USG DiCarlo’s Remarks at the Ministerial Breakfast of the United Nations
Group of Friends of Mediation
“Inclusion and Ownership of Peace Processes”
New York, 21 September 2023
Minister Valtonen (Finland),
Minister Fidan (Türkiye),
I would like to extend my gratitude to the co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Mediation, Finland and Türkiye, for convening today’s Ministerial meeting. We greatly appreciate your commitment to supporting UN prevention and peacemaking efforts.
Full inclusion and ownership of peace processes has never been more vital. As the Secretary-General underscores in his A New Agenda for Peace policy brief, we are living in a moment of geopolitical transition marked by increased competition and fragmentation.
Conflicts are ever more complex and intractable.
This inflection point requires a re-assessment of our traditional mediation practices. Today, effective mediation and conflict prevention requires comprehensive approaches, political courage, genuine regional and international partnerships, and national ownership. Above all, it requires greater trust – among Member States, and with the United Nations.
The Secretary-General’s A New Agenda for Peace puts the concept of national ownership and national action at its centre. Member States have the primary responsibility to prevent and resolve conflict and steward the implementation of resulting peace agreements.
This does not mean that State actors can implement these initiatives alone – inclusion and all of society approaches are necessary for the success of mediation and prevention initiatives. For this, there must be sufficient civic space to enable the meaningful participation of all societal groups, including women, in peace and political processes.
In A New Agenda for Peace, the Secretary-General committed to deploy his good offices to support prevention of conflict and to undertake diplomatic efforts for inclusive peace.
[Role of Women in Peace Processes]
More than 20 years since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security, women’s direct participation in peace processes remains one of the least implemented goals of the WPS agenda.
The full, equal, and meaningful participation of women is imperative. Women bring unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table that might be otherwise overlooked. They can ensure that the impact of conflict on women as well as men is taken into account.
As A New Agenda for Peace affirms, transforming gendered power dynamics, and to quote the Secretary-General “dismantling the patriarchy”, is essential to prevent and resolve conflict.
This requires the political will to ensure women are well-represented in negotiating delegations. There must be serious and substantial representation of women’s civil society, including by the creation of advisory boards and consultative bodies. Mediation teams must include gender experts and appoint women as lead mediators. Only then can mediation processes be truly inclusive and effective.
[Role of Youth in Peace Processes]
As noted in A New Agenda for Peace, young people, are essential to identifying the political solutions that our world urgently needs, particularly in how challenges such as the risks posed by the malicious use of digital technologies on social media and in cyberspace. An inter-generational perspective is critical to the legitimacy and durability of political solutions and peace agreements.
The powerful impact that young people have on peace processes go well beyond the negotiating table. Youth activists are leading public movements and using digital tools to change national political dynamics.
Allow me to share with you some recent UN experiences and approaches with inclusive peace processes, as well as some of the challenges we have faced.
First, the power inequalities and the under-representation of women are particularly stark in negotiations on ceasefires, where militaries remain male-dominated.
In 2021, my department launched the annual Women in Ceasefire Negotiations Course. Through this initiative, we are building a cadre of women negotiators and local mediators from dozens of conflict-affected countries that possess specialised skills to participate in complex ceasefire negotiations. Some graduates of this Course are already involved in inclusive ceasefire design and advocacy in their home countries, including Sudan and Yemen.
A New Agenda for Peace warns of a global backlash against women’s meaningful participation in political life. We have witnessed this in our mediation work. Notably, even when women have had a key place and role in peace negotiations, new challenges have arisen to sustaining their participation.
For example, in Colombia, the participation of women was critical for the 2016 Peace Agreement between the Government and the FARC movement. However, some seven years on, the implementation of the agreed gender provisions remains slow, and the protection of women leaders is a serious concern.
With new ceasefire talks underway between the Government of Colombia and the ELN armed group, we must ensure that women have leading roles in the monitoring and implementation of the new bilateral ceasefire agreement.
In Sudan, the reversals are even more stark. Women were prominent signatories to the December 2022 Framework Agreement facilitated by the AU, IGAD and UN. They managed to secure important gender provisions in the agreement. But following the outbreak of conflict last April, diplomatic efforts have reverted to being dominated by men and belligerent parties.
Promoting youth participation in peace processes raises distinct challenges. UN Special Political Missions in Iraq and Sudan have grappled with the challenge of including popular protest movements led by a diverse set of young leaders into formal constitutional review and political transition negotiations. UN Resident Coordinators in Bolivia and Ecuador have been asked by national authorities to help promote dialogue with mass movements at moments of crisis when many thousands - and especially young people - had taken to the streets.
These experiences have shown us that being serious about promoting youth participation requires new approaches. For governments and other traditional elites to engage with “leaderless” youth-led protests and online movements, new national peace infrastructures and the patience to develop structured plans that go beyond crisis diplomacy are needed. At the United Nations, we have developed and deployed tools to help national actors meet this challenge, including using artificial intelligence to hold inclusive digital consultations among governments, wider groups in society, and youth in countries such as Bolivia, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.
Inclusive mediation approaches are needed to tackle complex root causes of contemporary conflict. Sustainable mediation and prevention outcomes require leadership and ownership by national actors.
Thank you once again to the co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Mediation, Finland and Türkiye, for your leadership in advancing this crucial agenda.