Mediation and the last argument of kings

(Philippine statement delivered by H.E. Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr., Permanent Representative, Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations, at the Open Debate on “Mediation and the Settlement of Disputes,” August 29, 2018, UN Security Council Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York.)

Mr. President,

“On Spanish cannon these words were inscribed in the bronze: ULTIMA RATIO REGIS: The last argument of sovereigns—kings in the past, republics in the present. War is the last argument of sovereignty: To fight for things essential to national honor and self-preservation—when surrender is never an option. But mediation is a wise preliminary choice.

“By mediation, states at odds might arrive at a settlement of disputes—by the exchange of words not bullets, the deployment of arguments not armor. Anyway, ultima ratio regis is always available. Never peace at any price; there are situations where property is not worth saving and life not worth living. But speaking only from the mouths of the most number of cannon will not always decide the outcome in their favor.

“What is still the longest war proves it: A people lightly armed defeated—in no uncertain terms and by the most graphic photographic images—first a European and then a superpower which threw at a tiny nation of small people like my own every weapon of mass destruction short only of the nuclear. None are defeated until they say so; no one is victorious until the enemy leaves in disarray—as happened on the last rooftop of the enemy’s embassy from which its last chopper took off. Discreet mediation followed: To release POWs and the remains of the slain for their memorial back home. But the costs of victory and defeat were staggering: Three million killed on one side, 54,000 soldiers and scores of student protesters killed on the other; billions of dollars in weapons left rusting in rice fields—the last ones dumped in the sea. And a great nation came to doubt its indispensable mission to advance freedom in the world. Mediation in Paris came too late; especially for those who, in good faith, made common cause with the foreigner and paid the price of abandonment.

“The minimum that mediation achieves is, even when it fails a lot is gained; like the realization of the real value in contention and the real price to be paid for it—before the first shot is fired or, in intractable conflicts, before the last shot fired in vain. Sometimes the game is not worth the candle nor the prize the cost of war. That said, we take note of Russia’s caveat that mediation can be misused to achieve domination on the cheap without conflict.”

[Deleted for brevity: Including terrorists in mediation in the War on Terror legitimizes them; why states balk at this. But one can mediate with their foreign state sponsors. And there is a world of difference between ISIL and a beleaguered democracy, where the people give their votes to the extremists who give their blood. Despite everything that’s gone wrong, the UN achieved one of its key founding purposes: The near universal triumph of democracy; except we don’t all like the democratic choices. But like monarchy, where we cannot pick and choose the royal heir; so in democracy we cannot pick and choose the democratically elected choices. We work with it.]

“It is much worse today. The conflicts are longer, more intractable, with precision weaponry more indiscriminate—and from that height impervious to compassion. All the more compelling is the case for mediation.

“The Philippines highly appreciates the leadership of the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in convening today’s Open Debate on “Mediation and the Settlement of Disputes.”

“We reaffirm the Philippines’ commitment to mediation. The Manila Declaration for the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes is eponymous with the Philippine desire for peace—and, emphatically, its abhorrence of settlement by the use or threat of force. When used in key phases of conflict, mediation is a game-changer, especially in indecisive conflicts. The Philippine experience attests to this.

“After 18 years of sustained engagement in a peace process, the Philippine Government has enacted the Bangsamoro Organic Law creating the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, it recognizes the aspirations of those living in Muslim Mindanao—not just Muslim but Christian and indigenous—within the framework of one indivisible democratic republic and one Bill of Rights. Sovereignty cannot amputate itself. A republic cannot sponsor a non-republican solution nor a democracy a dictatorship. A caliphate was never in the cards.

“On our peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process announced that the “doors for peace negotiations with the communist rebels are still open.” We thank Norway for its hospitality and perseverance and, we hope, continuing engagement in this peace process.

“Mr. President,

“The Philippines continues to co-sponsor the General Assembly resolution promoting mediation and more funding for it. We have contributed mediation experts on constitution-writing, power-sharing, and gender inclusion issues to give prominence to women’s organizations—in recognition of the gender that binds the wounds of war and bears the heaviest burden of its excesses in their persons and that of their loved ones.

“Finally, while we should put our trust in a common humanity, we must keep our powder dry. Thank you.”


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