Open Debate on Peacebuilding
Tomorrow (23 February), the Security Council will hold an open debate on the 2015 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture. The briefers will be current PBC chair Ambassador Macharia Kamau (Kenya), Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), who served as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) over the past year, and Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), the chair of the PBC Country-Specific Configuration for Guinea-Bissau and a former PBC chair. Gert Rosenthal, the Chair of the Advisory Group of Experts on the 2015 Review of the Peacebuilding Architecture, will also brief.
In January 2015, the Secretary-General appointed the seven-person Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) as part of a two phase process for a review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture. This review—coming ten years after the creation of the PBC, the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) and the Peacebuilding Support Office—was mandated by the Council and the General Assembly in a resolution following a review in 2010 (SC/RES/1947; A/RES/65/7). The AGE submitted its report to member states at the end of June 2015 (S/2015/490). This triggered the second phase of the 2015 review, an intergovernmental process to consider the AGE report’s assessment of UN peacebuilding and recommendations, with a goal of converting them into policy decisions for identical Council and General Assembly resolutions. Angola and Australia were appointed co-facilitators by the Council and General Assembly of this intergovernmental process, which formally began in October. In December, following consultations with regional groups and member states, Angola and Australia circulated a draft resolution to member states and have been leading negotiations on the text since mid-January. The goal is to adopt the text concurrently as Council and General Assembly resolutions in March during Angola’s Council presidency.
Venezuela organised tomorrow’s meeting in order to create an opportunity for the Council and other member states to have a debate about the AGE report and ongoing follow-up. A concept note prepared by Venezuela notes that the review “calls upon Member States to see peacebuilding in a broader perspective, and to face it with greater determination”. One of the main themes in the AGE report is that member states and the UN system must stop viewing peacebuilding as being solely a post-conflict activity. The report contends that, in reality, peacebuilding occurs before and during conflict, in addition to post-conflict. Thus, the AGE report often uses the term “sustaining peace” as a substitute for “peacebuilding”. While most Council members seem supportive of this idea, during negotiations on the draft resolution, Russia has appeared resistant to expanding the characterisation of peacebuilding beyond a post-conflict activity.
Venezuela’s concept note highlights four themes from the AGE report to help guide members’ interventions. These include the “lack of attention to peacebuilding”-an issue linked to the AGE’s recommendation that the international community expand its perception of peacebuilding from being simply a post-conflict activity. The failure to recognise peacebuilding as part of the core of the UN’s work manifests itself in the lack of priority given to conflict prevention compared to the focus on responding to crisis. It is further reflected in the shortage and unpredictability of financial resources for peacebuilding, which becomes especially apparent after the withdrawal of a peacekeeping operation. The AGE report recommends using assessed contributions for peacebuilding, something that the P5 and Japan, which are among the UN’s largest financial contributors, are not expected to support.
Venezuela also suggested that members reflect on the theme of “peacebuilding time frames”. As highlighted by both the AGE report and Venezuela’s concept paper, there is a need for realistic expectations on the time and support that is required for peacebuilding, a process that can take decades. However, current interventions are often rushed and tend to follow “template” approaches that include setting up a transition period, organising a national dialogue process, drafting a constitution and holding elections—steps that if pursued too quickly can provoke renewed conflict or once completed lead to a drop-off in international support.
Members have additionally been invited to consider “the importance of development in peacebuilding”, an often overlooked issue that is frequently linked to the root causes of conflict. A fourth theme reflected in the concept note is the role of regional and subregional organisations in peacebuilding. It is an issue also reflected in the AGE report, and over the last year and a half the PBC has paid greater attention to enhanced cooperation with bodies such as the AU and the Economic Community of West African States.
Members may focus on other issues including the AGE report’s conclusion that a major weakness in the UN’s peacebuilding architecture is the fragmentation among the main UN intergovernmental organs, the Secretariat and broader UN system, and that the PBC should play a greater “bridging” role towards addressing this. Members are likely to comment on the continued shortcomings in the Council’s relationship with the PBC. The AGE report highlights that a more effective PBC, especially in fulfilling this “bridging” role, will depend on a greater commitment from the Council. The P5 contend that this relationship will improve as the PBC demonstrates its added value, and for this reason have been wary of too prescriptive a resolution on how the Council should engage with the PBC.
Tomorrow’s debate could provide an opportunity to gauge member states’ views on the current draft where differences have emerged over other elements introduced by the AGE report, including in relation to conflict prevention, inclusivity of national ownership in peacebuilding efforts and the PBC’s mandate. Members may also refer to the other 2015 review processes, on peace operations and the implementation of resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which some are hoping will create momentum for more effective reforms. This dynamic did not exist during the 2010 peacebuilding review whose report was never discussed by the Council. Despite the 2010 review concluding that the new peacebuilding architecture had failed to fulfill the expectations envisioned for it, very little progress was made in advancing its recommendations.