The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) was established by the Security Council and the General Assembly in December 2005. Controversy surrounding its establishment led to ambiguity about its status. It is not clearly specified whether it is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly or the Security Council. (The resolutions simply refer to it as an “intergovernmental advisory body”.)
It is to provide advice at the request of the Security Council, ECOSOC, the Secretary-General and, in exceptional cases, UN member states themselves but not the General Assembly, which receives only an annual report.
(On the establishment of the PBC, please see our June 2006 Special Research Report in which we concluded that the PBC is a subsidiary body of both the General Assembly and the Council.)
It is noteworthy that the Council, perhaps in deference to the sensitivities over the PBC, has not taken any formal action related to the PBC other than to initiate in June the only current requests for “advice” on Burundi and Sierra Leone. However, the importance of the Commission’s work in filling the peacebuilding gap in respect to the situations before the Council has been the object of numerous statements from Council members and the PBC is seen in the Council as having significant positive potential.
Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to elect two new non-permanent Council members to replace Denmark and Tanzania in the PBC Organisational Committee. At time of writing, Peru and South Africa appeared to be the front runners.
The chairman of the PBC Organisational Committee is expected to issue a letter forwarding a summary of the country-specific meetings to the Council. While no formal Council action is expected in response to this report, it is possible that members may take the opportunity for informal discussions of the role the Council should be playing with respect to the PBC.
Key Recent Developments
The first formal country-specific meetings on Burundi and Sierra Leone took place on 12 and 13 October. Key priority areas for PBC assistance were agreed. For Burundi, those were:
promoting good governance, including human rights;
strengthening of the rule of law and the security sector; and
ensuring community recovery.
For Sierra Leone, critical peacebuilding issues identified were:
youth empowerment and employment;
consolidating democracy and good governance;
justice and security sector reform; and
The PBC invited both governments to develop further strategies with UN support and to report at the next meeting. Sierra Leone and Burundi were declared eligible to benefit from the Peacebuilding Fund.
In November the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) sent a mission to Burundi and Sierra Leone to take stock of preparations and clarify the nature of the PBC’s work, regarding, in particular, the misperception that the PBC’s work would equate to a pledging conference. The PBSO briefed the Organisational Committee on 7 December.
The second round of country-specific meetings took place on 12 and 13 December, and was preceded by informal briefings with civil society organisations on 11 December. Key peacebuilding gaps raised by participants in the meetings on Burundi included:
assistance with security sector reform and the risks posed by the rebel Forces nationales de libération (FNL), refugee returns and the integration of former combatants;
support for political dialogue;
establishing transitional justice mechanisms;
human rights; and
budget shortfalls and donor coordination.
On Sierra Leone:
expanding programmes on youth unemployment;
strengthening democratic governance institutions and, in particular, increasing electoral assistance and gender mainstreaming;
building the justice sector, in particular transitional mechanisms;
enhancing public service delivery and building infrastructure; and
As follow-up, PBC members have requested that detailed work plans and corresponding calendars on peacebuilding activities be presented by the countries at the next meetings, expected for March 2007.
Some confusion seems to have marked the beginning of the PBC’s country-specific activities. There was lack of clarity and preparation relating to the PBC’s scope and organisation, including its relationship with the Peacebuilding Fund. Contrary to initial expectations, it was decided that the PBC would recommend Burundi’s and Sierra Leone’s eligibility for the Fund.
Uncertainty also surrounded the chairmanship of the Sierra Leone meetings, which was eventually resolved in favour of the Netherlands. By contrast, agreement on Norwegian chairmanship for the Burundi meetings was reached early in October. Members have made some progress in clarifying procedural issues including the participation of civil society groups and other institutional donors. A working group has been established to formulate recommendations on those issues, but to date no substantive progress has been made. (Both the European Commission and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference have made requests for participation.)
The Organisational Committee also addressed the issue of country participation in country-specific meetings. It agreed that outgoing countries can submit a request to continue participation in the country-specific meetings despite the end of their terms.
Some of the 31 seats within the Organisational Committee will rotate in January, and others in June. The issue is complex since each membership category decided on its own rules for allocating the seats, with particular geographical emphasis within ECOSOC and the General Assembly. (Distribution of seats followed considerable controversy and concern with geographical imbalances arising from the early membership decisions from the Security Council and the top contributors. There was reluctance to set clear rules for geographical distribution.)
