By Prudence Arobani
New York – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed gratitude to former Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo for his mediation role in ensuring smooth political transition in Liberia.
Guterres made the remarks in his speech to the Security Council’s debate on the ‘Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Mediation and the Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts’ at the UN headquarters in New York.
He said UN has a number of mediation resources that are deployed in various ways adding, his special envoys and representatives pursue consultations, good offices, and formal talks, often alongside envoys and mediators from regional organisations or Member States.
The UN chief explained that he had established a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation, which Obasanjo is a member, to complement his efforts and those of his envoys.
Obasanjo is one of 18 global leaders, senior officials and experts on the high-level board created in 2017 to advise the Secretary-General on mediation and back those efforts around the world.
Guterres said: “I am also grateful to former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, a member of the Board, who travelled to Liberia on my behalf to support the peaceful transfer of power after the 2017 elections.
“This is just one example of how we can deploy Board members in the cause of conflict prevention. The Board’s members have experience and networks across the entire spectrum of mediation.
“I look to them to provide tailored advice, to find new entry points, and to help train and build capacity amongst our partners”.
The former President of Nigeria was involved in mediation efforts in Angola, Burundi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa, among others.
Obasanjo was also a designated UN envoy who has overseen various democratic elections across the continent, and is particularly renowned for his activities in the peace process of West African countries Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that Guterres had in December 2017 sent the former Nigerian leader to Liberia to support the transfer of power peacefully to a democratically-elected president.
Obasanjo’s appointment as an envoy to Liberia followed the conduct of the second round of the presidential election between former Vice-President Joseph Boakai and current President George Weah.
The transition was Liberia’s first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically-elected leader to another in more than 70 years.
The high-level board is part of the Secretary-General’s pledge for the UN to embark on a “surge in diplomacy for peace.”
The idea, according to Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and also a high-level board member, is to prevent wars by “hybrid peace-building.”
The UN chief said successful mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes required a deep understanding of leaders and their constituencies + and strong political will.
Guterres recalled that in Gambia, coordinated action by ECOWAS, the African Union, the UN and neighbouring countries succeeded in preventing a major political crisis and supporting a democratic transition.
“War is becoming increasingly complex – and so is mediating peace. Today, internal conflicts frequently take on regional and transnational dimensions.
“Many feature a deadly mix of fragmented armed groups and political interests, funded by criminal activities.
“Conflicts around the world drag on for years and decades, holding back development and stunting opportunities.
“Comprehensive peace agreements are becoming more elusive and short-lived. Political will wanes; international attention drifts,” he regetted.
As bad as the situation is in many parts of the world, Guterres expressed the conviction that it was within our power to tackle and reverse these trends adding, one of his key priorities has been a surge in diplomacy for peace.
He stressed that prevention must be made a priority, adding, however, prevention also includes investment in mediation, peacebuilding and sustainable development.