Evaluating Peacebuilding Commission’s Performance over Past Year, Speakers Highlight Stronger Advisory Role, Gains in Supporting Countries Emerging from Conflict
The Peacebuilding Commission — an advisory body to both the General Assembly and the Security Council — has proven to be a valuable voice in advancing intergovernmental coherence and supporting countries emerging from conflict in establishing the foundations for stronger societies, Council members stressed today as they evaluated gains made over the last year.
Osama Abdelkhalek (Egypt), former Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, presented the body’s report on its fifteenth session, recalling that Egypt assumed chairmanship following the conclusion of the third comprehensive review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture.
In 2021, he said, the Commission led efforts to operationalize the review outcomes — in line with the twin resolutions adopted by the Council and the Assembly in 2016. (Please see Press Releases SC/12340 and GA/11780.) The Commission explored avenues to strengthen its advisory, bridging and convening roles, with particular focus on enhancing impact at the field level. “Considerable” progress was made in expanding the scope of its geographic and substantive focus.
He said the Commission engaged in support of 13 country- and region-specific settings — holding meetings for the first time on the Gulf of Guinea and the transition in Chad, bringing its total engagements to 23 countries and regions, the highest since its inception. He also drew attention to the designation of informal coordinators of relations with the main United Nations organs to better align work programmes.
Building on that upward trajectory, Md Monwar Hossain (Bangladesh), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, shared highlights from 2022, pointing first to the Commission’s emphasis on delivery by responding to demands in a timely manner. He cited a priority focus on national ownership and inclusivity, noting that the Commission has engaged with a wide array of national and regional stakeholders to ensure it responds to needs on the ground.
Most importantly, he said the Commission continues to enhance its advisory and bridging role, and for the first time, it shared its work programme with the General Assembly and the Security Council through formal communications from the Chair. “This has been a major step towards institutionalization of the advisory relations between [the Commission] and other organs of the United Nations,” he said.
In the ensuing dialogue, delegates agreed that while sustaining peace is a shared responsibility of all United Nations main organs, the Commission is the only global forum dedicated to assisting countries in their peacebuilding efforts.
“This youngest body of the United Nations system has matured,” said the United Kingdom’s representative. By continuing to deepen its follow-up with countries and rallying collective responses to collective challenges, it will continue to grow in value.
Kenya’s representative said the Peacebuilding Commission is well-positioned to engage in a more-comprehensive set of peace issues, which is something the Security Council cannot do. As such, the two bodies must work together to support each other. However, improving alignment of their work programmes will require planning around meetings already fixed on the Council’s calendar, notably those for peace operation transitions and mandate renewals. What the Council does — or should do — with the Commission’s advice “remains a valid question to be explored”, he added.
Several delegates — including from the United Arab Emirates — called for adequate, sustained and predictable financing for peacebuilding activities. France’s delegate noted that the Peacebuilding Fund has proven its ability to catalyse financing in support of an integrated United Nations response. She urged the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to study the viability of establishing long-term financing, partnerships as well as supporting relationships with international finance institutions and private sectors actors. For its part, France will increase its contribution to $7.5 million in 2022, she said.
Ghana’s representative described financing as a “daunting challenge” requiring urgent action. While encouraging an expanded donor base for the Fund — which hit $178 million in 2021 but fell short of the Secretary-General’s annual $500 million target — he said one of the best means to provide a consistent baseline is through United Nations assessment contributions. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s call for an appropriation of $100 million to the Fund, from 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023.
China’s representative, meanwhile, urged international finance institutions to increase their investments in a targeted manner.
Still others focused on the issue of national ownership, with India’s delegate stressing that Governments must steer priorities and strategies for sustaining peace at all stages of conflict. Further, an exclusively donor-driven approach to peacebuilding may not be the most prudent path to follow. Ongoing discourse on enhanced financial support for peacebuilding activities through sources other than voluntary contributions merits an in-depth and careful study of its ramifications on the United Nations ecosystem.
Also speaking today were representatives of Albania, United States, Ireland, Norway, Gabon, Russian Federation, Mexico and Brazil.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 11:50 a.m.
OSAMA ABDELKHALEK (Egypt), speaking in his capacity as Former Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, presented the body’s report on its fifteenth session, recalling that Egypt assumed chairmanship following the conclusion of the third comprehensive review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture. Throughout 2021, the Commission — in line with mandates contained in the twin resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council - A/RES/75/201 and S/RES/2558(2020), respectively — led efforts to operationalize the review outcomes, exploring avenues to strengthen the Commission’s advisory, bridging and convening roles, with particular focus on enhancing impact at the field level.
