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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
H. E. Alberto G. Romulo
Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines
CIVILIANS AT WORK : BUILDING FIRM FOUNDATIONS FOR PEACE
at the Open Debate of the Security Council
on the Civilian Aspects of Conflict Management and Peace-building
Security Council Chamber, 22 September 2004
I would like to express both my personal and my delegation’s pleasure of seeing you preside over the Security Council. I would also like to congratulate your delegation in organizing an open meeting of the Council on this important topic.
High Stake in Peace
Mr. President, the dangers to international peace are posed less these days by conflicts between countries but more by the deadly web of terrorism, weapons proliferation and the political turmoil brought about by dysfunctional or failed states. Old paradigms on conflict management and peace building that were current in the era of bipolarity and major power rivalries do not prove useful anymore because today’s threats or breaches to peace emerge more from state weakness than strength. As experience over the last decade has shown, the attainment of sustainable peace in countries shattered by conflicts involves complex and multidimensional aspects calling for harmony of efforts by the international community, through the United Nations.
For the Philippines, peace is an imperative. With over 7 million Filipinos overseas, in over 180 countries and on ships passing through all the world's oceans and straits, the stakes are higher for the Philippines. Conflicts can and have had a direct impact on the safety of our nationals. As a nation, conventional notions of physical territory no longer solely define us. Our interests lay wherever events and developments bear upon the lives and futures of our overseas Filipinos.
As a nation and as a people, we dream of peace in all lands and believe that the work of civilians can help build firm foundations for peace.
A Timely Theme
The Spanish concept paper for today’s debate – emphasizing the civilian aspects of conflict management and peace building – correctly builds on an element required to face the challenge for better and more collective effort to address and resolve conflicts and to build an effective peace. The principles and doctrines on military readiness are well understood. But often neglected are the civilians, or non-military, aspects for achieving sustainable peace after the hostilities have stopped.
Sustainable peace demands that failed states and states recovering from debilitating conflicts develop their governments and build their economies and civil society. But without external help this would be impossible to achieve. International assistance is required for these states to foster responsive, accountable institutions of governance, such as rule of law mechanisms, including the justice system – administrative bureaucracies, central banks, and fiscal and financial rules and mechanisms, to guard against a possible relapse to conflict.
The UN does not lack the structural mechanism for the civilian aspects of conflict management and peace building. In fact, the UN has assumed specific expertise on the most important areas of humanitarian assistance, conducting elections, DDRR (disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration), strengthening rule of law mechanisms, protection of human rights and various aspects of civil affairs. The problem is not so much of capacity – even if this is a genuine problem also – but the effective harnessing of such capacity to generate the goal of stabilizing post-conflict states.
Fortunately, the horizon is far from bleak. The UN has been cognizant and responsive to the strong trend towards synergistic approaches between the military and civilian aspects of conflict management and peace-building. As early as 1992, then Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali had introduced the concept of “post-conflict peace-building” to describe the range of civilian tasks, as it were, in modern-day UN peace operations. The UN mandates in Kosovo and East Timor in the 1990s were the benchmarks on how the nature of peacekeeping had evolved from purely military aspects into civil administration, governance, and even development-type tasks – or , in the context of today’s debate, the civilian aspects of conflict management and peace building.
Security Council mandates are now multidimensional in character giving significance to human rights, economic and social factors, and even health in peace operations. These realities have also been translated into concrete reform on the conflict management structures in the UN Secretariat, such as the DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations). The Most recent of these reform exercises, which is still under way, was laid out in the August 2000 Brahimi report.
At the working level-cross-sectoral mechanisms are now in place in at the UN headquarters. As far back as 1997, the high-level cabinet-style Executive Committee on Peace and Security (ECPS), Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (ECHA) and the UN Development Group (UNDO) were set up. The ECPS has become the main forum for discussing matters that concern both the development and conflict management communities. There is also a plethora of thematic and country-specific and inter-agency task forces, such as the West Africa Task Force, the recent Rule of Law Task Force, and many others.
This welcome trend in the way the various UN bodies have been performing their mandate under the Charter has contributed to an environment where military and civilian aspects are now seen as a seamless whole under the rubric of conflict management and peace-building.
