Statement by H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona
Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
at the Security Council Debate on
“Post Conflict Peace Building”
16th April, 2010
My delegation appreciates the initiative of the Japanese Presidency in organizing this important debate on post conflict peace building, a most timely initiative. I also wish to extend on behalf of my delegation, our warmest greetings to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the other Ministers who are with us here today for this important meeting. Sri Lanka associates itself fully with the statement made by Bangladesh on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement.
The United Nations, as we all know, was established in the hope that it would contribute to the collective effort of ‘saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. We can all take pride in the fact that in the 65 years since then, the world, as a whole, has not been at war. However, in the same period, intra state and in inter state conflicts have become widespread. Therefore, our collective efforts to bring conflicts to an end and to prevent the recurrence of conflicts in post conflict contexts can not cease. The Peace Building Commission has been conceived, having reference to the characteristics of successful peace building efforts. We must, nevertheless, not ignore the lessons of the other home grown strategies that countries have successfully implemented to achieve and consolidate peace. There are many instances where strategies developed on the basis of national experience have succeeded much better than those prescribed in hallowed academic institutions. We must accept that all peace building efforts are unique as the nature and context of individual conflicts are different. The ‘No one size fits all’ principle must apply in support of a country specific situation. Any tendency to impose predetermined solutions to achieving peace and reconciliation must be resisted, however much we are attached to them.
We recognize that the international community has a responsibility to ensure post conflict situations do not relapse into conflict again and to encourage and facilitate national efforts at achieving lasting peace. We need to listen to national governments and communities who understand better what a country’s and a people’s priorities are. Peace building must squarely be a nationally owned process and peace must come from within and not from the outside. Our own experience has shown that some in the international community expect benchmarks to be achieved according to artificial timelines and feel that external pressure could help speed up a process disregarding complex domestic sensitivities and ground realities. Quite often, the progress made is ignored for not being consistent with external prescriptions and there is a constant focus only on what remains to be achieved. This approach has resulted, quite often in the rejection of external interference and confusion in the domestic processes thereby weakening the international communities influence.
In many situations, time can heal many wounds provided it is augmented by necessary confidence building measures. Quite often, a great deal of emphasis is placed on political reconciliation alone not realizing that economic empowerment of people needs to be given equal priority. Poverty, unemployment, lack of equal opportunity and the ensuing sense of grievance have often been the cause for the radicalization of communities and provided the base of support for armed conflict. Whilst these social issues may manifest themselves as ethno-national or religious conflicts, the core grievance may in all likelihood, be a sense of marginalization, especially economically. Peace building is a multidimensional task that requires a comprehensive approach. The immediate needs of people in post conflict societies are rehabilitation, resettlement, basic services, safety and security, rebuilding basic infrastructure, economic opportunities through employment, regaining lost livelihoods etc. Unless economic opportunities are provided no amount of political facilitation or punitive measures will bring peace. One classic definition of peace is ‘normalization of the life of the people’. No peace building can be successful without winning the hearts and minds of the people. Economic recovery must take place, in parallel with the strengthening of democratic processes, and the strengthening of the rule of law and human rights. The international community has a significant role to play in assisting with the economic recovery phase in post conflict scenarios.
A considerable deal of focus needs to be placed on healing the wounds and reconciliation among peoples in countries where conflicts have divided communities for decades. Those who shout from the roof tops for justice or revenge on the alleged perpetrators of crimes come from a certain socio cultural milieu where ‘revenge’ is seen as a healer. In our part of the world, a culture going back millennia, dictates that ‘mercy be shown by the victor’. Mercy, forgivence and a need to come to terms with the past, however bitter it may have been, on a morally acceptable basis to advance the cause of reconciliation and long term stability is key to our cultural experience. As the Bard so aptly said “The quality of mercy: --- It is twice blest. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes”. Forgiveness rather than punishment and revenge is the major influence in our context. Therefore, we need to recognize the different approaches to addressing the way conflicts lasted and were resolved and once again agree that there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula.
Our own experience has shown us that we must allow democratic processes to be established for the people to elect their leaders and to allow the people who have lived through years of conflict to come forward and take the initiative in rebuilding their communities and deciding their political future rather than imposing solutions based on a judgmental assessment of people’s aspirations. Those who have been through long running conflicts often take a very different approach to how they would want to shape their future and very often old ideas that gave rise to the conflicts in the first place no long remain a priority for these communities. Therefore, political solutions in post conflict societies, in our experience, should not precede the firm establishment of democratic processes and proper consultation.
The post conflict peace building also requires considerable financial resources and in many countries emerging from conflict, one of the major challenges is finding the resources to consolidate peace. Very often support from the donor community is conditional upon our accepting their own formulae for peace building. We believe the Peace Building Fund could be a channel through which national processes can be supported on their own merits.
We hope that our candid views on post conflict peace building strategies based on our own experience would contribute to the ongoing dialogue on how best to sustain and achieve durable piece. Sri Lanka fully supports the major review of the UN Peace Building Architecture being conducted under the auspices of the General Assembly and we hope this debate would contribute to the review under taken by the General Assembly.
I thank you Mr. President.