Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council will hold a high-level open debate on “contemporary drivers of conflict and insecurity”, under the Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace agenda. The Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, will chair the meeting, which will be held by videoconference. The expected briefers are Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed; Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Ibrahim Mayaki; Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Sir Hilary Beckles; and possibly the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Ambassador Munir Akram (Pakistan).
Key Recent Developments
This year, the UN’s peacebuilding architecture is undergoing its third comprehensive review since it was first made operational in 2006. The review was launched in October 2019 to assess progress in implementing the 27 April 2016 General Assembly and Council resolutions on the 10-year review of the peacebuilding architecture. The initial informal phase, as set out in the terms of reference for the current review, was organised around three tracks—regional consultations, consultations by the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), and reflections by a group of independent eminent persons—to assess the implementation of these resolutions and the recommendations contained in previous reports of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding and sustaining peace. These tracks would then provide input for a Secretary-General’s report, to be considered by member states during the second, intergovernmental-process phase.
Member states and UN entities initiated the regional consultations involving regional organisations, think tanks, and policy and academic institutions. A series of PBC meetings starting in February considered several peacebuilding-related thematic issues—transitions during the withdrawal of peace operations, the role of women, institution-building and UN system-wide engagement, and financing and partnerships for peacebuilding. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PBC also held a number of meetings on the impacts of the global health crisis, observations of which were integrated into a 2 July letter to the Secretary-General.
The group of independent eminent persons, appointed in January by the Secretary-General, presented its reflections and recommendations in a 7 July letter transmitted by the Secretary-General to member states. Writing about current drivers of conflicts, the expert group observed: “Today’s conflicts are multidimensional, marked to varying degrees by persistent exclusion, inequalities and grievances, including refugee flows, internal displacement and humanitarian spillovers of conflict, weak governance and State capacity, and compounded by climate change, violent extremism and the perverse use of new technologies”.
At the end of July, the Secretary-General submitted to the General Assembly and the Security Council his report for the formal intergovernmental process of the peacebuilding review. This officially started the second phase of the review, in September, co-facilitated by Ambassador Craig John Hawke (New Zealand) for the General Assembly and Ambassador I. Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) for the Security Council. The co-facilitators have since prepared a short “procedural” draft resolution that UN member states started considering in October, eventually for adoption by both the General Assembly and the Council.
The COVID-19 pandemic, declared a global health crisis on 11 March by the World Health Organization, brought new attention to the nexus of the UN’s peace and security, development, humanitarian and human rights pillars, which has been at the heart of UN peacebuilding reforms since the ten-year review. Security Council meetings on the pandemic have included discussions about its secondary affects that could trigger conflict and instability, such as the economic fallout, an increase in political tensions and loss of trust in government institutions. Council resolution 2532, which sought to support the Secretary-General’s global ceasefire appeal to combat COVID-19, recognised that the pandemic risked reversing peacebuilding and development gains in transition and post-conflict countries and is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.
The Secretary-General’s 30 July report for the peacebuilding review said: “The current pandemic threatens not only hard-won development and peacebuilding gains but also risks re-instigating conflicts or fomenting new ones. …The challenges of the pandemic further underscore the imperative of coherent, multidimensional and cross-pillar responses aligned with the integrated logic of the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Key Issues and Options
The open debate is meant to afford member states an exchange of views about the security impacts of contemporary conflict drivers and instability, such as pandemics and environmental challenges, including climate change. Moreover, it seeks to promote discussion about the Security Council’s role in fostering an integrated and coherent approach by the UN system to address such challenges. A related issue that may prompt discussion is how to more systematically address socioeconomic challenges to peace and security, including opportunities for collaboration between the Council and the UN development system to support conflict-affected countries in achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals, and between the Council, the PBC and ECOSOC to create more comprehensive development approaches for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
No formal Council outcome is anticipated from the debate, which is separate from the ongoing peacebuilding review. However, the Council could seek to organise more periodic discussions on socioeconomic or other emerging conflict drivers to raise awareness of their destabilising affects and to promote efforts to address such problems.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Differences have existed between members that believe the Council must do more to address structural conflict drivers and those that feel the Council is not the right platform to focus on the wide-ranging socioeconomic factors that are related to armed conflict. Among the latter group, Russia has been notably the most vocal and often cautions about the value of maintaining the division of labour between the UN’s principal organs and its peace and security, development and human rights pillars. Some of the UN’s membership has also continued to raise concerns about the concept of sustaining peace, which emerged from the last review, with some viewing it as “securitising” development or enabling interference in issues of state sovereignty.
On climate change, the US, like China and Russia, has raised objections about the issue being tackled by the Council. But it objects for different reasons, as the Trump administration denies that climate change is occurring.
After initial concerns raised by China and South Africa about the COVID-19 pandemic’s link with the maintenance of peace and security, members appear to recognise and agree on its potential peace and security implications. Most recently, Niger organised a Council summit-level debate during its September presidency on global governance reform to strengthen the multilateral system’s ability to respond to peace and security threats from the pandemic, as well as terrorism, transnational organised crime, the illicit arms trade, climate change, and cybercrime.
As a small island developing state, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ interest in organising this debate stems from the greater destabilising effects of climate change and the pandemic on developing countries. In addition to its role as co-facilitator for the peacebuilding review, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was last year’s president of ECOSOC, which was established in 1945 with the view that peace and security require development.
UN DOCUMENTS ON PEACEBUILDING
|Security Council Resolutions|
|26 April 2018S/RES/2413||This was a resolution, mirroring the procedural resolution in the General Assembly, that took note of the General Assembly’s decision to invite relevant UN bodies and organs to further consider the recommendations and options in the Secretary-General’s implementation report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace.|
|27 April 2016S/RES/2282||This was a concurrent resolution with the General Assembly on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|18 December 2018S/PRST/2018/20||This was a presidential statement on the Peacebuilding Commission’s advisory role to the Council, initiated by Sweden.|
|21 December 2017S/PRST/2017/27||This was a presidential statement that laid out the elements related to peacebuilding and sustaining peace to be considered when reviewing the mandates and configuration of peacekeeping missions.|
|30 July 2020S/2020/773||This was a report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, submitted in connection with the 2020 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture.|
|30 May 2019S/2019/448||This was a Secretary-General’s report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 72/276 and Security Council resolution 2413.|
|18 January 2018S/2018/43||This was the Secretary-General’s implementation report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace.|
|Security Council Letters|
|6 July 2020S/2020/678||This contained the reflections and recommendations for the 2020 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture of the group of independent eminent persons appointed by the Secretary-General.|
|2 July 2020S/2020/645||This was a letter from the PBC chair to the presidents of the Security Council and General Assembly containing the main elements from a series of consultations convened by the PBC on the 2020 peacebuilding review.|
|3 February 2020S/2020/91||This was a letter from the Secretary-General, addressed to the Security Council and General Assembly, appointing the group of independent eminent persons that will submit a report for the 2020 peacebuilding architecture review (PBAR) containing reflections and observations on the implementation of resolution 2282 and General Assembly resolution 70/262 adopted for the ten-year review of the PBAR.|