Press Releases

    NGO/480/Rev.1*
    PI/1443/Rev.1*
    13 September 2002

    NGO/DPI CONFERENCE CONCLUDES WITH FOCUS
    ON REBUILDING SOCIETIES AFTER CONFLICT

    Yugoslav President and East Timorese Vice-Minister Address Closing Session

    NEW YORK, 12 Septeber (UN Headquarters) -- The annual NGO/DPI Conference, which focused on the overarching theme "Rebuilding Societies Emerging from Conflict: A Shared Responsibility", concluded this afternoon with statements by two world leaders -- from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and East Timor -- who are presently engaged in rebuilding their own war-torn societies.

    President Vojislav Kostunica of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia said that despite the most severe armed conflict in Europe since the Second World War, none of the Balkan States had become ethnically "pure". The starting point in rebuilding must be to recognize that the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia had ended; any further attempts at altering borders or the ethnic make-up of the population would be a call for the continuation of the Balkan tragedy.

    He said the non-governmental sector in Europe and the United States should concentrate on developing the institutions required in a democratic State ruled by law. Only such a State could guarantee human, ethnic, cultural, religious, political and other rights and liberties. If the Balkan countries had "good internal order" and genuine respect for human rights and freedoms, then they could be optimistic about the future of South-East Europe and its prospects for integration.

    Jose Luis Guterres, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of East Timor, said the East Timorese had endured 20 years of suffering and about one-third of them had died from war, hunger and extra-judicial killings. Now, a new era had begun with the United Nations Mission there, establishing a Serious Crime Unit and a Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation to deal with the human rights violations committed in the country since 1975.

    Moreover, the establishment of a democratic system in Indonesia had facilitated improved relations between the two countries, he said. Indonesia and East Timor now had vibrant civil society institutions to protect human rights. Also, just three months after independence, East Timor had acceded to the Rome

    Statute of the International Criminal Court. Nevertheless, challenges remained, such as the integration of former combatants and overall security matters.

    Earlier this afternoon, during a panel discussion on "Demobilizing the War Machines: Making Peace Last", Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala stressed that demobilizing the war machine -- a cluster of vested interests acting together to control key national policy decisions to increase the production of armaments or rationalize their continued production -- was especially important for the NGO community. After all, the best way to demobilize that was to mobilize public opinion in support of peace, community and prosperity, he said.

    To shut down a war machine meant closing an option for reaching one’s political goals, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno said. Engaging in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) meant recognizing that fighting factions would probably be loath to close down their political options. Their willingness to engage in DDR often signalled their willingness to convert from a military to a civilian form of politics.

    Also participating in that final panel discussion were Vandy Kanyako, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, and Cora Weiss, President of The Hague Appeal for Peace. Ali Jalali, Chief of the Pashto Service at Voice of America, moderated the discussion.

    During this morning’s panel, convened under the theme "Against the Odds: The Process of Reconciliation", a representative of the Angolan Reflection Group for Peace asserted that peace was more than the silencing of guns, pointing out that some 85,000 rebels had been demobilized in Angola, but that had not meant the arrival of peace. Attempts at reconciliation meant Angolans had to agree "who we are, who we want to be", he said.

    Co-directors of a Palestinian/Israeli-led NGO, the Middle East Children’s Association, emphasized the need for "peace education" -- revised curricula and textbooks that eliminated hatred and provided students with the tools to balance conflict and differences in values. Those who designed textbooks and curricula in developing countries were the same ones who kept the keys to the prisons, one said.

    Panellists this morning also included: Adina Shapiro, Co-Director of the Middle East Children’s Association; Bertan Selim, Youth Counsellor with the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation; and Prosper Bani, Programme Specialist with the United Nations Volunteer Programme. Carol Rittner, a professor at Stockton College, moderated that discussion.

    In closing today, Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said he had appreciated hearing first-hand accounts of the rebuilding tasks faced by two countries, which had received United Nations assistance. Throughout the Conference, unique insights had been offered on such processes as establishing the rule of law and good governance. NGOs, the United Nations and government officials had exchanged views on the priority needs of societies emerging from conflict.

