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Security Council discusses UN's role in national reconciliation after war

26 January 2004 The Security Council wrapped up a day-long debate today on the role of the United Nations in national reconciliation after wars, hearing UN officials warn the process will never work unless the conflict's root causes are tackled and its most serious crimes punished.

At the end of the meeting, the Council adopted a statement, read out by Maria Soledad Alvear Valenzuela, Foreign Minister of Chile, which holds the rotating Presidency for January, saying Member States would examine further how to harness the UN's expertise on the issue so that the world learns from lessons from the past.

Ms. Valenzuela opened the debate by reading a message from South Africa's Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who said the path of revenge post-conflict "is how we tend to behave - but it is not inevitable nor invariably the case."

Archbishop Tutu cited South Africa and Timor-Leste as recent positive examples where leaders chose to build up their nations instead of engaging in retribution, which, he said, "leads only to the most awful cul de sac because there is no future without forgiveness."

UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown told the debate that a safe and stable transfer to democracy is not possible unless the underlying causes of the conflict are resolved. Without that, deeper divisions could develop between the parties to the war, he said.

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tuliameni Kalomoh said it is up to individual countries to decide what form their national reconciliation should take and what measures they should use - such as war crimes tribunals or truth and reconciliation commissions. But he added that whatever the path chosen, "there are some crimes that are so heinous that they require that justice be done."

Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie stressed the importance of the international community providing financial and other support to countries undergoing post-conflict reconciliation - to ensure that poverty and deprivation do not foster grievances.

A number of the several dozen delegates who addressed the meeting stressed the need for the UN and its various parts, including the Security Council, to cooperate more closely to help countries go through the process of reconciliation.



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