On May 23, 2012, the General Assembly convened a high level meeting on “The Role of Member States in Mediation,” to provide a platform for an in-depth and comprehensive discussion on the role of Member States in peaceful settlement of dispute and conflicts. The outcome of these discussions will contribute to the report and guidance of the Secretary-General and the upcoming General Assembly resolution on mediation.
“We must do much more to include more women in peace processes. I have personally been appointing as many qualified women mediators as I can find, and I count on countries to support this effort.” – Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
In their opening remarks, both President of the UN General Assembly and Secretary-General called for more inclusive peace processes and reiterated the important role of women in mediation. Statements by Member States similarly reflected the value of implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 in regards to mediation.
The benefits of involving women in mediation and peace processes was emphasized by many Member States, including Finland, Philippines, Italy, Austria, and Mexico. Finland reiterated that “an enhanced role for women will result in more sustainable results” and will strengthen women's role in future democratic processes, such as the incorporation of women into the traditional elders council in South-Central Somalia. Member States, including Austria, also recognized the UN's prioritization of including women in the mediation process, commending the increase in female senior mediators, including the appointment of the first senior female mediator in Malawi. Member States also discussed the necessity of gender expertise in mediation and incorporating gender analysis into training of mediators.
The discussion failed to highlight the importance of embedding women's rights in the content of peace agreements, and the role of mediators in achieving this objective. Additionally, although Member States discussed the need for peace agreements that do not permit amnesty for human rights violations, more attention should be given to ensuring an end to impunity for grave violations against women, including sexual and gender-based violence.
At the afternoon panel, speakers expressed concern that women remain the “absent actors” in conflict mediation and questioned what could be done to improve their presence and participation. Guatemala highlighted women's leadership in preventive diplomacy, acting as agents of change, and offering early warning to prevent and mitigate conflicts.
The morning session featured opening remarks by Mr. Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the UN General Assembly, and Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and statements by Foreign Ministers, Legal Advisors, and Senior Mediators from 11 Member States. In the afternoon, Dr. Edward Luck, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General, moderated a panel discussion on “The challenge of coherence, coordination and complementarity among various actors in mediation processes.” Panelists included Mr. Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Dr. Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Turkey, Mr. Youssef Amrani, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, and Mr. Lynn Pascoe, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Also participating in the discussion were representatives of 20 Member States, as well as representatives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the European Union and the President of the Board of Mediators Beyond Borders.
Member States praised the emphasis on mediation as a tool to both prevent and mitigate conflicts, as well as highlighting national successes and best practices for mediation efforts. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of remedy. Mediation saves lives and resources. It is a wise investment that deserves secure funding.” Member States agreed that mediation is a key component to achieving the peaceful settlement of disputes.
In the morning debate, Member States shared lessons learned from their involvement in mediation and proposals for the Secretary-General's Guidance on Effective Mediation. Among the guidelines, Member States agreed on the importance of sustainable and inclusive mediation processes; consent and participation from all stakeholders; fair, transparent, and impartial mediation; and no amnesty or impunity for human rights violations. The discussion also reflected on the importance of a mediator with a strong knowledge of the local context and ownership of the process by all stakeholders. Further, many Member States suggested the ongoing involvement of the mediation team in the implementation of peace agreements.
Both the morning debate and the afternoon panel stressed the need for increased coordination and coherence among the different actors. The UN Mediation Support Unit was proposed as a potential site to centralize mediation efforts, while also providing needed capacity building to regional and national mediation teams. In addition, Member States highlighted the success of national and regional mediation institutes, and suggested these could be strengthened through the development of coherent international principles for effective mediation.