Transformative Action, Funding across Peace-Development Nexus Key to Forming Prosperous Societies, Speakers Tell Economic and Social Council, Peacebuilding Commission
Transformative actions, adequate financing and cooperative work across the entire peace, security and development nexus are urgently required for much-needed progress on sustainable development, speakers reported today during at a joint meeting of the Economic and Social Council and Peacebuilding Commission.
In opening remarks, Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria), Council President, said that today’s joint meeting focuses on the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in linking peace and development action on the ground — an opportune moment as the upcoming 2023 high-level political forum starts in 10 days and the SDG Summit in September. “We need transformative actions to accelerate progress on the SDGs to achieve inclusive, peaceful and prosperous societies,” she said, addressing the root causes of conflict and crises and responding to development and humanitarian needs.
She therefore called for comprehensive, integrated solutions and actions across the peace, security, humanitarian and development pillars — through closer relationships among the various intergovernmental bodies, harnessing mandates and platforms for more integrated and coordinated United Nations response. Themes and approaches to explore include convening regular meetings among the heads of the Principal Organs and the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and sharing work programmes to identify opportunities for collaboration.
A number of expert panelists and programme heads then addressed the meeting, with Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), stating that the absence of peace is an inevitable consequence of development failures, rooted in economic setbacks and weak governance institutions. The Global Goals are often the best “vaccine” to prevent such failures. Noting that last year UNDP reported the highest number of victims of conflicts and combat since 1945, he said the Programme is focused on recognizing the drivers of conflict early on — and in Iraq, has created conditions to facilitate the return of 4.5 million internally displaced people in less than six months.
Farhad Peikar, Acting Special Representative of the World Bank Group to the United Nations, reported that the Group is deploying $40 billion for peacebuilding in Yemen and Afghanistan and has also provided $5 billion in concessional and grant financing to support Governments hosting refugees. Pointing out that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic 20 million more people have been living in extreme poverty in countries affected by fragility and conflict, he said that to reverse these trends, 2023 must be the “point of reflection and joint efforts to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Yacoub El Hillo, Regional Director for Africa of the Development Coordination Office, stressed that the future is in Africa — a well-endowed, young continent of almost 1.4 billion people, most of them under age 30 — that continues to fuel most world economies. Despite contributing the least to climate change, it is the fastest-warming region. He further cited conflicts new and old — including in his country, Sudan — coups d’état, and the scourge of corruption, with an estimated $89 billion illicitly leaving Africa every year.
In the ensuing dialogue and questions, most delegations stressed that there can be no peace without development or development without peace — and that the peace-development-humanitarian nexus cannot be achieved without adequate financing. Denmark’s delegate, also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, called for more systematic engagement by international financial institutions, suggesting mapping out the structural obstacles to the nexus — while the representative of the United States voiced support for “more adequate, predictable financing for peacebuilding through assessed contributions”.
Many representatives echoed that working in silos is no longer an option. However, the Russian Federation’s speaker asserted that to avoid duplication of efforts and safeguard budgets “we should not distract development agencies with tasks that are not natural to them” in the development, humanitarian or political spheres. In a similar vein, the representative of Ethiopia recalled that conflict early warning systems exist on his continent, as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) already have them — and so the United Nations should “tap into those rather than trying to reinvent the wheel yet again.”
In his closing remarks, Ivan Šimonović, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the two bodies should meet more often, as sustaining peace and peacebuilding cannot be achieved without identifying and addressing the root causes of conflict. The Global Goals represent a framework, covering all aspects of human life — and “achieving the SDGs would help make our economies low carbon and nature positive, our societies more equal, inclusive and peaceful, and our planet conserved for our and future generations,” he said.
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that today’s joint meeting — building on the last one in December 2022 — focuses on the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in linking peace and development action on the ground – an opportune moment as the upcoming 2023 high-level political forum starts in 10 days and the SDG Summit in September. “As we approach the mid-point of the 2030 Agenda, we need transformative actions to accelerate progress on the SDGs to achieve inclusive, peaceful and prosperous societies,” she said — addressing the root causes of conflict and crises and responding to development and humanitarian needs. She therefore called for comprehensive, integrated solutions and actions across the peace, security, humanitarian and development pillars — through closer relationships among the various intergovernmental bodies, by harnessing mandates and platforms to advance more integrated, coherent and coordinated United Nations response.
