A question of trust: the UN political chief working behind the scenes to prevent tomorrow’s wars

When it comes to dealing with armed conflict, the eyes of the world often turn to the UN Security Council and members’ attempts, with varying degrees of success, to resolve or prevent bloodshed. 

Behind the scenes, however, a team of mediators, overseen by the UN’s political chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, is using quieter diplomacy in conflict zones across the world, to bring warring parties together and make the world a safer place.

Ms. DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, is one of the UN’s most senior officials on matters of peace and security, and is often seen briefing members in the Security Council, delivering the UN’s analysis and recommendations  – in contrast to sometimes vocal national disagreements – concerning key conflict areas such as Syria and Yemen. 

The role of the Under-Secretary-General and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) has changed, and grown, over the years and, today, it involves policy analysis, diplomatic efforts to prevent conflict from occurring in the first place, overseeing the peaceful conduct of elections, and the UN’s field-based political missions.

Mediators: the unsung heroes of peacebuilding

Mediation, however, has been a mainstay of the department, and remains crucial today. DPPA has a standby team of experienced mediators, who help warring parties come to the negotiating table, assist in inter-communal dialogue, provide advice on constitution drafting and security sector reform, and, broadly, deal with a range of issues often at the root of mounting conflicts. 

They work in both mission and non-mission settings, including some very large operations such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where they work to help promote peace and reconciliation. And, because of the sensitive nature of their work, much of what they do is destined to remain in the shadows.

At the end of 2019, UN News interviewed Ms. DiCarlo at UN Headquarters in New York, and she shared some of her insights regarding the Organization’s evolving role in conflict prevention, and her hopes and fears for the future.

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