Brdo, Slovenia

11 March 2014

Deputy Secretary-General's opening remarks to Seminar on "Promoting a Culture of Mediation and Prevention in the Mediterranean" [as prepared for delivery]

I am very pleased to be here today and to meet so many of my friends and colleagues in the world of peaceful settlement of disputes.  I want to thank the Government of Slovenia for hosting this meeting and the Governments of Morocco and Spain for launching the Initiative on Mediation in the Mediterranean Region in 2012.

The focus of this third seminar of the Initiative, “Promoting a Culture of Mediation and Prevention in the Mediterranean”, is particularly close to my heart.

Wherever I go, I carry a copy of the United Nations Charter.

Its first line tells us that the role of our Organization is to save future generations from the scourge of war.

It is part of the essential foundation on which the United Nations was built – alongside human rights and social and economic progress in larger freedom.

So conflict prevention and resolution, including through mediation, which are enshrined in Chapter VI, have a critical role in the success of our mandate.  And thus, promoting a culture of conflict prevention is a vitally important endeavour.

Recent years have seen strong progress in advancing these concepts.

The 2005 World Summit laid out a vision for bolstering the UN’s preventive capacities, echoing what many Member States were encouraging individually.

It reinforced the interdependence of peace, security, development, human rights and the rule of law. 

In the 2005 World Summit Outcome, Heads of State and Government solemnly committed to a responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

However, there remains a considerable gap between commitments and reality in too many situations around the world.

Our efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts must aim at increasing the protection of fundamental human rights through strong rule of law institutions.  

Where gross violations of human rights are being committed, States must fulfil their responsibility to protect people’s rights. 

This means not just holding them accountable, but wherever possible assisting them to be accountable.

This is what the United Nations and African Union are committed to doing in the Central African Republic, for example.

The Secretary-General sees the responsibility to protect as a cornerstone for advancing a preventive approach to crisis management.

And he has launched the Rights Up Front Initiative to improve the UN’s preparedness to respond early to human rights violations.

The UN’s conflict prevention engagement is now more flexible and more action-and field-oriented than before.

We are better positioned to not only act as firefighters when crises break out, but to help build better structural responses to conflict in many of the countries where we operate.

We have professionalized our work by cultivating more expertise and training our staff and high-level envoys.

In particular, the launch of the United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation has been a landmark.  It gives time-tested, practical and normative direction for the approach to mediation.

We have also strengthened our political missions in the field, and established regional offices that serve as platforms for preventive diplomacy.

One o the most important elements has been closer cooperation with Member States and organizations at the regional and sub-regional level.
We know that the challenges we face are too complex and interlinked for any one entity to address on its own.

Whatever our strategy, we will rarely be involved alone.  This is why we have put a premium in building strong partnerships with regional actors, in the spirit of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.

Regional organizations are often better positioned to detect crises early and to mobilize or catalyze appropriate responses.  They have unique influence on, leverage over, and access to, crisis situations in their regions.

At the same time, the United Nations can complement these efforts by bringing to the table decades of experience in conflict prevention, the ability to mobilize resources, and, crucially, the legitimacy of our global organization.

The importance of regional organizations for peacemaking is also reflected in the decision by the General Assembly to focus its next resolution on mediation on the role of regional organizations.  This is to contain recommendations to strengthen our partnership.

The Spanish-Moroccan Initiative on Mediation in the Mediterranean Region is a welcome regionally-focused complement to the dedicated work undertaken by the Group of Friends of Mediation.

The present seminar will allow participants representing a wide array of organisations to explore how to support conflict prevention and mediation in the Mediterranean.

The United Nations is pleased and gratified to be able to contribute to this endeavour.

I am also glad to see that important issues – like learning from past experiences, the involvement of women in peace processes and engaging youth and civil society – will be addressed.

These deliberations can add to our collective efforts to prevent and peacefully resolve deadly conflicts, protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law.

I wish you a fruitful seminar.

Thank you.