Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
Expected Council Action
In October, the Security Council is expected to hold a high-level open debate on the theme “Diversity and State-building” under the agenda item “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace”. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya is expected to chair the session.
Background and Open Debate
Kenya is organising the open debate because most situations on the Council’s agenda stem from internal conflicts, in which identity issues—whether ethnic, racial, religious, or even socioeconomic—are often a cause of, or are exploited, to fuel conflict. For effective conflict prevention and peacebuilding, states need to be able to manage strife among diverse populations. Moreover, states perceived as favouring one or some groups over others or failing to provide adequate basic services to all of their citizens can become susceptible to identity conflict.
Examples of such situations facing the Council are plentiful. The fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region stems in large part from competition for political power among ethnic groups and grievances over being marginalised by central authorities. Mali’s instability over the past decade was triggered by a rebellion by ethnic Tuaregs, who sought their own independent state in the country’s long-neglected north. Terrorist groups that have proliferated across the Sahel have sought to exploit issues around identity, recruiting among the traditionally nomadic ethnic Fulani who have felt discriminated against by authorities. In turn, the Fulani have been victims of attacks by communities that associate them with extremist groups, driving a cycle of inter-communal violence. The Syrian civil war also has roots in identity conflict, with the perception that the state served those in the main cities while neglecting its mostly rural poorer areas. The sides have then manipulated sectarian identities during the war.
The growth of fake news and the misuse of social media have exacerbated these challenges to states, while the COVID-19 pandemic has also deepened divisions around identity amid the political tensions and socioeconomic fallout generated by the global health crisis. Reflecting on these two trends, Secretary-General António Guterres noted during a 2 July 2020 Council briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic that “stigma and hate speech are on the rise, and an epidemic of misinformation online has run rampant”.
UN peacebuilding reforms in recent years have recognised dynamics related to diversity and state-building for preventing conflict and sustaining peace. The Advisory Group of Experts (AGE), which prepared an initial report for the ten-year review of the UN peacebuilding architecture in 2015, stressed the importance of “inclusive” national ownership for successful peacebuilding. The AGE warned that national ownership cannot simply entail national elites imposing peace “on fractious populations that lack even minimal trust in their leaders”, but that “[t]he national responsibility to drive efforts to sustain peace must therefore be broadly shared across all key social strata and divides”.
In resolution 2282 of 27 April 2016 on the ten-year review, the Security Council echoed this point, emphasising that “inclusivity is key to advancing national peacebuilding processes and objectives in order to ensure that the needs of all segments of society are taken into account”. Likewise, Sustainable Development Goal 16 indicates the important role that state institutions can play in peacefully managing diversity. The goal aspires to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; provide access to justice for all; and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
While no formal Council product is anticipated in connection with the high-level debate, Kenya’s presidency seeks to promote more understanding of the role of identity in conflicts and the importance of building states’ capacities and legitimacy to manage challenges in diverse societies. As the organiser of this debate, Kenya may prepare a summary of the main ideas raised or lessons identified in the meeting to be circulated in a Council letter. This could provide a basis for further Council discussion of this issue.
UN Documents on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 December 2020S/RES/2558||This resolution was on the 15-year review of UN peacebuilding, welcoming progress and encouraging continued actions to implement the 2016 resolutions on the ten-year review of UN peacebuilding.|
|27 April 2016S/RES/2282||This was a concurrent resolution with the General Assembly on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture.|
|Security Council Letter|
|29 June 2015S/2015/490||This was the report of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Peacebuilding Architecture.|