Human Fraternity in Promoting and Sustaining Peace
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council will hold a high-level briefing on the theme “The Values of Human Fraternity in Promoting and Sustaining Peace” under the agenda item “Maintenance of International Peace and Security”. This is one of the signature events of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) June presidency. Secretary-General António Guterres and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Muhammed Ahmed Aṭ-Ṭayyeb, are the expected briefers. A high-level representative of the Holy See is also an anticipated briefer.
Background and Key Recent Developments
On 21 December 2020, General Assembly resolution 75/200—which was tabled by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and was adopted by consensus—proclaimed 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity and “[a]cknowledge[ed] that tolerance, pluralistic tradition, mutual respect and the diversity of religions and beliefs promote human fraternity”. In his statements on the International Day of Human Fraternity, the Secretary-General has linked human fraternity to “the values of compassion, religious understanding, and mutual respect”, as well as to the importance of “stand[ing] firm against bigotry” and recognising “diversity as a richness that strengthens us all”.
The June high-level briefing will be the first time that the Security Council holds a meeting on human fraternity. According to a concept note circulated by the UAE, the briefing intends to highlight the “impact of intolerance, hate speech and incitement to hatred, racism and other manifestations of extremism in exacerbating threats across the peace continuum” as well as the role that tolerance, human fraternity and peaceful coexistence can play in sustaining and promoting peace. One of the objectives of the meeting stated in the concept note is to strengthen the UN’s, member states’, and other actors’ approaches to addressing the “drivers of intolerance and extremism”, including by “taking stock of the insights gained from the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech (2019), as well as the role of religious leaders, women and youth in strengthening resilience against intolerance and extremism”. (The UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech consists of 13 commitments for action by the UN system to enhance UN efforts to address root causes and drivers of hate speech and to enable effective UN responses to the impact of hate speech on societies.)
Council members are increasingly discussing a range of cross-cutting issues under the rubric of emerging threats to international peace and security or as factors that can strengthen societies’ resilience to those threats. As part of discussions on conflict prevention and peacebuilding, recent meetings have emphasised issues such as trust, resilience, dialogue, diversity, inequality, and exclusion. In October 2021, for instance, the Security Council held an open debate on “Diversity, State-building and the search for peace” under Kenya’s presidency. Under Mexico’s November 2021 presidency, the Council held open debates on preventive diplomacy as a common objective for UN organs and on “Exclusion, inequality and conflict”.
More recently, during Switzerland’s May presidency, the Security Council held an open debate on “Futureproofing trust for sustaining peace” which, in light of current and emerging threats to peace and security, encouraged a reflection on the Council’s approaches towards building trust and fostering sustainable peace. In addition, the 26 January open debate on “Investment in people to enhance resilience against complex challenges” under the Japanese presidency aimed at providing an opportunity to review the Council’s work on peacebuilding and discuss how to adapt and strengthen it considering contemporary threats and challenges to the maintenance of international peace and security. Through the August 2022 briefing on common security through dialogue and cooperation, China intended to provide an opportunity for Council members to consider the concept of security from a broader perspective, including how to address emerging and non-traditional threats, and to encourage reflection on ways to enhance mutual trust, reduce strategic risks, and promote common security through dialogue and cooperation.
Council members have more often approached issues such as hate speech, tolerance, intolerance, and the role of religious and community leaders in the context of country situations than in thematic discussions. For example, “supporting and undertaking local mediation efforts and national level advocacy to prevent escalation of violence and to counter hate speech” is part of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (MONUSCO) protection of civilians mandate, as renewed in resolutions 2612 and 2666 in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Resolution 2155, which in May 2014 revised the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), strongly condemned “the use of radio to broadcast hate speech and transmit messages instigating sexual violence against a particular ethnic group”. The 20 February presidential statement on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, noted “with deep concern instances of discrimination, intolerance and hate speech motivated by racism or directed against persons belonging to religious communities, in particular cases motivated by Islamophobia, antisemitism or Christianophobia”.
While Council members have more frequently approached issues such as hate speech and intolerance in country situations, Kenya and the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect organised a closed Arria-formula meeting on hate speech and social media in October 2021. In addition, in March 2021, the UK organised an open Arria-formula meeting on religion, belief and conflict. According to the concept note issued by the UK, the meeting was intended to examine, among other issues, how religious actors in peace processes can help support conflict resolution in a gender-sensitive way.
Key Issues and Options
How to better prevent conflict and promote and support inclusive and sustainable peace are key issues for the Council, as well as for the wider UN system and membership. In this regard, the concept note for the briefing states that one of its objectives is to provide an opportunity for UN member states “to renew their commitments to preventing conflict and promoting and sustaining peace, including by fostering a more comprehensive understanding of how peacebuilding, sustainable development and societal resilience can contribute to peace and security”.
As the organiser of this high-level briefing, the UAE could prepare a chair’s summary of the meeting to capture salient themes of the discussion to be circulated in a Council letter.
Council dynamics on hate speech, interreligious dialogue, and tolerance as broader thematic issues have yet to be fully and directly tested. At the time of writing, however, Council members are negotiating a draft resolution on tolerance in international peace and security which appears to focus on the promotion of tolerance and peaceful coexistence as ways to address issues such as hate speech and manifestations of extremism. The negotiations on this draft, which is co-penned by the UAE and the UK, may clarify Council dynamics on these issues.
Nonetheless, dynamics at the General Assembly on initiatives on similar issues may be indicative of possible Council dynamics. In July 2021, the General Assembly adopted resolution 75/309 on “Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech”. China, Gabon, Ghana, Mozambique, and the UAE were among the co-sponsors of the text, which was adopted by consensus. In its explanation of position, however, Slovenia—delivering a statement on behalf of the EU, including candidate country Albania—regretted that the text looked “at hate speech only in the context of religious intolerance”, adding that “[o]nly a comprehensive approach tackling all aspects and grounds of discrimination and violence can have a real impact”. In that regard, it also stressed the “vital importance of ensuring respect for the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to access to information, and to privacy”.
In December 2021, the General Assembly adopted resolution 76/69 on “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” with 139 votes in favour, including from many current Council members, and nine abstentions, including the UK and the US. In its explanation of vote, the US said that it opposes “any attempts to unduly limit” the exercise of the freedoms of expression and religion or belief and expressed “strong reservations” about a paragraph “where the text suggests that protections for freedoms of expression and religion or belief are at odds with one another”. Among other issues, the EU lamented that the resolution lacked a “stronger affirmation of the positive role that human rights, including the freedom of expression, play in furthering intercultural and interreligious dialogue”.
When the General Assembly adopted resolution 75/200 on the “International Day of Human Fraternity” in December 2020, both the EU and the US, while joining the consensus, expressed reservations about a reference to “pluralistic tradition” in the text. The EU regretted that an earlier reference to “pluralism” was changed to “pluralistic tradition” and argued that “[p]luralism is not a tradition but a fundamental principle”. The US noted that “pluralistic tradition” could be read restrictively and said that it would have preferred a reference to “religious pluralism” instead.
UN DOCUMENT ON HUMAN FRATERNITY
|General Assembly Documents|
|21 December 2020A/RES/75/200||This was a General Assembly resolution proclaiming the 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity.|