Minsk Hub of Peace

Minsk Hub of Peace: International platform for conflict resolution under the aegis of the Global Shapers Community / WEF

Challenges for peace and security in Eastern Europe

None of the “frozen conflicts” in the Soviet successor states has been resolved peacefully. Furthermore, over the last years new breakaway regions have come into existence in Eastern European states, notably Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as Donbass enclave. Moreover, stability and security of both Gagauzia and the Republic of Moldova have been endangered in the context of Moldova’s signing of an EU Association Agreement.

As a result of the protracted conflict in Donbass, more than 8000 people have lost their lives. Approximately 5 million people urgently need humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Access to clean water has been a pressing issue for up to 1.3 million people. Military activities have resulted in extensive damage to infrastructure, including medical facilities, schools and kindergartens, reads November 2015 report  by Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

About 1.5 million internally displaced persons have been registered in areas under Ukrainian government control. Over 1 million people have moved to Russia. The UN’s refugee agency estimated that as of beginning of November 2015 around 160.000 Ukrainians have fled to Belarus. Due to its location and cultural affinity Belarus is a practical destination for Ukrainian refugees and the number of people in need of assistance continuously increases.

Historically, Belarus had impressive experience in successful integration of migrants with different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Its lands hosted tens of thousands of Muslim Tatars, as well as hundreds of thousands of Jews for many centuries. In 1920-1930s Soviet Belarus had four official languages (Belarusian, Russian, Yiddish and Polish) equal in terms of government functioning.

Background

Belarus maintains friendly relations with all neighbouring countries and has become an important arena for communication concerning resolution of a number of conflicts in the post-Soviet area. Belarus has played a decisive role in an attempt to establish ceasefire in Donbass in 2014, providing a negotiating platform for all interested stakeholders. Minsk has hosted multiple rounds of peaceful negotiations, which resulted in two Minsk Protocols, one in September 2014 and the other in February 2015, the latter signed by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany. However, difficulties persist with implementation of the package of measured proposed in the II Minsk Protocol.

Belarus not only continues bringing its input to the resolution of Donbass conflict and normalization of relations between Ukraine and Russia. It has called on Russia and Turkey to settle for compromise; further mediating efforts are likely to follow. Russian side has recently stated that Belarus may provide a convenient platform for other kinds of peace dialogues, including talks over the situation in the Middle East.  Ultimately, recent normalization of relations between the European Union and Belarus makes it possible for the Belarusian negotiating arena to contribute to improvement of relations between the West and Russia.

Before playing a mediating role in the Donbass conflict, Belarus already had some credit as a contributor to regional and global peace and security. The Belavezha Accords signed in Belarus on December 8, 1991 secured peaceful USSR dissolution. The OSCE Minsk Group was created in 1992 to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. By 1996 Belarus (just as Ukraine and Kazakhstan) voluntary disposed of all nuclear weapons stationed on its territory after the Soviet Union collapse and acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

It is quite symbolic that 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich for her profound anti-war writings as well as a reflection on the havoc that conflicts and humanitarian catastrophes wreak on mankind.

Our idea

We believe that Belarus has great potential in even larger contribution to the regional peace and security. Our idea is to set up in Belarus a long-lasting international platform under the aegis of the Global Shapers Community / WEF, which would deal with resolution of conflicts which affect post-Soviet countries. It is worth mentioning that Belarus remains the only country among six Eastern Partnership states which has no territorial disputes with her neighbours or frozen armed conflicts.

It has become quite clear that solely national governments are unable to resolve the protracted Donbass conflict and to tackle effectively humanitarian problems. Furthermore, in no case of the frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet area has the international community been successful in mediating a political settlement. This fact asks for critical review of past approaches and elaboration of new, more effective mechanisms. Unified efforts of all interested stakeholders, including the Global Shapers Community and its regional Hubs should be used in finding the most effective ways to tackle with humanitarian challenges and at promoting peace in Eastern Europe.

Format and scenarios

We propose to present briefly three scenarios of our idea to the distinguished public and to open debates / invite session participants to share their comments on what option(s) could be the most feasible and useful in reaching our goal, which is greater contribution to conflict prevention and conflict resolution on post-Soviet space. Three main scenarios which we would briefly present are the following:

1. First scenario envisages organization of a series of public events with participation of the WEF, Global Shapers Community, other international organizations, regional civil society actors and businesses, aimed at elaborating practical suggestions as for the achievement of the peace formula in Donbass and more effective ways for tackling humanitarian challenges associated with the Donbass conflict. This would allow discussing ways and approaches in resolving modern conflicts and building peaceful communities, to open floor to stakeholders whose voices have previously been largely neglected and to promote the role of the Global Shapers Community and the World Economic Forum in peaceful resolution of conflicts. Belarus may serve a neutral platform bringing together stakeholders from Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere.

2. Second option provides for the organization of an international youth event, including a panel discussion with prominent experts and decision makers, simulation games to hash out (particularly, in relation to the Donbass enclave) conflict management issues, with participation of members of the Global Shapers Community. It will be followed by final conference and symbolic declaration calling for peace. Participants will include youth leaders from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, other eastern European states, as well as from the EU countries. They may include either exclusively members of the Global Shapers Community, or not be limited by the GSC membership.

3. Finally, third option envisages creation of long-lasting international platform / situational think-tank focused on the issue of conflict prevention and resolution in the post-Soviet area. The Global Shapers Community would serve as a basis for the creation of the youth wing of this kind of institution. At present, youth leaders are largely excluded from the conflict resolution and peace-building processes in the Eastern European region. We propose to set up the Youth Center for Conflict Resolution in Minsk, Belarus under the aegis of the Global Shapers Community / WEF, which would unite efforts of international civil society, Belarusian governmental bodies and regional actors in promotion of peace and security in Eastern Europe.

Under this idea, youth leaders and young politicians would discuss new solutions to the prevention of conflicts, taking into account specifics of a given country / region. They would prepare analysis and conduct brainstorm sessions resulting in reports with practical suggestions to the actual decision-makers as for the resolution of existing conflicts. The Global Shapers Community / WEF would be instrumental in reaching prominent experts, politicians and diplomats with intellectual contribution by the youth leaders.