Addressing Root Causes of Conflict Vital for Sustaining Peace as COVID-19 Reverses Peacebuilding Gains, Facilitates Intolerance, Speakers Warn Security Council
Warning that the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed peacebuilding gains and enabled intolerance and extremism to take hold, speakers told the Security Council in an open debate today that sustainable peace can only be ensured when the root causes of conflict, such as divides fuelled by inequity and difference, are addressed.
“Longstanding grievances, inequalities, mistrust and social divisions do not simply vanish when the fighting stops,” António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, said as he opened the meeting, which also featured briefings by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa; and Fawzia Koofi, the first woman Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Afghanistan.
The meeting was presided over by Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, which holds October’s presidency and proposed the topic, which it presented to Council members in a concept note (document S/2021/854).
Mr. Guterres said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequality where social inequities already exist, adding that the escalating phenomena of rebels, militias and extremist groups coalescing around shared beliefs or opportunism vividly illustrates how such divisions can stoke conflict, or worsen it where it persists. Stressing the importance of inclusiveness to peacebuilding and resilience, he noted that such ideas are the driving force behind resolutions taken in 2015 and 2020 as part of the Review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, as well as in the most recent Our Common Agenda.
He went on to highlight the value of the full and active participation of women and young people, noting that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) had stressed the need to achieve a 30 per cent quota for women in the country’s elections. “For countries emerging from the horrors of conflict and looking to a better future, diversity must not be seen as a threat,” he said, adding: “It is a source of strength. An anchor of peace and stability in parts of the world that have seen too little of either, and the rallying point of a better future.”
Echoing the need for diversity, Ms. Koofi painted a worrying picture of the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan, where there are concerning reports about their fundamental freedoms being undermined. Noting that the situation demonstrates how many conflicts spring from power imbalances, she observed that “the playbook for running today’s world was written primarily with men’s interests in mind”.
In Afghanistan, women want direct and face-to-face talk with the Taliban, she said, asking Council members to include women in mediation teams and facilitate a meeting of a delegation of women with the Taliban. “Please remember that there are some 16‑17 million women and girls of Afghanistan who don’t know what tomorrow holds for them,” she stressed. Given the ideology of those holding power in Kabul, which discriminates against women and treats them as second-class citizens, she emphasized that the United Nations must demand the protection and inclusion of Afghan female aid workers and peacebuilders and other civic professionals and community organizations, who play a critical role in ensuring aid reaches those most in need.
In his presentation, Mr. Kagame drew on Rwanda’s recent experiences to reflect on the nature of peace, which he said is much more than the mere absence of violence. It is an ongoing process; “a constant search for solutions through dialogue and consensus”, he said. While pointing out that it may not be possible to prevent all conflict altogether, he said it is possible to minimize their intensity and impact by remaining attentive to local needs and expectations and investing in the capacity of institutions and individuals so they can deliver the results that citizens expect and deserve.
He emphasized the crucial role that multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union could play in many situations, as well as the role of civil society groups and business leaders. The international community must improve its toolbox in a manner that reflects lessons learned from recent experiences in conflict-resolution, he stressed. However, he assured the Council that “Rwanda’s experience is that, no matter how bad the situation appears, success is always an option.”
For his part, Mr. Mbeki emphasized the need to bring about lasting peace by going beyond the “standard procedure” of addressing conflicts, which followed a predictable sequence of actions, going from a ceasefire agreement to the involvement of peacekeepers, to the negotiation of a new constitution, the formation of a new elected Government, and the subsequent withdrawal of peacekeepers. Questions could be raised as to whether this procedure truly led to sustainable peace. “The resolution of conflicts should not be driven simply by security considerations,” he said, adding that conflict resolution “must address the vital matter of the root causes of the conflict and thus aim not merely to silence the guns, important as this is, but to ensure sustainable peace.”