He reported that the Commission achieved “considerable progress” in 2021, notably in expanding the scope of its geographic and substantive focus. It engaged in support of 13 country-and region-specific settings — including by holding meetings for the first time on the Gulf of Guinea and the transition in Chad — bringing its total engagements to 23 countries and regions, the highest since its inception. Its thematic engagements, which made up 40 per cent of its meetings, considered new themes, such as the links between peacekeeping and peacebuilding; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and security sector reform; the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda, and mental health. It produced 66 outcome documents.
He also pointed to gains in the Commission’s advisory and bridging roles. It expanded and strengthened its relations with the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council by designating informal coordinators for its relations and better aligning their work programmes. The Commission advised the Security Council for the first time on the Great Lakes region, and the General Assembly on the “causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa”. It also solidified the trend of greater engagement with partners outside the United Nations, with such briefers comprising 67 per cent of all briefers at its meetings. It engaged for the first time with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and joined its “Trade for Peace Network”.
Among other gains, the Commission advanced the discussion on financing for peacebuilding, culminating its work with its submission of a letter to the General Assembly encouraging it to consider all financing options, including voluntary, assessed and innovative. To advance implementation of the peace and security agendas for women and young people, the Commission worked to enhance the important role of these groups in peacebuilding and sustaining peace. An exercise conducted in 2021 found that 91 per cent of its outcome documents promoted the importance of women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peacebuilding. Finally, to promote recovery from the pandemic, he said the Commission considered the impact of COVID-19 on national peacebuilding objectives, mobilizing international support for building the most needed human and institutional capacities, in line with nationally identified priorities.
MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that building on its upward trajectory, the Commission in 2022 aimed to adopt a more ambitious and forward-looking agenda. To that end, an ambassadorial meeting was convened prior to the drafting of its work programme. Based on feedback and requests made, the work programme focused on ensuring implementation of the Commission’s mandate, as outlined in the twin resolutions and guided by the Secretary-General’s recommendations in the Our Common Agenda report.
Sharing 2022 highlights, he said the Commission continues to emphasize delivery by responding to demands in a timely manner. Having planned to engage with at least 12 countries and five regions, the Commission, to date, has held 13 ambassadorial meetings, while the Chair of the Liberia configuration has conducted a field visit. Country specific meetings have been held at the requests of Colombia, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Burkina Faso, while regional meetings took place on the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and Pacific islands. On the thematic front, a meeting on “youth, peace and security” has been organized and preparation is underway for meetings on women, peace and security.
In addition, he highlighted a priority focus on national ownership and inclusivity, noting that the Commission has engaged with an array of national and regional stakeholders to ensure it responds to needs on the ground. For instance, ahead of the meeting on the Sahel, the Commission, with support from the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, held “extensive” consultations with local and regional representatives of the Sahel and its international partners. Among other priorities, he highlighted the Commission’s attention to United Nations coherence, noting that it has promoted integrated, strategic and coherent approaches to peacebuilding and placed emphasis on cooperation with the Peacebuilding Fund.
The pursuit of effective partnerships is another key focus, he said, citing the participation of an array of partners in its meetings — from the African Union, European Union and African Development Bank to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Lake Chad Basin Commission and Pacific Islands Forum. In terms of peacebuilding financing, another priority, he pointed to the high-level General Assembly meeting on peacebuilding financing held on 27‑29 April, noting that ahead of the meeting, the Commission sent a comprehensive input to the President of the General Assembly, reiterating that such financing remains a critical challenge. The process continues under the leadership of the representatives of Sweden and Kenya as co-facilitators for intergovernmental consultations on the matter.