In accordance with resolution 1646, the Council is due to elect its non-permanent Organisational Committee members to replace Denmark and Tanzania. In December 2005 the Council decided that five of the seats would be conferred to permanent Council members.
Two ECOSOC seats in the Committee will rotate in January with the end of Poland and Belgium’s membership of ECOSOC and thus of the PBC. They will be replaced by countries from the same geographical groups, namely one from the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG) and one from Eastern Europe. (A resolution regarding the geographical distribution of ECOSOC seats on the PBC was adopted in May 2006, but it left the geographical allocation of two seats for the subsequent elections to be determined.)
Two General Assembly seats-currently belonging to Jamaica and Croatia-will rotate in June. (The General Assembly seats were seen as a balancing category, and, as a result, those seats were assigned for one year starting in June 2006 in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/261.)
Two members from the top ten financial contributors will be replaced by Canada and Sweden in June. (The understandings relating to the top financial contributors are not specified in the resolutions and are unclear. Three of them are permanent Council members, and thus have seats via resolution 1646. It seems that an understanding exists that the two seats would rotate among the remaining seven countries.)
Among the top military and police contributors, the distribution of seats will not be recalculated until June 2008. (It seems that this group decided among themselves that the five seats will be allocated to the top five contributors, to be revised in two years from June 2006 to reflect changes in ranking.)
The next PBC chairperson and vice-chairpersons are expected to be elected in June.
The annual report of the PBC is expected in the fall of 2007, to be debated during the 62nd session of the General Assembly. It seems that since the PBC did not start its regular activities until late 2006, it was decided to synchronise the beginning of the second PBC session with the start of the 62nd session of General Assembly.
The main issue for the PBC is whether it can rise to the challenge to make a difference on the ground in Burundi and Sierra Leone and add value to the existing international machinery. It remains to be seen whether it will be effective in identifying peacebuilding gaps and formulating practical strategies to address them.
A critical underlying issue is overcoming the bitter climate in which the establishment and membership of the PBC was negotiated. (Please see our June 2006 Special Research Report.) Some progress has been made, but there are lingering problems which now center on how best to move toward focusing on substantive issues, as opposed to continuing the dominant focus on procedural issues.
There seem to be additional issues posed by the lack of resources within the PBSO for preparing for PBC meetings. Members are also aware of the varying degrees of resources, knowledge and preparedness across the PBC membership.
Procedural issues include:
the balance between formal and informal meetings;
guidelines for civil society participation;
participation by institutional donors; and
refining rules of procedure.
Accordingly, the Council has recently formally focused simply on the fact that its elected representatives on the PBC, Denmark and Tanzania, will finish their Council terms on 31 December. The Latin American countries have expressed strong interest in having one of the seats in order to address a perceived geographical imbalance in the PBC membership.
Nevertheless, since referring Burundi and Sierra Leone to the PBC in June 2006, the Council has had both countries on its agenda a number of times. It approved the establishment of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (Bureau intégré des Nations Unies au Burundi, or BINUB) in resolution 1719. On Sierra Leone, the Council has periodically discussed the regular reports of the Secretary-General and is now poised to renew the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) for 12 months by 31 December. In these discussions, the Council seems to have been careful to avoid overlap with the PBC, particularly regarding more substantive discussion on the situation in both countries.
Most PBC members appear keen on concentrating on substantive areas. But there still seems to be a degree of suspicion among some members from developing and developed countries. As a result, dynamics have at times tended to focus on procedural issues.
Some members have expressed concern over the fact that both country-specific meetings are now chaired by donor countries.
There is also disagreement on civil society participation in the formal country-specific meetings, with some members preferring more informal, flexible participation as opposed to formal statements in public meetings.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected General Assembly Resolutions|
|Selected Meeting Records|
|Other Selected Documents|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
12-13 October 2006 The first country-specific meetings were held.
19 July 2006 The first informal briefings on Burundi and Sierra Leone were held.
23 June 2006 The PBC Organisational Committee held its first meeting.
For historical background, please see our 23 June 2006 Special Research Report.
|PBC Organisational Committee Members (as of 20 December 2006)|
|Chairman of the PBC Organisational Committee|
|Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins (Angola)|
|Carolyn McAskie (Canada)|
|US$ 1.571 million|
Special Research Report on the Peacebuilding Commission (23 June 2006)
Peacebuilding Commission (October 2006 Forecast)