He shared that his own personal experience from working to resolve conflict in the African continent, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire and Sudan, illustrating how the failure to properly manage the issue of diversity is one of the root causes of civil war and violent conflict. This issue is the thread binding many conflicts, going from the 11-year-war in Sierra Leone to the ongoing violent conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, he said, adding: “And the incontestable truth is that the successful management of this diversity cannot and will not be achieved through weapons of war.”
Following those briefings, Security Council members took the floor, affirming the importance of building lasting peace through sustained dialogue and the need for more attention to preventing conflict. Most speakers underlined the importance of tackling the root causes of conflict and insecurity, including socioeconomic marginalization, poverty, unemployment, climate change and environmental degradation, calling for a more nimble approach that takes all these challenges as well as lessons learned from past experiences into account. Many also pointed out the need to go beyond prefabricated or externally imposed solutions and to tailor strategies to local contexts and circumstances.
The United States’ delegate noted the ubiquity of racism and division around the world and encouraged every country to “look internally” at its differences and inequities and to work tirelessly to end racism, sexism, ableism and xenophobia. “The United States does not claim to be perfect,” she said, pointing out that after a United Nations report highlighted systemic racism and the use of force against people of African descent in the United States last July, the country responded by acknowledging the report and issuing a standing invitation to the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related intolerance to visit the United States.
The representative of Norway drew on her country’s many decades of engagement in peace efforts worldwide to underscore the importance of inclusivity in peace and reconciliation efforts. She highlighted the importance of engaging all relevant actors to resolve conflict, recalling successful experience with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the Middle East, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia, and the Maoists in Nepal, and underlined the need for continued engagement even after peace agreements are signed. Further, she called for strength to be lent to the voices of Afghan women fighting to influence their future, warning: ““Without this, there will be no stability or prosperity in Afghanistan — and no sustainable peace.”
In a similar vein, Ireland’s delegate also highlighted the need for continuing engagement to ensure lasting peace in post-conflict situations. The Council should view peace as process rather than an event, she added, recalling that peace in Northern Ireland took decades to achieve. In the aftermath of conflict, building good governance must have its roots in local communities, not conference rooms in New York. Stressing the importance of inclusive peacekeeping transitions, she said that a reconfigured United Nations presence, in cooperation with other actors, must be ready to “step up and step in” to support the peace.
The representative of Niger pointed out that in Africa, where borders were set by colonial Powers, the viability of States hinges on Governments’ ability to take into account ethnic, racial and tribal sensitivities. When a political system failed to provide citizens with a sense of belonging to and participating in the community, he said, it gave rise to troubles such as civil wars, coup d’états and genocides. Highlighting the positive role played by regional organizations such as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), he said the involvement of the international community and the United Nations in internal conflicts should only come as a last resort.
Meanwhile, the representative of Mexico pointed out that preventive diplomacy needs better instruments. Early warning mechanisms could play a key role in identifying risks and triggers, he said, adding that such mechanisms must be sensitive in identifying the causes of grievances of marginalized groups. Further, the full and effective participation of women, youth and civil society is crucial for prevention work. He called on the Security Council to strengthen its dialogue with other bodies, including the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council, and noted that Council resolution 2475 (2019) provides the basis for meeting the needs of people with disabilities in situations of armed conflict.
Also speaking were the representatives of India, United Kingdom, France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Viet Nam, Tunisia, Estonia, Russian Federation, and China.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:28 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that even if parties to conflict settle their differences, the process of building peace can only be made possible by including diverse voices at every step of the process, without which any peace is short-lived. “Longstanding grievances, inequalities, mistrust and social divisions do not simply vanish when the fighting stops,” he said. In fact, they can be worsened if the needs and vision of some people or groups are not addressed. The rising trend of rebels, militias, and extremist groups coalescing around shared beliefs or opportunism demonstrates the potential of inequalities and differences to fuel conflict. Further, inequality is rampant where social inequities persist, including from undue advantages conferred to some groups due to colonialism, he said, adding that the pandemic has reversed peacebuilding gains, and created a vacuum for intolerance and extremism to enter.
