Remarks at the 11th Ministerial Meeting of the UN Group of Friends of Mediation

Ambassador Chris Lu
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
Washington, D.C.
February 2, 2022


Thank you for having me. It is an honor to speak at this important convening. The United States thanks Turkey and Finland for their leadership over many years in drawing the world’s attention to the vital art of mediation.

The peaceful settlement of disputes is fundamental to the United Nations and our international order. And mediation embodies that promise. But let’s be frank: the world is struggling to prevent, contain, and end conflict in many parts of our world today. At a time of new challenges and growing threats, we need to strengthen our ability to make the peace – and keep the peace. What we’re doing now just isn’t doing enough.

On mediation, I would like to make three points.

First, we need to continue to elevate the status of mediation in the UN system, giving it the same attention as other conflict-response tools, such as peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and sanctions. Thanks to this Group, mediation is being treated as an increasingly serious endeavor. We are looking methodically at the elements of a successful mediation effort, and we are compiling best practices. But too often the focus of the United Nations – and the international community – is on responding to conflicts only after it erupts into a major crisis. We need better ways to prevent conflict before it breaks out – and sustain the hard-won peace.

Second, we must ensure that mediators have the firm and united support of the international community. Yet, we increasingly fail to do this. UN mediators possess great political skill and judgment. But without our support, they lack leverage. International divisions – particularly on the Security Council – have undermined this vital support to mediators, as well as other tools to protect the peace. From Yemen to Libya to Myanmar, we have failed to find the unity needed to back swift and effective conflict resolution strategies.

The members of the Security Council, especially the Permanent Five, need to find better ways to come together and support mediators in the field. The Security Council – indeed the whole UN System – must commit to a more effective and sustained commitment to these peace processes. We must also deploy our own national leverage to support these efforts.

That brings me to my third and final point: we must work harder to ensure mediation efforts are truly inclusive. We know why this is needed: durable peace requires buy-in and commitment from the whole society. In particular, the meaningful involvement of women increases the chance that a peace process will succeed. Too often our mediators hear just the loudest voices in the room. But mediation is not just about cutting deals with strongmen and rebel leaders – it’s about repairing a whole society. All voices, including the marginalized and forgotten must be heard.

To support more inclusive mediation, the United States funds programs around the world to train civil society, lift up women and youth voices, and teach skills to support the peace. In our interactions with UN mediators, we have and will continue to underscore the need for diverse and inclusive peace processes.

Thank you again for hosting this important discussion. We look forward to deepening our cooperation on mediation at the United Nations in the year to come.