Peruvian Diplomat Lectures at AUB
|Alvaro de Soto
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs
hosted distinguished diplomat Alvaro de Soto in the Hambrecht Distinguished
Peacemakers Lecture in West Hall on October 22, in a talk entitled, "Lessons
Learned from a Quarter Century of Peacemaking on Three Continents."
The Peruvian diplomat, who has worked with the United Nations for 25 years,
was the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. He has
also worked on the decade-long war in El Salvador, as well as the Cyprus
problem, Myanmar, and Western Sahara.
De Soto argued that not all conflicts lend themselves to mediation, explaining
that third party mediation is required when the degree of suspicion or
mistrust is high. Mediators must be impartial, need to be accepted by
both parties and individuals, and carry out the exercise in "good
There is a difference between wartime and peacetime negotiations, he said,
with the former having a lot of advantages, because public opinion plays
an important role in peace-making. This fact made negotiations between
the two contending parties in El Salvador less complicated.
According to de Soto, the UN Secretary General has been the world's default
peacemaker and chief diplomat in the last few years. He spoke of a revival
in UN peacemaking, saying that the UN handles now many more conflicts
than it did in the first 30 to 35 years of its establishment and during
more than the Cold War period.
De Soto, who worked closely in his career with the UN secretaries, General
Perez de Cuellar, Boutros-Ghali, and Kofi Annan, gave an overview of the
major involvements of the UN in worldwide conflicts, including those in
the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Central America, Africa, El Salvador,
and others. In the 1990s, he said, "It seemed as though the UN could
do anything. There was hope, a feeling of hubris."
De Soto said that the UN Secretary General should be independent and non-susceptible
to external influence. The main problems the UN faces include dealing
with the various activities of humanitarian and development assistance,
as well as with political action.
Also, UN envoys have to deal with human rights violations during conflicts.
"Peace supersedes all goals and stopping the fighting is the most
important thing, yes, but for the UN Secretary General this is complicated,
because as the personification of the UN, the secretary general has a
duty to uphold the human rights law. The UN cannot be associated with
deals, either open or backroom, to provide amnesty to war crimes or genocide.