Inclusion, particularly gender-equality, is foundational to building sustainable peace, he continued, adding that it is the crucial idea behind resolutions taken in 2015 and 2020 as part of the Review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, as well as in the most recent Our Common Agenda. “When we open the door to inclusion and participation, we take a giant step forward in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding,” he said. He went on to stress that national institutions and laws must work for all people and ensure the protection and promotion of human rights such as access to health, education and opportunity for all. Laws must be passed against discrimination of all kinds.
Further, he said countries should ensure a greater voice is provided for subnational regions, as excluding them risks giving rise to instability and fuelling future resentments. Governments must move forward together through constant dialogue even if that means devolving some areas of authority. He went on to highlight the importance of gender inclusivity and ensuring the full and active participation of women and young people, noting that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) had stressed the need to achieve a 30 per cent quota for women in the country’s elections. “For countries emerging from the horrors of conflict and looking to a better future — indeed for all countries — diversity must not be seen as a threat,” he said, adding: “It is a source of strength. An anchor of peace and stability in parts of the world that have seen too little of either […] and the rallying point of a better future.”
PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said peace is much more than the absence of violence. The precondition for sustainable peace is a shared understanding of the root causes of a conflict by a broad range of stakeholders in society. Drawing on Rwanda’s recent experience, he said peacebuilding should be understood as an ongoing process, a “constant search for solutions through dialogue and consensus”. It may not be possible to entirely prevent all conflict. In fact, disagreements and grievances will always be there, in one form or another. But the intensity and impact of conflicts can be minimized by remaining attentive to local needs and expectations. This means investing in the capacity of institutions and individuals so they can deliver the results that citizens expect and deserve.
There is no universal template that can be transferred automatically from one context to another, he said. External advice and examples can be helpful in encouraging reflection and finding new approaches, and Rwanda has benefited from various partnerships. Turning to the growing power of social media to exploit division in society, which can quickly weaken the social fabric, he said peacebuilding is not a purely technical enterprise. “It is deeply political and human, and must take account of the emotions and memories that various parties bring to the table,” he said.
Multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union have a central role in many situations, he said. Civil society groups, particularly those led by women, also have a key role, as do business leaders. Despite lessons learnt, the international community’s toolbox has hardly changed, he pointed out. Rwanda’s post-genocide trajectory is marked by a consistent focus on national unity, inclusion, and service delivery. There are other positive examples from Africa and beyond. Practical and tangible partnership is critical. “Rwanda’s experience is that no matter how bad the situation appears, success is always an option,” he assured.
THABO MBEKI, former President of South Africa, recalled the African Union’s decision to “Silence the Guns” by 2020, which reflected its Heads of States’ commitment to building sustainable peace. Although the process of resolving conflicts in Africa has thus far involved a standard procedure, involving ceasefire agreements, peacekeepers, and then the negotiations of a new Constitution and elections to constitute a new Government, after which the peacekeepers would be withdrawn, he questioned whether this process truly led to sustainable peace.
Spotlighting a report titled “African Politics, African Peace”, produced by the World Peace Foundation five years ago, which reflected on the future of peace missions in Africa, he pointed out that it underlined the importance of centralizing “primacy of the political” within all African Union responses, as well as in the design and implementation of peace operations. “The resolution of conflicts should not be driven simply by security considerations,” he said, adding that conflict resolution “must address the vital matter of the root causes of the conflict and thus aim not merely to silence the guns, important as this is, but to ensure sustainable peace.”