    Conference Chair Sherrill Kazan Alvarez de Toledo said that the goal of the Conference to gain information and reinforce partnerships that would contribute to building better societies and preventing conflicts had been met. The final session had included two leaders who were dedicated to rebuilding their own societies after terrible conflict. The five plenary meetings had featured a remarkable diversity of experts in the area of post-conflict reconstruction.

    More than 2,700 people representing over 650 organizations in 85 countries registered for the three-day Conference, which held panels on the following subthemes: Re-establishing the Rule of Law and Encouraging Good Governance; Restoring Social Services: Identifying Priorities; From Less than Zero: The Challenge of Rebuilding Economies; and Against the Odds: The Process of Reconciliation.

    Background

    The DPI/NGO Conference met this morning for a discussion entitled "Against the Odds: The Process of Reconciliation" on the third and final day of its annual session, held under the theme "Rebuilding Societies Emerging from Conflict: A Shared Responsibility". The afternoon session would discuss "Demobilizing the War Machines: Making Peace Last".

    Opening Remarks/Morning Session

    CAROL RITTNER, a professor at Stockton College and moderator of the morning discussion, said that reconciliation required people of different ethnicities, political persuasions, and economic standing to move toward one another in a common commitment to a future characterized by inclusivity, tolerance and cooperation. More than the coexistence of formerly hostile groups, it meant coming to accept one another and developing mutual trust.

    She said reconciliation required that victims and perpetrators come to accept the past and each other. "If peace after conflict is tough, reconciliation is more than tough –- it goes against the odds", she said. While most would agree with the ideal outcome of that quest, the pertinent question was how to get there.

    Statements of Morning Panellists

    GHASSAN ABDULLAH, Co-Director and Founder of the Middle East Children Association, expressing his condolences to the families of the victims of the 11 September 2001 attacks, said that despite the most difficult and deteriorating situation in Palestine -- the daily killing, injuring, demolition of homes, restrictions on movement and humiliation –- the teachers had not given up because education had much to contribute in areas of conflict and bloodshed. Cultural background, daily sufferings and the spread of violence and terror had motivated the teachers in the region to create an alternative.

    Unfortunately, he said, the Palestinians and the Israelis had missed the train for decades. Neither had dared faced the question of who was on the other side. Stereotyping was still the dominant aspect in Palestinian/Israeli communications. Because of his organization’s belief in the role of education it was committed to helping teachers and students "find the other face of the coin". Indeed, the group was established in 1996 to promote understanding, cooperation and mutual acceptance with the aim of making it clear that everyone had a right to live in peace and that everyone was different but equal.

    One theme that the Association was addressing was the gap between textbooks and the study of history in schools, he said. What was learned in the textbooks was totally different from what they learned from daily life. While Palestinian textbooks stressed a combination of national identity, cultural pluralism, pan-Arabism and Islamic studies, more pluralistic elements were beginning to appear, including images showing Islamic and Jewish leaders together.

    Deteriorating economic and psychological conditions was another area of focus, he said. Financial support for the Association came from international donors, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Konrad Adenaeur Foundation.

    ADINA SHAPIRO, Co-Director of the Middle East Children’s Association, said that this time of year between the Jewish New Year and the day of atonement, referred to by Jews around the world as "the days of awe", was a time of reflection, of raising questions and not on giving answers. That was the role of education and its significance to any peace process. An educator's task was to raise the sensitivity in the minds of students, the future generation, and draw their attention to the moral dilemmas and constant complexity of the world.

    She said that in a region of conflict, such as the Middle East, education geared towards the sanctity of life, human rights, national pride, and basic tolerance and respect could, ironically, contribute to hatred and demonization. Reconciliation was only possible if students were given the tools to balance values and always recognized the conflict in values and the complexity that came with difficult choices, with a combination of humility and decisiveness. An educator should provide students with the ability to recognize that while defending oneself and one’s country against a series of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks, one should not ignore the human rights of the society perceived to be harbouring the perpetrators.

    The lives of many innocent children had been lost, she said, asking the Conference to join the Association in promoting the balancing act of "peace education" as a critical part of any future political negotiations. Experience in the Middle East had taught that a peace process without a significant educational component could not last. Any future peace negotiation required several factors, among them: a commitment by each government to set up an educational task force similar to a security or economic task force; the support of education ministries for mandatory teacher training infused with the ideas of understanding and tolerance; and a periodic assessment of textbooks, which must continuously be revised.

