Organizational Committee,
1st Meeting (AM)

Outlining 2021 Priorities, Peacebuilding Commission Chair Cites Focus on Africa, Support for COVID-19 Recovery Efforts in Conflict-Affected Countries

Assistant Secretary-General Reports $439 Million Pledged for Peacebuilding Fund’s 2020-2024 Strategy, as Delegates Highlight Twin Resolutions Guiding Future Peace Work

The Peacebuilding Commission will seek to strengthen its advisory, bridging and convening roles, with a focus on engaging all actors to prioritize “impact” in support of national peacebuilding objectives, its new Chair said today, outlining the body’s work plan for 2021.

“Egypt assumes the chairmanship in the wake of the successful conclusion of the third five-year comprehensive review process of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture,” said Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees (Egypt), upon his election as the Chair of the Commission’s fifteenth session.

He explained that the twin resolutions on the review — adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly — place emphasis on “impact” made at both Headquarters and in the field.

Turning to priorities for the session, the new Chair said that Egypt, as an African country, remains fully committed to ensure the United Nations peacebuilding architecture remains engaged on the continent, noting that, in 2020, the Commission worked in support of 15 country- and region-specific contexts, including 12 in Africa.

At a time when the world continues to struggle with the destabilizing socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, “we believe that the Commission is best placed to mobilize support for recovery efforts in countries affected by conflicts”.  As such, he aimed to further enhance its role in building back better.  In addition, ensuring adequate, predictable and sustained financing for peacebuilding represents a high priority for the Commission’s ability and effectiveness, as financing remains the most critical challenge facing the United Nations peacebuilding architecture.

Meanwhile, it is essential to continue all efforts to advance the Commission’s advisory role to the Security Council, he said.  In fulfilling its role to the General Assembly, it is equally important for the Commission to capitalize on the Secretary-General’s report and resolution on “Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa” (document A/RES/74/302).  Egypt is also very keen to continue to promote and expand the Commission’s partnerships with regional and subregional organizations and international financial institutions with a view to ensure more efficiency and coherence in support of peacebuilding efforts.

Other priorities include enhancing coherence and the overall performance of the United Nations system in peacebuilding, he said, as well as enhancing effective multilateralism, with the Commission serving as a key driver.  Advancing the role of women and youth in peacebuilding cannot be overstated.  More broadly, discussions should remain context-, country- and/or region-specific, in order for the Commission’s contributions to become more impact-driven, he said, adding that Egypt’s chairmanship will seek to channel its advisory, convening and bridging roles in support of national and system-wide peacebuilding partnerships and priorities.

Addressing the Commission via video link, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, said that 2020 was an important year for peacebuilding and Canada demonstrated its strong leadership in convening many virtual meetings.

At the country-specific and regional level, the Commission held meetings for the first time on the Central Africa region and the Pacific islands, renewed its engagement in support of peacebuilding in Somalia and the Great Lakes region and ensured continuous support for national and regional peacebuilding efforts in West Africa and the Sahel, including in Burkina Faso.  On cross-cutting and thematic issues, the roles of women and youth in peace and security figured prominently in the Commission’s programme of work.  The year also saw the active participation of civil society representatives, regional and subregional organizations, and international financial institutions, including the World Bank.

He said that synergies between the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund have also been strengthened, with the former’s policy discussions informing the decisions on the latter’s activities.  At its 26 January replenishment conference, the Fund mobilized $439 million in commitments and pledges for its 2020-2024 strategy, up 25 per cent from contributions received in the previous three years, representing a third of the five-year goal of $1.5 billion.

On the completion of the third review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, he welcomed two new strong twin resolutions to further guide the Organization’s work, in particular the three elements of those resolutions:  the focus on the critical importance of coherence; the decision of Member States to convene a high-level General Assembly meeting on financing during the seventy‑sixth session; and the request for the Secretary-General to regularly report to Member States on the Organization’s work on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, as well as on the impact of relevant United Nations reforms.  In addition, more active interdepartmental collaboration between the regional divisions of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations allowed the Commission to receive richer, more up-to-date analyses and briefings.

Bob Raye (Canada), the outgoing Chair, said that, in 2020, the Commission held a record 37 meetings, engaging in support of 15 country- and region-specific contexts, including new engagements with Central Africa, the Pacific islands and Somalia.  His delegation led inclusive thematic consultations and developed substantive recommendations as inputs into the 2020 review of the peacebuilding architecture.  The number of written products, providing advice to the Security Council, increased a record 12-fold, resulting in the issuance of many press statements.  The Commission demonstrated its value as a flexible, demand-driven platform that allows for honest discussions among partners on the challenges and risks to peace.  The Commission speaks with countries, not just about them, he said, adding that demand for its engagement will only continue to rise.

COVID-19 has laid bare the fact that United Nations peacebuilding successes are often more fragile than the international community likes to admit, he continued.  Even after decades of international peacebuilding support, many countries are only one or two shocks away from falling into deep crisis.  The pandemic’s impact has been most severe on the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society, and the impact on women and girls has been particularly acute.  The Commission heard a record 25 women peacebuilders in briefings.  But, more must be done to put inclusivity at the heart of international peacebuilding efforts.

Canada was proud to co-chair last week’s replenishment conference for the Peacebuilding Fund and encouraged by the high-level participation and commitments made by a broad range of United Nations Member States, he said.  In 2020, due to the use of virtual platforms necessitated by COVID-19, the Commission had more contacts with local peacebuilders on the ground than before.  This cost-efficient working method should be maintained even after in-person engagements resume.