Finally, and most importantly, he said the Commission continues to enhance its advisory and bridging role with the General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council. For the first time, it shared its work programme with the Assembly and the Security Council through formal communications from the Chair. “This has been a major step towards institutionalization of the advisory relations between [the Commission] and other organs of the United Nations,” he said, also spotlighting the exchange of letters between the Commission Chair and the Security Council President, requesting the Secretary-General to liaise with the Commission in advance of relevant reporting to the Security Council. And for the first time, an informal coordinator has been appointed to liaise with the Economic and Social Council, in line with the existing practices with the Assembly and Security Council.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) said that the Peacebuilding Commission’s mandate underscores that the subsidiary body is well-positioned to engage in a broader and more-comprehensive set of peace issues, which is something the Security Council cannot do. As such, the two bodies must work together in complementarity to support each other’s work, particularly in countries that are also on the Council’s agenda. He stressed that, to respond to the most-important needs of countries, the voice and views of the same should be prioritized, both in the Council and the Commission. He also pointed out that the alignment of the Council’s and the Commission’s programme of work remains a challenge, and that improvement in this area will require planning around the already calendarized Council meetings, particularly when it comes to peace-operation transitions and mandate renewals. What the Council does — or should do — with the Commission’s advice “remains a valid question to be explored”, he added, noting the need for a follow-up mechanism that ensures the Council acts where applicable and integrates such advice into its work.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), stating that the Peacebuilding Commission needs enhanced support from Member States in fulfilling its mandate, said that national Governments must steer priorities and strategies for sustaining peace at all stages of conflict. In this, inclusivity is cardinal to advancing national peacebuilding objectives and, further, an exclusively donor-driven approach to peacebuilding may not be the most prudent path to follow. Ongoing discourse on enhanced financial support for peacebuilding activities through sources other than voluntary contributions merits an in-depth and careful study of its ramifications on the United Nations ecosystem. He stressed, however, that any decision to that effect must be consensus-based, warning against “creative interpretation of the peacebuilding mandate”. Additionally, the Commission’s advisory role should be exercised judiciously and only when warranted, and the subsidiary body should exercise its convening role more effectively. He added that clear benchmarks and criteria must be set for an exit strategy in countries under consideration, and that the Commission’s advocacy must end when such criteria are met.
ALICE JACOBS (United Kingdom) said her delegation sees the potential of the Commission through activist chairs — including Egypt and Bangladesh. “This youngest body of the United Nations system has matured,” she said. By continuing to deepen its follow up with countries and rallying collective responses to collective challenges, it will continue to grow in value. With emerging new threats to peace and security, it is more important than ever to take a comprehensive approach to addressing global hurdles and she highlighted the Commission’s valuable role in advising the Council to achieve this aim. The world cannot afford the costs of conflict. “We must focus on prevention,” she said, encouraging all national and international actors to place peacebuilding and sustaining peace at the centre of their policies and approaches. This means devising more integrated policies, relying on smarter financing and casting the net of cooperation and partnership more widely.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) said the Commission has proven its ability to bring a diverse range of interlocutors and partners to the table, notably civil society and the private sector. “Its convening power is its strength,” she said, also commending efforts by the country-specific configurations and welcoming that the Central African Republic configuration made recommendations to the Council at the beginning of the mandate renewal for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Noting that the Commission’s operational contribution must be decoupled from the Council, she said its work on thematic and cross-cutting topics is important in promoting the peace and security agendas for women and youth and addressing specific needs. This work must be placed in a geographical context. For the Council, the Commission must produce complementary and targeted recommendations before the renewal of peacekeeping mandates, and in dialogue with co-sponsors. Recognizing that the financing needs for peacebuilding remain “substantial”, she said the Peacebuilding Fund has proven its ability to catalyse financing in support of an integrated United Nations response. She urged the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to study putting in place long-term financing, partnerships as well as supporting relationships with international finance institutions and private sectors actors. She added that France will increase its contribution to $7.5 million in 2022.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that partnership with actors beyond the United Nations system, including civil society, is important for strengthening the effectiveness of peacebuilding where it is most needed. The Peacebuilding Commission’s focus on the risk factors of the conflict cycle when operating in post-conflict contexts is welcome, as it can better support processes of political transition and reconciliation. Emphasizing the benefits of defining peacekeeping approaches more clearly in relevant mandates, he also urged an increased role for women and youth when the Council deliberates, as inclusivity is key to effective peacebuilding. He went on to stress that, as global warming due to climate change is a clear and present threat to security, the Commission should adapt its strategies to address the consequences of this phenomenon as a core part of efforts to advance peace and security. Spotlighting another man-made crisis, he pointed out that food scarcity is already fuelling conflict around the world, calling for the mainstreaming of food security into the discussions of United Nations bodies dealing with peace and security.