    BERTAN SELIM, Youth Counsellor with the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, said conflict continued to be the reality of many children and families throughout the world. He had experienced conflict throughout his life in his native Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and in Kosovo. To achieve reconciliation, trust must be rebuilt, since people felt threatened and unsafe when they were exposed to diversity. Traumatized people had no choice, opportunity or resolution to change and they "ghettoized" in order to protect themselves from the unknown.

    Regarding educational systems, he said outdated and obsolete curriculae taught in schools in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia emphasized patriotism, which turned into radical nationalism. Knowledge was served without a chance of introspection or question and abuse was at a very high level. Children thus thought victory was achieved through the use of physical power. Traumatized people often lost touch with reality and resistance to reconciliation was omnipresent in the world. Only through programmes that gave a sense of control back to traumatized victims could they see themselves as individuals and not objects.

    The best way to mitigate and reconcile was by employing reforms in the educational system, he said. Teachers should be trained to stop violence and discrimination and eradicate physical punishment. Reconciliation was a slow process achieved solely through empirical techniques and long-lasting change could only start at the level of the individual. The international community, governments and non-governmental organizations should make a robust commitment in that direction by using today's most powerful industry--the media. Military intervention had neither improved societies nor achieved peace and the new generation did not deserve to grow up in an environment of conflict.

    PROSPER BANI, Programme Specialist, United Nations Volunteer Programme, addressed volunteerism and peace-building, saying that some 5,000 volunteers were working for the United Nations. All those who struggled for peace were volunteering in one way or the other; the main value of volunteerism was free will. Volunteers felt a sense of solidarity. They served in numerous countries and had contributed to peace processes globally. There had been some 800 volunteers working in East Timor, and 160 in Sierra Leone.

    Established in 1971 and administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Volunteers supported sustainable human development globally through the promotion of volunteerism, he said. It operated against a background of growing recognition that volunteerism genuinely served the cause of peace. The programme made important economic and social contributions and was universal as well as inclusive. It embraced all types of volunteer action while holding to the values of free will, commitment, engagement and solidarity--the foundations of volunteerism.

    United Nations Volunteers had served in almost all post-conflict situations, either by supporting peacekeeping missions or designing projects to support peace processes at the grassroots level, he said. The programme focused on specific conflict resolution and confidence-building. It included training, grant-giving and the promotion of reconciliation and dialogue. The programme's activities went beyond the United Nations framework in post-conflict situations with most volunteers working in their own way. Their enthusiasm crossed boundaries that the United Nations could not. The programme supported both big missions and specific activities at the grassroots level, and in some cases, its facilitators identified partners in the remotest areas of conflict zones.

    Volunteers were often able to penetrate formerly impenetrable groups, he said. That "icebreaking" role was central to the programme's activities. But no matter what the programme did, if the affected people did not regain confidence no investment would enable them to overcome the trauma of conflict. Youth were the main partners of the volunteer programme. In conflict situations they were affected on many levels, including in education and health. They were the soldiers, the unemployed and the maimed.

    DANIEL NTONI-NZINGA, Quaker International Affairs Representative of Angolan Reflection Group for Peace, a coalition of churches in the peace movement there, said southern Africa was well known for two extremes. On the one hand, South Africa was a model of reconciliation and a peaceful transition while Angola epitomized the Conference theme of shared responsibility for rebuilding societies emerging from conflict.

    Recalling that the Angolan Government and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding four months ago, he noted that the guns were still silent. There had been a regrouping, quartering, disarmament and demobilization of some 85,000 men and women of UNITA scattered around the country. They no longer posed a physical threat to the country’s stability, but that did not mean peace had arrived. More than the silencing of guns, peace also meant living together in harmony. That process required everyone’s engagement.