Turning to the issue of diversity, he said that his own personal experience from working to resolve conflict in the African continent, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire and Sudan, highlighted how the failure to properly manage the issue of diversity is one of the root causes of civil war and violent conflict. This same issue of diversity can be held responsible for the 11-year-war in Sierra Leone and in the violent ongoing conflicts in Cameroon and Ethiopia’s Tigray region, he continued, adding: “And the incontestable truth is that the successful management of this diversity cannot and will not be achieved through weapons of war.” On the situation in Tigray, he said the belligerents in Ethiopia should enter into a permanent ceasefire and engage in an inclusive national dialogue to agree on how they can achieve unity in diversity in order to bring about lasting peace.
FAWZIA KOOFI, the first woman Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Afghanistan, pointed to serious reports that fundamental freedoms are being flouted in her country, with women and girls once again regarded as second-class citizens. This situation shows how power imbalances are at the root of so much conflict and inequality. Drawing attention to two specific areas where powers structures cause chaos, she said “the playbook for running today’s world was written primarily with men’s interests in mind”. “Men” are presented as the norm and “women” as the exception. In short, the structures have been set up to make it easier for men to perpetuate themselves in power.
The Sustainable Development Goals — the common blueprint for building peaceful, prosperous and inclusive societies — clearly state that gender equality is a goal and key to realizing the other 16 Goals, she said. In order to achieve this, political processes, structures and methods of work must be more responsive to women’s needs. In Afghanistan, women want direct and face-to-face talk with the Taliban, she said, asking Council members to include women in mediation teams and facilitate a meeting of a delegation of women with the Taliban. “Please remember that there are some 16‑17 million women and girls of Afghanistan who don’t know what tomorrow holds for them,” she stressed.
Another area where power imbalances can do much harm is when they are directed — or better said, misdirected — at minorities, she continued. All countries have national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. Although situations greatly vary, common to all is the fact that, too often, minorities face multiple forms of discrimination resulting in marginalization and exclusion and forced displacement and migration. Ensuring the effective participation of minorities and ending their exclusion requires embracing diversity through the promotion and implementation of international human rights standards. The main lesson from the past 150 years of her country’s history is that a durable peace and sustainable State in multi-ethnic and diverse Afghanistan requires a pluralistic social and political structure.
The international community must make it clear that it will only work with the authorities in Kabul if they work with all parties to map out a clear path that guarantees the fundamental rights of all segments of society, in particular women and girls, and an inclusive State, she said. Given the gender discrimination ideology of those holding power in Kabul, the United Nations must demand the protection and inclusion of Afghan female aid workers and peacebuilders and other civic professionals and community organizations. They are critical to the distribution and delivery of aid to the neediest. “This is entirely in your control,” she told Council members. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other agencies must learn from lessons of 1996-2001 and demonstrate a practical and clear gender responsive aid plan, she said, declaring: “Let’s remember, a safe, stable and just Afghanistan means a secure world.”
UHURU KENYATTA, President of Kenya, Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, saying that poor management of diversity is leading to grave threats to international peace and security. Inequality can lead to exclusion based on identity, which can ultimately lead to a profound sense of grievance and bitterness that populists and demagogues can exploit, particularly when those feeling are conveyed on social media. In such an environment, elections can further the divide, becoming zero-sum games that pit racial, ethnic and religious identities against each other. “We need to deal with it, and that requires that we admit to the need to change our national and global economic and governance systems to manage diversity more effectively,” he said. That means restructuring global cooperation and governance so that it truly accords to the principle that all peoples and countries are of equal worth, he emphasized.
States must take the lead in protecting national unity and cohesion by embracing respect for difference as a core duty, he continued. Leaders must demonstrate that despite their deep political differences, they can unite for the sake of the nation. He recalled that his handshake with Kenya’s opposition leader in 2018, when the country was facing deep political divisions, cooled tempers and created hope. More than a political gesture, it was a political innovation that aimed to put safety, unity and prosperity at the core of Kenya’s politics.
