The peaceful settlement of disputes is fundamental to the purposes of the United Nations. The dispute between North and South Korea is only one of many examples where unresolved disputes lead to tension and the possible resumption of conflict.
The United Nations Charter includes no direction mention of “reconciliation” but uses the word “conciliation” which amounts to the same thing. Chapter 6: Pacific Settlement of Disputes, states in Article 33 that:
- The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
- The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.
What the UN is doing for Reconciliation
Reconciliation is part of the work of the following parts of the UN family.
The Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) assists and supports the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) with strategic advice and policy guidance, administers the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) and serves the Secretary-General in coordinating United Nations agencies in their peacebuilding efforts.
The UN Peacebuilding Commission is mandated (among other things) to advise on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery.
Priority Area 2.1 of the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) is National Reconciliation. The PBF supports more than 120 projects in 25 countries by delivering fast, flexible and relevant funding. Since its creation to the end of 2015, PBF has allocated $623 million to 33 countries to help prevent (re)lapse into conflict and sustain peace.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working to support the Government and people of Iraq during their transition towards reconciliation, reform and stability. See here for more details.
UN Network of Young Peace Builders (UNOY) is a global network strengthening sustainable youth-driven peacebuilding. We connect 80 youth peace organizations across 50 countries. Other UN initiatives to engage young people in peacebuilding are listed here.
The UN Security Council, when discussing Resolution 2250 (2015), said that Youth (people aged 18 – 29) should be actively engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation, as they represented “a unique demographic dividend that can contribute to lasting peace and prosperity” if inclusive policies were put in place.
Resolution 2250 expresses concern that among civilians, youth account for many of those adversely affected by armed conflict, including as refugees and internally displaced persons, and that the disruption of youth’s access to education and economic opportunities has a dramatic impact on durable peace and reconciliation.
It also recognizes that youth should actively be engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation, and that a large youth population presents a unique demographic dividend that can contribute to lasting peace and economic prosperity if inclusive policies are in place.
Examples of calls for more Reconciliation
Yet despite these efforts, more needs to be done, as shown by the following examples of calls for more work on reconciliation.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ first address to the Security Council since taking office set restoring trust and preventing crises as one of the UN’s top priorities. See here for a video and transcript of the debate.
UN Security Council Resolution 2333 (2016) called upon the Government of Liberia to prioritize national reconciliation and economic recovery, to combat corruption and to promote efficiency and good governance, in particular by continuing to strengthen transparency and accountability, including by effectively managing Liberia’s natural resources for the benefit of all the people of Liberia, emphasizes the importance of pursuing a national reconciliation and social cohesion strategy through concrete measures to promote national healing, justice and reconciliation at all levels and involving all Liberian stakeholders, and recognizes the efforts of the Government of Liberia to support enhancement of the participation of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, including in decision-making roles in post-conflict governance institutions and the broad range of reform efforts;
UN Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015) recognized that “youth should actively be engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation, and that a large youth population presents a unique demographic dividend that can contribute to lasting peace and economic prosperity if inclusive policies are in place”
The UN Secretary-General wrote in 2010 that “Transitional justice processes and mechanisms are a critical component of the United Nations framework for strengthening the rule of law.” He also wrote “For the United Nations, transitional justice is the full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation.”
In a statement at the Security Council briefing on the Situation in Iraq. Monday, 22 May 2017, Ambassador Carl Skau of Sweden stated that reconciliation will be critical to building a stable Iraq and preventing future conflicts. He encouraged UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) to continue to deepen its reconciliation efforts and its coordination within the UN family, with other initiatives and with Iraqi stakeholders. Reconciliation must be inclusive to be successful. In this context, the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) initiative that would increase the participation of civil society in reconciliation deserves support. In addition, constructive engagement by regional and international actors will be crucial to these reconciliation efforts.
The Human Rights Council (on which the UK has a seat) regularly discusses reconciliation, for example on March 13 2017 at the UN Human Rights Council the United States and other members of the Friends of Sri Lanka Core Group tabled a draft resolution on promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka that reflects our enduring commitment to lasting peace and justice for all the people of Sri Lanka.