- As prepared for delivery -
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union welcomes the UK's initiative to explore the role of reconciliation in peace processes and sustainable peace. The discussion is particularly timely in light of the challenges peacemakers faced over the last decade and continue to face in a fast changing world (dis)order.
Generations in Europe have felt and understood the devastating effects of violent conflict. The European Union is built on their desire to avoid the repetition of war. Today, war within the EU is unthinkable because we have worked hard to build confidence and trust, and because we have built institutions that are an expression of our reconciliation. Yet, without genuine will to keep learning from past mistakes, and continuous work to reconcile, there is no future for peace, even in Europe.
The need to advance knowledge on reconciliation on a global scale is urgent. Today's conflicts repeat in cycles. Peace agreements fail more often than they succeed. We believe that we must arrive to a better understanding of why this happens. Our world is changing and we must learn how the international system can maintain agility in the face of new challenges.
Reconciliation is key to sustainable peace. It is a process that enables the restoration of social relations on the basis of fundamental values such as human dignity and respect, human rights, including the right to life and the right to physical and psychological integrity. It is a complex, encompassing and sometimes unruly process that has to be considered from the outset of any peace support efforts from mediation to restoring peace and security in countries emerging from conflict. It requires a truly integrated approach.
In all these aspects the Peacebuilding Commission has a central role to play, by bringing together the various actors from the UN system, including the UN Country Teams and also the civil society. Moreover, the active advisory role of the Peacebuilding Commission to the Security Council could be further drawn upon to ensure that appropriate attention is paid to reconciliation at all stages of the conflict cycle.
Our policies and practices need to be continuously upgraded. For example, 75% of UN SC mandated missions aim for reconciliation; but no commonly accepted definitions or guidelines on what that means and how to achieve it exist. There is a mixture of experience and progress but the concept of reconciliation needs to be sharpened in order to operationalise it more effectively. We are ready to contribute to this.
We need to learn more about how various elements of reconciliation—for example, truth and reconciliation commissions and national dialogues—have worked in different settings and with what impact. And here we need to be better sensitised of how to support national and local reconciliation strategies in countries emerging from conflict; whether and how to support reconciliation processes as part of exit strategies for peace operations paving the way for peaceful transitions; and how the Council can engage with other parts of the UN system, including the Secretariat, through the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the Peacebuilding Commission and UN Country Teams, to support these processes.
We also need to recognise that it is not necessarily the UN or the EU or any multilateral organisation to advance reconciliation in a given case. Reconciliation happens at the individual, interpersonal level, at the societal socio-political level, and the institutional level. We are enablers. It is the conflicting communities that are the agents. We can provide a framework, tools and safe spaces. But to allow us to design relevant and meaningful support we need a solid, and preferably common understanding of what makes reconciliation effective.
Religions should be invited into reconciliation approaches and our diplomatic practice. They can be misused in conflicts to contribute to division, hate and violence and religious leaders need to be held accountable for incitement but, at the same time, also challenged to redefine what is in their true essence, so they can contribute towards reconciliation and healing. Diplomatic practices could benefit from improved religious literacy. The setting up of an EU International Exchange Platform on Religion and Social Exclusion is one example of how we work on this, training and exposing our own diplomats to the many facets of religion in different parts of the world is another one.
Peace agreements can become more sustainable through involving political and societal actors in peace negotiations, in addition to the primary conflict parties. Traditional and religious leaders and their networks are also seen as having the capacity, and public trust, to find solutions for sustainable peace. Local religious leaders can act as insider mediators whose mediation capacity is seen as rooted in the trust and credibility they enjoy in their communities.
Women reconcilers often carry the burden of their community, and often take the first steps towards mobilising their communities and engaging with their enemies. Their efforts need support and their involvement must advance.
Youth movements are growing rapidly through social mediation addressing social issues. Their perspectives and efforts must be learned from and further connected with broader processes.
Reconciliation and healing are usually associated with the post-conflict stage, but are also overlapping processes that take place during conflict to prepare the ground for peace or to prevent further violence. This has particular relevance for complex, protracted conflicts with numerous smaller conflicts embedded in them and with many intertwined mediation, peacebuilding and healing processes happening simultaneously (e.g Syria).
One of the objectives of The European Union’s common foreign policy is to promote peace across the globe. We do so by addressing the root causes of conflict, contributing to creating the necessary conditions for the reconstruction of societies and supporting the recovery of affected civilians. We also are partners in and witnesses to many peace processes. In multiple cases we have seen how support from the EU in close cooperation with our partners can be a turning point for local communities building peace and initiating reconciliation.
We know that victims and perpetrators, rather than being alone in being ignored, marginalised and treated with hostility, the simple awareness that they are part of an (inter)national community, and that their problems are often universal and overarching helps. Solidarity through networks can contribute to global peace.
We reiterate our determination to continue this important work on how to better support reconciliation processes both within peacekeeping and peacebuilding contexts.
We reaffirm our commitment to the multilateral system with the UN at its core. The EU's commitment to engaging in peacebuilding and reconciliation on the basis of the respect of international law and cooperation remains steadfast.
Thank you, Madam President.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.