Setting out several recommendations, he said that States should place “safety rails” on political competition by incentivizing a political culture that does not exploit identity to create enmity among citizens. International institutions should be reviewed to determine if they are fit for purpose in building a more inclusive world. Security Council reform should be accelerated, as its current membership lacks transparency and inclusion. Next month’s Glasgow climate conference should ensure that climate change adaptation commitments contribute to development, investment and job creation. States should establish early warning systems to avert conflict and human suffering. Diversity management should be included in peacebuilding efforts. In addition, the United Nations system and social media companies should collaborate to combat hate speech and incitement, including through a global code of conduct, he said.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that racism and division are problems that are seen in every country and that countries must work together to resolve. “The United States does not claim to be perfect,” she said, pointing out that after a United Nations report highlighted systemic racism and the use of force against people of African descent in the United States last July, the country responded by acknowledging the report and issuing a standing invitation to the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related intolerance to visit the United States. She went on to encourage every country to “look internally” at its differences and inequities and to work tirelessly to end racism, sexism, ableism and xenophobia. Noting that the Council deals with issues of conflict breaking out due to identity issues on a weekly basis, she stressed the importance of involving regional and subregional organizations in conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts. Further, she highlighted the importance of international cooperation and the meaningful participation of women to building peace and resilience. While social media might fuel disinformation that causes extreme cases of hatred and discrimination, the root causes are “nothing new” and are based on inequality and division, she stressed, before adding: “I believe fundamentally to my core that embracing diversity is the most effective way to spread peace and security in the world.”
V. MURALEEDHARAN, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said that his country has much to offer on how diverse identities can come together and live as one nation. When dealing with countries emerging from conflict and embarking on peacebuilding, putting strong legal frameworks in place is critical to ensure that diversity is protected and inclusivity is fostered. Donor countries must ensure that those frameworks can withstand the test of time, while the United Nations system should work closely with Member States and regional organization to determine immediate and long-term needs without imposing outside solutions, he said.
The spread of terrorism in Africa is a serious concern, but it is even more unfortunate that terrorist groups are getting encouragement from Member States which seek to divide communities by legitimizing terrorist activities, he said. The United Nations system must adopt the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy as a template and not encourage, even indirectly, attempts by Member States to justify terrorism. The inability to even acknowledge emerging forms of religious phobias, including those directed at Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, only makes such behaviour more acceptable. Turning to the situation in Afghanistan, he called for a broad-based and inclusive process that brings together all sections of Afghan society. The international community’s commitments, as set out in resolution 2593 (2021), must also be respected and adhered to, including with regard to terrorism.
ABDOU ABARRY (Niger) commended Kenya for serving as a regional model in managing diversity to achieve stability. Managing diversity is a challenge to the stability and viability of a modern State. This is particularly true in Africa, where borders were set by the colonial Powers. The viability of States depends on Governments’ ability to consider ethnic, racial and tribal sensitivities. The political system must provide citizens with a sense of belonging and participation in the community, he said, noting that history has shown when this balance was not achieved, internal troubles, including civil wars, coup d’états and genocides, followed. For its part, Niger learned lessons from the past and is committed to consolidating democratic institutions, he said. Based on its experience of managing internal conflicts, his Government established the High Authority for Peacebuilding to address the root causes of conflict. Highlighting the positive role played by regional organizations such as the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), he said the involvement of the international community and the United Nations in internal conflicts should only come as a last resort.