Kimihiro Ishikane (Japan), the outgoing Vice-Chair, expressed hope that the Commission will focus on innovative financing and partnership, institution‑building and diverse engagement.  He stressed the importance of viewing peacebuilding through the lens of human security to ensure the survival of vulnerable people, including women, youth and marginalized groups.

Guillermo Fernandez de Soto (Colombia), the outgoing Vice-Chair, highlighted some achievements under Canada’s chairmanship, including the adoption of twin resolutions on peacebuilding and sustaining peace.  “This is a significant step forward,” he said, adding that the texts allow stronger coordination of peacebuilding work to produce the best possible results.

The Commission also elected the representatives of Canada and Slovakia as Vice-Chairs and re-elected delegates to chair its country-specific configurations in 2021.

Michal Mlynár (Slovakia) said that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission’s role in fostering solidarity to stay the course in peacebuilding is ever more important.  The current situation also provides an opportunity to reflect on its work and to make improvements for the future, he said, emphasizing the importance of stronger and more effective support for peacebuilding.  Coherence, coordination and complementarity alongside participation, partnerships and people remain crucial, he stated, also highlighting the importance of including women and youth in various processes.

Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration, recalling a challenging year of grappling with the pandemic, said a serious political crisis is unfolding, with violence ahead of elections that also threatens the transition phase.  Efforts must be redoubled to try to limit the impact of instability on the political process and to support the rule of law and the country’s reconciliation and peace agreement.  Political support is needed to combat impunity, ensure an economic recovery, establish a reconciliation commission and support forthcoming elections.  For its part, the configuration will focus on these issues along with the participation of women.

Ronaldo Costa Filho (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration, said that a new phase has begun, with a host of challenges ahead.  Following the closing of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea‑Bissau (UNIOGBIS), efforts must now focus on socioeconomic development and the strengthening of institutions.  “We have to talk with, and not to, countries,” he said, underlining the importance of building peace “from within”.  Joint work will also be more relevant amid efforts to address the pandemic.

Anna Karin Eneström (Sweden), Chair of the Liberia configuration, said the 2020 review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture highlighted progress and the remaining challenges, including the need to ensure sustained resources.  In this regard, she called for predictable, flexible and long-term funding.  Women’s participation in peacebuilding continues to be vital.  Liberia has made solid progress towards sustaining peace, but COVID-19 laid bare its fragility.  Her delegation will focus on national reconciliation, promote gender equality, and support the consolidation of democratic developments through the holding of transparent, fair presidential elections in 2023.  Working with international and regional development banks, Sweden will support national peacebuilding priorities.

Pascale Baeriswyl (Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration, welcomed the continued engagement of that country’s authorities with the Commission in peace consolidation, resource mobilization for socioeconomic development, and deepening of relations with bilateral and multilateral partners.  She looked forward to continuing this relationship of partnership and trust.  For the first time, Switzerland is participating as a member of the Commission’s organizational committee.  “There is no more crucial time to fully commit to peacebuilding and conflict prevention,” she said.  The devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbate the risks that threaten peacebuilding and development gains in conflict-affected countries.  The recent resolution on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture highlights the need to integrate efforts to sustain peace with efforts to build back better.  It also confirms the importance of a holistic approach that integrates the three pillars of United Nations:  peace and security, development and human rights.

Commission members then exchanged views about the peacebuilding landscape, with some emphasizing the importance of including women and youth in various processes.

Echoing a common thread, the delegate from the Netherlands said COVID-19 has added another layer of strain on peacebuilding.  Expressing support for the Peacebuilding Fund, she highlighted several critical elements, such as ensuring sustained financing and committing to efforts to provide mental health and psychosocial support to break cycles of conflict.

The representative of Bangladesh said that, as one of the leading troop‑contributing countries, her delegation stressed the importance of national capacity-building, with the recently adopted twin resolutions helping in this regard.  As for financing, she said a permanent solution is needed to replace current seasonal quick fixes.

The representative of Kenya said the Commission must play its vital role to build a more sure-footed path towards competent governance, environmental protection and socioeconomic development.  It is also uniquely positioned to insist that these efforts show greater coherence.  In doing so, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts, he said.  Recalling Kenya’s engagement with the regional groups, he expressed strong support for finding on-the-ground solutions through partnerships with African organizations and States.

The representative of Germany said that his country is highly committed to peacebuilding both politically and financially, noting that it was the largest donor to the Fund in 2019 and 2020 and has announced a multiyear funding of €5 million for 2021 and 2022.  “This will be an inspiration for other partners,” he said.

The representative of Norway said his delegation, a member of both the Commission and the Security Council, will focus on strengthening capacities for conflict prevention and resolution and protection of civilians while highlighting the importance of women’s participation and the links between security and development, including climate change.

The speaker for Pakistan said takeaways from the Commission should inform the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and the Security Council.  Peacebuilding succeeds only if it works as part of the peace continuum.  Development is being reversed for the first time in 20 years, he said, stressing the need for innovative financing to fund post-conflict reconstruction.

The representative of Sierra Leone said his country has been a beneficiary of the Commission and the Fund, commending progress made by the Commission in countries in transition.  He proposed the use of the Commission’s convening power in the Mano River Union area.

The representative of Burundi called for continuous investments in the country’s resilience and youth.  Taking note of the formation of a new Government in 2020, he urged the Commission to support national priorities to bring about a real change.

Also speaking were the representatives of Lebanon, France, Republic of Korea, United States, Gambia, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Thailand, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, South Africa and Ethiopia.

In other business, the Commission put the report on its fourteenth session (document PBC/14/OC/L.1) under a silence procedure for adoption.

The Peacebuilding Commission will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

For information media. Not an official record.