13 November 2013
Eighth edition of the Geneva Lecture Series
Opening remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Geneva Lecture Series – Eighth Edition
“Complexities of Peacemaking: the Untold Story”
Palais des Nations, Room XX
Wednesday, 13 November 2013, at 16:30
Dear Presidents, Martti Ahtisaari and José Ramos-Horta
Ladies and Gentlemen:
C’est avec le plus grand plaisir que je vous souhaite la bienvenue pour cet événement important. Par égard envers nos invités, je m’exprimerai en anglais ; l’interprétation en français est disponible par le système d’oreillettes, mises à votre disposition.
It is a particular honour and pleasure to welcome two of the world’s most renowned peacemakers and political leaders – Presidents Martti Ahtisaari and José Ramos-Horta – who will share with us their lessons and guidance based on over 60 years of combined peacemaking between them. They embody the core values and objectives of our Organization. Their long-standing commitment to peace has been rewarded with the gratitude of the communities that they have served. And their efforts have been recognized globally with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. The United Nations, indeed the world, has greatly benefited – and continues to benefit – from their diplomatic skills in some of the most complex and sensitive settings.
Peacemaking and peacebuilding are issues that go to the heart of the mission of the United Nations – our effort to build a better world for all. Peacemaking and peacebuilding are also issues with particular significance here in Geneva. We have seen that very clearly over the past couple of weeks, with negotiators descending on Geneva for talks on Syria and Iran. We are proud to draw from this tradition of peace – and it is a great pleasure for me that one of my first official functions is to highlight this key role of the United Nations through the presence of these two giants of peacemaking.
There can be no doubt that mediation, peacemaking and peacebuilding are as necessary as ever. Too many people continue to live in situations of violence, instability and insecurity. The devastating conflict in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people and millions have been forced to flee. In the Sahel and in the Great Lakes region, millions live in situations of the greatest vulnerability. The people of the greater Middle East are caught in a cycle of instability and violence that undermines the prospects for all in the region. Overall, the World Bank estimates that globally some 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by violent conflict.
This is why the Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has made conflict prevention, mediation and peacemaking priorities for our Organization. We must all confront these situations and help our fellow human beings to live in greater peace and stability.
Each conflict is unique. No two peacemaking contexts are identical. But, all peacemakers recognize the challenge of navigating competing – often directly opposing – interests, of the need to ensure political will by multiple actors, of tackling a broad range of substantive issues, and combining patience and pressure in the right mix – and in the right order. And, most importantly, how to apply common sense and a sense of humour in the most difficult of circumstances.
Presidents Ahtisaari and Ramos-Horta are our teachers. Their intellectual capacities, political acumen and negotiating skills are second to none. But, in my view, the deeper secret to their success has been their understanding of the people that they were working for and trying to help, and their determination to help build better lives for those in, or coming out of, conflict. With you, I look forward to them sharing with us some of their experience.
Thank you very much.