Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to hold an open debate on reconciliation. At press time, no formal outcome was anticipated.
Key Recent Developments
This open debate seems to stem from an open debate held by the UK during its last presidency of the Security Council, in August 2018, on “Maintenance of international peace and security: Mediation and the peaceful resolution of conflicts”. While it focused on the role of mediation, reconciliation was a part of the discussion, with several speakers raising the topic.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was invited to participate as a member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. In his statement, Welby said that mediation is only effective in the context of reconciliation. He defined reconciliation as “the process of transforming violent conflict into non-violent coexistence where communities have come to terms with history and are learning to disagree well”.
Other briefers included Secretary-General António Guterres and Mossarat Qadeem, co-founder of the PAIMAN Alumni Trust, which works to prevent violent extremism in Pakistan. Several speakers talked about how mediation efforts are complemented by national reconciliation and post-conflict development. Additionally, some speakers stressed that the parties themselves must recognise their own interest in reconciling and take ownership over any reconciliation process.
The last Council meeting focused specifically on reconciliation took place more than fifteen years ago, during an open debate on 26 January 2004, organised by Chile. The meeting was focused on “post-conflict national reconciliation: role of the UN” and was seen as a continuation of the ministerial-level meeting on the rule of law on 24 September 2003, spearheaded by the UK, which included discussion of the need to balance national reconciliation and justice, and the Council’s role in fostering reconciliation. The January 2004 meeting had three briefers: Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme; and Carolyn McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator of OCHA. Additionally, Chile shared excerpts from a letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Thirty-seven member states participated in the open debate. At the end of the meeting, the Council adopted a presidential statement that reaffirmed the vital importance of the UN’s role in post-conflict national reconciliation and underscored the experience and expertise in the UN system and among member states with respect to such reconciliation.
Throughout the years, various resolutions and presidential statements have stressed the importance of reconciliation as part of a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention and sustaining peace.
At press time, Council members were negotiating a draft presidential statement on conflict prevention that could be adopted before the end of October.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council is to learn more about how various elements of reconciliation—for example, truth and reconciliation commissions and national dialogues—have worked in different settings and with what impact. Colombia, whose peace process has an important reconciliation component and whose implementation the Council has been following closely, will most likely be on many members’ minds. Participants may also use the debate as an opportunity to discuss how to support national and local reconciliation strategies in other countries emerging from conflict; whether and how to support reconciliation processes as part of exit strategies for peace operations; and how the Council can engage with other parts of the UN system, including the Peacebuilding Commission and UN Country Teams, to support such processes.
One option for the Council is to invite a civil society representative involved in truth and reconciliation commissions or other reconciliation efforts to brief.
Another option would be for the Council to adopt a presidential statement on reconciliation processes. The UK could also choose to produce a chair’s summary that would reflect the themes of the open debate.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council rarely addresses reconciliation as a thematic issue. The topic has, however, been part of discussions on post-conflict situations, such as South Sudan or the former Yugoslav republics. Additionally, several Council members have their own historical reconciliation experiences from which they can draw, such as Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, and the UK. In the open debate on mediation last August, members spoke about how reconciliation is needed for inclusive societies. Members also talked about the importance of confidence-building in local reconciliation. Many praised the Secretary-General’s increased focus on using mediation to shore up preventive diplomacy. The UK focused on UN peacekeeping missions’ effective facilitation role of mediation efforts. Equatorial Guinea, speaking on behalf of the three elected African Council members, emphasised the unique role regional organisations can play and called for continued UN support to regional efforts, especially those of the African Union. Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru, Poland, and the UK made specific mention of the need to include women in conflict resolution at all levels. France and Peru worried about how the increasing complexity of conflicts could pose a challenge to mediation efforts. China stressed the need for those involved in post-conflict resolution to recognise national sovereignty and to avoid imposing unilateral solutions.
UN Documents On Reconciliation
|Security Council Presidential Statements
|26 January 2004S/PRST/2004/2
|This statement was on post-conflict national reconciliation asked the Secretary-General to give consideration to the views expressed in the 26 January open debate in the preparation of his report on justice and the rule of law.
|Security Council Meeting Records
|29 August 2018S/PV.8334
|This is a meeting record of an open debate during the UK presidency on “mediation and settlement of disputes”.
|26 January 2004S/PV.4903
|This was an open debate on the role of the UN in post-conflict national reconciliation.
|26 January 2004S/PV.4903 (Resumption 1)
|This was the resumption of an open debate on the role of the United Nations in post-conflict national reconciliation.