posted on Tue 11 Jun 2019 6:16 PM
Conflict Prevention and Mediation Briefing

Tomorrow (12 June) the Security Council will hold a briefing on “Conflict prevention and mediation”. Secretary-General António Guterres and Mary Robinson, the chair of The Elders, a diverse and independent group of global leaders working to promote peace and human rights, are expected to brief, as is Ban Ki-moon, a current deputy chair of The Elders. Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah is expected to preside. No formal outcome is anticipated.

Kuwait’s decision to pursue a briefing on conflict prevention and mediation is reminiscent of the signature event of its February 2018 presidency, a ministerial-level briefing on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter in the maintenance of international peace and security. During that meeting, Kuwait emphasised that the Council should “further activate” tools of the Charter in Chapter VI on the peaceful settlement of disputes, such as mediation, negotiation and arbitration. It further stressed “the important and key role played by the Secretary-General in bringing any matter to the attention of the Security Council, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter.”

At tomorrow’s briefing, Guterres may describe the challenges and setbacks in conflict prevention and mediation, while flagging some successes that have been achieved. The Elders may emphasis the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict and promoting human rights as means to sustaining peace.

Both Guterres and Ban were briefers at the ministerial-level briefing on the UN Charter last February. It is possible that they, or others, could reiterate tomorrow some of the themes they presented at that meeting. At that meeting, Guterres spoke of the value of the UN regional offices in conflict prevention, and encouraged member states to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as a way of resolving disputes. He added that “prevention also depends crucially on advancing sustainable and inclusive development” and that women’s participation creates stronger peace agreements. Ban said that the UN must work to uphold multilateralism, and in this regard, called on member states to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. The importance of upholding the tenets of multilateralism in today’s challenging geo-political climate was a theme of the press briefing that Robinson, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also a member of The Elders, gave at UN headquarters earlier today.

Kuwait has circulated a concept note which states that tomorrow’s briefing “will provide a platform to discuss how best to…utilize the tools at the disposal of the United Nations system, including the Security Council…in order to address crises that have the potential to threaten regional and international peace and security”. The note outlines issues that may help guide the discussion, including: elements of the UN Charter related to conflict prevention and mediation that can be used by the Council; how the Council can best support the Secretary-General’s “good offices” work; and initiatives such as mini-visiting missions (with a small group of members), more effective use of targeted sanctions, and the expansion of the UN’s regional offices to other geographical areas.

Tomorrow, some Council members may echo Kuwait’s concept note by emphasising that conflict prevention and mediation are core principles of the UN Charter that should be reflected more strongly in the work of the Security Council. While noting the importance of early warning, some may emphasise that the political will must exist to translate early warning into concrete action. A number of members may also highlight inclusivity (including the participation of women and youth) as a key factor in the durability and quality of peace agreements. There may be discussion of the importance of developing more effective partnerships between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations with respect to conflict prevention and mediation. African members might talk about recent developments with regard to prevention and mediation structures as a part of the African peace and security architecture.

All Council members have expressed their support for conflict prevention and mediation at the thematic level. However, the Council’s track record in countries such as Syria, Mali and Libya, among others, does not match this thematic support. In part, the Council’s shortcomings reflect the complexity of these conflicts, with a proliferation of national and international stakeholders with varying agendas. But the inability of the Council to prevent and mediate conflict effectively also stems from the prevailing political divisions and contrasting views about state sovereignty among the permanent members, which tend to block action by the Council in cases where their national interests could be at stake.