Under Secretary-General Rosemary A. DiCarlo's remarks at the Arria Formula meeting on “Seventy-five years from the end of the Second World War on European Soil - lessons learned for preventing future atrocities, responsibility of the Security Council”
Thank you, Mr. Minister, for the invitation to participate in today’s meeting to commemorate 75 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe. This is another opportunity to reflect on the toll of that horrific conflict and its legacy, for Europe and the world.
It is both poignant and ironic that we are not able to meet in person today, because we are facing one of the greatest challenges to humanity since the end of the Second World War. How we react to the new challenge before us - the COVID-19 pandemic - could be as significant as how the world rebuilt after fascism was vanquished.
In May 1945, visionary leaders chose multilateralism and international cooperation over division and isolation. A choice that led to the establishment of the United Nations Organization.
These same leaders created a rules-based system with mechanisms to resolve differences peacefully, and all committed to the principle of collective security. The rules-based system was also built on the respect of human rights and human dignity, a necessary value to overcome the legacy of the Holocaust and atrocities of the conflict.
European countries played a large role in this architecture. For the past 75 years, the countries of Europe have been stalwart supporters both of multilateralism and conflict prevention, lending indispensable support to the United Nations.
The creation of the European Economic Community and European Union signalled that countries would put aside their differences and work toward a more prosperous future of benefit to all members. And the adoption of the Helsinki Accords and the establishment of the Organization of Cooperation and Security in Europe was key to reducing tensions between East and West during the post-War period.
And while this system created after the war has brought relative peace to Europe and other parts of the world, tensions and violent conflicts persist, including in Europe.
Preventing and resolving violent conflicts around the world is at the heart of the United Nations peace and security pillar. The Secretary-General has made prevention one of his highest priorities, including the full and effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.
His vision focuses on the need to mitigate wider stressors and shocks that can lead to political crises and violent conflict. He has repeatedly called for a “surge in diplomacy for peace”.
In his briefing to the Security Council on “Conflicts in Europe” at the beginning of his tenure, the Secretary-General urged all stakeholders to intensify their efforts to define a peace and security agenda that could effectively address current complex challenges.
I would like to recall his appeal to the Security Council for an honest reflection on the conflicts in the region. Europe is not immune from instability, and we should not take peace and prosperity in the region for granted.
The United Nations contributed to bringing an end to brutal wars in the Western Balkans in the 1990s. And yet, full peace and reconciliation have still not been achieved there. Meanwhile, there remain several protracted conflicts on the continent, and the crises in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014 showed that new outbreaks of violence were all too possible.
Meanwhile, seventy-five years since the end of the war, we are hearing disturbing echoes of the past. The voices of populism, authoritarianism, nationalism, and xenophobia are making themselves heard ever more loudly. We must confront those who would drag the world back to a violent and shameful past.
The United Nations continues to engage in peace efforts in Europe, including negotiations to reach a comprehensive and durable settlement to the long-standing Cyprus question. We are also working with regional organizations in the Geneva International Discussions.
In addition, we fully support the lead role and vital work of the Normandy Four and Trilateral Contact Group for Ukraine, the OSCE-led Minsk Group Co-Chairs process on Nagorno-Karabakh, the OSCE-led “5+2” settlement process for Transnistria, and the EU-led Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. It is time to find negotiated solutions to these conflicts and build lasting peace. This will require political will, courage and leadership by all concerned.
Yes, this is easier said than done. But if ever there was a time to look beyond narrow interests, this is it. Europe, with international help, built a more prosperous and peaceful future after the cataclysm of the war three quarters of a century ago.
Today, a deadly pandemic threatens us all. But it also gives us an opportunity to unite our efforts to first overcome the crisis and then create a more equitable and peaceful world.
Recognizing the unprecedented global challenge of COVID-19, the Secretary-General called on 23 March for a global ceasefire. He urged all warring parties to silence their guns in order to facilitate conditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid, create the space for diplomatic engagement, and address the needs of those most vulnerable to the pandemic.
His appeal has garnered endorsements from many Member States, regional organizations, religious leaders and civil society platforms, as well as several armed groups. The voice of European Member States has been critical in amplifying this call.
Regrettably, in many places, support for the Secretary-General’s call has yet to translate into tangible results. We need a concerted international effort to move conflict parties to stop the fighting, especially as the pandemic injects countries with far-reaching humanitarian, socio-economic and potentially political consequences.
The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed highlighted, once again, the importance of working collectively. When the Secretary-General decided last year that the UN would mark its 75th anniversary by looking forward not backward to what citizens around the world expected from the United Nations of the future, no one could have predicted we would be facing a crisis of this scale.
Out of concern that the world was growing more divided, the Secretary-General called for a return to the spirit of the Charter, to “We the peoples”, to renew international cooperation.
As we look back on the lessons of the past 75 years, we must find opportunity in this time of crisis, to put aside our differences and strengthen the channels for dialogue and cooperation. We must also exercise the solidarity needed to help the more vulnerable countries respond to the challenges they are now facing, understanding that their security and well-being affects us all. We must also find that community of purpose that existed in the immediate post-war period.
This is essential for safeguarding lasting peace and stability, in Europe and beyond.
Thank you, Mr. Minister