    Attempts at reconciliation had been made in 1991, and again in 1994, but real reconciliation was never present, he said. For example, the commission in charge of the peace process had been put in place again last month, but reconciliation as outlined in the agreed document was mainly about the allocation of posts, specifically the appointment of former rebels to ministerial and ambassadorial posts. Civil society members and churches were saying that dividing the cake and giving each party a slice was not reconciliation; living together but not agreeing was not reconciliation. First, Angolans had to agree "who we are, who we want to be", in order to move forward together.

    Question-and-Answer Session

    Responding to a question about involving children in the reconciliation process, Mr. ABDULLAH said that his Association's position was not to impose on children what they should do. Indeed, they had been given "ownership" of a musical programme in which both Palestinian refugees and Israeli children from a disadvantaged town had participated.

    Ms. SHAPIRO added that the important thing was to focus on the needs of one’s own society and to seek examples from other societies to help resolve issues. It was important to look at the underprivileged and those who had experienced conflict.

    Mr. SELIM said it was very difficult for children who had not suffered to shift realities and understand the other side. The only way to achieve that was to tailor information in a child-friendly way.

    Responding to another series of questions, Mr. BANI referred participants to the United Nations web site to access procedures for becoming a United Nations volunteer. Interventions should be guided by the sensitivities of the particular conflict and the ability to intercede in remote areas where such activities were needed most.

    In response to a question about prospects for reconciliation in Zimbabwe, Mr. NTONI-NZINGA said the Government of that country and all others should take a different lead in the process of resolving the conflict there. He had heard that chances for dialogue had dimmed, but he saw no other way to solve the problem. The parties must sit down sooner or later to address the issues.

    The international community should help find new ways to deal with Zimbabwe, he said, adding that the primitive approach would not get proper results but only antagonize the parties further. Also, expulsions would not solve the problem, but only delay their resolution, leading to a resurgence of conflict in another form.

    Responding to a question about minimizing trauma, Mr. ABDULLAH said the Palestinians and Israelis dealt with trauma in order to minimize its effects and teach ways to avoid violence. That approach was used to motivate people towards non-violence and more cooperation and understanding of the needs and conditions of the other side.

    Ms. SHAPIRO added that coping with trauma was part of the reality in the Middle East. Trauma was sometimes used by leaders, but the people themselves sometimes got "stuck inside a trauma" that was not addressed. Doing so occurred on two levels: restoring the framework and addressing the trauma by legitimizing it; and creating an emotionally safe environment in which to speak about it and then moving to the second stage about lessons learned in dealing with the trauma.

    Referring to the implications of reconciliation, Mr. NTONI-NZINGA said that truly putting an end to the past required some reparations, even if only as a symbolic gesture.

    Responding to a question about education, Ms. SHAPIRO said it would be a dangerous precedent to outlaw any school. The question should be reframed to reflect how governments could influence education and ensure that schools were not promoting hate or violence.

    Mr. ABDULLAH added that a prevailing political situation sometimes embarrassed a government and made it difficult to take a step towards peace education. For example, it was difficult for the Palestinian Authority to talk about peace education formally in the textbooks while killing, reoccupation and imprisonment were going on. In developing countries, those who designed textbooks and curricula were the same ones who carried and kept the keys to the prisons, he said.

    Opening Statement/Afternoon Session

    ALI JALALI, Chief, Pashto Service, Voice of America, and moderator of the afternoon panel, introduced the panellists for the afternoon discussion entitled "Demobilizing the War Machines: Making Peace Last".

    Speaking in his personal capacity, Mr. Jalali noted that today's discussion coincided with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. That vicious act of terrorism was planned and organized half way around the world where terrorists had turned a war-torn country into a training ground and base of operations for worldwide ventures. The tragedy was a reminder that conventional and unconventional threats emanating from conflicts and instability in one corner of the world could spread like a bushfire to a much wider region.

    Consolidation of peace in societies emerging from conflict was a complex process of "breaking" and "making", he continued. Breaking the war machine in the post-conflict period was a prerequisite for sustaining peace. Failure to build attractive alternatives to the life of a warrior, however, could lead to renewal of fighting and the proliferation of criminal activity. The process should not be limited to dismantling the military structures of the warring parties. It should make the war machines as well as their use obsolete. That could be achieved by creating a national capacity to transform war-instigated structures into peace-building institutions.

