Let me start by thanking the Secretary General and his staff for their report, and Mexico for holding today’s meeting. I would also like to thank the president of Burkina Faso, who initiated the process by calling for a high level meeting on “Mediation and the Settlement of Disputes” last year, a timely reminder of the importance of this subject.
The very first paragraph of the United Nations Charter states that a key purpose of the organisation is to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”. Mediation is a key instrument in this process, and consequently must rank among the core activities of the UN. The old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true in international relations as well, and the UN is more often than not what the world looks to for the “ounce of prevention”, in the form of mediation and conflict prevention.
It is no coincidence that two UN Secretaries-General (Kofi Annan and Dag Hammarskjöld), UNICEF, UNHCR and the UN itself have received the Nobel Peace Prize, all of them honoured for their work in pursuit of peace. We must never forget that preventing conflict was the main reason for establishing the UN, and we must make sure that the organisation is well equipped and ready to take on this responsibility whenever crises threaten to erupt. We have to admit that this is not always the case today. Time and time again, we see that the UN is forced to “pass the hat” among Member States to ask for voluntary contributions in order to do the job mandated in the Charter.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the size of the organisation’s regular budget matches the size of the job we are asking the UN to do, and it is the UN’s responsibility to be proactive and put this budget to good use in trouble spots around the world.
Mediators grapple with widely varying situations, yet some aspects are crucial to all international mediation efforts: Dialogue and access, early engagement, and a flexible and coherent approach. The mediator must talk to and have access to all parties involved. He or she must be impartial to the parties themselves, but not to the actions of the parties. The mediator must be brought into the process as early as possible. A non-threatening quiet diplomatic channel has the advantage of eliminating many of the political risks carried by a more public process. It also makes it more difficult for “spoilers” to undermine the work. And the mediator’s approach must be flexible, bringing all relevant actors such as the UN, regional organisations, civil society and individual states together, complementing each other’s efforts. The challenge is to make everybody coordinate their efforts. Last year in Kenya, we saw that the Security Council, the African Union, a former Secretary General of the UN and other international actors, together with the Mediation Support Unit and other parts of the secretariat, were able to reach a successful outcome during the challenging post-election period. This is exactly what we want and what we would like future mediators to learn from.
Like others before me, I would like to draw our collective attention to the fact that today, almost ten years after SR Resolution 1325 strongly urged the UN and Member States to take action to bring more women into peace processes, very little progress has been made. Among the peace negotiators deployed by the UN, the African Union, the European Union and Member States over the past decade, women are few and far between. We know that women bring different issues to the table, and that they contribute to a more durable and inclusive peace. We know that we only recruit from 50% of the talent pool as long as we do not include women in sufficient numbers. And we know that half of the population can feel excluded from the process and less committed to the outcome when they have not been part of the decision making. We commend the work that has been done on trying to recruit more women as mediators, but call for renewed and strengthened efforts from both the UN and Member States to translate the words of SR Resolution 1325 into concrete action – action that will bring women into the highest levels of mediation.
In closing I would like to welcome the improvement of the UNs mediation apparatus, particularly the Mediation Support Unit. Last year’s strengthening of the Department of Political Affairs meant that an increased number of mediation posts were covered by the regular budget, a development we strongly support. As stated earlier, mediation is a core activity of the UN and must also be at the core of the regular budget.
Norway will continue to support the MSU financially, in particular the Standby Team of experts. We encourage the entire UN system to take advantage of the unique expertise this team offers. The first team will complete their period in June this year, and we look forward to learning more about their experiences.
Thank you, Mr. President