We, the citizens of the planet Earth, live in different countries, regions and continents. And our World is united and interrelated as never before. No matter how far off we are from those places where catastrophes and global crises - military, economic, environmental - take place, their consequences are affecting us the same way as devastating tsunami with the destructive action on territories far from its epicenter.
I don't know what awaits us in the future, but the planet Earth is still our single home at the current moment. And it is critical for us to unite in order to react to challenges and threats of the XXI century that have forced us to start our joint actions.
For many years already, we link the solution to global problems, and first of all, the creation of a reliable mechanism, which guarantees security to the humanity, with such unique international institution as the United Nations Organization, the appeal of which is addressed to all of us as:
THINK GLOBALLY AND ACT LOCALLY
On May 7, 2007, the Chairman of the UN Security Council received a letter from the UN General Assembly:
"The Governments of five Central Asian countries have reached consensus on creation of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Ashgabat...
In accordance with the global counter-terrorist strategy of the United Nations Organization and recommendations of the High Level Group on Threats, Challenges and Changes regarding the strengthening of the UN capacity in conflict prevention I would like to inform the Security Council members of my intention to establish this Center.
I will appreciate your informing the Security Council members of this letter.
Thus, after several years of discussions and debates, a decision to open the Regional Center in Ashgabat wherefrom the coordination of all work connected with implementation of preventive measures in the regional scale will be handled has been finally made. It should be acknowledged that different opinions and proposals were expressed regarding the location of its headquarters. The champions of the idea to open the UN Regional Center in the Turkmen capital had even opponents. However, all of this has passed into history...
There is no doubt, preventive diplomacy represents a completely new format of cooperation between the community of nations and Central Asian states. Though, according to the neat remark of Professor William Zartman, specializing in international organizations and conflict settlement, although not realizing it, diplomats have been dealing with preventive diplomacy for a long time. It is like one of Moliere's characters, Jurden, didn't know that he was speaking prose all his life.
The question arises: what is "preventive diplomacy", the term frequently spoken about out in recent times, and which methods the diplomats use, not realizing it sometimes?
And now, it has become evident that it is the Turkmen capital, in which the unique body of the current period is to be settled.
UN'S REGIONAL STRUCTURE
If the readers know well the meaning of a Latin word "praevеnio", which means "forestall", "warn", the word combinations denoting close in meaning generic terms like "preventive strategy", "preventive deployment", "preventive actions" used by professional diplomats and political scientists are difficult to understand for many of us. Most readers still have vague understanding of the exact content of the notion "preventive diplomacy".
Resting on the strict language of official documents, this term can be defined as "diplomatic measures undertaken in order to prevent escalation of political conflicts into conflicts with the use of force". It provides a ground to compare the main essence of preventive diplomacy with the methods of fire-fighting services, to which it is easier to prevent fire with the help of measures undertaken in advance than to cope with the raging fire difficult to manage.
It is the control over potential conflicts and their settlement through peaceful way that constitutes the core of preventive diplomacy, which, as all reasonable diplomats believe, must become an integral part of foreign policy of all nations.
It is quite clear that ideas of preventive diplomacy in their contemporary interpretation were born in the period when World War II, the bloodiest warfare in the history of humanity, was just over, but the world was feeling the chilling blowing of the other, this time, cold war after Churchill's Fulton speech. In such conditions of continuity of wars, different in nature but equally victim-generating, still fragile philosophy of "maintaining peace", which later was developed into the life-asserting concept, had started to arise and to strengthen its position in the depths of the global mind. And at that time in 1950, UN Secretary General Trugve Lee used the term "preventive diplomacy" in his statement.
Since then, the term has been used with different frequency in special literature. However, only in the late XX century the concept, the main meaning of which is "removing conflicts with peaceful measures", was finally defined and formulated following the publication of the report "Agenda for Peace" by Boutros Ghali, the UN Secretary General at the time, in 1992.
The UN Security Council's Extraordinary Session, for the first time held at the level of heads of states and governments, preceded this event. Its participants proposed the Secretary General to prepare proposals aimed at strengthening the capacity of the community of nations in preventive diplomacy, peace-making and maintenance of peace. Such recommendations made in 1992 at the UN Security Council sitting first of all envisioned
CREATION OF EARLY WARNING SYSTEM
According to Boutros Ghali, preventive diplomacy is "action to prevent disputes from arising between parties, to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur".