    The process could not be implemented in a vacuum, he added. The strategy for demobilization was shaped by diverse political, social and economic conditions under which civil strife developed. A major step in post-conflict demobilization was disarming the ex-combatants. Effective demobilization was possible only through voluntary disarmament. The strategy should eliminate the desire to use weapons rather than merely collect weapons. Although the warring parties were primarily responsible for executing demobilization programmes, the process could not succeed without the serious involvement of the international community.

    Emphasizing the media's crucial role in demobilization, he said that in the immediate aftermath of war, the domestic media were either dysfunctional or polarized and biased. One of the controversial issues facing the press was the conflicting need for objective reporting and security in a fragile peace environment. There was an urgent need to foster the emergence of free and responsible media in the post-conflict period. Demobilization was a multifaceted process in which no aspect of the post-conflict condition stood alone. Measures dealing with individual aspects of the situation could not be effective unless they complemented each other. Complete disarmament was impossible without the commitment of all parties to demobilize the war machine.

    Panellists’ Statements

    JAYANTHA DHANAPALA, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, said that demobilizing war machines was another name for the well-established field of defence conversion. Whether undertaken after the end of specific armed conflicts, implemented as a result of international agreement, or practised as a unilateral national policy the basic ideas were the same: to shift precious human, economic and technological resources away from weapons into more peaceful and protective uses. The twin goals were to make better use of people, money, and technology, and irreversibly reduce threats to international peace and security.

    He said that the benefits of defence conversion were open to all societies that spent vast sums on building up their war-waging capacities –- especially those that had acquired vast stockpiles of arms far in excess of what they reasonably needed to defend national frontiers or maintain domestic law and order. A war machine was essentially a cluster of vested interests -– industrial, bureaucratic, and legislative in nature -– that acted together to control key national policy decisions to increase the production of armaments or to rationalize continued production. That required not just the production of arms, but also their use.

    The war machine was sustained both by vested organizational interests and the ideas they espoused, including the notion that weapons were the primary or most reliable means of enhancing security, he went on. Across the globe, except for Costa Rica, Iceland and a few other States that had given up their military forces altogether, countries had their own national experiences in dealing with war machines. Some machines directed their weapons at neighbouring States, while, more commonly these days, others focused mainly on internal wars. Unfortunately, even in the decade after the cold war, innocent civilians had remained the victims of various war machines worldwide.

    He noted that many NGOs now worked in that field, and many more should, given the extraordinary benefits that defence conversion offered all societies, from the richest to the poorest. The goal was not to put people in the defence business out of work, but to give them more productive and meaningful jobs for society, while enabling States to practise their legitimate right of self-defence. The powerful message of defence conversation was that disarmament pays.

    Demobilizing the war machine was an especially important topic for the NGO community, he said, and the best way to demobilize the war machine was to mobilize public opinion to support goals of peace, community and prosperity. When machines were denied lubricants –- in the form of generous annual budgets –- and when they were not used, they were prone to rust and obsolescence. A similar problem existed with the global disarmament community, which also required funding support and practical application to avoid similar problems. To some extent, enlightened national leaders could tame that monster through their own policies and regulations, yet they were most able to do so when they had the strong, deep and widespread support of their respective publics.

    JEAN-MARIE GUEHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that if a lay person was asked about the nature of DDR of former combatants, the response might be that it was essentially a military exercise. But, the Department’s experience on the ground had shown that DDR was, first and foremost, a political exercise. To shut down a war machine meant closing an option for reaching one’s political goals. Engaging in DDR meant dealing with the fact that fighting factions would probably be loath to close down their political options. Their willingness to engage in DDR often signalled their willingness to convert from a military to a civilian form of politics, so DDR could set the parameters for the rest of a peace process.

    He said DDR was one of the necessary links for the transition from conflict to sustainable peace. The Department had been involved in particularly complex DDR operations over the last 10 years, including those in Cambodia, Mozambique, Liberia and Angola. The current peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone had major DDR mandates. Achieving DDR was almost always one of the most sensitive and difficult aspects of a peace process, essentially because the process could not advance without the political will and mutual trust of the parties to the conflict. Both commodities were in short supply during the early phases of a peace process. The parties must gain confidence that the peace process would hold and that pursuing peace would serve their interests better than a return to war.

    Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration could build confidence, but it first required confidence, he said. Conflicts with an international dimension, such as that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were complicated by the fact that the domestic combatants would not begin DDR until the external actors and benefactors also committed to the peace process and withdrew their forces. Furthermore, information on the number of combatants and their location was often available only from the parties, yet that was fundamental to any voluntary DDR process.

    He highlighted a second key lesson for a successful DDR process: where disarmament finished, demobilization began, to be followed by reintegration. Each stage required the participation of local actors and international assistance in a well-sequenced and coordinated effort covering a broad spectrum of activity. Political support for the process must come from the United Nations, key Member States and local leaders and must include pressure on the parties when necessary. Humanitarian assistance for combatants and their families must be available at cantonment sites, where security must also be ensured. Military expertise was required for the technical aspects of disarmament and verification. The ex-combatants must have economic and social assistance to return to civilian life, and their host communities might also need assistance.

    Other key aspects of DDR, he said, included the need for: early planning; management authority over the process; public information and confidence-building; and funding. Priority must be given to the special needs of child soldiers, women and other vulnerable groups that might require special services. Those lessons had been learned through the successes and failures of numerous partners in DDR. No organization could do it all and the first priority in planning should be to define the division of labour between the various partners. It was vital that actors on the ground not compete for resources and force donors to pick and choose activities rather than support a cohesive and integrated process.

    VANDY KANYAKO, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, said he had also worked with former child soldiers for seven years. The Sierra Leone crisis was one that even the United Nations had known better as the civil war had peaked on the heels of the Rwanda genocide. Because of a lack of support from the international community in Rwanda, there had been some commitment not to allow Sierra Leone to become another Rwanda. Sierra Leone's civil war had formally ended in January 2002 and children had been on the frontlines from genesis to its end. There had been a misconception that the emergence of the peace process meant an end to the conflict, but that was not the case. Some 800,000 people had been killed in Rwanda after the signing of the Arusha Peace Accord. The signing of a peace agreement was not the end of the conflict but just the beginning of another phase.

    Youth constituted the majority of the population in Sierra Leone, he said. More than half of its 4.5 million inhabitants were below the age of 15. There was, however, a culture of "gray-haired" decision-making. Issues affecting children were treated as a footnote, but the subject of youth and conflict was nothing new in Sierra Leone. Earlier examples of youth violence had been carried out by young men in their late teens to early 30s. In 1991, the crisis had ushered in the concept of child soldiers.

    A good foundation for demobilizing the Sierra Leone war machine had been laid in the 1999 Lome Peace Accord, he said. The agreement had made Sierra Leone unique with regard to the treatment of children in post-conflict situations. For the first time ever, children had been written into a peace agreement and a demobilization process. Functional and relevant education, as well as the participation of the wider society and the strengthening of government structures were vital to the process. Sierra Leone had a cash-strapped government and peacekeepers therefore had a vital deterrent role to play. Africa needed fewer weapons because there was no guarantee that the arms supply would end up in the right hands.

    CORA WEISS, President of The Hague Appeal for Peace, said that on 11 September last year, the Conference had witnessed a horrendous crime, not an act of war. Legitimate patriotism had become almost extreme nationalism. One could not talk about demobilizing the war machine and ignore the drums beating to start another war. The campaign to sell an invasion represented an enormous failure of leadership and diplomacy, as well as an erosion of democracy. Making peace last would be made all the more difficult as one analyzed the intended and unintended consequences of the build-up for a war against Iraq in the name of fighting terrorism. The best way to make peace last was to prevent war.

    She said the recipe for a lasting peace required many ingredients. "No women, no peace", she added, pointing out that they made up over half of the population and were the first teachers of their children. A coalition of international organizations had nurtured and seen the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, which called for the protection of women during armed conflict and for an end to impunity for war crimes, especially those relating to sexual violence against women and girls. She called upon Under-Secretary-General Guehenno to create a gender unit in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and in every peacekeeping operation.

