Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Conflict Prevention and Mediation

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
June 12, 2019


Mr. President, thank you for organizing this important debate on mediation and peaceful resolution of conflicts. Secretary-General Guterres, we recognize your leadership in advancing the UN’s mediation and conflict prevention work, including the creation of the High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. We welcome the Board’s engagement in both resolving and preventing conflict.

I would also like to thank the Chair and Deputy Chair of The Elders, Mary Robinson and Ban Ki-Moon, for your remarks today and for the vital work you are doing to spearhead mediation and conflict resolution.

Day after day, this Council bears witness to the human toll of conflict, from Mali to Myanmar, Syria to Somalia. This year, the UN estimates that conflicts and disasters have affected over 130 million people across 42 countries— the affected men, women, and children have an urgent need for assistance, four our assistance.

The Security Council often debates how to use this body to resolve crises. From these discussions, we have established human rights monitoring mechanisms, imposed sanctions, and established peacekeeping missions. However, we rarely explore mediation as a tool in resolving conflicts – or how we might better prevent conflict in the first place and thereby save lives, as the Secretary-General and Minister al-Sabah have noted.

Mr. President, UN member states are contributing $6.7 billion this year for peacekeeping and the United States pays a quarter of that cost. Better prevention and mediation would help prevent costly peacekeeping missions and help provide an exit strategy for existing peacekeeping operations.

Mr. President, the United States has a long record of leading mediation efforts that have provided breakthroughs in some of the toughest conflicts – such as the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland and the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In both of these cases, the United States brought the right people into the room and served as a trusted facilitator of the agreements.

Mediation is most successful when the right set of stakeholders are engaged and the mediator is trusted. In this light, women’s meaningful participation increases the likelihood of successful negotiations, reconciliation, and transition processes. Collectively, the Secretariat and Security Council must do more to ensure women play an integral role in peace processes both as negotiators and mediators, as President Robinson, and the Secretary-General, and the Ambassador of France have all noted.

Including women in conflict resolution not only accelerates the process, but it surfaces issues that matter most to societies as a whole – making agreements more durable. According to the International Peace Institute, peace processes in which women are meaningfully included are 35 percent more likely to last for at least 15 years. Mr. President, it is also important to support local and regional mediation efforts, devolving authority to those on the ground.

Let me offer Senegal as an example where the United States has worked to bolster local mediation efforts, coordinating support for a high-level political negotiation between the Senegalese government and the secessionist movement. By providing targeted political support and funding, we have helped set the conditions that have led to high-level negotiations.

Mr. President, there are unresolved conflicts currently on the Council’s agenda that would benefit from enhanced mediation activities. In one example, improvements the Security Council has mandated for UNISFA, the peacekeeping operation in Abyei, are stalled due to a lack of progress in mediation between South Sudan and Sudan.

Each of us should seek to strengthen the capacity of regional and sub-regional organizations, given their comparative advantage in securing local buy-in. Secretary-General, you have called for greater convergence and cooperation in the Council as a means to support mediation, and we agree completely.

We agree that these vital – and often underappreciated – tools can have a transformative impact in conflicts. We urge the UN to lead mediation efforts within current budget parameters. These efforts can save billions of dollars that would be spent on conflict mitigation and more importantly, again, can save lives by preventing or ending conflict.

Mr. President, the United States stands ready to continue the dialogue on doing more to effectively support the UN’s conflict resolution and mediation efforts.

I thank you.