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UN gets a 'stand by' team for crisis

The team will constitute some of the world's leading experts in ceasefires, transitional justice and power-sharing to help resolve crisis around the world, says a top UN official.

world Updated: Mar 08, 2008 14:25 IST

As the world witnesses rise in conflicts and complex situations that demand solutions through diplomacy and talks, United Nations is now prepared with a 'mediation team on stand by' with the best experts.

The team with some of the world's leading experts in ceasefires, transitional justice, power-sharing and constitutional arrangements is now on standby to help resolve crises around the world as and when needed, the United Nations' top political official has said.

"We are trying to make sure that not only we are there fast in mediation and are there quickly on the ground when asked by Member States or regional organizations, but also make sure that we'll be there with the very best expertise that's available anywhere in the world," said B Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

It is part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the ability of the UN's Department of Political Affairs to help prevent conflict through assistance to diplomacy, Pascoe said as he launched the initiative at the Headquarters.

Demand for mediation assistance has grown steadily in recent years, he added, noting the long list of recent talks, in particular that of power-sharing arrangements to end the post-election violence in Kenya and attempts to end the armed activity of the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda.

"These are not places where you can go out and begin a negotiation by the seat of your pants," Pascoe said, noting situations are becoming increasing complex.

Even the most seasoned UN envoys need specialised advice and keeping that in mind the Standby Team was chosen from a slate of hundreds of candidates, through a rigorous process that included nominations from UN Member States, tests and interviews, he added.

The founding members of the team, starting off with one-year contracts funded by the Norwegian Refugee Council, are led by Joyce Neu of US, who has mediated in dozens of countries, some as adviser to US President Jimmy Carter and as founding Executive Director of the Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.

Other members include Jeffery Mapendere of Zimbabwe, an expert in security arrangements; Patrick Gavigan of the US and Ireland, whose field is transitional justice and human rights; John McGarry of Canada, an expert in power-sharing; and Andrew Ladley of New Zealand, who has done extensive work in constitution-making and elections.

It is hoped that these founding members will be the seed of a much larger group, as their services will be much in demand, Pascoe said.

The team has already started work as two members of the group have already been dispatched to Kenya this week to assist in the ongoing African-led mediation efforts there.