What's In Blue

Posted Thu 19 Oct 2023

Open Debate on Contributions of Regional Mechanisms to Peace and Security

Tomorrow (20 October), the Security Council will hold an open debate on “Contributions of regional mechanisms for peace and security” under the “Maintenance of international peace and security” agenda item. One of the signature events of Brazil’s October presidency of the Security Council, the meeting is expected to focus on the contribution of regional, sub-regional, and bilateral arrangements to the prevention and peaceful resolution of disputes. The expected briefers are: Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Mohamed Khaled Khiari; Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Thabo Mbeki, the former President of South Africa; and Dr. Josefina Echavarría Alvarez, Professor of the Practice and the director of the Peace Accords Matrix (PAM) program at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. No outcome is anticipated in connection with the meeting.

A concept note circulated by Brazil ahead of the open debate advocates for the Council to apply Chapter VI tools before “the need to resort to Chapter VII arises”. (Chapter VI of the UN Charter focuses on “The pacific settlement of disputes”, while Chapter VII outlines coercive measures.) The concept note suggests that regional, sub-regional, and bilateral arrangements offer positive examples of the use of peaceful measures that the Council can learn from to enhance the effectiveness of its work. Drawing on A New Agenda for Peace, UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ July policy report outlining his vision for international peace and security, it emphasises that “[r]estoring trust and reinvigorating diplomacy” is “one of the greatest political challenges of our time…and [is] essential to strengthening international action that is perceived as both legitimate and effective”.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion:

  • How could Chapter VI tools be better used for reducing tensions and preventing disputes from escalating?
  • How can confidence-building measures adopted by regional, sub-regional, and bilateral arrangements help in the maintenance of international peace and security?
  • How can the UN Security Council better cooperate with such arrangements or preemptively encourage them?
  • Bearing in mind A New Agenda for Peace, what could be the role for these arrangements in a reformed collective security mechanism?

Khairi may underscore the potential to make greater use of Article 33 of the UN Charter, which names “negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means” as tools to settle disputes. In A New Agenda for Peace, Guterres says that the “underutilization of the different tools referred to in article 33 of the Charter remains one of our greatest collective shortcomings”.

Echavarría may speak about the factors that cause peace agreements to succeed or fail. In this regard, she may discuss the work of the PAM program, which has found that peace agreements tend to be more successful when they are comprehensive (that is, they address not only security concerns but also broader societal needs) and are supported by independent and impartial monitoring and verification processes. Echavarría might also describe the technical support that the PAM program has provided to help Colombia implement the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the former rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP).

At tomorrow’s open debate, some member states may encourage more frequent use of Chapter VI (Peaceful Settlement of Disputes) of the UN Charter, rather than sanctions and other coercive measures outlined in Chapter VII (Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression), which are often more controversial. They may also offer their views on how the Security Council can more effectively encourage and support the good offices efforts of the Secretary-General.

Members may also share the lessons learned from the conflict prevention and mediation efforts of regional, sub-regional, and bilateral arrangements, including in their own regions. In this regard, the Brazilian concept note references the efforts of Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela to bring peace to Latin America through the Contadora Process in the 1980s; the peaceful settlement of the territorial dispute between Ecuador and Peru in 1998, assisted by guarantor countries Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the US; and the inter-state dialogues that supported the Colombia peace process, which began in 2012.

Members may offer their views on regional and sub-regional mediation processes in situations on the Council’s agenda including, for example, the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Myanmar, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Sudan.

Members may also discuss ways in which the Council can enhance its engagement with regional and sub-regional organisations to promote conflict prevention and mediation efforts. In this regard, they may note informal interactive dialogues (IIDs) as a useful means of learning about regional mediation initiatives. (IIDs are informal closed meetings which allow for the participation of non-Council members. This format is often used by Council members to exchange views with high-level officials of regional and sub-regional bodies). Members may also explore how to strengthen coherence and coordination between the UN’s regional offices and regional and sub-regional bodies in preventing and mediating conflicts.

Given the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas (the Palestinian armed group and de facto authority in Gaza)—and the potential for regional spillover—some member states may emphasise the need for de-escalation and enhanced diplomacy to bring the fighting to a peaceful end.

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