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) highlighted the increase in participation of women peacebuilders and youth in Commission meetings in 2021, demonstrating its serious pursuit of action-oriented outcomes driven by local contexts. She underscored the great value of the Commission’s coordination with the Security Council and its bridging role with the main United Nations organs, echoing the need for adequate, sustained and predictable financing for peacebuilding activities. To enhance cooperation, she encouraged the Council to continue to invite Commission members to brief and provide written advisories on relevant matters. A key approach could be for Council members to coordinate with the Commission ahead of and during their presidencies, to identify possible entry points for the Commission’s contributions, and also allow the Commission to conduct its processes in a timely and efficient manner ahead of Council meetings. The Council also should draw on the Commission’s perspectives and recommendations in the design and implementation of mandates for peace operations and their transitions from the outset, enabling the Council to integrate an expanded list of relevant stakeholders in the field, including regional development and financial institutions, the private sector and civil society representatives.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) welcomed the Peacebuilding Commission’s leadership in helping to inform and implement United Nations and Member State responses “across the peace continuum”, including facilitating political dialogue, revitalizing economic growth and re-establishing essential administrative services. He supported the Commission’s mandate as an intergovernmental advisory body, as well an expanded role for the Commission that can enable the United Nations system to address cross-cutting issues — such as security, climate change, gender equality and human rights — with greater accountability. Noting the various challenges facing the world today, he expressed hope that the Commission’s new strategy will utilize the full range of tools at its disposal to prevent conflict before it erupts and target the underlying political, economic and social factors that drive fragility. He added a call for all Member States to provide effective oversight of United Nations peacebuilding efforts, to explore innovative financing and to support the meaningful participation of women in peacebuilding.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) underscored the importance of the Commission as an advisory body, welcoming its convening of 29 meetings and discussions on 13 countries. Its coverage of new issues, such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, alongside those on political governance and security, socioeconomic and humanitarian situations, is also commendable. He welcomed the increase in the number of thematic and cross-cutting issues considered, up 40 per cent versus 15 per cent in 2018. He encouraged the pursuit of partnerships with international finance institutions and regional organizations, such as the African Union and ECOWAS. He described financing as a “daunting challenge”, underscoring the need to address what the Secretary-General said is “too little progress on adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for peacebuilding”. Urgent action is required. While encouraging an expanded donor base for the Fund, which in 2021 stood at $178 million but short of the Secretary-General’s annual $500 million target, he said one of the best means to provide a consistent baseline is through United Nations assessment contributions. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s call for an appropriation of $100 million to the Fund, from 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023. He also welcomed the Commission’s focus on the peace and security agendas for women and young people.
ZHANG JUN (China) described the Commission as an important instrument for addressing the causes of conflict. The international community should respect the sovereignty and ownership of post-conflict countries, providing assistance in line with their will and requests. The international community should support countries in exploring a development path that fits the national conditions. “Development should always be put first,” he said. For countries in conflict and post-conflict settings, the biggest challenges involve building the economy. “Peacebuilding should always be development-oriented,” he said, with resources primarily invested in poverty eradication, and access to education and health. Stressing that military means alone cannot end terrorism in the Sahel and should instead be complemented with development and job creation efforts, he advocated for a greater focus on capacity-building, with the United Nations helping countries enhance their capacities for governance, sustainable development and maintenance of peace and security. Sanctions impede development, and thus, must be fully and unconditionally lifted. China supports the provision of adequate and predictable support for peacebuilding. He called for forging innovative partnerships and exploring diverse funding channels, urging international finance institutions to increase their investments in a targeted manner. Governments of relevant countries and the private sector meanwhile should advance peacebuilding projects. He also called for more comprehensive planning and coordination, noting that China contributed to the Peacebuilding Fund and provides financial support through the United Nations Fund for South-South Cooperation.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said today’s briefers remind the Council that some United Nations bodies simply “put their shoulder to the wheel” and get the job done, often quietly, without fanfare. “I believe the Peacebuilding Commission is one such body,” she said, offering ideas on how the Council and the Commission can learn from and support each other. She first called for investing in prevention. “The longer we take to invest in prevention, the hungrier people grow, the more destitute their poverty becomes, and the more likely conflict is to arise,” she explained. She advocated for a coordinated response, with support for the Secretary-General’s new agenda for peace matched by a commitment to ensure peacebuilding activities are adequately supported and sustainably financed. The Council could learn lessons from the Commission in promoting the inclusion of women and young people, she said, noting that the latter has engaged with youth issues “in a tangible manner” in the Great Lakes and Sahel regions. Recalling that each month, the Commission empowers the Council with knowledge and advice, she said it is “high time” for Council members to turn that advice to action, ensuing that the Commission — and the Member States it represents — are empowered to fulfil their important role. Enhancing such collaboration makes the Council’s work more effective, she said, not only for its deliberations in New York, but of its impact on the ground, “where it matters most”.
