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Department of Public Information (DPI)
29 January 2014
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
SPEAKERS STRESS CRUCIAL NEED TO REBUILD POST-CONFLICT TRUST AS SECURITY COUNCIL
DISCUSSES LESSONS OF WAR, QUEST FOR PERMANENT PEACE
Bypassing ‘Zero-Sum Thinking’ to Accept Shared
National Narratives Critical to Reconciliation, Says Under-Secretary-General
The Security Council met this morning to hold an open debate on “War, its lessons and the search for a permanent peace”. Delegates had before them a 14 January letter from the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the Secretary-General (document
), stating that the debate aimed to enable the Council to draw lessons from the understanding of war and about the requirements of a permanent peace.
JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, noted that in recent years the United Nations had been called upon to help end conflicts within States. “Even as conflicts between States lessen in number, conflicts inside States too often recur.” Distortions of history and identity could contribute to both types of conflict, he said, emphasizing that wartime rhetoric cultivated divisions. Helping groups within States to move beyond such “zero-sum” thinking to accepting a shared national narrative was especially hard. While the United Nations had a long history of helping to establish the means for resolving territorial disputes, reconciling competing visions of history and identity was a far less developed science. Past crises had shown that immediate imperatives tended to be so overpowering that longer-term aspects often received less attention. While there were “time tested” formulas for separating armies or tending to the needy, the United Nations had reflected less on its ability to repair trust and foster genuine reconciliation, he said, defining reconciliation as accounting for and sharing views about the past, including the pre-conflict past, in order to restore mutual respect and trust between groups and among individuals.
The international community had a responsibility to help create conditions that would enable national actors to live up to their duty to rebuild trust, he continued, declaring: “Leaders need to set the example, not just in ceasing wartime rhetoric and ending the intentional promotion of grievances, but also by deeds of genuine cooperation and honest examinations of their own roles in conflict.” They must also show that power-sharing did not mean “the winner takes it all”, but rather, that there was room for engaging all parts of society. Noting that youth brought up in the aftermath of war tended to be more extreme than their parents, he said they were often deprived of the chance to meet “the other”. Ways must be found, post-conflict, to break the cycle of divided communities, when hatred and the sense of victimhood was most pronounced, he stressed. More broadly, it was critically important to start early with the development of history curricula that shared the different interpretations of recent events.
As for how the United Nations approach to crisis management could help enable social healing, he said that while there was an urgent need for a physical end to war in the Central African Republic, Syria and South Sudan, it would not produce lasting peace. As had been seen repeatedly, an end to hostilities without reconciliation, especially within States, often led to resumed fighting. In all three countries, any cessation remained at risk of collapse without “strenuous” efforts towards reconciliation, he said, calling for an honest examination by each community of its own role in the conflict. For example, while Iraq had made progress, its communities had sharply differing historical and political narratives that had inhibited the achievement of common goals, including the struggle against terrorism. The conflict in Syria had complicated Iraqi reconciliation, given the regional crisis between Sunni and Shia, he said. “We should not neglect lending support to genuine reconciliation efforts, lest fighting resume from unaddressed grievances” and zero-sum narratives, he said.
He went on to say that beyond the physical manifestations of United Nations efforts to end conflict — the deployment of peacekeepers, for example — the Organization had become more involved in the non-physical aspects of peacebuilding. While seeking truth and accountability for the past was essential, they did not by themselves constitute a plan for healing a broken State, he cautioned. Four areas deserved attention: peace agreements should provide agreed overall principles and mechanisms for the pursuit of reconciliation; the timing of elections and constitutional review processes must be carefully considered, since premature elections could allow opportunistic leaders to cultivate grievances in order to win office; reconciliation must come from within, although States, the United Nations and regional organizations could facilitate national processes sooner rather than later; and a repository of comparative reconciliation experiences could be placed at the disposal of States, United Nations special envoys and others. To those who questioning whether the United Nations should promote national reconciliation, he said: “I would hope that the example of the Syrian catastrophe demonstrates how unresolved internal conflicts can pose grave risks to international peace and security.”
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (
) said the multilateral collective security system still represented the best hope for putting the lessons of the past at the service of a future of sustainable peace, despite the Security Council’s past failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda, the massacre in Srebrenica, the use of force in Iraq without its authorization and its decades-long inability effectively to address the challenge of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In a multipolar world where geopolitical influence was undergoing rapid reconfiguration, the call for Security Council reform must be addressed with a sense of urgency, she said, pointing out that if the Council had been better able to anticipate potential threats to peace and security, several wars would have been avoided.
RON PROSOR (
) said that war began when the seeds of hatred were sown in the hearts of ordinary people. From Cambodia to Bosnia to Somalia, the international community had failed to prevent the killing of innocent people. “Each of us has a role to play in the struggle for human rights and human dignity.” Noting that people were being taught to hate Israelis and Jews in schools, mosques and media across the Middle East, he said that a generation of Palestinians was being taught that murder was moral. It was the responsibility of Governments to educate their citizens on the need for tolerance, justice and mutual respect, he said, adding that the world had a responsibility to speak out against hatred and to equip the next generation with words, rather than weapons. War could be prevented by standing together to denounce indifference.
ABDALLAH YAHYA A. AL-MOUALLIMI (
) said preventive diplomacy was an important development in the maintenance of international peace and security. Saudi Arabia had sought to resolve regional and international conflicts by gathering parties together, including through the Arab Peace Initiative. The non-recognition of the State of Palestine, within the pre-June 1967 borders, or questioning Palestinian refugees’ right of return only undermined the justice and equity on which a final settlement would revolve. ...
GUILLERMO ENRIQUE MORENO ZAPATA (
) said the conflicts in Syria and Palestine marked some of the complex challenges confronting the world. Inclusive dialogue based on cooperation was the key to lasting stability among nations. The root causes of war included the vestiges of colonialism, as well as poverty and political systems that bred conflict. Pointing to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, he said the Security Council had been impotent in dealing with that situation due to the veto power enjoyed by that body’s permanent members. Nothing was more lethal to peace than justifying terrorist acts, including attacks on hospitals and schools in the name of overthrowing a Government. Covert wars remained lethal while continuing to undermine sovereignty, he said, citing the sanctions imposed on his country.
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