    The second ingredient for making peace last was education, she said. Peace education must be written into peace agreements, which were part of a participatory method of preparing people to play an active part in democracy. Peace must be learned as it did not come with DNA. Peace education, embracing the values of democracy, human rights, disarmament, gender equality, non-violence and conservation of the environment, could be integrated into everything and did not have to burden teachers as an extra course. It could also be effective in the community, and the informal sector, where former combatants were helped in social rehabilitation and skill development. Post-conflict situations had one thing in common: communities were awash in weapons, domestic violence increased and the potential for resumption of the armed violence remained.

    Question-and-Answer Session

    Mr. DHANAPALA, replying to a question, said that many governments had intended to put the issue of disarmament and development on the agenda of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, but had failed because other countries had not been keen. A number of NGOs had also attempted to do so, but had also failed. He had issued a press release on the eve of the Johannesburg Summit drawing attention to that important subject, which had been sorely ignored.

    Responding to a question about obstacles faced in the Afghanistan DDR process, Mr. GUEHENNO reiterated that its success was very much linked to the political environment. If the Afghan people felt there was a national government with a national army and national security that was accountable to all, then the "culture of the gun" would lose strength. If no such national army or police were in place, there would continue to be some difficulty. The point now was to consolidate a national vision and an overarching concept for security to cover all Afghans and not just certain warlords.

    Mr. KANYAKO said, in response to a question about education, that it should be directly relevant to the needs of a society at a given moment. There were still subjects being taught in Sierra Leone's school system that had been taught since the colonial days. Students were still learning about Greek and Roman culture, for example. Regarding peace education, he said there was a growing call for its incorporation into the curriculum so that young people could learn to respect each other and society, and to live in peace together.

    Closing Session

    SHASHI THAROOR, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, recalling the horrific terrorist attacks of one year ago, said they had forced many to reflect on their commitment to end violent conflict at home and around the world. Breaking the cycle of violence, one of the greatest challenges facing societies today, required a long-term commitment.

    The Conference then observed a moment of silence.

    VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, said the civil war in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the most severe armed conflict in Europe since the Second World War. It had claimed thousands of lives, rendered hundreds of thousands homeless, turning them into refugees or internally displaced persons. The gross national products and national incomes of all successor States had shrunk dramatically, and the territory and market of the former Yugoslavia had been so fragmented that integration of its successors into European and Euro-Atlantic organizations would be severely hampered for years to come.

    Despite the wars, he said, virtually none of the Balkan States had become ethnically "pure". His country remained very much a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multiconfessional country. Regrettably, some people in both the region and the West still asserted that the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia had not been completed and that the 10-year-long Yugoslav tragedy must continue until it had. Some still believed that a nation-state was the only possible solution to the problems of an ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse region and that war must be prosecuted until the ethnic cleansing was finally achieved.

    The only reliable indicator of the real goals of the protagonists of ethnic conflicts remained their attitude towards minorities, he said. That was especially important in rebuilding the countries in the western Balkans and should be a concern of both governmental and non-governmental organizations. The starting point must be to recognize that the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia had ended; any further attempts at altering borders or the ethnic make-up of the population would be a call for the continuation of the Balkan tragedy. Ethnic problems and the so-called national questions in the Balkans had always been linked, and a solution applied in one case must be applied in all similar cases.

    He said that if the world was not prepared to accept and sanction the results of ethnic cleansing, conditions must be created for the return to Kosovo of about a quarter of a million refugees and displaced persons. That would be the benchmark for success of the international community’s policies in Kosovo, policies upon which the stability of the southern Balkans, as well as South-East Europe as a whole, depended. The priority now was the development of democracy, establishment of the rule of law, good governance, market economies with effective social safety nets, and regional stability.

    The non-governmental sector in Europe and in the United States should concentrate on the development of institutions needed in a democratic State ruled by law, he continued. Only such a State could guarantee human, ethnic, cultural, religious, political and other rights and liberties. If the Balkan countries had "good internal orders" and genuine respect for human rights and freedoms, then they would have good international relations and good reason to be optimistic about the future of South-East Europe and the prospect of acceding to European and Euro-Atlantic organizations. A main goal of that transition was the promotion of human rights.