MONA JUUL (Norway) pointed out that the Peacebuilding Commission, through its cross-pillar coordination mandate, can holistically address drivers of conflict “without the limitations suffered by other United Nations bodies”. In this regard, she welcomed the Commission’s recent discussions on climate change, its cross-border approach in the Sahel and Great Lakes regions and its increased attention to the gender and youth dimensions of conflict. The Council should request, deliberate and draw upon the Commission’s targeted advice more often, especially in the formation of mandates, renewals and transitions. Additionally, the Commission should continue to innovate and expand its work to more areas — such as climate change, health, gender, development and human rights — in close partnership with the Member States concerned and in close collaboration with resident coordinators and United Nations country teams. Adding that peacebuilding financing must be increased, she pointed out that Norway has consistently supported the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, and that its current five-year agreement of approximately $50 million matches the Fund’s strategy and provides predictability and flexibility.
ANNETTE ANDRÉE ONANGA (Gabon) said that progress made in Central and West African countries demonstrates the relevance of the Peacebuilding Commission, which deserves the Council’s full support. Noting that resolution 2282 (2016) stresses that peacebuilding is an essential political process intended to prevent conflicts from breaking out, intensifying, continuing or recurring, she emphasized that today’s debate encourages true structural transformation of the peace and security architecture. Emerging dangers threaten the basis of societies and common values, and peacebuilding therefore requires a holistic vision that accounts for human rights, gender issues, governance and development. Even if States must play the primary role in building peace, such efforts will not succeed without multilateral partnership, and fragile States emerging from crises should benefit from a deeper focus to prevent a return to conflict. She added that regional organizations must also be key actors in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, and that the United Nations system must work to support countries’ strategic objectives to maintain peace and promote sustainable development.
GLORIYA A. AGARONOVA (Russian Federation) stated that a comprehensive, impartial approach that accounts for country specifics and regional factors — and patiently analyses and pursues unique solutions to achieve national priorities — will help achieve peacebuilding goals. This strategy is more effective than expanding the scope of thematic contexts, which are often already discussed in other United Nations fora. Peacebuilding processes must always respect the sovereignty of the host country and work in line with its priorities, as international assistance in peacebuilding is most effective when it is based on the principle of national ownership. She called on the United Nations and international partners, where necessary and with the consent of the host country, to provide assistance that focuses on building the capacity of States to overcome conflicts themselves. She went on to suggest that the Commission can improve the quality of its recommendations to the Council, which could be provided at the Council’s request relating to countries on the agenda of both bodies. In so doing, the Commission can relay to the Council the host country’s peacebuilding priorities, which could be a useful addition to the Secretary-General’s reports. She added that the political settlement of conflicts and the stabilization of security situations lays the foundation for improving human-rights situations and building democratic institutions, rather than vice versa.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) highlighted the Commission’s unique convening capacity to gather various actors, notably in pursuit of policy objectives. Its work has increased in recent years, with activities that have greater geographic and thematic scope, including in Latin America and the Caribbean. The peace and security agendas for women and youth offer tools to facilitate the inclusion of these groups into peacebuilding processes. He acknowledged the Commission’s efforts to listen to women and young people who he called true builders of peace. “Peace is not sustainable without development,” he recalled, welcoming that the Commission is a “prime mover” in implementing the Secretary-General’s new agenda for peace, which promotes greater coordination between resident coordinators and country teams, with the aim of playing the strongest role possible in peacebuilding strategies. The Commission can help strengthen the preventive capacity of the United Nations and he recommended that its advisories reach the Council in sufficient time ahead of any decisions to be made. He called on all actors to help strengthen the communication between the Commission and the main United Nations bodies.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) described the Commission as a “teenager” in the United Nations family, noting that its relationship with the Economic and Social Council, General Assembly and Security Council has yet to be fully explored. This matter has a priority status for most Commission members and is the reason why the Commission’s relationship with other bodies was included in its 2022 work programme. “It is our hope that the Council will share that sense of priority and constructively engage in this exercise,” he said, thanking Kenya for its role as informal coordinator of these efforts and describing circulation of the Secretary-General’s advanced reports to the Council among Commission members as “a good first step”. The next steps should involve more meaningful collaboration, through consultations on peacebuilding and sustaining peace ahead of the formation, review, drawdown and transition of peacekeeping operations and special political missions. He also proposed the regular submission of written advice by the Commission on issues on the agenda of both bodies, as well as advice for how peacebuilding strategies can address the needs of children affected by conflict. Without proper peacebuilding-oriented inputs, the Security Council will not make significant progress in conflict prevention, he observed.