United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the United Nations Security Council, Aug 29, 2018, at the UN headquarters. Guterres said on Aug 29, 2018 that innovative thinking on mediation in resolving conflicts is a necessity. (RICHARD DREW / AP)
UNITED NATIONS - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that innovative thinking on mediation in resolving conflicts is a necessity.
As the conflict landscape has changed, so has our understanding of what constitutes an effective mediation process. Innovative thinking on mediation is no longer an option, it is a necessity
Antonio Guterres, Secretary General, United Nations
"As the conflict landscape has changed, so has our understanding of what constitutes an effective mediation process," said the UN chief at the Security Council's debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security. "Innovative thinking on mediation is no longer an option, it is a necessity.
"I urge you to commit to more effective use of mediation as a tool to save and improve the lives of millions of people around the world," he added.
Again, the UN chief talked about the importance of prevention diplomacy.
"As bad as the situation is in many parts of the world, I am convinced that it is within our power to tackle and reverse these trends," he said. "This is why, since the beginning of my tenure, one of my key priorities has been a surge in diplomacy for peace."
"We must make prevention our priority. But prevention also includes investment in mediation, peacebuilding and sustainable development," said the secretary-general.
Guterres noted that "we must be bold and creative in bringing together the avenues and capacities that are available for mediation."
He said at the debate that he was grateful to former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, a member of his high-level advisory board, who traveled to Liberia on his behalf to support the peaceful transfer of power after the 2017 elections.
"This is just one example of how we can deploy board members in the cause of conflict prevention," he said.
"The board's members have experience and networks across the entire spectrum of mediation. I look to them to provide tailored advice, to find new entry points, and to help train and build capacity amongst our partners," the secretary-general added.
"Discreet engagement also plays a role," Guterres said, while speaking about the weight of engagement in mediation.
"Continuing talks with the Taliban, despite years of war and continued fighting, and away from the glare of publicity, allows for positions to be clarified. Renewed engagement with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has also benefitted from this approach," the UN chief noted.
Guterres also said that the UN works with actors including non-governmental organizations, "which may have greater freedom to establish contacts and foster dialogue with armed groups, militias and others."
"Meanwhile, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, an enormous range of other actors, national bodies and civil society groups, including women's organizations, religious leaders and young activists, play a part in mediation at a local and community level," he said.
"Mediating an end to today's complex conflicts means we must bring all these tracks together, in a coordinated way," the secretary-general noted.
"We must also find new ways to pursue the more inclusive approaches that are critical to successful mediation," he said, adding "that is what we in the United Nations are trying to do."
Mossarat Qadeem, Executive Director of Paiman Alumni Trust, a nonprofit organization in Pakistan, emphasized how women have been excluded in mediation, but can play a key role in such efforts.
"Despite the rhetoric of support and even the resolutions and national plans that you have adopted, we as women remain largely outside the door," she said.
There is a misconception about the role of mediator, who is often seen as having power and gravitas. Many are skeptical of women's ability to talk to extremist groups like the Taliban, Boko Haram or the Tamil Tigers, she said.
Years ago, a group of mothers of missing soldiers in Sri Lanka "successfully mediated a ceasefire," which was followed by peace talks between the Tamil Tigers and the government, she said. She also shared her own experience of speaking with the Taliban in Pakistan.
"I found the courage not only to speak with them to release my staff members they had captured, but I took the chance to seek support for the implementation of health and education projects. This is mediation," she said.
Women, with their connections to communities and households, are helpful in localized peacebuilding, she said.