Themes and approaches to explore include convening regular meetings among the heads of the Principal Organs and the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission; sharing work programmes to identify opportunities for collaboration; and considering a more structured way to identify and present issues around which both bodies can add value. She suggested sharing lessons learned and exploring ways to further develop policy guidance on operating in conflict-affected contexts, which would be of relevance to the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review — and how the voluntary national review process during the high-level political forum on sustainable development could provide a platform for countries in conflict contexts to share good practices, lessons learned and policy advice. She urged participants to leverage the work of Council and the Peacebuilding Commission to expedite implementation of the Goals, noting that the meeting would explore how to operationalize the linkages between peace and development on the ground.
The panel, moderated by Martin Kimani, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations, featured panellists Elizabeth Spehar, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; Yacoub El Hillo, Regional Director for Africa, Development Coordination Office; Farhad Peikar, Acting Special Representative of the World Bank Group to the United Nations; and Simon Gimson, Acting President and Chief Operating Officer of Interpeace.
Mr. KIMANI, pointing out that “the world is on fire”, said that current crises are caused by the repeated series of calamities caused by war, State fragility, and lack of fiscal means. He underlined the importance of maintaining Sustainable Development Goals at the core of peacebuilding, adding: “They are a great map for moving from fragility to resilience, development and prosperity.” In this regard, he appealed to Member States to re-engage to put peacebuilding at the core of the United Nations activities, while recalling the respective peacebuilding resolution adopted by consensus in 2022.
ACHIM STEINER, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that the absence of peace is an inevitable consequence of development failures, rooted in economic setbacks, weak Governance institutions and contested public institutions’ authorities and political leaders, while noting that the Sustainable Development Goals are often the best “vaccine” to prevent such failures. Reporting the highest number of victims of conflicts and combat since 1945 in 2022, he recognized that some aspects of development and peace are not working. In this context, UNDP is focused on recognizing early on the drivers of conflict, including transboundary elements, while working with Governments and civil society to address them. In collaboration with the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, it provides electoral assistance at the invitation of respective countries, including through its digital platform “iVerify”.
In Iraq, UNDP created conditions to facilitate the return of 4.5 million internally displaced people in less than six months, he pointed out, while spotlighting the Programme’s ability to quickly assist with recovery and reconstruction. Turning to climate change in the context of regions such as the Sahel, he recalled that UNDP spent one year re-thinking its approach, while outlining the absence of security as a major destabilizing factor for local communities. “In the absence of development tensions, pressures and inequalities amplify and societies can fall apart,” he stressed, underscoring the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals, including synchronizing their implementation.
Ms. SPEHAR, speaking via videoconference, said the links between peace and development have never been clearer and advancing both factors has never been more urgent. The Global Goals offer a clear path for sustainable peace and development as many of the issues they aim to address represent the root causes of conflict in many societies. She outlined several elements that can offer innovative approaches, good practices or effective tools to operationalize the peace and development nexus on the ground for sustainable impact. One element is strengthening the progress already made through the recent structural and policy reforms within the United Nations system. A second element is the incentive of pooled funding, she said, adding that donors have a key role to play by supporting the right incentives and space for collective action.
In the intergovernmental space, the Peacebuilding Commission can play a greater part in bringing coherence to humanitarian, peace and development actors with its strong convening capacity, she said. There should be more investment in supporting capacity development at all levels in a country, both in terms of state structures and civil society actors, for an inclusive approach. “To truly make an impact on peace and development, we must look far beyond the UN itself,” she said. Noting that building and sustaining peace and development are Member State responsibilities, she said that the international community must support nationally led and owned processes and promote domestic resource mobilization. “We need to be able to harness the resources of the IFIs [international financial institutions] and the private sector who can wield far greater capital in support of peace and development on the ground,” she said.
Mr. EL-HILLO stressed that the future is in Africa — a young continent of almost 1.4 billion people, the majority of them under age 30. It is a well-endowed continent that continues to fuel most world economies, but is threatened by climate change, as the region that contributes the least to the problem but is the fastest-warming region. Other issues include the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing millions under the poverty line, as well as conflicts new and old — including in his country, Sudan. He further cited coups d’état and the scourge of corruption, with an estimated $89 billion illicitly leaving Africa every year. Those issues are not exhaustive but offer an indication of how Africa is pursuing sustainable development.
