Expected Council Action
In March, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution that will be identical to a General Assembly resolution on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture.
The co-facilitators of the review process appointed by the Council and the General Assembly, Angola and Australia, respectively, are likely to address the Council before the vote.
Key Recent Developments
On 29 June 2015, the Advisory Group of Experts (AGE), a seven-person group appointed by the Secretary-General, submitted to member states their report, titled “The Challenges of Sustaining Peace”, culminating the first of a two-phase process for the 2015 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture. This review had been mandated by the Council and the General Assembly for the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) and the Peacebuilding Support Office.
The overarching thesis of the AGE report was that there must be a broader understanding of peacebuilding. The AGE contended that peacebuilding is not just a post-conflict activity as is the common understanding, but that peacebuilding also occurs before and during conflict. For this reason, it is an activity at the core of the UN’s work. The report suggests that the term “sustaining peace” could be more appropriate than “peacebuilding”. A narrow understanding and a lack of commitment to peacebuilding has manifested itself in the underfunding of peacebuilding and neglect of conflict prevention. Another key conclusion is that peacebuilding efforts have been hindered by fragmentation among the UN’s intergovernmental organs, the Secretariat and the wider UN system.
The AGE report noted that in the past the Council used an all-encompassing definition, saying in a 2001 presidential statement, “peacebuilding is aimed at preventing the outbreak, the recurrence or the continuation of armed conflict … [that] requires short- and long-term actions tailored to address the particular needs of societies sliding into conflict or emerging from it.”
The AGE report’s recommendations included proposals to strengthen the PBC’s impact, in particular by having it become an advisory “bridge” to address the fragmentation among the Council, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. The PBC’s ability to carry out this role will particularly depend on a greater commitment from the Council. The report recommended, for example, that the Council draw on the PBC’s advice regarding peacebuilding aspects of peace operations’ mandates; that the PBC diversify its working methods to consider a broader range of countries; and that the PBC become more involved in conflict prevention.
To address peacebuilding’s under-funding, the AGE proposed that 1 percent of the value of total UN budgets for peace operations or $100 million (whichever is greater) be provided annually to the PBF from assessed contributions. It also recommended that assessed contributions be provided for programmatic dimensions of peace operations’ mandates, such as rule of law and security sector reform, which currently rely on voluntary contributions. Among other elements, the report emphasised the importance of “inclusive” national ownership to prevent conflict relapse and the need for enhanced cooperation between the PBC, regional and subregional organisations and international financial institutions.
The submission of the report triggered the review’s second phase, an intergovernmental process for member states to consider the AGE report’s analysis and recommendations and convert them into policy decisions for concurrent Council and General Assembly resolutions. The Council and the General Assembly appointed Angola and Australia as co-facilitators of this intergovernmental process, which began in October 2015 and was initially scheduled for completion by December 2015. The co-facilitators proposed in November an extension until March 2016, coinciding with Angola’s Council presidency. Following consultations with regional groups and member states, Angola and Australia circulated a draft resolution in December. Negotiations on the text have been ongoing among the full UN membership since mid-January, and a Council open debate on the review was held on 23 February.
Developments in the PBC
The PBC’s six country-specific configurations are Burundi, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Amidst Burundi’s worsening violence after President Pierre Nkurunziza was elected for a third term, Ambassador Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), the chair of the Burundi configuration, travelled to Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania from 9 to 14 November 2015 and to Burundi, Rwanda and AU headquarters in Addis Ababa from 15 to 20 February 2016. While in Burundi on 9 November, Lauber briefed the Council via video teleconference during a Council urgent session on the situation.
The Guinea-Bissau configuration issued three statements between August 2015 and February 2016 during that country’s prolonged political crisis on the need for political leaders to resolve the impasse.
The PBC held a rare meeting on a non-PBC agenda country on 15 September 2015, with the president of Burkina Faso’s national electoral commission briefing on electoral preparations.
Ambassador Macharia Kamau (Kenya) was elected PBC Chair on 3 February.
Concluding negotiations on the draft resolution will be a priority. Differences during negotiations have been over funding for peacebuilding, Council-PBC relations and elements introduced by the AGE report regarding inclusivity, conflict prevention, the PBC’s mandate and a common understanding of “sustaining peace”.
The Council and the General Assembly may adopt concurrent resolutions in March, or may continue negotiations if more time is necessary to reach consensus.
On the AGE’s funding recommendations, the resolution may emphasise the need for predictable and sustained financing of peacebuilding, while asking the Secretary-General to provide options for funding peacebuilding activities in a future report that could also include an update on carrying forward recommendations of the review.
Council and Wider Dynamics
During the preparation of the AGE report, there was an effort to ensure coherence with the two other major review processes in 2015—the reviews of peace operations and the review of the implementation of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The co-facilitators have similarly sought to ensure such coherence. The initial draft resolution prepared by the co-facilitators comprehensively reflected the report’s main themes and recommendations. However, on the predictably contentious issue of financing, they avoided concrete decisions by calling for a Secretary-General’s report in two years that would contain funding options for peacebuilding.
Regarding the report’s funding recommendations, the UN’s large financial contributors—such as the P5, Japan and Germany, which would be most affected by new assessed contributions—do not support the proposals. They have argued that assessed contributions for the PBF could result in weakening what is considered the most successful entity of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture, since this would create an oversight role for the Fifth Committee and likely reduce the PBF’s flexibility and nimbleness. Part of the co-facilitators’ reasoning to seek further funding options from the Secretary-General was that the AGE report offered only one option. A stronger case could therefore be made for assessed contributions if this idea is determined to be the best of available options.
On Council-PBC relations, the P5 believe that the Council should not be forced to engage with the PBC through a prescriptive resolution. They argue that the Council will engage with the PBC naturally as the PBC demonstrates its added value. Other members argue that the PBC can only show its impact if the Council becomes more committed to working with it. Tension has long existed between the P5 and the PBC in part due to a perception that countries such as Brazil, Germany and Japan want to use the PBC to have a greater influence on peace and security issues, which the P5 view as the prerogative of the Security Council.
Russia has appeared to be resistant to some of the ideas introduced by the AGE report, including expanding the PBC’s original mandate. Co-facilitator Angola has been trying to create support for the text from Non-Aligned Movement states, as some of this groupings’ members have also expressed concerns over some of the report’s concepts for peacebuilding, such as the impact of conflict prevention on sovereignty. EU members have additionally had difficulty developing common positions, particularly over funding and Council-PBC relations.
UN Documents on Peacebuilding
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 October 2010 S/RES/1947||This resolution welcomed the report on the first five-year review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture and called for a further review in 2015.|
|20 December 2005 S/RES/1645||This resolution created the PBC and the Fund.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|20 February 2001 S/PRST/2001/5||The statement was on a comprehensive approach to peacebuilding.|
|Security Council Letters|
|29 June 2015 S/2015/490||This was the report of the Advisory Group of Experts for the 2015 review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture.|
|15 December 2014 S/2014/911||This contained the terms of reference for the 2015 peacebuilding review.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|23 February 2016 S/PV.7629||This was an open debate on the 2015 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture.|