UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Ambassador Thomas Pickering discussed the United Nations’ work on Syria, Iran, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and global development at a recent Brookings event. Ted Piccone, acting vice president and director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, moderated the discussion.
Eliasson and Pickering were optimistic about the most recent developments in Syria. Eliasson called it a breakthrough in cooperation and held it up as an example that negotiation and diplomacy do work and should be the initial response from both the UN and individual nation states. He held up (literally) the UN Charter and emphasized the underutilized potential of Chapter 6—the chapter dedicated to diplomatic resolutions and “pacific settlement of disputes.”
… there is no peace without development, there is no development without peace, and there is no lasting peace or sustainable development without respect of human rights and the rule of law. … For the international system to work, and for even a nation to work, you have to have to have peace, development and respect for human rights and rule of law, and you have to deal with it at the same time. — Jan Eliasson
The Syrian crisis is far from over, yet the diplomatic ends used to avert military action “Opens the door to [other diplomatic] possibilities,” said Pickering. Although much more can be done to protect the Syrian population, this most recent development demonstrated that the U.S. and Russia can actually come to resolutions.
The recent move by Iran to open discussion about its nuclear program also elicited positive statements from both Eliasson and Pickering. However, they were less optimistic. Eliasson said that there have been several interpretations of Iran’s objectives, yet he hopes that this opening is tested and verified.
Pickering also addressed the different steps that need to be taken—including transparency from the Iranian government and U.S. consideration of a serious move on sanctions if the Iranian program is not leading toward nuclear weapons. Lack of trust challenged both countries, he said.
Eliasson also spoke on the UN’s goals for 2015 and beyond. Although “Global poverty has been cut in half,” there is still a focus on the new shape of poverty around the world. Eliasson pointed out that “more poor people are living in middle income countries than in poor countries” but the necessity for maternal health, water and sanitation remains: “2.5 billion [people] don’t have sanitation.” Ultimately, the UN is looking to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Although we all have plan Bs, “we have no planet B,” he said.
In his closing, Eliasson drew from his own personal experience to give four pieces of advice about success and failure at diplomacy:
- The spoken and written words are the most important tools for diplomacy;
- Timing. We most often do things too late but we can also do things to early. A successful diplomat will know when the time is right;
- Cultural sensitivity creates the right atmosphere for diplomacy; and
- Personal relations and your own personality. It is imperative to be truthful and create personal relationships.
Colleen Lineweaver contributed to this post.