The Global Goals framework offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the peace and development collaboration and promote prevention by addressing the root causes of conflicts, strengthening community resilience, and preventing relapses into conflict. He further noted increased efforts to address multidimensional challenges and regional issues through cross-border analyses and the implementation of cross-border joint programmes. Commending the Peacebuilding Support Office and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund for invaluable support, he further cited the pivotal role of the Africa Regional Collaborative Platform in leveraging regional assets and identifying opportunities and solutions to improve the effectiveness of the reinvigorated resident coordinator system and strengthen cross-border programmes and subregional initiatives. In Burkina Faso, for example, the United Nations country team and the transitional authorities have effectively integrated the humanitarian, development, and peace collaboration in the recently signed Interim Development Action Plan — aiming to provide essential services and economic opportunities.
Mr. PEIKAR said that 2023 marks the five-year anniversary of the “Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict” report that changed the way the World Bank Group — along with other institutions — perceive fragility, conflict and violence. Reporting that the Group is deploying $40 billion for peacebuilding in Yemen and Afghanistan, he said it has also provided $5 billion in concessional and grant financing to support Governments hosting refugees. The Group also invests in risk prevention, while supporting countries emerging from fragility — like Somalia, South Sudan and the Gambia — through investment, capacity-building and reforms. While addressing the cross-border conflicts’ spill-over by providing support to refugees and host communities in Uganda, Lebanon and Colombia, the Group’s International Development Association — a fund for the poorest countries — introduced a new preventing and resilience allocation in 2020 which provides additional financing and support to Governments to address the risks, he noted.
Pointing out that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic 20 million more people have been living in extreme poverty in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence, he said that to reverse these trends 2023 must be the “point of reflection and joint efforts to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals”. Noting that the United Nations will remain the World Bank Group’s close partner, he reported that since 2016 more than $6 billion of the World Bank’s financing has been implemented in partnership with the United Nations and other partners in over 40 crisis-affected situations. In this context, the Group is evolving to adverse global challenges, while focusing on its vision and mission, operational model and financial capacity.
Mr. GIMSON, speaking via videoconference, said the international community has a shared objective: supporting communities in their pursuit of self-reliance; social, economic and environmental prosperity; and sustainable development. The work of Interpeace in communities has shown that voices from the field are frequently not being heard and this profoundly impacts the effectiveness of the international community’s development interventions, he said. Interpeace has worked with various United Nations agencies to ensure their technical interventions have a solid approach. He called for a reassessment as agencies gain clarity and ensure their interventions are reaching the right people and places.
He stressed the need to build resilience in communities. Another key message is that the Global Goals must be delivered in an inclusive way. “There is a need to double down on that,” he said, adding that “youth and women are two horizontal entry points” for delivering peace and sustainable development. United Nations agencies do not need to move money away from their intended targets, but they must aim to improve the value of how the funds are delivered. The way in which agencies collaborate and deliver their work and funding must be improved. “We have to ‘marry peacebuilding and development’, he added, stressing the need for peace-responsive ways of working.
As the floor opened for discussion and questions, delegations cited the importance of advancing synergies among the three pillars of the United Nations, as there can be no peace without development or development without peace. The representative of Morocco noted the peace-development-humanitarian nexus cannot be achieved without adequate financing, calling for stepped-up support to the Peacebuilding Fund, and emphasized the critical role of international financial institutions. He asked panelists how to seize the momentum to build consensus around the New Agenda for Peace. Similarly, Denmark’s delegate, also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, called for more systematic engagement by international financial institutions, suggesting mapping out the structural obstacles to the nexus, aside from funding and financing — while the representative of the United States voiced support for “more adequate, predictable financing for peacebuilding through assessed contributions”.
Several delegates echoed that working in silos is no longer an option, with the Sustainable Development Goal Summit being important in that regard. The representative of Portugal stressed that “the silos that exist in theory and in bureaucracy are not matched by the reality on the ground,” citing the importance of reforming the United Nations development system. Guatemala’s delegate asked if the meeting should be held twice a year, how the two bodies could cooperate on the New Agenda for Peace, and how to increase the participation of women. The representative of Republic of Korea suggested that the Peacebuilding Commission’s advisory role should be utilized, supporting its engagement in broader geographical and substantive settings. Nigeria’s delegate asked about further practical steps to accomplish peacebuilding targets in-country, and about financing in situations following the drawdown of peacebuilding missions.