    He said the efforts of many Western NGOs to maintain dialogue between the warring parties would not go in vain during peacetime. In fact, those would gain importance in the post-conflict renewal of those societies and the re-establishment of the severed ties between ethnic, cultural, political and other communities. Another aspect of the transition was good-neighbourly relations. The Balkan markets and economies were small, and there was no economically predominant country that could be the locomotive of the region’s development. The only prospect for a way out of hardship and underdevelopment was the development of South-East Europe with the assistance of the European and Euro-Atlantic organizations.

    The integration process offered a crucial task for the NGO sector, which should promote civil society and the rule of law in the region and help create a climate conducive to change and development, he said. It should also help to bridge the gap between the developed and underdeveloped parts of Europe and to impress upon the relevant organizations that Europe could not be "single and free" until it encompassed the countries of South-East Europe.

    JOSE LUIS GUTERRES, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of East Timor, said the country had been on the United Nations agenda since the 1970s. While four United Nations Secretaries-General had tried to find solutions to the question of East Timor, the support of Member States and the Security Council had not always been present and the country had not been an important topic for the mass media. The people of East Timor had faced difficult times and in more than 20 years of suffering, about one-third of them had died from war, hunger and extrajudicial killings. When all hope had appeared to be lost, and extremist ideas had begun to appear, the people of East Timor had kept their faith in God, justice and human rights.

    More than 200,000 Indonesian civilians were in East Timor, but none had been deliberately targeted by the army resistance, he said. Many NGOs had helped the East Timorese, giving their time and energy to denounce human rights violations, violations against women and arbitrary arrests. A new era had begun. The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor had established a Serious Crimes Unit and the Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation to deal with human rights violations committed in the country since 1975. The establishment of a democratic system in Indonesia had facilitated the relations between the two countries.

    Today, both Indonesia and East Timor had vibrant civil society institutions to protect human rights, he said. Fundamental values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been incorporated into East Timor's Constitution and just three months after its independence, the country had deposited its instruments of accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Council of Ministers was also considering other international conventions and treaties.

    Noting that the new United Nations mission faced a difficult task, he said the focus was now on capacity-building, and maintaining security and development. Some 60 per cent of the buildings and houses in East Timor had to be reconstructed and every family had suffered the consequences of war and occupation. However, new investment policies were being considered to facilitate the creation of jobs and to bring sustainable development to the country. While many former combatants had not yet been integrated into the new armed forces or civil administration, the Government was considering better options to recognize their service.

    Security depended on regional stability, participation in regional organizations and adherence to human rights values, he stressed. In June, East Timor had been admitted as an observer in the Asia Pacific and Caribbean Group and on 27 September, the country would become a new member of the United Nations. The Government of East Timor had decided that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation would continue to maintain close relations with NGOs.

    In concluding remarks, Mr. THAROOR said the Conference had heard from outstanding speakers who had offered unique insights on the process of establishing the rule of law and good governance. NGOs, the United Nations and government officials had shared views on prioritizing the needs of society and the Conference had learned a great deal, having heard first-hand accounts of rebuilding challenges in two countries that had received assistance from the United Nations. It was up to each of the participants to synthesize that valuable information into tangible solutions for rebuilding societies emerging from conflict.

    He noted two new initiatives that demonstrated the commitment of the NGO community, including a publication called "We the Peoples", prepared by the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA). An NGO conference was also planned at United Nations Headquarters for 2004 and there would be a preparatory process for that event.

    SHERRILL KAZAN ALVAREZ DE TOLEDO, Chair of the Conference, said that its goal was to gain information and reinforce partnerships that would contribute to building better societies and preventing conflicts. The final session had included two leaders who were dedicated to rebuilding their own societies after terrible conflict. The five plenary sessions had featured a remarkable diversity of experts in the field of post-conflict reconstruction. All the sessions had presented critical aspects of the delicate balance within society, including the important role of women, youth and indigenous people.

    The goal of the Conference had been met, she said, adding that it had made a significant contribution to understanding the growing concern over assistance to post-conflict societies. The Conference's success had been the result of a shared responsibility, a concept that must continue to be solidified.

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    * Revised to reflect the statement by President Vojislav Kostunica of the Republic of Yugoslavia.