Briefing on the PBC Annual Report and Informal Interactive Dialogue on Regional Peacebuilding Challenges in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin
On Monday (19 June), Ambassadors Macharia Kamau (Kenya) and Cho Tae-yul (Republic of Korea), the former and current chairs of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), will brief the Council for the presentation of the PBC’s tenth annual report (S/2017/76). This will be followed by an informal interactive dialogue to discuss regional peacebuilding challenges focusing on the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. Participants will be Council members and the chair and vice-chairs of the PBC, chairs of the PBC-country configurations, representatives of countries on the PBC agenda and the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), Cameroon and Nigeria. Representatives from the Peacebuilding Support Office, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs and the UN Development Programme will also attend.
Briefing on the Annual Report
Over the past year, the PBC has focused much of its work on implementing and carrying forward the relevant recommendations of the substantively identical Council and General Assembly resolutions (S/RES/2282; A/RES/70/262) of 27 April 2016 on the peacebuilding review. This has included seeking to diversify the PBC’s working methods in order to enhance its efficiency and flexibility. A focus has been placed on revitalising the role of its Organizational Committee (OC) by further developing initiatives of the past two years to have the OC consider country situations that are not formally on the PBC agenda, as well as on focusing more on the regional dimensions of peacebuilding and enhancing cooperation with regional organisations and international financial institutions.
Kamau will most likely refer to the visit he undertook to Addis Ababa in October 2016, accompanied by the PBC vice-chairs and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, to meet with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC). A PSC communiqué following the meeting called for greater collaboration and coordination between the two bodies, deciding, inter-alia, to hold an annual meeting with the PBC and undertake joint visits to conflict and post-conflict areas in Africa. Kamau may also refer to the PBC’s adoption last year of a gender strategy and the informal adoption of PBC working methods.
As the current PBC chair, Cho is expected to brief on the PBC’s agenda and priorities for 2017, including mainstreaming the concept of sustaining peace through the UN system and further building on last year’s work and reforms in the PBC. The continued diversification of the PBC’s work was demonstrated by Cho’s travels in March to The Gambia to explore opportunities for the PBC to support the peacebuilding needs of this country, whose political crisis in December 2016 and January had occupied the Council’s attention. More recently, at a 7 June meeting, the PBC was briefed by the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands on the country’s peacebuilding challenges ahead of the withdrawal of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.
Informal Interactive Dialogue
Bolivia circulated a 13 June letter proposing this year’s topic for the informal interactive dialogue (IID), which since 2012 has been organised following the presentation of the annual report. The specific focus on regional peacebuilding challenges in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin marks a change from previous IID’s, which have looked at thematic issues related to peacebuilding and the PBC-Council relationship.
The PBC’s engagement regarding the Sahel region is new, and stems from the Council’s 20 January 2017 presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel, which encouraged further progress in the implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS). In this regard, the Council emphasised the important “convening role of the PBC”, and charged it with supporting the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) “in mobilising deeper commitment and partnership between the UN system, the countries of the Sahel and other international and regional partners” in implementing the UNISS. The strategy, developed in 2013, seeks to address the different underlying causes of instability across the region.
As noted in Bolivia’s letter, the Lake Chad Basin region and many of its challenges overlap with those of the Sahel. This was recognized by the Council in resolution 2349 on the Lake Chad Basin, which also encouraged greater regional and international coherence in addressing the interconnected challenges of the two regions and called for the further implementation of the Sahel strategy.
The informal interactive dialogue has been presented as an opportunity to take stock of the PBC’s role in implementing the UNISS. Since the Council’s January presidential statement, an initial meeting of the PBC was held on 6 March on the Sahel region that involved Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel Mohammed Ibn Chambas, AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel Pierre Buyoya and Permanent Secretary of the G5 Sahel Najim Elhadj Mohamed. A common message was the need for stronger coordination among the range of actors in the region for the implementation of the UNISS. Cho and Fernandez-Taranco attended the 14 June meeting of the Ministerial Coordination Platform for the Sahel in N’Djamena, which brings together the G5 countries. The PBC is planning a joint meeting with ECOSOC, scheduled for 28 June, to focus on development aspects of the UNISS.
The IID also seeks to focus on challenges and practical measures in support of UNOWAS, the UN system and Sahel countries for the implementation of the UNISS. One of the challenges in the strategy’s implementation has been the proliferation of Sahel strategies (around 17 strategies in total) that have been developed by different governments, regional and sub-regional organisations and international financial institutions. While participants may thus emphasize the importance of the PBC’s convening role and reiterate the opportunity for it to bring coherence to this fragmentation, some may highlight the difficulty in ensuring coordination between the PBC and those entities operating in the region, many of which do not have strong presences in New York.
A PBC role to increase and sustain attention on the UNISS and the region more broadly may also be discussed. Both the strategy and the region receive much less attention from the Council than other issues on its agenda. It is currently briefed twice a year on the UNISS but only as part of the six month updates that the Council receives during UNOWAS’ briefings on developments across West Africa and the Sahel.
PBC attention on the UNISS may also be a way to address another one of the challenges identified in the strategy’s implementation, which has been a reluctance on the agencies’ part to work in a more regional and joint manner. By convening and engaging with UN agencies operating in the Sahel, the PBC could better understand the challenges that they face. It could further be an opportunity to monitor the strategy’s implementation (similar to the monitoring role it will be playing for the Liberia peacebuilding plan) and encourage the agencies to improve their collective efforts and cooperation as envisaged by the UNISS. Increasing the coordination and integration among the UN agencies’ work is a point stressed more broadly in the Council and General Assembly sustaining peace resolutions.
During their visit to the Lake Chad Basin in March, Council members recognized the interconnectedness between the Boko Haram conflict and the structural challenges in the region that have given rise to the group and, unless addressed, are likely to cause continued instability. These underlying problems, similar to those identified in the Sahel region, include underdevelopment, poor governance and climate change. While the Council awaits a report from the Secretary-General on the Lake Chad Basin due in September with recommendations, participants could comment on how the region also requires a multidimensional approach that addresses security challenges, the humanitarian crisis created by the conflict and the root causes of the crisis.
The chairs of the country configurations or representatives of agenda countries may share their efforts to promote greater coherence of international support. They may also share lessons in recent years to promote a regional approach to peacebuilding, especially among the West African countries that have been on the PBC’s agenda (Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone).