International Strategy for Conflict Prevention and Resolution

Address of the first deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Opening of Conflux Center’s International Conference: “Mediation, Conflict Prevention And Resolution In The Emerging Paradigm”

Hotel “M”, Belgrade,
24th February, 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished Professors,
Dear international guests,

Welcome to Belgrade,
I am greatly pleased that this meeting will address some of the most important current issues. These issues are of crucial importance to all of us, and I believe that they will be freely viewed and examined in an academic exchange of views that may generate many useful ideas. I am confident that gatherings like this may achieve much more than certain formal international conferences in which only Government representatives take part.

Serbia has more than its fair share of historical experiences which in addition to great sacrifices and suffering, also brought huge joy following the liberation from oppressors and occupiers up to the formulation of a foreign policy that has been widely acknowledged internationally. Our capital Belgrade was venue of many historic meetings centuries ago and in the 20th century we were the centre of the Non-Aligned Movement. Today, our foreign policy is different compared to those times, but what has been of value and accumulated in us left an indelible mark, making our parts quite distinct. Belgrade is a meeting place where one can freely express one’s personal convictions and views, regardless of differences.

We have always been the bridge between the East and the West, as well as between the North and the South, for which reason we suffered more often than not, but our people – the way they are, remember mostly the beneficial and noble outcomes of such encounters. For this reason, I consider it a very good idea that the Conflux Centre has invited all of you, from different parts of the world, of different cultures, to exchange views on the current challenges the world is facing. I am particularly pleased with the fact that the Conference will be followed by a mediation course that will assist the participants to perceive all aspects of the sensitivity, responsibility and the great importance of peace missions worldwide.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Almost 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the world is facing complex challenges threatening international peace and security. I venture to say that a direct correlation can be noted between poverty, economic and social problems, on the one hand, and armed conflicts, extremism, international terrorism and organized crime, on the other. Political uncertainties, growing economic crisis, climate change, food and water shortages, uncontrolled urban development, and other global problems give rise to the strengthening of polarization, widening the gap between the rich and the poor, to spreading of extremism and dissemination of hatred, as well as conflict proliferation across the world.

We are witnessing foreign policy militarization and narrowing of the possibilities for diplomatic and multilateral action. When seeking solutions, parties to the conflict are resorting less to diplomacy and increasingly to the use of force. The role of diplomacy, the United Nations and other international organizations in conflict prevention and resolution is being ever more reduced. The relations and mistrust between permanent members of the UN Security Council have practically inhibited the work of this major world forum for the preservation of international peace and security, reflected in the resolution of almost all issues on the agenda of this important United Nations body.

There are no political solutions in sight for existing hotbeds of crisis; the humanitarian situation on the ground is deteriorating; and armed conflicts intensify. Most conflicts in the world of today have been fragmented by, and intertwined with, extremism and international terrorism to such an extent that it is hard to devise a method or take concrete steps to put an end to fighting and violence or to bring them, at least somewhat, under control.

Regrettably, even Serbia had to face brutal aggression as the last century drew to a close, which consequently culminated in the most drastic form of separatism by the Albanian national minority in our southern province of Kosovo and Metohija. Various excuses were made to justify an attempt at violent separation of a territory of a sovereign Member State of the United Nations. However, none withstood even a mildly serious test of logic, principles and fairness, nor will they stand one of politics. Imagine that a national minority living in your country declared, through use of fabrications, mostly falsehoods, a part of your country’s sovereign territory as an independent State! Where would it lead us?

We have been trying for the last five years to reach a settlement with Pristina, with European Union facilitation, by making tremendous efforts to reconcile the often irreconcilable, but we are finding it more and more difficult to do so because the other party to the dialogue does not have the same approach. Nevertheless, we are not giving up as we are truly in favour of compromises that should, by no means, imply annihilation of our national and state’s identity and essence.

Dear friends,

We are very much concerned about the fact that new crises and dangers of armed conflicts are emerging simultaneously in different parts of the world. Most alarming are certainly the tensions and sabre-rattling between the states with significant arsenals, including nuclear weapons. The situation in the Korean Peninsula is the most menacing, as it threatens to escalate out of control and lead to a war with a potentially great many victims.

Armed conflicts usually start and develop in countries where governmental institutions are weak and can overcome neither the accumulated economic and social challenges nor the additional pressures such as migration, tidal waves of refugees, organized crime, illicit arms and drug trafficking, terrorism, etc.  In such circumstances, states lose their legitimacy and control over the situation, becoming, as a rule of thumb, one of the parties to a conflict. The emergence of powerful armed non-state actors with significant financial and military capabilities and having political, economic or criminal aims, makes the situation additionally complicated, protracting armed conflicts and posing obstacles to a political solution. Particularly dangerous is the collusion between these groups, terrorist and criminal organizations and their joint activities on transnational basis. Further worrying is the fact that violent and brutal extremism spreading through the media, regional networks and control over territory has taken root in many conflicts.

Mass and (very often) orchestrated violation of human rights, rights of refugees and of international humanitarian law, which is meant to regulate and penalize the conduct of parties to a conflict and to protect the civilian population, the wounded, the prisoners of war and other vulnerable groups, is one of the characteristics of armed conflicts taking place in the modern-day world.

It is the civilian population that suffers the most serious consequences. The number of refugees and displaced persons, mostly women and children, has reached a record high of over 60 million and, in most cases, implies long-term refuge or displacement lasting 20 years on average. In many conflict zones, civilians are exposed to organized and brutal violence and are most common victims of terrorist attacks. Women and children are the most vulnerable segment of the civilian population, being subjected to systematic violence, sexual exploitation, abuse, kidnapping, forced recruitment, etc.

The Charter of the United Nations identifies mediation as an important means of peaceful settlement of both inter-State and intra-State disputes and conflicts, if they pose a threat to international peace and security. Even though mediation is not suitable for all conflicts, there are indicators suggesting whether there is a potential for efficient mediation. First and foremost, the parties in the conflict need to be open to negotiations and negotiated settlement; second, the mediator needs to be accepted and credible; and third, a general consensus to support the process needs to be reached at regional and international levels. Each conflict calls for a unique approach, but the political will of the parties to the conflict is the decisive factor for the mediation’s success or failure.

International diplomatic and political efforts towards the prevention, control and peaceful resolution of conflicts still remain the only possible answer. Prevention needs to be at the core of all efforts being made. However, this requires a considerably higher level of international unity, particularly in the United Nations Security Council as the supreme body in the preservation of international peace and collective security system, as well as more international assistance to weak countries with fragile institutions in order to be able to successfully deal with economic and social problems. Furthermore, it is necessary to establish a dialogue with all actors involved in conflicts, including armed non-state actors, as well as to establish international control over the application of new technologies to prevent their abuse.

As you can see, the situation in the world at large is burdened by challenges, and mediation is an indispensable cure to be used both to prevent problems and alleviate the existing ones. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, participants of the Conference, my wish to you is to be inspired and successful in your deliberations and to, through ideas, assessments and views exchanged on this occasion, and the conclusions you adopt, make a contribution to the promotion of the international strategy for conflict prevention and resolution.

Thank you for your attention.