As is known, all this took place in disturbing 1990s when after the collapse of one of super powers some reduction of tension between the West and the East was observed but the confrontation on the North-South vector was gaining strength.
The young states emerged in the post-Soviet era started to declare themselves equal subjects of international relations. Independent Turkmenistan announced the policy of positive neutrality as one of its main foreign policy principles. For the first time it did in 1992, at the summit of the OSCE heads of states.
In the same year, President Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, speaking to the 47 session of the UN General Assembly, characterized Boutros Ghali's concept of preventive diplomacy as "extremely timely, politically justified initiative, in the realization of which all members of the world community should involve".
There is nothing surprising in the fact that the Kazakh leader, being a loyal follower of the Gumilev ideas of Eurasian unity as a concept of interstate and interethnic relations, proposed to establish the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy with the headquarters in Almaty to the world community of nations. It is quite natural that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan supported the idea of setting up such center in Central Asia during his visit to Kazakhstan in 2002. But two years later, in December 2004, Nursultan Nazarbaev made an offer to the Turkmen leader to
LOCATE THE CENTER IN ASHGABAT
The Kazakh leader, seeing the progress of events, came to the conclusion that it is in the capital of such peace-loving country as Turkmenistan that "favorable conditions can be created for the Center's successful activities aimed at facilitating Central Asia's transformation into a zone of sustainable development on the basis of conflict-free coexistence of peoples inhabiting it".
In addition to the important geo-strategic location of Turkmenistan, the consistently realized positive neutrality policy and development of friendly relations with neighboring counties served as a strong argument in favor of such decision.
Indeed, by this time Turkmenistan as a neutral state had accumulated the sufficient experience to make its worthy contribution to the cause of safeguarding peace and stability in Central Asia. Koffi Annan, the UN Secretary General, thanked Turkmenistan for the help in settlement of internal conflicts taking place in some countries. For instance, in 1990-s, Turkmenistan hosted the talks between the Government of Tajikistan and the Tajik opposition in Ashgabat. The Tajik sides were negotiating the peace agreement for a long time. On the initiative of neutral Turkmenistan, Ashgabat also hosted the political negotiations on restoration of peace in war-torn Afghanistan. International agencies and the UN structural organizations frequently chose the Turkmen capital as a place for their own activities.
All this provided a ground for the first President of independent Turkmenistan to name Ashgabat an ideal place for setting up the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in the article "Strategic Partnership and the Ideals of Peace and Humanism" published in the UN Chronicle in 2004. He wrote: "Turkmenistan stands ready to provide any assistance in its deployment in the capital of our neutral state". As a result, in 2005, UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, speaking to the 60th session of the UN General Assembly informed about the intention to open the United Nations' body in Central Asia.
...Another year of consultations and discussions passed. In the fall of 2006, the Turkmen leader once again urged the community of nations to expedite the establishment of the Regional Center in the Turkmen capital, where, according to him, the whole infrastructure for the UN structure's activities had been prepared. In his opinion, the support of all Central Asian countries and the Russian Federation served as an important argument in favor of such decision.
At the same time, Ban Ki-moon (the South Korean Foreign Minister at that time) appealed to the General Assembly of the United Nations to set the date of opening the Preventive Diplomacy Center in Ashgabat as soon as possible, as the future UN Secretary General believed that the world community can yield significant benefits from this project.
Nearly a month later, the plans to open the Regional Center in Ashgabat were publicly announced. However, there were no concrete steps towards creation of the demand-driven structure under the UN aegis. There were still
Until 2007, the start of which was marked with the most important social and political event in Turkmenistan. The presidential elections were that very event in the life of the Turkmen people.
