Statement by H.E. Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, at the Informal High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on “The Role of Member States in Mediation”

Ahmet Davutoğlu 23.05.2012
Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Distinguished Ministers,

I would first like to congratulate you, Mr. President, for convening this high-level thematic debate on mediation. Given the increasing need for effective mediation as a means of conflict prevention and resolution, this is a most timely initiative.

In fact, I am particularly happy to see that mediation and peaceful settlement of conflicts has been designated as one of the four priorities of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly.

Because a year and half ago, when we initiated the “Mediation for Peace” initiative together with my Finnish colleague, there was not much focused discussion on and appreciation of mediation in the international arena.

Yes, the actors involved in mediation have been on the rise for some time, in terms of both numbers and diversity. As a result, there were also a greater number of mediation attempts than ever.

However, the lack of a systemic framework and necessary resources for mediation efforts has been crippling the effectiveness of these endeavors.

No clear guidelines for effective mediation, insufficient capacity both at the level of organizations and states, and absence of coherence and complementarity among the growing number of actors have been the key gaps.

Indeed, these were precisely the reasons why we launched the Mediation for Peace initiative in September 2010 with a select group of countries and organizations.

And today, I am most pleased to see that we have started to make strides in all these fronts, not least thanks to the dedicated leadership by both of you, Mr. President and Mr. Secretary-General.

First and foremost, the adoption last June of the UN General Assembly Resolution 65/283 on mediation has been a milestone achievement. Being the first-ever UN resolution on mediation it has indeed a historic significance.

In this regard, I should commend in particular the efforts of the Friends of Mediation who have led a long but rewarding process of consultations on the resolution and ensured its adoption by consensus.

The resolution has put the notion of mediation in its right framework and made the necessary calls to all relevant stakeholders with a view to enhancing their mediation capacities and ensuring coordination among themselves.

Since then there have been a significant increase in the number of meetings, seminars and workshops to this end.

I myself, for instance, convened a conference in Istanbul with the participation of the UN, regional organizations, member-states and the civil society. The participation of the Finnish and Brazilian Foreign Ministers, as well as the President of the General Assembly has enriched our discussions.

Thus, this first İstanbul Conference on Mediation, which we intend to continue in the coming years, has been very successful in bringing together the various mediation actors and providing them a broad platform to network and address common challenges.

But maybe the most important and operational aspect of the resolution adopted last June was its call to the Secretary-General to prepare a guidance for effective mediation.

Given the sui-generis nature of mediation processes, this is not an easy task. But in view of the increased use of mediation by a growing number of actors this is much needed. And the UN, with its vast experience and legitimacy, is most well-placed to identify these guidelines.

I understand the work on the guidance has now reached its final stages and it will soon be made available to member-states.

As you know, Mr. Secretary-General, we and in fact all the members of the Friends of Mediation have been working very closely with the Secretariat on this project. And now you can rest assured that we will lend our full support to its implementation too.

We are confident that the guidance will provide us a valuable framework to help streamline the mediation efforts of the international community. Therefore, it is in our best interests to disseminate it as widely as possible and heed its recommendations.

Mr, President,
Mr. Secretary-General,

In addition to the adoption of the resolution and the increased awareness generated on the importance of mediation, there has also been promising progress in the area of capacity-building.

Again, the UN has been in the forefront both in building its own capacities and helping others. As such, the Mediation Support Unit has become a true source of reference and assistance for regional organizations and states.

We thus fully endorse the Secretary-General’s efforts to further advance the UN’s mediation and mediation support capacity.

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General,

I have so far stressed the UN’s central role in promoting mediation as an effective means of conflict resolution and prevention. However, as implied by the theme of this meeting, the states are also increasingly engaging in mediation activities of their own.

Turkey is one of those countries which actively pursue peaceful settlement of conflicts through mediation. Within the last ten years, we have undertaken many mediation and facilitation efforts in a wide geography ranging from Balkans to the Middle East, from Africa to Central Asia.

The sole reason for this activism is the integral link between our own peace and security and that of the wider region around us. Indeed, Turkey is situated at the epicenter of a broad geography hosting a great number of conflicts. And whatever transpires in this region has direct implications on our own stability and welfare.

In fact this has always been the case. But within the span of last 20 years this region has witnessed three major earthquakes all of which had enormous regional and global ramifications.

The end of the Cold War in 1991, the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and finally the current financial crises and the political transformation in the Middle East have all changed the regional political landscape in our part of the world. And Turkey has found itself in the midst of all these earthquakes, feeling directly the energy that was unleashed by their rupture.

As a result, we also felt the responsibility to take on a more active and effective role in steering the course of events in the right direction. Our interest in trying to mediate between parties to conflicts came as a natural outcome of this commitment.

We were also encouraged by the fact that effective mediation requires a good analysis of the situation, the trust of the parties in the mediator, a clear and positive vision for the future, and a firm dedication to peace and stability.

These are all important assets Turkey enjoys in its wide region due to its shared history and a common future. We indeed have a strong insight of the dynamics that undermine the peace in our region, as well as those that underpin it.

As a result, we are able to empathize with a large group of countries around us and understand their concerns and aspirations.

In other words, we are not a neutral outsider that has no special stakes involved in the resolution of the conflict. On the contrary, we are an interested insider guided by our own values, with an ability to build consensus on these values and interests.

This is precisely what states are expected to bring in the realm of mediation. They should use their insights and influence to facilitate an agreement among the parties to a conflict.

In doing so, they should be fair and objective in their treatment of the parties. Equally importantly, they must ensure coherence and complementarity among all relevant stakeholders and thus create a sense of local, regional and international ownership.

To this end, they also have to work in tandem with regional organizations and the United Nations.

Of course all this is easier said than done. But this is why mediation is both an art and science. It certainly has its guidelines, but the mediator has to recalibrate them every time depending on the specific conditions of a conflict situation.

In our relatively short experience in mediation, whether we are working on an intra-state conflict, such as Iraq, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan, or one of between two states as in Israel and Syria or Bosnia and Serbia, we have always been guided by these principles.

We studied our homework in advance; paid utmost attention to retain the trust of the parties through an impartial and inclusive approach; respected the values of both the conflicting parties and the international community; and worked to ensure ownership of the agreement by the parties themselves rather than imposing our own solutions.

Yes, we brought in our own incentives to reach and implement an agreement. But we have never tried to make it our own peace. The agreement must belong to the parties and the ownership must be homegrown.

In short, the quality of any peace agreement reached at the end of a mediation process depends on the fulfillment of these requirements, such as objectivty, ownership, inclusivenes and coherence.

Mr. President,

This is just a brief overview of the challenges faced and lessons learned by Turkey in its own mediation experience.

There is no doubt that states have an important role to play in mediating conflicts. However, that needs to be an educated and well-designed effort.

Therefore, we have a responsibility to constantly work on building our own capacities. In particular, we need to invest more on creating the next generation of mediators and cultivating the necessary expertise needed in resolving conflicts.

Of course, the UN should also be more effective in helping states build their capacities. And to this end, establishment of UN mediation centers in places close to major conflict situations would be a step in the right direction.

Turkey is on the record in its willingness to host such a center that will help build capacity in and ensure coordination among states and regional organizations.

We have already started the necessary process to establish such a UN Mediation Center in Istanbul. We believe this center will be very useful in helping us achieve our common objectives on mediation.

We will pursue this idea with the Secretary-General in the coming days and months.

Thank you.