Open Debate on the the role of civil society 
in post-conflict peace-building
Statement by Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, 
Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN
Security Council, New York, 26 June 2004

I wish to express our honour and pleasure in having you preside over the work of the Security Council as we consider today, at the timely initiative of the Delegation of the Phillipines, a very important question: the role of civil society in post-conflict peace-building.

Thank you for holding this meeting, and to the President of ECOSOC, Ambassador Rasi, and to Mr. Caillaux and Mr. Martin for having contributed to our debate.

Madam President,

Governments and the UN System do not deal in isolation with the complex challenges of post-conflict situations. Indeed, the success of peace-building efforts requires political wisdom, the mobilization of a wide range of actors and the ability to make full use of the expertise, resourcefulness and other comparative advantages of non-state sectors of society.

Organized civil society may play a central role in relieving governmental structures strained by peace-building efforts. It should be seen as an effective partner in efforts of reconstruction, and its work in fields such as humanitarian assistance, poverty alleviation and protection of human
rights can make post-conflict management considerably easier by helping defuse tensions that have the potential of reviving conflict. Moreover, its work tends to be very cost-effective in situations in which budgets are often tight.

In order to take full advantage of the contribution of civil society to post-conflict peace-building we should, in the first place, consolidate the active dialogue and cooperation between it and the Council. The NGO working group on the Security Council, established in 1995, is now a useful forum for debate, equally beneficial to Council Members and to NGO constituencies, providing a two-way flow of information and expertise.

In addition, dialogue can be furthered by resorting to meetings under the Arria formula, which allows the particular experience and insights of NGOs to help in our debates. Civil society and NGO representatives should have a larger opportunity to brief Council members, provide answers totheir questions and remain fully updated about Council activities.

The particular role played by the representatives of national and local civil society cannot be dispensed with, as theynormally benefit from life-long knowledge of thecharacteristics and realities of local economic, cultural andsocial environments. The Council can benefit from that
knowledge for the assessment of the needs on the ground. Council’s missions –one of which is taking place in Western Africa right now- offer unique opportunities for such an assessment, through an unobstructed exchange of views with the civil society, free from constraints.

The contribution of civil society to peace-building is not limited to the exchange of ideas.

Inclusion of a significant number of sectors of the civil society in peace-building has increased the chances for a stable and lasting peace. Assessment by independent actors closer to the field can provide crucial inputs. Research networks, for instance, can interpret information, thus
strengthening early warning capabilities as regards problems in post-conflict peace-building. In a similar way, local civil society leaderships with strong ties to the communities can detect tensions, unrest and sources of imbalances long before governments or peace-builders perceive them. Their expertise and contact with the society can also be useful regarding the elaboration of exit strategies, as they could help avoid premature, counterproductive withdrawals that would jeopardize the results of the international effort.

Peace-building efforts already rely on the participation of NGOs in post-conflict situations, as members of a larger partnership. NGOs have been called upon to provide assistance and a wide range of services. Humanitarian organizations in particular have been a key factor in supporting and protecting victims, especially women and children, in situations of conflict, when other forms of protection are not available. This process is enhanced by persistent attention by all partners to the need for transparency. Their voice should continue to be heard during the peace-building process.

The ability of community leaders and NGOs to provide creative solutions for fulfilling the community’s needs can help increase complementarity between governmental efforts and
civil society initiatives. Creative solutions, sometimes including sharing of limited resources, shelter and information, can fill gaps in peace-building.

As it is well known, civil society is not monolithic and uniform. In this composite of very diverse and dissimilar groups we must be able to identify representatives of true public interest, who can be active in helping promote peace. Authentic representatives of civil society must not be
confounded with pressure groups, interest groups, and lobbies, whose purposes do not necessarily respond to the legitimate aspirations of the people. Governments must use
regulation to balance conflicting interests, so state regulation and coordination are fundamental, also, to increase synergy among the various partners in peace-building.

The Security Council must keep in mind the need to encourage civil society actors to act responsibly and constructively in the promotion of peace, tolerance and reconciliation. In this
regard, special attention should be paid to the role of the media in post-conflict situations. As the world saw in Kosovo last March, their power of penetration and influence can be misused to sow hatred and to incite violence. The same ability to reach the masses, though, could be put to the service of the cause of democracy and human rights standards, which are key to the success of peace-building and to avoiding the recurrence of conflict. The positive contribution of the media to the peace-building process is, therefore, particularly valuable

Madam President,

The Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations, established by the SG to review the guidelines and practices regarding that field, concluded that we need constructive engagement with civil society in order to be able to better identify global priorities and to mobilize all available resources to address the complex challenges of today. The Panel, chaired by former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, sees this opening up of
the United Nations not as a threat, but as “a powerful way to reinvigorate the intergovernmental process itself” and, may I add, seeks to correct the present imbalance as regards the
representation at the United Nations of the NGOs from South and North.

We consider dialogue, positive participation and partnership as cornerstones of a strategy of empowerment that will allow civil society to become an even more active partner in peace-
building, and no longer be only the main passive victim of conflict. We are convinced that supporting a strong, participative civil society amounts to supporting the cause of peace and stability.

Thank you