These nation-wide elections that determined Turkmenistan's further development were preceded by the tense period of election campaign, in which six candidates, having equal conditions, competed for the seat of President of the country. During the meetings with people in all provinces of the country they answered numerous questions of voters, listened to their wishes and recommendations. All this helped the presidential candidates improve their election programs.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and UN Secretariat observers invited by the Government of Turkmenistan watched the preparations for and holding of the elections. On the eve of this most important social and political activity, in one of the interviews, Vladimir Goryaev, Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Division, the Political Department of the UN Secretariat, speaking about the prospects of cooperation between Turkmenistan and the United Nations, made, in our opinion, an important clarification: "This process requires a move from both sides; on our side, we will propose initiatives, hoping for the reciprocal steps of the Turkmen side". And to the question regarding the prospects of Turkmenistan as a neutral state to have the Preventive Diplomacy Center, the high ranking UN diplomat gave an ambiguous answer adding that "the community of nations has questions that we would like to receive concrete replies to..."
What were these questions and what answers did they receive? We will find out later...
We all remembered February 11, 2007, as a day, on which the presidential elections were held.
Three days later, at the meeting of the People's Council - the XIX Khalk Maslakhaty - Gurbanguly Myalikgulievich Berdimuhamedov was named a new state leader elected by the Turkmen people. On that remarkable day, in his inaugural speech, which has turned into the program document, the new leader clearly stated: "Turkmenistan will be committed to the policy of permanent neutrality obtained by Great Saparmurat Turkmenbashi's unprecedented efforts and unanimously supported by the UN member states. Similarly, our state will strictly and clearly fulfill assumed international obligations..."
A bit later, in his message to the UN Secretary General the Turkmen leader specially stressed that "Turkmenistan stands for the expansion of the UN role, for the build-up of the Organization's peacemaking capacity and its further renewal in accordance with the realities of the global development".
Right after the elections, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in the interview to the Turkmenistan magazine, (the only periodical in Russia featuring Turkmenistan) said: "Turkmenistan's all foreign policy steps are based on the fundamental principle of maintaining the status of permanent neutrality and, accordingly, the whole complex of obligations that our country assumed according to this status... In the UN framework we support all positive initiatives aimed at maintaining the regional security".
Further events that took place after Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov came to office have demonstrated to the whole world that Turkmenistan, which started a new epoch of the state development, is making real steps towards democratic transformations. The country is not only going through the new stage of its revival, but is ready to take active part in addressing the global issues of the contemporary times.
In such situation of the nationwide enthusiasm and transformations in all spheres of life, the Turkmen leader's constructive ideas and initiatives in the foreign policy gave the world community confidence in the country's ability to be purposeful participant in the process of safeguarding peace and stability in the whole Central Asian region.
On May 7, 2007, the UN Secretary General, Ban Kee-moon, in the letter to the President of the UN Security Council informed that he had made a decision to establish the United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Ashgabat.
Certainly, the choice of the Turkmen capital as a location of the Center's headquarters was quite logical, though, as it was said earlier, there had been other suggestions, too. Nevertheless, the world community's final decision was based, as the Turkmen Foreign Ministry informs, on "the analysis of specific and real steps of the President of Turkmenistan in the international arena accompanied by a number of major initiatives aimed at stirring up the international cooperation".
On July 23, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and the high ranking UN official, Vladimir Goryaev, who informed about the election of Turkmenistan to Vice-Chairmanship of the UN General Assembly, discussed the practical steps on creation of the Regional Preventive Diplomacy Center in Ashgabat.
During the "round table" discussion on July 25 in the Turkmen National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, the priority areas and goals of the UN cooperation in light of the community of nations' decision to set up the Preventive Diplomacy Center in Ashgabat were considered. Vladimir Goryaev told that until the last moment "there were issues connected with the country's directions in social, economic, foreign policy development. With Gurbanguly Myalikgulievich elected the head of state, these issues have been resolved!" In other words, Turkmenistan represented by its leader addressed all concerns of the world community.
CONVINCING RESPONSE BY CONCRETE DEEDS
Less than in a month the Turkmen President took part as an honorary guest in the Bishkek Summit of the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation. In his statement, the Turkmen leader stressed that interaction at the regional and inter-regional levels represents an efficient mechanism of maintaining stability and security, in connection with which "creation of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Ashgabat is well timed and critical".
On the same day, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met with UN Secretary General Linn Pasko who, on behalf of the UN Secretary General, conveyed the words of gratitude for Turkmenistan's firm stance in upholding the interests of peace and stability in the Central Asian region.
Four days later, in New York, Linn Pasko, drawing conclusions of his Asian tour, noted that all participants of the Bishkek Summit positively reacted to the idea of opening the UN Regional Preventive Diplomacy Center in Ashgabat.
