphasis should be placed on linking national and local capacities to international mediation efforts; promoting women’s participation in mediation; and reaching out to different actors (intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, civil society and religious peacemakers) to create mediator networks.

Outlining challenges, the report notes that United Nations mediation efforts still relied on voluntary contributions.  The Department of Political Affairs continued to be understaffed, political missions were under-resourced in relation to their mandates, and staff at Headquarters and in the field still lacked adequate mediation training.  While the building of mediator networks and the United Nations ability to leverage partnerships were positive developments, they could not plug the funding gap.

The report concludes that the United Nations experience offered valuable insights on how mediation could contribute to conflict prevention and resolution.  “Building on this experience and acting in concert with all relevant actors, I believe that we can make the best possible use of the potential of mediation to peacefully resolve disputes and conflicts”, the Secretary-General states.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.