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said history has demonstrated that when identity is weaponized — from Bosnia to Rwanda — it marginalizes already vulnerable populations, fuels extremism, manifests in human rights violations and sparks war. The Council has an obligation to call it out. In Myanmar, exclusion of the Rohingya population has escalated into systematic violence and forced displacement. In Ethiopia, identity politics and hate speech are dividing communities, exacerbating a conflict that has pushed 400,000 people into famine. The Council should not stand by as violence escalates. In United Nations peace operations, human rights monitoring is a critical early warning function. United Nations political leaders, mediators and advisers facilitate inclusive peace processes. While noting that the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission supports countries grappling with their peacebuilding challenges and the Peacebuilding Fund provides catalytic funding to encourage these effort, she said the United Nations system can do a better job of getting ahead of threats to peace. The Organization’s development system must embed peacebuilding approaches now to avert humanitarian crises later.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) stressed that preserving diversity helps prevent conflict, and the fight against all forms of discrimination is part of France’s indivisible approach. Condemning violence and persecutions committed against individuals based on their gender, origin, religion, belief, and sexuality, he said his country supports the fund for the victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East, which has already financed around 100 projects in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. In the Sahel, he said France, the United Nations, the European Union and its other partners encourage reconciliation processes and the return of State authority and public services. In the Horn of Africa, France encourages the Prime Minister of Ethiopia to launch an inclusive national dialogue without delay. France and Mexico co-organized the Generation Equality Forum in Paris in June 2021 to launch a monitoring and accountability mechanism for the Women, Peace and Security agenda. France also shares a historical understanding of the Tutsi genocide.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and sustaining peace are essential elements for preventing conflict in the long-term. Lasting peace can be assured by building more resilient societies, based on strong institutions, respect for human rights, gender equality, the rule of law, inclusion and diversity. Early warning mechanisms play a key role in identifying risks and triggers, he said, and these mechanisms must be sensitive in identifying the causes of grievances of marginalized groups. Preventive diplomacy needs better instruments. The full and effective participation of women, youth and civil society in prevention work is essential. Council resolution 2475 (2019) provides the basis for meeting the needs of people with disabilities in situations of armed conflict, and resolution 1325 (2000) was also a milestone in the recognition of the full participation of women in conflict resolution and peace processes. He called on the Security Council to strengthen its dialogue with other bodies, including the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council.
HALIMAH AMIRAH FARIDAH DESHONG (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), stressing the importance of mobilizing all stakeholders to build public trust and to cultivate social cohesion, said a multi-stakeholder approach, centred around diversity and inclusiveness, provides the surest path to building stable and resilient societies. The root causes of conflict and insecurity — including poverty and unemployment, socioeconomic and political marginalization, pervasive hunger and acute food insecurity, security risks associated with climate change and widespread environmental degradation and the lasting trauma left in the wake of historical crimes — must be addressed. Amid the pandemic, States must take bold steps and innovative measures to promote a common agenda addressing these concerns. There can be no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Rather, practical, people-centred, and climate-sensitive solutions must be delivered, she said. Calling on the international financial institutions and the Global North to scale up capacity-building and official development assistance (ODA) initiatives, she further stressed the need for focused and coordinated multilateral action on contemporary security risks such as terrorism, cybercrime, COVID-19 and climate change.
DINH QUY DANG (Viet Nam) said that States should build national reconciliation and unity through inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders, including women, youth, elders and vulnerable groups. Governments should focus on sustainable development, poverty eradication, transparent and accountable governance, and promoting a culture of peace and non-violence. States should enhance their cooperation with the United Nations and regional organizations in peacebuilding, giving particular attention to capacity-building. With 54 ethnic groups, Viet Nam does its utmost to promote equality, unity, tolerance, mutual respect and understanding, he said, adding that its achievements in national construction and development result from building consensus and meeting the needs and interests of its people.