In August, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov signed the Resolution on holding an international forum devoted to the issues of practical realization of Turkmenistan's neutral status in connection with opening of the Preventive Diplomacy Center in Ashgabat to be held on December 10-11, 2007. The Turkmen president headed the Organizing Committee of the conference.
On September 26, speaking to the 62nd General Assembly session, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov informed the community of nations about opening of the Preventive Diplomacy Center in the Turkmen capital thanking the world community for the support. "We highly appreciate the decision to set up the Center in Ashgabat - the capital of neutral Turkmenistan, and we consider this an expression of trust for our country on behalf of the United Nations". The Turkmen leader specially noted that the country is fully ready to cooperate with the Center, which activities are set to have positive impact on addressing the problems of the region...
According to Article 1 of the UN Charter, one of the goals of this biggest and recognized international organization is to take "effective collective measures for prevention and elimination of the threat to the world". Certainly, early warning of potential conflicts is more effective and requires fewer expenses than reacting after their emergence. Therefore, diplomats and politicians pin great hopes on preventive diplomacy. However, public at large, due to natural low publicity of the decision, is still underestimating it, for the most important achievement of preventive measures is
CONFLICTS THAT NEVER BREAK OUT
Certainly, applying of preventive diplomacy methods produces dividends but all them are observed in perspective. During the realization of preventive measures, its fruits seem intangible. How can one appraise an event "that has not yet happened?" Nevertheless, the strength of preventive diplomacy consists in achieving of "what will not be", i.e. conflicts that will not break out.
It will be appropriate to remind of the statement by former UN Secretary General U Tan, who once said that "the ideal operation of "good services" is the one that is never announced publicly until its successful completion or never at all" ("good services" are meant to be the UN Secretary General actions, who may send special envoys and missions to the zones of conflict and resort to preventive diplomacy with regard to settlement of disputes).
Unfortunately, conflicts are frequent elements of human relations. Some scholars consider conflicts necessary and even helpful. However, if we set aside the philosophic aspect of this problem and look at the realities of our life, it becomes evident that in most of cases the United Nations has to use sanctions to press on some countries in order to avoid stronger measures. The scholars believe it can affect the most vulnerable groups of population. In such conditions the practical realization of the preventive diplomacy concept with its sparing measures is the most justified and effective. Establishing the conflicts early warning system is the most important component of preventive diplomacy, for it is able to reduce the level of vulnerability of the society to the exposure of disasters. Therefore, one of the functions of the Regional Preventive Diplomacy Center is defined as follows: "to monitor and analyze the situation at the local level and update the UN Secretary General regarding the conflict prevention efforts"
Realization of potential tension centers' early detection and crisis processes prevention ideas can expand so called "stability zones". And the tendency of extending such zones in the direct proximity to possible conflict centers observed nowadays raises hopes for the regular implementation of peaceful transformations in various parts of the planet. As is known, the overwhelming part of conflicts including the armed ones, takes place inside of countries rather than among them. Social-economic problems are their main reason. Therefore, creation of necessary conditions to maintain social and political stability and to timely address topical issues with the help of projects under preventive diplomacy measures can relieve the internal confrontation. As of today,
DEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS
is, undoubtedly, the best form of addressing any conflicts.
As a rule, the high level of internal violence is rarely observed in a truly democratic society. And as it has been already said, wars are rare occurrence between countries with developed democracy.
Thus, the high level of security can be achieved through ensuring stable economic development, social justice, human rights and freedoms protection, correct management and wide development of the democratic process within countries.
There are no doubts that for the purpose of successful management of explosive situations that can lead to violent confrontation, the governments must actively cooperate with civil society organizations. With their help and participation one can reduce the tension, find non-standard solutions in the liquidation of the predictable centers of tension that make connection of the main groups of the society to its key institutions - the government, administrative bodies, law enforcing agencies, etc. - useful. Therefore, it is not surprising that the functions of the established Regional Center also include the necessity "to maintain links with the governments of the regional countries and, upon their consent, with other relevant sides on issues relating to preventive diplomacy".
Development of the private sector also promotes strengthening of security in the society, for its well-to-do layers are least interested in destabilization. Therefore, they are able to play important role (for instance, by supporting efficient governance strategies) in creation of conditions for reducing the probability of confrontations.
