Statement by Amb Byrne Nason at the UNSC debate on Diversity, State-building and search for peace
Statement12 October 2021
Thank you very much indeed your excellency Mr. President,
The search for peace, our collective effort to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, is the foundation stone of these United Nations and of the mandate of this Security Council.
Such an enormous responsibility is entrusted to each member of this Council. Every day, millions of vulnerable people look to us, around this table, for hope. They look to us to set aside our differences and to prevent and to end conflict. Our successes are theirs. When we come together, we can help to alleviate immense suffering, we can provide vital support to peace processes. Yes our actions, our words, can save lives.
This debate, Mr. President, gives us a welcome opportunity to reflect on those successes, but also a time to reflect on our collective failures. It is appropriate that we are joined today by deeply thoughtful briefers. I want to thank the Secretary General, President Mbeki and President Kagame for your insightful messages. The courageous briefing from Ms. Fawzia Koofi struck a deep chord. Thank you.
Today, I will make three points.
First, as this Council seeks to build and sustain peace, a leitmotif must be the fullest respect for the human rights of all people.
Human rights belong to individual human beings in all their diversity. They belong to all persons, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Regardless of religion, belief, disability, regardless of whether they are rich or poor and regardless of where they live on this planet.
Our instinct as humans is to form groups and communities and carry this identity with us. But, (as our briefers have pointed out,) too often, group identity can become the basis for marginalization, for discrimination and even for abuse.
Every woman knows this. The LGBTQI+ community know this. Ethnic groups, religious groups, racial groups - they know this.
This should not be the case. The late Irish peacemaker John Hume said, and I quote, that ‘difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict.’
In situations on this Council’s agenda, people are persecuted because they happen to be members of a certain group. We should strive to resist the creation of the ‘other’. Resist creating hierarchies of humanity. The very worst episodes of human history bear testament to the danger of marginalization and to the dangers of persecution on the basis of group identity.
One thing is clear, difference alone does not cause conflict. Nor does homogeneity prevent it. As a Council, we must take care to recognize that human rights violations, including on grounds of identity, can be a prelude to and even a driver of conflict.
Second, Mr. President,
This Council should think about peace not as an event but as a process. The Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote of how ‘peace comes dropping slow.’ In Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, the peace we cherish took decades to achieve.
Often it is brave women, women like Fawzia Koofi in Afghanistan, like Hala Al Karib in Sudan and like Shukria Dini in Somalia, who reach across community divides to search for peace, as the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition did during our own peace process.
The lesson I take from the courage of their example, is that the peace we build must be inclusive and based on partnerships. It is critical that we hear from grassroots women peacebuilders who actually get down and do this work.
These civil society voices were a golden thread running through Ireland’s Presidency of the Council last month. They also bear witness to how, in places like Somalia and Myanmar, climate change and extreme weather events are placing pressure on already fragile communities.
The Peacebuilding Commission is an important partner in this Council’s search for sustainable peace. It brings together not only UN actors, but also local peacebuilders in the field. In the aftermath of conflict, building good governance cannot be a top-down exercise from a conference room here in New York. It has to have its roots in local communities, and in inclusive decision-making.
My third point is that inclusive peacekeeping transitions are a litmus test for the durability of peace. The moment the blue helmets of UN peacekeepers leave, a reconfigured UN, in cooperation with international actors, such as the international financial institutions, and regional and sub -regional organisations, needs to be ready to step up and to step in to support and to protect the peace, left behind. This is a critical inflection point, particularly when it comes to ensuring that divisions recently healed, including those based on identity, are not reopened.
The Council’s unanimous adoption of Resolution 2594 is a recognition of that, and is a sign that we agree that transitions should be nationally owned and inclusive.
Where transitions occur, the views of local communities, of women, of youth and of marginalised groups should be taken into account. The protection of civilians is also a key barometer of the success of any transition.
Mr. President, Secretary General,
In this Council’s search for peace, sometimes in the depths of seemingly unending conflict, lets not forget what we are trying to achieve. A sine qua non is that we invest in human rights. That we need to invest in inclusion. And we should learn how to invest in critical moments of transition. The overall dividend of such efforts will be a more sustainable peace. A peace which expels intolerance, and which helps all people, in their infinite diversity, to belong with dignity.
Thank you Mr President.