While there has been a noticeable and qualitative improvement in the comprehensive approach and structures to attaining sustainable peace in post-conflict states, it is critical to continue to re-energize our efforts for a more effective and coordinated response to complex crisis situations.
Despite the improvement achieved, there are still philosophical and structural constraints that need to be addressed to attain harmony between the military and civilian aspects of the work of the UN in post-conflict states. The Brahimi report specifically highlighted the absence of “integrated planning or support” between these two important areas of UN activities on the ground. To overcome this problem, the report proposed the creation, where necessary, of a mission-specific Integrated Mission Task Force (IMTF), so that missions “should know exactly who to turn to for the answers and support that they need, especially in the critical early months.” The first situation where this mechanism was needed was Afghanistan. The early assessment suggests that the IMTF has succeeded in unifying the efforts of the UN in such a complex crisis as Afghanistan. The use of the IMTF should be encouraged in other complex UN peace missions.
Improving the Civilian Aspects
On a boarder level, one factor to improve the civilian aspects of conflict management and peace-building is to get the United Nations committed to peace missions for a period necessary to establish new and effectual governmental institutions in war-shattered states.
Recent UN peace mission have tended to be too transitory to prove useful in stabilizing the situations in host countries. But this does not relate merely to the length of the missions deployed by the UN. It is also a question of doing “too much, too soon”, which does not promote stability in the countries concerned. Most peacekeeping missions tend to rush far-reaching political and economic reforms in the fragile period immediately following the end of the conflict on the assumption that doing so would foster peace. In practice, however, hurried efforts to transform states recently recovering from conflict into market democracies have sometimes generated destabilizing results.
The situation conducive to attaining long-lasting peace in war-ravaged states would be to assist them, for as long as necessary, in establishing stable and functioning governmental institutions. The results, and not the contingencies of the length of mission, would be the prime factor for effective conflict management and peace-building.
On a national level, member-states may wish to revisit the White Helmets initiative, introduced in the UN General Assembly a decade ago by Argentina. The White Helmets initiative calls on member-states to establish corps of volunteers for humanitarian relief operations who may be deployed to other countries in need of such assistance, in coordination with the UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). They are largely self financed and/or supported by contributions, thus they are not a burden to the limited UN budget as well as the official accounts of member-states.
This, and similar voluntary endeavors and programs such as the UN Volunteers (UNV) are able to harness the noble spirit of volunteerism which fortunately continues to pervade much of our citizenry and civil society. Volunteerism should certainly continue to be encouraged and supported by member-states, regional organizations and the UN system.
Civilians at Work
Mr. President, I started by emphasizing how important international peace is to a country that has more than one tenths of its population in other lands. I have discussed our thoughts and our support for the theme of our debate and the specific ideas and mechanisms that will ensure a meaningful role for civilians in peace-building.
Our interest in the theme goes beyond our desire to ensure the safety of our overseas nationals.
Our interest in the theme is also driven by the fact that the very nationals, whose safety would be ensured by genuine peace, are themselves deeply and meaningfully involved in building peace. Many of our nationals are directly involved in peace building around the world through international organizations and non-government organizations. Some work on behalf of our government, providing assistance to civilian authorities in post-conflict areas in the field of governance, electoral process, judicial administration and the training of civilian police.
But many more, as migrant workers, are helping build the peace.
They are the medical personnel who tend to the sick and wounded in post-conflict and even conflict areas. They are the engineers who help build roads that link villages and tribes who are now at peace. They are the pilots and loadmasters who help bring sustenance to areas starved by war. They are the teachers who help foster knowledge, openness and tolerance. They are the filed workers who help manage the natural resources that were once the cause of conflict.
Though they are migrant and contract workers living far from their land and loved ones, they often play significant roles in building peace, unheralded and sometimes at grave risk to themselves.
The quest for international peace and security is a multi-faceted challenge. Peace requires comprehensive, concerted and determined approach that addresses the root causes of conflicts, including their economic and social dimensions. To the extent that the goal of peace is indivisible, the approaches and efforts at achieving it must be holistic, well-planned and well coordinated.
The strategy in responding to threats to and breaches of the peace requires the effective and efficient harnessing and use of all resources of the United Nations. It demands interdependence, cooperation and coordination among United Nations organs and agencies whose mandates impact the attainment of sustainable peace.
It often also demands sacrifice.
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