Many subjects (both at the state and non-government levels) can play active role in settling interstate conflicts through diplomatic ways in practice by taking preventive diplomacy measures. They are regional organizations, UN member countries, global non-governmental organizations, etc. The Center will also take into account this aspect as well. One of its functions calls for "maintaining contacts with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation and other regional organizations, encourage their peace-making efforts and initiatives and facilitate coordination and information exchange with due respect for their specific mandates".
Assistance in the sphere of development is a core tool of the UN activities aimed at safeguarding lasting peace. Many organizations of the UN system, including the UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, etc., play their positive role in this area. Therefore, another function of the established Center includes the necessity "to provide political basis and guidelines for the preventive activities of the United Nations country groups in the region and support efforts of the Resident Coordinators and the UN systems, including Breton-Wood institutions, in encouraging the comprehensive approach to the preventive development and humanitarian assistance".
...The ancient wisdom, which is equally applicable nowadays, says:
PEACE IS NOT ABSENSE OF WAR, BUT SPIRITUAL VALUE
There is no doubt that at the current stage of struggle for peace the methods of preventive diplomacy are the most sparing, we can even say - the most spiritual. The most important factor of its success is not only in the analysis of the established situation, but most of all in addressing the foundations of deeply rooted problems. Prevention of an emerging conflict is only part, though essential one, of preventive diplomacy. Removal of the fundamental reasons causing the conflict is paramount for its strategy.
The Center has a mandate to track down the political events in Central Asia, identify threats to the regional stability and security in order to undertake timely measures to prevent emergence of crisis situations, to resolve them prior to their escalation to conflicts.
According to experts, in the course of time, problems of water use may become predictable sources of potential differences in Central Asia. One should not close eyes to the neighborhood with countries using the territory of Central Asia for drug trafficking; this factor may cause tension at any time. There are other issues causing anxiety not only in the region but in countries neighboring with the region. In this regard, the functional responsibility of the Regional Preventive Diplomacy Center is defined as "to support close contacts with the UN Mission for Assistance to Afghanistan for the purpose of comprehensive and complex analysis of the situation in the region".
Obviously, first of all, the local population itself must look for ways of resolving emerging problems. At the same time, the community of nations must react to the needs of regional countries by taking long-term decisive measures to support their peaceful efforts. There is no doubt that the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy will deal with developing of special projects envisioning gradual resolution of the current urgent problems.
In the contemporary restless period all states must strive to addressing conflicts in a non-violent way. Our world is so fragile and insecure that using of brute force, even for the noble goals, can break still existing balance. Also, we have to remember that it is not us who created this Wonderful World. And it is not us who should decide
TO BE OR NOT TO BE FOR THIS WONDER OF GENESIS?
Preventive diplomacy's main advantage over other methods of addressing crisis situations is that it rests solely on peace-creating measures.
Setting up of the regional UN body in Central Asia is to the large extent an attempt to probe the interaction of neighboring countries with the world community of nations at the qualitatively new level. In case of success, this experience, which has no analogies in the world yet, may be applied in other regions of the world. It will create reliable UN outposts throughout the planet, which will considerably expand and deepen the cooperation of this biggest international organization with all states.
Any country, wherever it is situated, must guarantee its citizens that they will not be exposed to violence, and all disputes will be resolved peacefully. However, the situation on our planet - the United and Interrelated World that we live in and call it "Common Home" - shows we have not established the world order that the humanity still continues to dream of.
In the course of many years already, people link the formation of the reliable mechanism of their security with the United Nations. Several years ago, the former UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, said with regret that "as before, our political and organizational culture is more oriented to reaction, than to prevention".
The outlined transformation from the culture of reaction to the culture of prevention, the practical approbation of which will be done by the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy will provide the humanity with experience so urgent nowadays, that can be replicated in other regions of the planet. It will undoubtedly reduce the threats for the security of human communities all over the world.
...Though, we should remember that the situation, in which We, the citizens of the Earth, hold a weapon but not use it doesn't mean the desired order has set in. For,
THE TRUE PEACE IS THE ONE, WHICH REIGNS IN OUR SOULS!
Published in "Turkmenistan" magazine, N 12 (33)