Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Security Council meeting on conflict prevention and mediation:
I thank Kuwait and His Excellency, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, for this opportunity to brief the Council. I welcome the representatives of The Elders, former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former President Mary Robinson. I also see in front of me the former President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. I welcome them in this chamber today, and thank them for contributing their personal wisdom and support to the debate.
Conflict prevention and mediation are two of the most important tools at our disposal to reduce human suffering. When we act early, and are united, we can successfully prevent crises from escalating, saving lives and reducing suffering and fulfilling the most fundamental mandate of the United Nations, as set out in the Preamble of the Charter.
We are working with parties to conflict and other partners in regions and countries around the world to further these aims. There are some encouraging signs, including successful constitutional transfers of power in countries like Mali and Madagascar. The rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the revitalized agreement in South Sudan have also created a sense of renewed hope. And after decades, the “Name issue” in south-eastern Europe was resolved with an agreement between Athens and Skopje allowing the designation of the Republic of North Macedonia to be internationally recognized.
But elsewhere, we face serious challenges to our efforts, but we continue to push on all tracks. The agreement reached in Stockholm by the parties to the conflict in Yemen was an important step, that must now move to a negotiated settlement. My Special Envoy is working extensively with the parties to support the implementation of the Hodeidah Agreement, and to prevent a return to open conflict as a basic condition to allow for political negotiations to take place afterwards.
In the Central African Republic, the United Nations is helping the parties to implement the African Union-mediated peace agreement; conducting robust operations to ensure armed groups’ adherence to the agreement; and facilitating local peace accords. And in Burkina Faso, we are working with a wide range of national stakeholders, including civil society and women’s groups, to strengthen local infrastructures for peace as part of the response to rising sectarian violence and terrorism.
Despite these efforts, peace faces enormous obstacles. Divisions in the international community mean that wars continue to rage as external actors dither or even fuel the violence. Civilians pay the price. The fragmentation of non-State armed groups and militias causes even greater chaos. There is a resurgence of populism and policies that contribute to resentment, marginalization and extremism, even in societies that are not at war. There are attempts in some countries to roll back human rights and the progress that has been made over recent decades on gender and inclusion. Space for civil society is shrinking.
My Special Representative in Libya has detailed to this Council the heavy toll in human lives resulting from armed clashes and fighting in that country, and the lack of “moral motivation” to end the war. He is working for a ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table. The continuing crisis in Venezuela, and its humanitarian impact, are a grave concern. I support international ongoing efforts to find a peaceful, negotiated solution reached by the main Venezuelan political actors, and have been following closely the process in Norway. My good offices remain available to support serious negotiations when required by the parties.
In Syria, we face a scenario of ongoing cycles of instability, violence and suffering. We cannot have a sustainable peace if different parties continue to conduct military operations in the country. There is no military solution to the conflict. Without a comprehensive political solution, based on this Council’s resolution 2254 (2015) that addresses the root causes of instability, Syria will never know stability or peace.
My Special Envoy for Syria is working to build trust with all parties; to signal that a future that takes into account the legitimate needs and aspirations of all Syrians is possible; and to launch a credible and balanced constitutional committee to open the door to a Syrian-led political process, facilitated by the United Nations.
Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter sets out a broad range of tools for parties to use to prevent and resolve conflict: “Negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peace means of their own choice.” I urge Governments to make full use of these tools, and this Council to use its own authority to call on parties to pursue them.
My own good offices and those of my envoys aim to help parties peacefully resolve differences. Members of the High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation have provided discreet counsel to me and my representatives on various political processes. Our mediation advisers on the Standby Team have supported processes from Afghanistan to South Sudan, Papua New Guinea to Syria. We have also deepened our strategic and operational partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, with a particular emphasis on Africa. From the Central African Republic to South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar, increased interaction with the African Union has fostered trust and enabled us to support joint approaches and viable solutions.
The United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia is working to resolve transboundary issues and to implement our Global Counter-Terrorism strategy. Our peacekeeping operations and special political missions undertake vital conflict prevention and resolution efforts. In some situations, the prospect or application of well-targeted sanctions regimes, in accordance with the United Nations Charter can also help move parties towards peace.
Sustainable development is an end in itself, but it is also one of the most effective tools we have to prevent conflict. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our blueprint to create resilient, stable societies and to address the root causes of violence of all kinds. This means a strong focus on inclusivity, with a special emphasis on mainstreaming women’s rights and gender equality across our prevention and mediation work.
Progress on women’s participation in formal peace processes is still lagging. We still continue to use creative strategies to advance women’s participation, building on previous efforts including the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board and the Yemeni Women’s Technical Advisory Group. Regional women mediators’ networks like the African Union’s FemWise-Africa network are an important development. The High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation is available to support their efforts.
Some 600 million young people living in fragile and conflict-affected States have a vital contribution to make to mediation and peacebuilding processes. The first International Symposium for Youth Participation in Peace Processes earlier this year was an important step forward. Independent actors and non-governmental organizations, namely the Elders — that we have with us today — are a critical complementary element to our efforts.
The human and financial costs of conflict are high, and rising. Forced displacement is at the highest levels since the Second World War, and hunger is resurgent after years of decline. We cannot afford to reduce the energy and resources we invest in prevention and mediation. But let’s not fool ourselves. Prevention and mediation will not work without broader political efforts. I urge Council members, and all Member States, to strive for greater unity so that prevention and mediation efforts are as effective as possible. That is the only way to meet our responsibilities to the peoples we serve. Thank you.