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Thank you very much, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey], for the invitation, but also thank you for this excellent initiative that Finland and Turkey have taken; an initiative that is so much needed in today’s world and, in particular, thank you for focusing on the opportunities and the challenges that digital technologies offer to mediation.
This is one of the areas in which the Global Tech Panel that we have established with tech leaders from different backgrounds, from different parts of the world can contribute to, not only to the benefit of the European Union and its Member States but of all.
We live in times when the need to find mediation is too often associated with a sense of weakness. Too many think that, if I am strong I can impose my opinion on others, so no mediation is needed.
Thank you for this opportunity to express once again a very simple concept: it takes more courage to sit down with your adversary – with the other side - and find mediation, than to fight.
I saw this with my own eyes just a month ago, when I travelled to Mozambique for the signing of a peace agreement that ended decades of war. The leaders of the two sides literally fought a war against one another. And yet they found the courage to sit down for many months and to stand side by side and shake hands, so that the whole country could find peace and that the international community could find the courage to accompany them in this path.
There is more than ever the need for men and women of mediation. I would like to stress: men and women. I am particularly proud of the work we've been doing in these years – as European Union and with the United Nation – to make negotiations and peace processes more inclusive.
I have met – time and time again – with the Syrian and Yemeni women engaged in their countries respective peace processes. I would like to thank and acknowledge here the role that the UN Special Envoys have had in opening up for the role of women in mediation processes in the crisis areas.
As European Union, we have implemented a project focused on the Middle East/North Africa region to support women as players in these processes. We are now working on creating an informal platform of women leaders in peace and transition processes to increase the participation of women, including young women, and improve their role at all levels.
Their inclusion is not just a matter of social justice. We have seen, in these years, that women can bring an essential contribution to the table, and are even more essential to promote reconciliation within their communities, before and after a peace agreement is reached. When women sit at the table, agreements are more easily found. Most importantly, they stand longer.
This requires much more than two signatures on a deal, even though those two signatures are essential. Peace has to be real in each and every community, and the quality of a mediation process is crucial to lay the foundations of reconciliation.
Mediation and its actors have to evolve, because our societies are changing and because the conflicts we face are more complex than ever. I believe mediation is already starting to change.
I am glad for your focus on mediation in the digital age. The opportunities are clear. Social media can make mediation processes much more inclusive: they can make the people's voice heard. They can also help explain the rationale of a peace deal in real time.
At the same time, the challenge for mediation teams is to filter out noise and disinformation that could reduce space for mediation inside the room. It is up to the mediators themselves to exploit the potential of new technologies while minimising their risks.
I remember very well the long weeks that we spent in Vienna negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. In more than one situation, social media became a tool to prevent negative narratives from spreading, and to give a sense of what was truly happening in the room even without disclosing the content of the negotiation before the agreement was finalised.
There is a need for a new generation of mediators. Mediators who understand technology. But also mediators that truly represent their own societies. Women mediators and young mediators. Representatives of minorities and of all social backgrounds.
Mediation today is probably more complex than ever, it is also more essential than ever. It requires stubbornness and patience. And it requires real courage – because the real strength is not to scream louder, but to be visionary enough to find some common ground, especially when it seems almost impossible to be found.
Thank you very much again to both Finland and Turkey. You can always count on the European Union to support this kind of work in the world.