Ceasefires are as old as armed conflict, and each one of them is unique, context-specific and defy a rigid template. They follow a flexible set of technical, thematic and political parameters. Ceasefires are embedded in a broader political context which must be appreciated and analysed in order to have a realistic and pragmatic approach.
The United Nations and its partners – Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations, community leaders, non-governmental and local entities – have all worked on and implemented ceasefire agreements. Based on its deep and wide institutional experience, the Mediation Support Unit (MSU) of the Policy and Mediation Division (PMD) has been providing operational support, strategic guidance and organising capacity building initiatives with respect to negotiation or mediation of ceasefires and security arrangements. When and if asked, such support is provided to UN Special Envoys, leadership and staff members of the UN SPMs and PKOs, member States and other clients, in coordination and partnership with relevant UN entities.
The negotiations or mediation of ceasefires and security arrangements involves discussions on a range of complex technical issues. It is imperative that the stakeholders have the required technical knowledge and knowhow of the concepts which can allow them to put across their views and visions in a logical and coherent manner – while retaining the ability to create more realistic options and common areas of agreement. Similarly, a capacitated mediation or negotiation support team can constructively support a ceasefire process and help the parties reach a successful conclusion.
In pursuit of its objective to build capacities of broader stakeholders like the UN staff members, civil society representatives, regional or sub-regional organisations, parties to conflict and the peace making community, the MSU plan and conducts a number pf capacity building initiatives.
Building on a United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA) project on ceasefires, the Mediation Support Unit (MSU) of DPA’s Policy & Mediation Division conducts the United Nations Ceasefire Mediation Course on an annual basis. This training is conducted in partnership with the Norwegian Defense International Centre (NODEFIC)/Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The one-week training will take place from the 08 May to 15 May 2022 in Oslo, Norway. This will be the 9 th course in a row.
The training is attended by selected mid- and senior-level officials of the United Nations and its partners who currently work in an environment where a ceasefire arrangement is either being mediated or already in place and who are directly involved in developing, supporting or managing of a ceasefire arrangement. Besides UN staff drawn from more than 23 UN field missions as well as HQs, the training is also attended by selected representatives from the some of the actual parties to conflict from across the world and who bring realistic insights and rich experiences to the course.
Globally, women continue to be largely underrepresented as direct participants in ceasefire negotiations and implementation. This pilot seeks to broaden the number of women from conflict settings with the technical skills to participate in ceasefire and security arrangements negotiations and implementation, to support women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace efforts and strengthen the gender-responsiveness of security arrangements. The course is being undertaken in furtherance of DPPA's commitment to the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.
The first iteration of the pilot training is currently underway with 24 women from different conflict settings. The second iteration of the virtual course will be held in 2022, dates have not yet been confirmed.
The Mediation Support Unit (MSU) provides targeted technical expertise, and operational support or assistance on ceasefires and security arrangements. Such a support and expertise are provided by the senior advisors of the SBT and MSU. Such an operational support could involve some or several of the following actions: -
Desk review or analysis for provision of relevant technical advice with respect to a specific thematic area.
On site or field deployment based on specific deliverables that are requested by the seeking entities or offices.
Remote operational support using digital connectivity means which may or may not be preceded by a desk review or analysis.
Support planning and conduct including through facilitation, of specific thematic workshops and engagement sessions with stakeholders.
MSU shares strategic guidance on ceasefires and security arrangements on a regular basis, which are reviewed periodically to reflect the contemporary operational needs and requirements. MSU has recently launched or is in the process of launching undermentioned guidance.
DPPA/MSU is currently finalizing a Guidance Note on the Mediation of Ceasefires which will pay particular attention to the technical considerations that affect ceasefire mediation processes, both at the conceptual and practical levels. The Guidance provides a framework of basic building blocks that can be adapted to any given context. In referring to examples from around the globe, it refrains from making judgments on the success or failure of any given peace process. The guidance will be translated into Arabic and French to make it more accessible to actors in a wider set of country contexts.
On 23 March 2020, Secretary-General António Guterres issued an appeal for an immediate global ceasefire to help create conditions for the delivery of lifesaving aid, reinforce diplomatic action and bring hope to places that are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of 23 June 2020the Secretary General’s call had received support from 180 Member States and one non-member observer State, as well as a range of regional organizations and international and local civil society actors.1 Some of these 180 Member States supported the call only in specific conflict contexts or while stressing the right to continue with counter-terrorism operations. Meanwhile, a number of conflict parties responded to the call by announcing unilateral ceasefires.2 This note analyses the response and discusses the opportunities and challenges presented by the Secretary-General’s appeal.
On March 23rd 2020, Secretary-General António Guterres issued an urgent appeal for a global ceasefire in all corners of the world to focus together on the true fight – defeating COVID-19. He repeated the call at the start of the 75th UN General Assembly session in September. Silencing the guns can not only support the fight against COVID-19, but also create opportunities for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to people suffering in conflict zones who are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. Since March, 180 countries, the Security Council, regional organizations, civil society groups, peace advocates and millions of global citizens have endorsed the Secretary-General’s ceasefire call.
Prepared in response to the request of the General Assembly and in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, the Guidance aims to inform the design and management of mediation processes. It is intended as a resource for mediators, States and other actors supporting mediation efforts but is also relevant for conflict parties, civil society and other stakeholders.