Open debate on “Post-conflict national reconciliation: role of the United Nations”
Statement by Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg,
Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN
New York, 26 January 2004
Desearía inicialmente agradecer al Señor Kalomoh, Secretario General Asistente, al Señor Mark
Malloch Brown, Administrador del PNUD, y a la Señora Carolyn McAskie, Coordinadora Adjunta para Asistencia Humanitaria de Emergencia, por sus declaraciones introductorias. Desearía también agradecerle, Señora Presidente, por haber organizado un encuentro con organizaciones no gobernamentales que han ofrecido a nosostros informaciones muy interesantes en el curso de la reunión con arreglo a la fórmula Arria que tuvimos en la semana pasada.
Tengo el honor y el gusto de felicitarla una vez más, Señora Presidente, y expresar la satisfacción de mi delegación por verla conducir este debate abierto sobre un tema muy oportunamente propuesto por la delegacíón de Chile. Sin cualquier duda, se trata de una cuestión que merece y requiere toda nuestra atención, pues la conciliación nacional representa la culminación de la tarea del Consejo de Seguridad cuando una situación de conflicto está bajo su consideración.
It has been widely accepted by now that the UN has a major role to play not only in the resolution and immediate aftermath of conflict situations, but also in conceiving and conducting long-term post-conflict initiatives, such as demobilization, disarmament and reintegration; restructuring of the police, armed forces and the judicial system. Beyond conflict resolution and stabilization lies the long road towards development, democratization and the strengthening of the rule of law.
There is much that the Security Council can do with a view to achieving those objectives, particularly if it makes
a more extensive use of the provision contained in article 65 of the Charter and seeks the collaboration of the Economic and Social Council, as it has done in the cases of Guinea Bissau and Burundi, with some success.
We believe that reconciliation efforts are compromised when the legacy of past violence is left un-addressed. In
order to build long-lasting peace, national reconciliation is the most adept way for divided countries to confront threats to their stability, and to promote durable peace as well as viable democratic institutions and practices.
The UN role in post-conflict national reconciliation has not received nearly as much attention as it merits. To a
certain extent, the reticence as regards a more focused UN approach to this subject is perhaps due to its utter
National reconciliation depends on many diversified factors and is riddled with challenges. No single model is
applicable. What works in one case does not necessarily work in another. In each experience, the dynamics is different, but studies show that successfully reconciled societies usually undergo an extensive process of truth, justice, reparations, and the re-establishment of identities.
Closely related to the matter of justice, the search for truth is central to the process. Information is not only
unveiled but also publicly recognized, and findings are widely disseminated. Truth commissions provide a public
platform for victims and create common understanding. Ideally, their findings should inform judicial proceedings,
and lead to constructive recommendations on legal and institutional reform.
Aside from institutional building aspects - which often entail the training of judges and lawyers -, an adequate
balance should be struck. When Sérgio Vieira de Mello addressed the Council in January 2002 as Transitional
Administrator for East Timor, his assessment was that "long- term peace and stability will depend on the degree to which we can overcome the legacy of [...] violence [...], by fostering and facilitating reconciliation and by effective prosecution of serious crimes. Those efforts should be viewed as interdependent".
In his understanding, a truth commission is to seek the truth about human rights violations and facilitate community reconciliation, but should not act as a substitute for the judicial process.
As a matter of fact, in situations of post-conflict national reconciliation, the legacy of past violence must be
addressed, and a victim-centered approach is certainly required. In most situations, one can identify very clearly who the victims and the offenders were. If, on one hand, offenders must be prosecuted for their crimes, on the other, the limitations of the prosecutorial methods must also be borne in mind.
As the Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed last year, during the debate on justice and the rule of law, "there
cannot be real peace without justice". At the same time, one has to agree with his statement that: "if we always and everywhere insist on uncompromising standards of justice, a delicate peace will not survive".
The challenge is to facilitate the reintegration of offenders and at the same time bring a sense of justice to
the victims, breaking the cycle of impunity and of defending the rule of law, without provoking a destabilizing backlash, where political stability remains precarious.
Given this context, the concept of restorative justice has been gaining legitimacy, as a middle ground between
retributive justice and blanket pardon.
Restorative justice would rely on traditional arbitrators, and on a high degree of public participation,
flexible procedures and social pressure as a means of enforcement and accountability. Ideally, a greater emphasis should be placed on the acceptance of responsibility and making amendments than on the severity of punishment.
Restorative justice addresses the need to preserve public order and to maintain a just peace. It cannot be
regarded as a panacea, and it certainly does not detract from the utmost relevance of the International Criminal Court and the fight against impunity. It certainly merits UN attention, and could be made a part of future peace negotiations.
Restorative justice is a helpful concept as it focuses on repairing harm. In this regard, the timing of the
reparations to victims is crucial. The re-establishment of identities and a commitment to a new social relationship are other highly important elements. Groups are brought again to the political interaction, and the military is, in most cases, depoliticised. Reconciliation does imply striking delicate balances
between antagonists, within the context of justice and truth telling.
An emphasis on building trust is indispensable for reconciliation in ravaged societies. Otherwise, great
resentment may be created, and lead to recidivism, a condition that renders reconciliation a continuous tightrope walk.
Each new national reconciliation effort requires deep immersion in the specific grievances of the afflicted
community, through the establishment of lines of dialogue with the key actors - as well as, incrementally, among them.
The UN cannot impose a durable peace; only victims and perpetrators can strive to reconcile themselves with one another. The UN can, however - by positioning itself as a neutral facilitator while clearly leaving the ultimate
responsibility for reconciliation in the hands of the aggrieved population -, establish favourable conditions as
well as offer political advice and valuable technical assistance in the domains of justice and truth-seeking.
On a concluding note, our delegation would like to stress that although there is no single model for post-
conflict reconciliation, and any effort may always be subject to pitfalls, an integrated approach to it must nonetheless be sought and, to the extent possible, woven into the UN work and mandates as it endeavors to help war-torn societies get back on their feet and achieve durable peace.
Muchas gracias, Señora Presidente.