However, other speakers focused more on unnecessary duplication of roles, with the Russian Federation’s delegate noting that “we should not distract development agencies with tasks that are not natural to them” by burdening them with work in the development, humanitarian or political spheres to avoid duplication of efforts and safeguard budgets. In a similar vein, the representative of Ethiopia recalled that conflict early warning systems exist in both regional and national systems on his continent, as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) already have them — and so the United Nations should “tap into those rather than trying to reinvent the wheel yet again.” Egypt’s delegate stressed that in addressing conflicts, it is crucial to consider that they differ from one country to another, especially in African States. Costa Rica’s representative voiced alarm that for the eighth consecutive year, global military spending has increased, with a particular impact on girls and women, which precludes peace and development.
Ms. SPEHAR, responding, said that to operationalize peacebuilding in a more structured way, the Peacebuilding Commission could look at “unpacking” the resolution to define respective action. Underscoring the importance of adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for peacebuilding, she spotlighted the role of the Peacebuilding Fund. She further noted that the New Agenda for Peace could be a key document for Member States to make important political and financial commitments for prevention and peacebuilding, while recommitting to the values and principles of the United Nations Charter. On transitions, cross-border and regional work of the Commission, she recalled that two of the three strategic priorities of the Fund are to help avoid a financial cliff during transitions of peacekeeping operations to the United Nations country teams and to support regional peacebuilding approaches.
Mr. PEIKAR, recalling that the World Bank Group is the largest financier of climate financing in developing countries, said that in 2022 it provided $32 billion for low- and middle-income countries. More so, through its Global Concessional Financing Facility, it deployed $40 billion to four spectrums of fragility, including to countries hosting refugees, such as Colombia, Jordan and the Republic of Moldova. On increasing partnerships, he said the Group is mapping its current and potential partners to identify how it can work with different institutions at different levels. Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said: “Count on the World Bank — we will be there to provide technical expertise”, while pointing to its recent publication Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2023.
The representative of UNDP said a people-centred approach is critical when delivering peace, development and humanitarian responses to communities. In Yemen, the Programme has worked to strengthen its support of local governmental systems that improve citizens’ access to basic services. The sharing of lessons learned is important, as is joint analysis. This will help forge stronger alliances between agencies and local institutions and people. He also noted the important role played by the Peacebuilding Fund in investing in national partners’ capacity to prevent escalation of conflict.
Mr. GIMSON said the delegates’ comments show that the responses of United Nations agencies need to be very practical, recognize local voices and give these voices agency. “You have to allow your local actors to define what accountability looks like and define the resources,” he said. Trust is very important. Evaluation and learning are critical to ensure that peacebuilding and development efforts work together. Regarding questions on financing, he said much more work is needed in this area. The average peacebuilding grant is $1.5 million and has a timeline of 18 months for delivery. “Peacebuilding actors are expected to deliver peace outcomes in 18 months,” he said, noting that development timelines are much longer.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said he is always encouraged by joint meetings with the Economic and Social Council and the two bodies should meet more often. It is quite clear that sustaining peace and peacebuilding cannot be achieved without identifying and addressing the root causes of conflict, including economic, social and environmental causes. The Commission can only profit from stronger cooperation between the two bodies. The Council, as a coordinator of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, is the Commission’s powerful ally in establishing links between peace and security efforts, development, human rights and humanitarian work.
The Global Goals represent a framework, based on the principles defined or reaffirmed in the 2030 Agenda, that covers all aspects of human life. “Achieving the SDGs would help make our economies low carbon and nature positive, our societies more equal, inclusive and peaceful, and our planet conserved for our and future generations,” he said. Pointing to upcoming opportunities to expedite the Global Goals’ achievement and use them as preventive tools to sustain peace and peacebuilding in national and global contexts, he said the Commission is eagerly waiting for the Secretary-General’s policy brief on the New Agenda for Peace. The 2023 SDG Summit, Summit of the Future and the review of the peacebuilding architecture in 2025 also provide opportunities to strengthen the Commission and cooperation between the two bodies.