posted on Thu 8 Oct 2020 6:04 PM
Arria-formula Meeting on Mediation

Tomorrow (9 October), there will be a virtual Arria-formula meeting on mediation. Council members Belgium, Germany, Viet Nam and non-Council member Switzerland are jointly hosting the meeting. Council members, other UN member states, representatives of the Group of Friends of Mediation, UN officials, and other representatives of the UN mediation community have been invited to participate in the meeting via video link.

The agenda will be based on a discussion paper entitled “Mandating peace: Enhancing the mediation sensitivity and effectiveness of the UN Security Council”, which has been authored by Laurie Nathan, Professor of the Practice of Mediation at the University of Notre Dame. Sibylle Katharina Sorg, Head of the Directorate-General for Crisis Prevention, Stabilization, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Assistance of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, will deliver introductory remarks. Professor Nathan will then present the key findings of his report. Nicholas Haysom, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sudan; Natalia Gherman, the Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA); and Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), are expected to provide comments on the report. Following the commentary, Belgium, Switzerland, Viet Nam, the Group of Friends of Mediation, and other member states will deliver statements.  A question and answer period is expected to follow.

Professor Nathan’s paper—which was commissioned by the German Federal Foreign Office—states that Security Council mandates related to mediation are only in their nascent stages. Exploring how resolutions can promote peacemaking through mediation, the paper argues that Council resolutions should incorporate the perspectives of the mediator (assuming one has been appointed), compel the parties towards mediation and “afford the mediator a high level of flexibility”. The report further maintains that Council resolutions on a given conflict “should be informed by consultation with the…decision-making body of the relevant regional organization” and “include a provision requiring the Council to periodically review progress regarding the parties’ cooperation with the mediator”. Furthermore, resolutions “should be formulated in a manner that seeks to make a negotiated settlement attractive to all the parties”, rather than “prescribing a win-loss outcome” for them.

The report also recommends the establishment of a Security Council Mediation Working Group to “deepen [the Security Council’s] understanding of the logic, dynamics and challenges of mediation, both in general and in specific cases”. It maintains that this Working Group could undertake a policy review of mediation that could “assess UN mediation strategies, structures, funding and relationships, as well as the effects of [Security Council] resolutions on mediation”.

The co-sponsors of the meeting have prepared a concept note with questions to help guide the discussion:

  • What are good practices in Security Council meditation engagement?
  • What is required to create an enabling environment for the mediation process, the mediator and the parties—as well as coherence among the key actors?
  • How can the Security Council be more responsive to the dynamics of mediation processes?
  • What specific actions are needed to strengthen the Security Council’s effectiveness and to deepen policy debates on its mandates for mediation, with the Council and/or outside?

Member states are expected to raise a number of points in relation to these questions. Some members may emphasise that the Council can be better informed of mediation efforts underway in particular contexts, in order to make more effective decisions. In this regard, they may highlight the Secretary-General’s monthly lunches, “other business” during consultations, and horizon-scanning sessions by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs as avenues through which the Council receives useful information. Some members may underscore the importance of coherence and coordination among different actors with regard to mediation. They could note that the Council often plays a complementary and at times discreet role in mediation efforts, allowing the UN Secretariat, regional actors, member states, or civil society to take the lead and only offering their political support as needed. The importance of Council unity in supporting mediation efforts could be highlighted as well by some members, who may further note that key Council members sometimes pursue national interests that undermine peacemaking processes and violate the Council’s own resolutions.

Recent formal meetings that the Council has convened on mediation-related topics include: the 29 November 2019 open debate under the UK Council presidency on “The role of reconciliation in maintaining international peace and security” (S/PV.8668), the 12 June 2019 briefing during Kuwait’s presidency on “Conflict prevention and mediation” (S/PV.8546), and the 29 August 2018 open debate during the UK presidency on “Mediation and settlement of disputes” (S/PV.8334).