Flexibility, partnerships, knowledge key to mediating conflicts – UN official

To boost its ability to prevent and limit bloodshed, the United Nations must have flexible funding, regional partnerships and accessible information for mediation, the Organisation’s political chief told the world body on Tuesday.
“Mediation is a Charter activity of the United Nations and must be carried out with the highest degree of professionalism, transparency and preparation to promote peace and security,” B. Lynne Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council at the start of an open debate.
The UN News Service notes in a recent report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the world body`s mediation capacity has been hampered by a limited number of experienced mediators and a lack of sufficient financial resources.
In his presentation, Pascoe described recent efforts of his Department of Political Affairs (DPA) to put in place the expertise, financial resources partnerships and knowledge-base needed to reverse that situation.
“These are part of a conscious effort to reshape the Department of Political Affairs into a more action- and field-oriented operation that can move more quickly and at an earlier stage to help prevent conflicts from spreading and to deliver faster and more reliable support to peace processes,” he said.
In that context, he underlined the strengthening of Regional Divisions and the creation of a Mediation Support Unit (MSU), which had been complemented by a standby team of mediation experts, ready to deploy to negotiations around the world.
At the end of the day-long meeting which heard from dozens of speakers, the Council adopted a presidential statement in which it recognized “the importance of mediation, to be launched at the earliest possible phases of conflicts, as well as in the implementation phases of signed peace agreements.”
In the statement read out by Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, the 15-member body stressed that “the principal responsibility for the peaceful settlement of disputes rests with the parties to the conflict and that it is only through their full participation and genuine commitment to resolve the conflict including its underlying causes, that peace can be achieved and sustained.”
The Council also welcomed the Secretary-General`s mediation efforts and the work of DPA, underscoring that “mediation support efforts should be responsive to the demands of fast-moving peace processes.”
In his briefing to the Council, Pascoe said that DPA had recently provided mediation support to over 20 peace processes, including reconciliation talks in Somalia that led up to the October 2008 Djibouti Agreement and national political dialogue in the Central African Republic (CAR).
It also deployed facilitators for discussions on technical issues in the ongoing Cyprus talks, including property and power-sharing matters, and is supporting Ban`s representative in Nepal in implementation of the peace agreement there, Pascoe said.
In Iraq, DPA is supporting the Special Representative with mediation expertise on internal boundaries, Kirkuk, water-sharing and the constitution, and has supported peacekeeping missions in Darfur and Kosovo, among others, in mediation efforts.
Flexible funding in all these efforts is crucial, he said, noting that the establishment of a mediation start-up budget, funded by donors, has allowed mediation teams and envoys to be sent recently to Madagascar, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Department was increasing its partnership with regional organizations such as the African and European Unions, and looked forward to working together more, sharing expertise, developing joint training opportunities and creating a geographically diverse roster of mediation experts.
It will need to work closely with partners, he said, to further develop a web-based repository of information on mediation called “UN Peacemaker,” which already has over 800 documents, more than 300 peace agreements and 15 operational guidance notes, with another 22 in development.