Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on Maintenance of international peace and security: Mediation and settlement of disputes
We are grateful to the United Kingdom presidency for organizing today’s meeting and would like to thank the Secretary-General, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Ms. Qadeem for their briefings.
The peaceful resolution of conflicts is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations as both a founding purpose and a principle of the Organization’s work. Beyond that, mediation has the potential to be one of the most effective means we have for preventing the escalation or resumption of conflicts as well as their resolution. There can be no question that from an economic point of view mediation is greatly preferable to other instruments in the United Nations arsenal such as peacekeeping or Security Council sanctions, as it does not create obstacles to development.
As the most authoritative and representative organization in existence, the United Nations has every opportunity to play a central role in international mediation efforts, which should be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the Charter and take into account the fundamental principles of national responsibility and respect for States’ independence, sovereignty and equality in international relations. Besides that, it is essential that we take into account the potential role of regional and subregional organizations in resolving disputes in their regions.
It is their mediators’ deep knowledge and understanding of every nuance of a conflict that enables them to analyse a situation more accurately and therefore to put forward objective, realistic proposals for bringing the parties closer together. The use of regional bodies and agreements for the purpose of the peaceful settlement of conflicts is an important mechanism provided for in Article 33 of the Charter. In turn, Chapter VIII of the Charter encourages Member States to prioritize the settlement of so-called local disputes with the help of such bodies and agreements before handing them over to the Security Council.
There are some regional organizations, such as the African Union, that have by now accumulated a good deal of experience in the area of mediation, which the United Nations should rely on and, where appropriate, should use to approach mediation issues based on a sensible division of labour with regional and subregional entities. In that context, we want to point to the enormous potential for the United Nations of cooperation with bodies such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Russia itself participates in mediation efforts within the framework of both international and regional organizations, including the Commonwealth of Independent States. However, it is crucial to ensure coordination at the international level in order to avoid any duplication of effort when various mediation efforts end up competing with one another to the ultimate detriment of the settlement of a conflict. As the United Nations organ entrusted with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Security Council is called on to play a central role in the peaceful settlement of disputes, including by encouraging the use of good offices in mediation, which is why it seriously values and supports the Secretary-General’s efforts, including by backing his nominations of envoys and mediators.
It is important to understand that, ultimately, the most effective way of resolving conflicts is through direct dialogue between the conflicting parties and the political will needed to find mutually acceptable solutions. In turn, the effectiveness of mediation depends entirely on all the parties to a conflict agreeing to such international efforts and, of course, on the impartiality of the mediators. Unfortunately, we have seen plenty of examples of mediation that are simply not worthy of the name, because they are either attempts to monopolize the mediation efforts or to pursue one’s own geopolitical ends in the guise of mediation.
Mediators’ work is not an all-purpose art form but is rather based on a knowledge of the historical, cultural and other peculiarities of a specific conflict. Every unique situation requires patient efforts to find its individual solution. There are times when we cannot measure the success of mediation efforts in the short term. It is vital to allow the parties to come up with their own solutions, and that can be a lengthy process. In that regard, it is essential to select United Nations mediators carefully, based on objective criteria, while being sure to maintain a strict regional balance.
A mediator’s main task is to encourage the parties to resolve disputes and to identify the root causes obstructing a settlement. That is the only approach that can guarantee a reliable, long-lasting peace. Mediators should never impose unilateral solutions or give grounds for being suspected of bias. Artificially imposed recipes are not only ineffective but can also jeopardize a negotiation process and a fragile peace.
In that regard, it is critical that United Nations mediators have the ability not just to be impartial but to maintain neutrality, which means that references to any principles, whatever they may be, should not serve as an excuse for indulging one of the sides to a conflict, or the mediators will not gain the parties’ trust. Incidentally, we think that a correction to that effect should be made in the United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation. Most crises today are internal ones, and there is a fine line between mediation efforts, preventive diplomacy and pressure on internal political processes.
Unfortunately, we in the Security Council often hear proposals that basically amount to interference in the internal affairs of States and their constitutional procedures. It is no secret that people frequently want to use the Council to openly support a particular political group. How can that contribute to a settlement? All it can do is aggravate and prolong a conflict and undermine trust in the international community and the United Nations.
We are all familiar with examples of that. Russia always supports the settlement of disputes through direct dialogue between the parties. The global experience of preventing and resolving conflicts has shown clearly that only impartial mediation, based on the rapprochement of parties and on efforts to find areas of agreement and to achieve mutually acceptable agreements, has any chance of success.