In March, the Council will hold consultations on the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). It intends to take stock of the remarks and discuss suggestions made at the 31 January open debate on the PBC, particularly on improving the working relationship between the Council and the PBC. No formal outcome is expected. (For background on the lead-up to the open debate please see our January 2007 Forecast and 25 January Update.)
Key Recent Developments in the Council
The open debate (S/PV.5627 and Resumption 1) was the Council’s initial review of the work of the PBC and was proposed by Russia as Council president for January. Two recurring points emerged:
suggestions as to how the PBC may improve its work, in particular a sense of urgency to move on substantive work in the Commission’s country-specific mode, and the need for integrated work plans involving key stakeholders with input and ownership from the countries in question. Some stressed the need to move beyond outstanding procedural issues and institutional competition to achieving agreement and cooperation on a comprehensive strategy for key peacebuilding gaps the PBC has identified for Burundi and Sierra Leone; and
suggestions on how the Security Council could better harmonise its work with that of the PBC and weave the results of the PBC’s work into its own discussions.
Suggestions on harmonisation between the PBC and the Council included:
requesting PBC advice, for example, at the time of a mandate renewal, negotiations on the mandate of a new peacekeeping operation, amending an existing UN mission strategy to enhance collaboration between UN operations and PBC activities, and devising an integrated mission planning process;
receiving early warning on potential setbacks and risk factors in countries on the Council’s agenda;
since Burundi and Sierra Leone are on the agendas of both bodies, establishing more regular and timely interaction with the PBC. This could include invitations for briefings from PBC chairpersons when the Council considers those situations and regular meetings between the presidents of the General Assembly, the Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and
issuing Council statements when PBC reports have been received, to encourage synergy and interaction with PBC country-specific strategies.
Speakers further highlighted problems with achieving sustained commitment and coordination among key players for successful peacebuilding, in particular the main UN bodies. Some participants felt the Council might encroach on the work of the PBC. Most stressed the need for a partnership approach linking the Council, the General Assembly and other parts of the UN system. This reflects the tensions that surrounded the PBC’s creation and the start of its work. Russia, for example, expressed the hope that the discussions “will give additional impetus to a mutually supportive partnership between [the Council and the General Assembly] and among all those who are contributing to the peacebuilding process, and that it will facilitate the constructive work of the [PBC].”
Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), expressed concern that “the Security Council should at this stage find it necessary to review the work of the Peacebuilding Commission. While it is no secret that the Commission has experienced some difficulties with its internal operations and processes, we think that it is both lacking in merit and premature to have the Security Council review or evaluate its activities at this juncture.”
Perhaps as a response to the Russian initiative, the General Assembly held a similar debate to review progress with the PBC’s work on 6 February after a request from NAM.
|Upcoming PBC Developments|
The PBC has started a series of informal thematic discussions to develop integrated peacebuilding strategies for Burundi and Sierra Leone by mid-2007. The discussions will be open to relevant stakeholders (civil society, the private sector and international actors) and will focus on matters falling within the priority areas identified in the December country-specific meetings.
A Burundi donors’ roundtable in Bujumbura has been scheduled for 14-15 March. The next formal country-specific meetings are expected to take place in April for Burundi and April or May for Sierra Leone.
The peacebuilding strategies for Burundi and Sierra Leone would become the principal framework for the relationship with the PBC. They will record the commitments made by the parties, and would serve as a type of compact. They will provide benchmarks by which the PBC can monitor progress and identify peacebuilding gaps at the country level. Input from participants in the informal thematic meetings will add value to strategy development.
The PBC will visit Burundi and Sierra Leone, probably in mid-March. Together with a briefing series organised by a special working group on lessons learned from post-conflict situations, these visits may assist in developing further understanding of the challenges in both countries. (The first meeting on lessons learned under the priority areas identified by Sierra Leone took place on 20 February; a meeting for Burundi is scheduled to take place on 12 March.)
The work plans suggest three interrelated phases:
The first phase was completed in December, when good governance, rule of law and community recovery were identified as critical peacebuilding challenges for Burundi. For Sierra Leone, the challenges are youth empowerment and employment, democracy and good governance, justice and security reform, and capacity-building. The thematic discussions should catalyse progress in the second phase.
The key issue emerging from the 31 January debate is how to proceed with the idea of better defining the Council’s role relative to the PBC and improving the working relationship. The immediate task will be to follow up on suggestions that emerged and identify key areas where the relationship can be strengthened, such as the design of mandates of UN peacekeeping operations.
A related question is how to respond to the wider membership’s concerns for a meaningful role for the General Assembly. There is general sympathy within the Council for emphasising the complementary-rather than competitive-nature of the input that both the Council and the General Assembly can have on the PBC, and how to dispel the negativities that surrounded its inception. The issue will be to determine how far members might go, in style and substance, without reviving the controversy and suspicions of 2005.
The Council so far has kept its distance from the work of the PBC. This seems to have been a result of awareness that some PBC members have a strong interest in demonstrating independence from the Council and in avoiding an overlap. Members have been concerned with helping create a positive working environment for the PBC’s formative period and to assuage the climate of suspicion over the way decisions were taken when the PBC was established.
The idea of exploring the Council’s role in relation to the PBC’s country-specific work had been about for some time as the Council discussed the work of the UN Integrated Office for Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) and the creation of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB). Concerns outlined above, however, meant that only vague mentions were included in resolutions and statements.
Nonetheless, the generally positive tone during the 31 January meeting-bearing in mind the cautionary note from NAM-seems to have reinforced thinking in the Council that there are important areas in which more elaboration on the working relationship between the PBC and the Council can be helpful.
Most members seem to agree that input from PBC chairs should be sought at the time the Council discusses the renewal of the integrated offices in Burundi or Sierra Leone. For some, particularly the UK, a key aspect has been the involvement of BINUB and UNIOSIL in the preparation of PBC country strategies. There is an interest in reflecting and clarifying that role in their mandates and improving the operational coordination between the missions and the PBC. One member made the point that the PBC held its formal country-specific meetings on the same months that the Council held meetings on Burundi and Sierra Leone, including the creation of BINUB.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Security Council Resolutions with a reference to the PBC|
|Security Council Presidential Statements with a reference to the PBC|
|Selected Security Council Debate|
|Selected PBC Documents|
|Selected General Assembly Resolutions|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
|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|