MONA JUUL (Norway) stressed the need to reinforce the voices of Afghan women fighting to influence their future, adding: “Without this, there will be no stability or prosperity in Afghanistan — and no sustainable peace.” Drawing on Norway’s decades of engagement in peace efforts worldwide, she stressed the importance of inclusivity in peace and reconciliation. Inclusive political settlements and institutions are key to sustaining peace, she said, calling on States to design processes and mechanisms that consider different cultures, races, ethnicities, languages, religions, and particularly women’s meaningful participation. She went on to highlight the importance of engaging all relevant actors to resolve conflict, recalling successful experience with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the Middle East, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia, and the Maoists in Nepal. She further noted that engagement cannot end when a peace agreement is signed, calling on States to draw on positive experiences from inclusivity being prioritized and use them to enhance peacebuilding capabilities.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) said many complex conflicts are linked to issues around ethnic, religious, sectarian, sexual and cultural identities, as well as economic and social differences. These factors may fuel conflicts, exacerbate their repercussions and also impact peacebuilding efforts. Many terrorist and extremist groups exploit divisions around issues of diversity and health crises like COVID-19 to serve their interests, he said, stressing on the importance of centering identity in all aspects in conflict resolution. State-building must be inclusive and ensure the participation of all groups in political life. Moreover, he said support should be lent to building State capacity so States can better accommodate diversity, thereby ensuring sustainable peace. He commended the Peacebuilding Commission, which works to resolve conflicts in a comprehensive manner, and called for redoubled efforts to prevent conflict, including early warning mechanisms and addressing root causes associated with marginalization or weak or absent State authority.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said that looking into the role of diversity in peacebuilding can be like opening a Pandora’s box. The multitude of differences — whether ethnic, religious, or political — exacerbate already existing economic and social problems. Failure to dismantle radicalized identities in time makes it difficult to maintain stability. In this regard, the experience of the European community is worth examining, he emphasized, noting that different cultural, ethnic, religious and political groups have reconciled under the banner of “United in Diversity” — the official motto of the European Union. Turning to growing tensions in cyberspace, he highlighted the important role played by the United Nations in advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace. Expressing support for the Secretary-General’s call to action for human rights, he said this transformative vision underpins the work of the entire United Nations system. The success of the European experiment is a result of unity based on the same notions.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) pointed out that many conflicts in the African continent can be traced back to historic causes, notably the process of colonialism, which drew arbitrary borders that grouped people together “randomly” in States, and even intentionally left behind lines of division which facilitated the subsequent economic exploitation of these regions. Such divisions did not contribute to building cohesive societies unified by common cultures, nor did they help build strong States capable of settling differences, he said. Given this backdrop, external attempts to impose models of sociopolitical organizations, through unilateral sanctions, regime changes or even the holding of elections, could not contribute to stability, as they did nothing to address persistent differences. Moreover, he said the concept of transitional justice is not effective when it enshrines the victory of one party over another or allows the interference of foreign States or interests. “Post-conflict life must be based on local features, specific to the situation of individual countries,” he emphasized. Turning to peacekeeping missions, he said while their contributions are significant “no readymade formulas should be imposed from the outside”.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that as the Council seeks to build and sustain peace, full respect for everyone’s human rights must be a leitmotif. All too often, group identity becomes the basis for marginalization, discrimination and abuse, but differences alone do not create conflict. The Council should view peace as process rather than an event, she added, recalling that peace in Northern Ireland took decades to achieve. In the aftermath of conflict, building good governance must have its roots in local communities, not conference rooms in New York. Stressing the importance of inclusive peacekeeping transitions, she said that a reconfigured United Nations presence, in cooperation with other actors, must be ready to “step up and step in” to support the peace.
ZHANG JUN (China) cautioned that diversity could become a source of tension and conflict. In the wake of the Second World War, many Asian and Latin American countries emerged from colonial rule, but legacies have remained as the root causes of today’s conflicts. How to make diversity a positive factor of peace deserves in-depth discussion. Respecting diversity of society and maintaining national unity are not mutually exclusive, he said. Many developing countries on the Council’s agenda are experiencing intercommunal disputes as a result of weakened identities, he said, urging parties to set aside differences. Development is “the master key” to resolving all problems, he said, calling for a people-centred and inclusive development policy. The goal of inclusive growth remains elusive when the world economy is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, calling for a fairer world governance system and economic cooperation that benefits developing countries. Foreign interference and attempts to change regimes plunged Libya and Syria into civil strife and Afghanistan into a vicious cycle, he said, stressing that the citizens of these countries should have the final say in choosing their political system.
* The 8866th meeting was closed.