Global Policy Forum

Presentation to the Arria Formula Briefing - Role of Civil Society - CARE


By Denis Caillaux, Secretary General, CARE International

June 22, 2004

Two days ago I arrived from a mission to Sudan, where I visited villages exhausted by decades of war, but newly invigorated by the peace talks which are resuming today in Kenya under the formidable mediation of General Lazaro Sumbeiywo.

One "truth" struck me as I visited community after community: for peace-building to be successful, we must all pause and imagine the daily struggles and aspirations of ordinary citizens seeking a life free from conflict and violence.

Most of these individuals cannot read or afford a transistor radio, yet there is so much they need to learn about the peace process. For these post-conflict civilians, there will first be a need for basic security, land mine clearance, the predictability of growing enough food, gathering enough clean water, having access to basic health services, caring for and educating their children. At the very same time, there will be a need for restoring trust with their neighbors, and participating in the creation of economic opportunities to absorb all the returning unemployed. And finally, there must be a systematic analysis of the conflict, mapping the constellation of causes, protagonists and victims in its terrible course.

Madame President, exellencies:

When we speak about "civil society," we include all groups of civilians not affiliated with the state, government, or with any armed faction. These include the councils of elders, women's groups, farmers' associations, and religious communities. Even amid the ruins of failed states, these local organizations have a profound stake in achieving a secure and rights-based society necessary to rebuild and govern their country.

With the rise of internal armed conflicts and complex emergencies, we increasingly work with societies buffeted between armed conflict and natural calamities, ending up in geographical patchworks of technical peace, but actual insecurity.

You should be heartened, Madame President, by the remarkable peace-building progress that civil society organizations have made in countries such as Sierra Leone, Cote D'Ivoire, Burundi and Afghanistan, where we work with a myriad of partners including governments, international NGOs, local civil society groups, and United Nations agencies. Our approach is to design programs that integrate basic activities with opportunities to engage people from opposing groups and build experience in preventing conflict through contact and communication.

In Cote d'Ivoire, following the waves of killing and retribution, we convened a meeting of the factions, including rival Christians and Muslims, giving them the responsibility to plan and manage the reconstruction. By engaging in this "economic development" process, these groups had many opportunities for face-to-face conversations that helped to cool the tensions from last year's violence.

In Sierra Leone, where peace is well underway, we adapted an agricultural program to ensure food security for isolated communities which integrated conflict resolution, human rights education, and training in management skills.

Even in countries with long-running ethnic conflicts, communities with varying levels of stability can still engage in positive peace-building activities. In Sri Lanka, for example, hundreds of Women Headed Households gathered for the first time, to assert to local authorities their rights and needs. Concurrently, village committees in one region launched the largest distribution of birth certificates in a one-day event, reinforcing principles such as freedom of movement, and the right of access to education and basic services.

The experience of civil society organizations ranging from Cambodia to Bosnia, and on to Afghanistan has shown that providing education in emergencies, however informal, stabilizes the community and protects children from the risk of being exploited or recruited into armed forces. In Afghanistan, under the Taliban and since, international NGOs, UNICEF, local organizations, and village leaders promoted these goals by quietly educating thousands of girls and boys in village and home-based schools.

Madame President, excellencies and distinguished ladies and gentlemen:

The Security Council and member states face a new call to action based on a central lesson of peacekeeping and conflict-resolution efforts in the last decade: tragically, half of all peace efforts falter from the outbreak of local conflicts. To prevent this from undermining national peace agreements, peacekeeping mandates must reach beyond their traditional focus, on the national level, to the heart of local communities.

As the Secretary-General has highlighted in his recent report on Protection of Civilians, local communities are under fire, literally more than ever before, and the humanitarian workers seeking to help them have been attacked in greater numbers in places like Congo, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Darfur.

Rising to these challenges, what specific steps can the Security Council take to empower civil society groups who are committed to genuine peace-building?

First, the Security Council should demonstrate its leadership in the form of a strong Presidential Statement expressing its commitment to engage civil society representatives, including women and children, in all phases of peace processes. This statement should make the following recommendations:

  1. Incorporate references to the protection and participation of civil society into Security Council Resolutions and Reports of the Secretary-General on specific countries.


  2. Create "Arria-Plus" formulae for civil society consultations, in accordance with the Cardoso Panel's findings. These would offer greater discussion, and more regularity in scheduling.


  3. Establish a "Civil Society Forum" for each Peace Process that would formalize existing ad hoc consultative practices with civil society sectors during peace processes. This standing forum would provide expertise useful to UN personnel and others supporting negotiations, planning, and implementation.


  4. Institute the "Arria in the Field," in accordance with the Cardoso Panel's findings, to enable UN Security Council missions to consult more systematically with civil society experts in the field.


  5. Institute a "Community Observer Program" for expert-level officers of UN Security Council member states, placing them with an operational NGO for one week in a country that they follow. This would strengthen Security Council decisions by providing firsthand exposure to the political and cultural context and the real life struggle of civilians rebuilding their lives.


  6. Request that the Secretary-General submit an action plan to the Security Council, drafted with civil society participation, containing detailed guidelines for conducting comprehensive analysis of the origins, dynamics, and actors related to each conflict.

    Thank you Madame President for the privilege of addressing this important session.



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