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Urging Steady Investment in Peace Dividend, Secretary-General Presents 2020 Report to General Assembly, Security Council

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly and Security Council on the 2020 Report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace, in New York today:

I thank the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council for convening this joint briefing on my Report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace, focusing on the 2020 review of the peacebuilding architecture.  I thank Member States for engaging actively and helping shape this critical outcome.

Despite the extraordinary conditions imposed on us by the COVID-19 pandemic, this report is the fruit of a broad and inclusive process.  We held many open meetings with Member States and other stakeholders and gathered inputs from regional and thematic consultations around the world.  I welcome the appointment of the Ambassadors of New Zealand and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as co-facilitators of this next phase of the review, who will take this process forward.

Today, we have an opportunity to hear your reactions to the report and further thoughts from all Member States on the work of the United Nations in peacebuilding and sustaining peace, as part of the 2020 review.  The report is based on an undeniable fact:  looking at the suffering around the world today, we know that the human and financial cost of focusing primarily on crisis response is unsustainable.

That is why I have been so intent on reorienting our work around prevention, on rebalancing our approach to peace and security, and on further connecting our work across the peace, sustainable development and human rights pillars, in line with the comprehensive reform agenda launched three years ago.  When drafting the report, I have been not only informed of the results achieved so far, but I have also benefited from the insight of a group of eminent independent experts.  I wish to thank them for their honest assessment on how the United Nations is performing in the area of peacebuilding and sustaining peace.

The 2016 twin resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council and reforms of the peace and security pillar, the United Nations development system and the management reform have strengthened the Organization’s focus on prevention.  This remains more important than ever in the context of COVID-19, which has devastated communities and economies throughout the world, reversing development and peacebuilding gains and aggravating conflicts or fomenting new ones.

This crisis has reinforced the need to keep our eyes focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — humanity’s ultimate prevention tool.  In line with this Agenda, at the centre of the 2020 Report is my conviction that multidimensional, integrated and whole-of-society responses are vital to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century and leave no one behind.

We must bridge societal divides and achieve inclusive, rights-based approaches.  My Call to Action for Human Rights commits the United Nations to ensure so by using its human rights tools in support of Member States.  We must ensure that young people, women and marginalized communities are consistently included in peacebuilding activities, peace processes and political decision-making.  Such approaches require equitable access to social services, inclusive and just institutions, functioning grievance mechanisms and sustained efforts to foster social cohesion.

Member States, intergovernmental bodies and governing boards must continue to steer multilateral coordination in support of national Governments and their people.  The Peacebuilding Commission has led by example as a flexible and dedicated intergovernmental platform.  During the pandemic, it has brought together international, national and local stakeholders to examine and address complex peacebuilding challenges, including in Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and the Pacific region.

I am convinced that the Commission has the potential to expand its collaboration and reach across the United Nations system and international financial institutions, as well as in its interactions with the Security Council, to strengthen our collective ability to address conflict and foster sustainable peace and inclusive development.

The report also shows our efforts in the restructured peace and security pillar:  a multidimensional, whole-of-pillar approach through different phases of conflict, with greater focus on prevention, and closer collaboration with the human rights, humanitarian and development pillars.

We are strengthening partnerships around all our efforts, and at every stage along the peace continuum from conflict prevention and resolution to peacekeeping, peacebuilding and long-term development.  We are moving decisively towards a new era of collaboration and more integrated action to ensure that our efforts in the field have a real impact in people’s lives. Resident coordinators are now better equipped to lead United Nations country teams in joint analysis, planning and programming and addressing root causes of crisis.

A brand-new development coordination office in New York provides a clear interface to work with other pillars.  And our country teams are collaborating more closely with host Governments, financial institutions, regional organizations and multilateral and bilateral donors.

The report includes concrete examples of peacebuilding results on the ground and demonstrates how peacebuilding objectives are increasingly mainstreamed across the system.  The reformed development system is also about enabling and empowering the expertise of individual entities of the United Nations family.

New areas of collaboration between pillars have emerged, including in support of countries and regions managing climate-related security risks.  And, as requested by Member States, we have invested in our partnerships.  Cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union has been further strengthened, including through shared support for the African Women Leaders Network.

We have also strengthened our work with the World Bank Group, a key partner in peacebuilding efforts.  As the Bank implements its fragility, conflict and violence strategy and deepens its support for prevention, I see the opportunity for even deeper cooperation.

I also see potential for more institutional cooperation in peacebuilding settings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  I have been discussing it in-depth with the IMF Director General [Managing Director and Chair of the Executive Board].  Together, we have moved a long way toward realizing the 2005 vision for peacebuilding and implementing the 2016 resolutions.

But, despite the progress, let me be candid:  adequate, predictable and sustained financing for peacebuilding remains a critical challenge.  Examples on the Peacebuilding Fund’s impact on the ground are reflected in the report.  But, while the Fund is recognized by everyone as a catalytic support for national peacebuilding priorities, it is still severely underfunded.

In 2019, the Peacebuilding Fund approved investments of $191 million in 34 countries, with 40 per cent of all investments supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Contributions have almost doubled.  However, the required “quantum leap” in support for the Fund has not yet been achieved, as support for some peacebuilding efforts were postponed or denied in 2019.

If we were to respond fully to the present rate of requests, the Fund would be completely depleted by early 2021.  In 2018, I presented options to increase, restructure and better prioritize funding of our peacebuilding activities.  Since then, there has been really no progress, and I urge Member States to reconsider those options.  As I have repeatedly stated, funding can make or break our reforms.

This report stresses the importance of adequate programmatic funding to support mandated peacebuilding activities in peacekeeping settings, and the role that the peacebuilding architecture can play in fostering national ownership and sustainable outcomes.  I also urge donors to commit to spending at least 20 per cent of official development assistance on peacebuilding priorities in conflict-affected settings.

I welcome the concept of good peacebuilding donorship, which demands more coherent approaches within donor institutions and between donors and International Financial Institutions, especially in times of crisis, when efficiency is critical.  In the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, we depend on the resolve of Member States to ensure adequate and predictable financing for peacebuilding for stronger and more resilient societies.

This can only be done in full complementarity with humanitarian, development and human rights support, and with a focus on leaving no one behind.  This is a historic challenge for all of us, and one that we can only meet by working together.  Excellencies, I wish you well in advancing the course set in 2016.  Sustaining peace is a greater imperative than ever.  It requires that we urgently recommit to the principles and mandates of the United Nations Charter — both in spirit and in practice.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.