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UN Chief Opts for Preventive Diplomacy Over Post-Conflict Peacekeeping

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By Shanta Roy

NEW YORK (IDN) – Faced with an increasing number of unresolved political and military crises – including in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Kashmir, Palestine, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – UN Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation to guide him on the road ahead.

The primary mandate of the Board will be preventive diplomacy – based on the age-old axiom that prevention (diplomacy) is far better than the cure (post-conflict peacekeeping).

The creation of the new Board has been prompted mostly by the paralysis of the 15-member Security Council – the UN”s most influential body with power to declare war and peace – which remains deadlocked even as the five veto-wielding permanent members, namely the U.S., UK, France, Russia and China, are more pre-occupied protecting their own political, economic and military interests than saving the world at large. (P27) JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF  | KOREAN TEXT VERSION PDF

George A. Lopez, the Hesburgh Professor of Peace Studies, Emeritus, at the Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame, who closely monitors also political developments in the world body, told IDN that with the creation of the Advisory Board, Guterres “clearly aims for the UN to be more proactive in violence prevention during crisis escalation and more effective in forging ceasefires during hostilities”.

Describing the Board as a serious group of heavy hitters, he said the 9 men-9 women group includes two Nobel Peace Laureates, five former Presidents and Prime Ministers, and an all-star cast of former diplomats.

“Guterres has assembled a team with global political clout that will leverage its prestige and experience to move warring parties to the mediation table more quickly and effectively than Special Envoys or the Security Council has been able to achieve of late,” said Lopez, a former Vice-President at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC and a former member of the UN Panel Of Experts on North Korea.

A longtime UN observer told IDN the Security Council is obviously good only at condemnation, imposing sanctions, and/or naming Special Envoys.

“It is not sufficiently versatile to push parties to mediation. For most warring parties it will be ‘bad for the legitimacy of their case’ if they were to turn away a team of 7 or 9 of these prestigious folks. So this Board becomes a wedge in the door.”

He pointed out that the UN has had for a decade a fairly effective technical group of mediation experts called the Mediation Support Unit. These are first-rate practitioners, but certainly don’t carry the recognition/clout of the Board.

But whether the new Board will be politically effective or just another group of ineffective advisors remains to be seen, he added.

Asked why Guterres had not mentioned the words “preventive diplomacy” when he announced the new Board, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “You know, he may not have mentioned those two words. (But) I think he did highlight the putting together of extremely high-profile men and women from around the world who he will call on, as needed, in mediation efforts, which is definitely, I think, as anybody would describe it, part of a preventive diplomatic effort when needed. So, I think it remains very high on his agenda.”

Asked if there would be an office to coordinate and service the Board, Dujarric told reporters October 5, it will be coordinated by the UN Secretariat staff in New York.

Clarifying further he said: “This is not a job. This is voluntary participation. They will be called upon at different times by the Secretary-General to work on preventive diplomacy, to work on mediation. And they have said they would be available as needed.”

He also said the Secretary‑General intends to call a meeting and bring them to New York, “I think, in the near future”. 

The 18 members are expected to serve at the Secretary-General’s discretion.

“When he feels there are conflicts or tensions in various places in the world, where he needs to…(and) there is room for UN mediation, he may call upon one of the members of the board who he feels may be best suited to work …on that crisis,” Dujarric added.

When the UN announced the Board on September 13, it described the 18 members as current and former global leaders, senior officials and renowned experts who bring together an unparalleled range of experience, skills, knowledge and contacts.

Guterres said the establishment of the Board is part of the “surge in diplomacy for peace” that he has consistently advocated, and gives due priority to the prevention and mediation work of the United Nations.

The Board is expected to allow the United Nations to work more effectively with regional organizations, non-governmental groups and others involved in mediation around the world.

The 18 members include: President Michelle Bachelet (Chile), who is serving a second, non-consecutive, term as President of Chile and is the former – and first – Executive Director of UN Women; Radhika Coomaraswamyn(Sri Lanka), an internationally recognized lawyer and human rights advocate who was UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and between 2006-2012 Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Leymah Gbowee (Liberia), and a 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate and founder of the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative and co-founder and former Executive Director of Women in Peacebuilding Network/West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP).

Another distinguished member is: Jean-Marie Guéhenno (France), a former French diplomat who served as the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations between 2000 and 2008 and President of the International Crisis Group, an independent organization working to prevent wars and shape policies to build a more peaceful world, since 2014.

Also on the Board is Tarja Halonen, President of Finland from 2000-2012, the first woman to hold the post. She is currently a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, a network of current and former women prime ministers and presidents whose primary goal is to draw on the experience of its members to support women’s full participation and representation in the political process at the highest levels.

Also members are: David Harland (New Zealand), Executive Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a private diplomacy organization with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, that works globally to help prevent, mitigate or resolve armed conflicts through dialogue and mediation; Noeleen Heyzer (Singapore), a Member of the Board of Trustees of the National University of Singapore (2013-present ) as well as Distinguished Fellow at the Singapore Management University and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore (2016-present). She also served, from 2007-2014, as Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and, from 1994-2007, as Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) now a part of the UN Women.

Other members are: Nasser Judeh (Jordan), a member of the Jordanian Senate and the Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Jordan, a position he held between 2009 and 2017; Ramtane Lamamra (Algeria), was Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Algeria between 2013 and 2017 and in that capacity played a prominent role in regional mediation efforts, including leading them in Mali; Graça Machel (Mozambique), a former freedom fighter, the first Minister of Education of Mozambique (1975-1989), and an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights.

Additionally, the Board includes Asha-Rose Migiro (Tanzania), High Commissioner of Tanzania to the United Kingdom and who previously served, between 2007-2012, as the third Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations in which capacity she championed the UN’s fight against poverty through effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals; Raden Mohammad Marty Muliana Natalegawa (Indonesia), Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia (2009-2014), Permanent Representative to the UN and Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland; Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), President of the Republic of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, and before that Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces from 1976 to 1979; Roza Otunbayeva (Kyrgyzstan), former President of Kyrgyzstan who also served as both Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the newly independent country; Michèle Pierre-Louis (Haiti), Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and Public Security of Haiti from September 2008 to November 2009.

Also on the Board are José Manuel Ramos-Horta (Timor-Leste), Nobel laureate, journalist and promoter of independence for Timor-Leste for thirty years, and who served as Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and Head of State of the newly independent Timor-Leste; Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala), Minister of Planning and Foreign Minister between 1969-1974 and 2006-2008, respectively – and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) from 1989-1997; and the Right Reverend Justin Welby (United Kingdom), Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion since 2013. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 October 2017]

Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres addresses Security Council meeting on Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Preventive Diplomacy and Transboundary waters. To his right is President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

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