Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s soft diplomacy

Egyptian diplomacy has seen many achievements in recent years, both regionally and internationally, writes Aisha Ghoneimy

In 1992, the then UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali renewed the concept of “preventive diplomacy” in his “Agenda for Peace,” dividing it into four main axes: fact-finding, confidence-building, early warning and preventive deployment.

More recently, his successor at the UN, Antonio Guterres, has emphasised that “preventing conflict and sustaining peace must be the priority of everything we do together.” Member states of the UN are committed to conducting preventive and mediation diplomatic efforts in order to secure peace in partnership with regional organisations, mobilising actors who have influence in the international community.

Such preventive and mediation efforts have become indispensable tools for preserving peace and security regionally and internationally, as armed conflicts today often take place within states rather than between them, as has been seen in the conflicts in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya.

Prevention, mediation and the good offices of international actors have a pivotal role to play in settling such conflicts in a sustainable manner and addressing the root causes of them, especially when distrust among domestic actors has reached the level of crisis.

Egypt’s leading role in peace-making and peacekeeping within the framework of the UN Charter and at the African Union (AU) aims at maintaining and strengthening international peace and security. Egypt is an effective contributor to solving problems at their roots via preventive and mediation diplomacy and not only through its participation in peacekeeping operations.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has said that preventive and mediation diplomatic efforts are essential for peace-building and the sustainability of peacekeeping, in addition to illustrating Egypt’s determined stance towards respecting the sovereignty of other countries and rejecting interference in their internal affairs.

Peace-making is not always easy, and it requires sophisticated capabilities in implementing preventive and mediation diplomacy as tools of soft power that can help build peace more widely. Preventive diplomacy is essential as a form of primary diplomatic action that can prevent disputes from escalating into conflicts and limit the spread of conflicts when they do occur. In parallel, mediation efforts and other good offices made at the request of parties in disputes are crucial diplomatic actions that should be carried out in order to mediate inter-intra state conflicts at all stages and stop them from escalating into armed conflicts.

Egypt has a prominent role to play in such peace-making efforts, stemming from its mediation efforts in helping to settle internal conflicts in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Libya. It has also supported preventive diplomacy efforts through initiatives such as the establishment of the African Union Centre for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (AUC-PCR) and of a unit for mediation support and conflict prevention within the AU Commission. 

Egypt’s non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council has played a crucial role in fostering cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in conflict prevention and resolution through supporting the capacity building of the AU in the field of preventive diplomacy, including mediation, early warning and post-conflict reconstruction and development.

It has helped elaborate policies and concepts related to peacekeeping at both the United Nations and African Union levels, as well as participating in the review process of peacekeeping and peace-building.

Preventive diplomacy is also carried out within the context of UN peacekeeping missions where Egypt contributes effectively. Egypt is ranked as the largest contributor to such peacekeeping operations thanks to its participation in 37 peacekeeping missions with more than 30,000 troops from its armed forces and police, including observers who have carried out their tasks in maintaining international peace and security in 24 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Egypt seeks to increase its contribution to UN peacekeeping operations, especially in Africa.

In the midst of the disputes and conflicts that threaten international peace and security, and bearing in mind the importance of preventive and mediation efforts by Egyptian diplomacy in achieving this mandate as a major regional actor, it is also critical to look at the sustainability of strengthening mediation capabilities and collaboration with main regional actors with a view to managing sources of tension peacefully.

It is also necessary to address emerging threats and send signals that will assist in discouraging violence and opening channels for preventive action through the UN Security Council and other actors.


The writer is coordinator of international relations at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.

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