New York, US - UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, says a halt to fighting does not necessarily end a conflict, stressing the need for the organisation to take a more systematic approach to reconciliation, particularly in the aftermath of conflicts within States. Mr. Feltman, who addressed the UN Security Council on Wednesday at a thematic debate on 'War, its lessons, and the search for a permanent peace', said: 'As we have seen repeatedly, fighting that ends without reconciliation, especially fighting inside States is fighting that can, and often does, resume.'
He told the Council that while the UN had time-tested formulas for separating armies, tending to the needy, enacting political roadmaps and rebuilding actual roads and ministries, 'we have reflected less on our ability to repair trust in societies and foster genuine reconciliation'.
'As such, the world body and its main institutions need to consider: How can we mend shattered social fabrics so that people look in their adversary’s eyes once again and see the human being rather than the enemy?'
Mr. Feltman, who is among the more than 50 speakers at the debate, stressed the need for reconciliation to take the centre stage in an effort to find solution to conflicts around the world.
He noted that while the UN was constantly reviewing its approach to enable permanent peace, there were four areas that deserved special attention, including specifying reconciliation principles and mechanisms in peace agreements, and carefully timing elections and constitutional review processes.
He stressed the importance of establishing a UN repository of comparative knowledge and experience on reconciliation, noting, however, that the responsibility for reconciliation rested with national actors, as well as assistance from the international community.
'Leaders need to set the example, not just in ceasing war-time rhetoric and ending the intentional promotion of grievances, but also by deeds of genuine cooperation and honest examinations of their own roles in conflict.'
Turning to the role of the youth, who often grew up in post-war conflicts to be more extreme than their parents, the UN official stressed the importance of working with parents and teachers to develop early a history curriculum that shared different interpretations of conflicts.
'This could form the beginning of developing a shared narrative and establishing points of convergence in people’s experiences and thinking,' Mr. Feltman said.
He added that reconciliation could not substitute for justice, but that the reverse was also true, as examples from the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda showed that international tribunals could not substitute for national reconciliation.
In his remarks, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Ambassador of Jordan, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for the month, stressed that what the UN had achieved in maintaining international peace and security had been mainly physical through the separation of warring parties and mediation between them.
Others, Mr. Al-Hussen said, were the training of police personnel and the provision of assistance in rebuilding destroyed infrastructure, among other achievements.
'What the United Nations has not understood well enough is how it can help forge a deeper reconciliation among ex-combatants and their peoples based on an agreed or shared narrative, a shared memory, of a troubled past.
This was especially relevant to sectarian, or ethnic, conflicts, as well as wars driven by extreme nationalism or ideologies, he said.
He said even though the organisation had, on occasion, assisted in setting up important truth commissions, its overall emphasis still tended towards quick-impact and pilot projects and early and rapid economic development.