Mediation in Action

Statement by Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen on DPA’s Standby Team of Mediation Advisers, 26 February 2016.

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Thank you, Under-Secretary-General,

And thank you, distinguished colleagues, for attending today’s presentation of the Standby Team on Mediation Advisers.

I fully subscribe to USG Feltman’s points about the need to strengthen the UN’s capacity to prevent conflict and to mediate peaceful solutions. If we are serious about peace, we need to make sure to provide the resources to back up our priorities. This was indeed one of the most central messages from the HIPPO-report and other, related reviews.

While the demand for this core activity of the UN has increased, the resources to support and backstop these activities have remained scarce. It is an irony that while resources available for military and humanitarian response amounts to billions of dollars, funding for conflict prevention and mediation, which could save so many lives at a fraction of the cost, is still so hard to come by.

This being said – the UN’s work on conflict prevention and mediation has come a long way during the last decade. When I worked in the Department of Political Affairs in the early 2000’s, the department was mainly New York based. Now the UN’s operational political involvement has increased dramatically - and political efforts supported by DPA extend across the globe, in extremely diverse situations.

I am encouraged by the near universal agreement here at the UN that effective conflict prevention and mediation are key to reducing future humanitarian needs, and that these capacities need to be strengthened.

The debate has clearly shifted in a positive direction over the last few years, and the HIPPO has made an important contribution. The difficult part is of course going from that general agreement to actual implementation, which should be at the top of our agenda in the coming months. The good news is that many of the tools and mechanisms are in place and can be expanded. One of those tools is the UN Standby Team, whose members are present today.

I had just taken up my tasks as Director General in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2008, when this innovative mechanism was established as a collaboration between the UN, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Norway. I have since then had the pleasure of following this partnership develop and expand over the years, and of meeting the various members of the team regularly here in New York.

As colleagues may agree, realities here in New York are not always the same as the realities on the ground, I have therefore always felt uplifted by discussing with these highly capable individuals, sharing their experiences from concrete mediation processes from the field around the world.

As we have heard, the Standby Team consists of a handful of experts trained in various mediation skills who are ready to deploy to the field to support the UN’s political efforts in a matter of hours.

Even though it may be an exaggeration to say that behind every UN Envoy, there is a Standby Team member doing the real work; it certainly has more than a glimpse of truth to it.

The member provide thematic and process related advice to United Nations officials and key partners on how to design a mediation process, how to build confidence between parties and how to facilitate dialogue. They provide expert knowledge to mediators on thematic issues such as cease-fire and security arrangements, power-sharing, constitution-making, gender and inclusion issues, as well as natural resources.

Let me therefore extend our deep appreciation to the 2015 Standby Team members for their efforts and good work. The increasing demand for your service reflects on the important and good job that you do. During this last year you have carried out over hundred assignments in 30 countries, including in all the hot spots of the world where the UN is engaged; Syria, Yemen, Burundi, Somalia and Iraq, to mention a few.

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate the new team members, who have had their induction this week. I know that you had to compete hard to get here and that you are eager to get started.

Let me now take this opportunity to thank the Norwegian Refugee Council who has provided the administrative backbone of the mechanism from the start.

The process of recruiting the team members, designed by the NRC, has secured top-level experts. It is telling when one team member with a long-standing and distinguished carrier confides that he has never been tested as thoroughly for any position before, as when he became a standby team member.

Furthermore, the Norwegian Refugee Council has made sure that the Standby Team members get to the hot spots where their expertise is required in a matter of hours. The NRC’s professionalism has enabled the experts to focus on their task at hand, rather than on practicalities, such as how to pay for a hotel in a place where they don’t accept credit cards. The standby team members have all praised the care and attention the NRC, and especially you, Maria, have given them.

I also want to thank the Mediation Support Unit for their excellent work and for our close partnership in developing the Standby team mechanism.

Today, we mark the beginning of a new partnership with UNOPS, who will assume the NRC’s role in maintaining the rapid deployment mechanism maintained in partnership with MSU. I know that UNOPS has prepared for this responsibility for some time now. The expectations are high, but we have full confidence that you will live up to them.

Our Minister who was here yesterday extends his best wishes and looks forward to the high-level ceremony in Oslo later this year, to mark the conclusion of NRC’s engagement and the transition to UNOPS.

Finally, I would like to affirm our strong commitment to bolstering the UN’s capacities on conflict prevention on mediation, and we look forward to supporting the Standby team as a broadening partnership also in the future.

Now, before I let you off the hook, I would like to remind you that you are all invited to a reception in the West Terrace on the Fourth Floor immediately after this short meeting. 

I thank you for your attention.