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O. Moutari: Integration of Religious and Traditional Leadership in Peacebuilding

Secular conceptions of government have failed. Among the secular conceptions of government, communist ideology collapsed and is buried in the dustbin of history. If we follow the discussion among governments and intergovernmental institutions over the years, we see new paradigms coming up every year. New concepts or ideas are being discovered as the instrumental link that will help us fight poverty and disease and promote social and economic development in Third World countries. Concepts like integrity in public service, the fight against corruption, the need to focus more on the situation of the most disadvantaged peoples are now integral parts of the development discourse of the Bretton Woods Institutions, UN affiliate institutions and subsidiary organs. They have become major components of national development strategies around the world. Yet they all originated from the old moral and religious notion of compassion and other ethical concepts.

The majority of people in our countries are deeply religious. In their day-to-day lives they strongly believe in God, and their daily life is based on this belief in God. So trying to shape their future without taking into account this fundamental element of their life is very undemocratic and inefficient.

I would like to emphasize the critical role of leaders—not only religious leaders but also political, economic and others leaders, such as those from civil society, non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, and the business sector—in the promotion of national and global good governance.

We need to take into account the full dimension of human beings, particularly the religious dimension—which is not fully integrated into debates at the international institutions or at the national levels. Despite that, we can say there is hope, because in national conflicts, especially in Africa, the belligerents and peacemakers find it impossible to reach an acceptable solution without integrating the religious leaders and traditional leaders in the peace process.

After the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa, what helped establish a democratic and tolerant society was the integration of religious and traditional values in the process of healing the trauma. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was chaired by Rev. Desmond Tutu.

In West Africa, the Timbuktu peace process ending the civil war in Mali in 1995 was helped and sustained by the integration of the religious leaders, civil society, and representatives of the government and rebels. That strategy helped achieve the peace agreement.

The same happened in Niger when we had a rebellion in the northern part of that country. We worked with an integrated religious and traditional leaders to achieve our peace agreements between 1995 and 1998, to set up various mechanisms for the implementation of those agreements.

Some of the initiatives taken by the Organization of the Islamic Conference countries in the United Nations are very important and offer another example of how in the United Nations it is possible to talk about religion and draw from religion ideas that can help us achieve progress, such as the concept of a dialogue among civilizations. It is possible to come to a kind of consensus on religious issues—a consensus that was not possible 20 years ago when we were living in a world divided between East and West. This is another example that there is still a slow evolution of mentality toward integrating religious aspects of life in all our work for the promotion of human endeavors.

So we can see that in spite of the lack of a formal framework of cooperation between the United Nations system and religious leaders at the global and local levels, some initiatives are taking place that show we are slowing realizing that you cannot deal with people's destinies without taking into account this very important side of humanity, that is, the religious side.