What's In Blue

Posted Mon 2 Nov 2020

High-Level Open Debate on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace

Tomorrow morning (3 November), Security Council members will hold a virtual, 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. 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 Hilary Beckles; and the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Ambassador Munir Akram (Pakistan). Non-Council member states and observers can submit statements for inclusion in the meeting record of briefings and statements.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has circulated a concept note for tomorrow’s debate, recounting the nexus between peace and security and the other pillars of the UN system, particularly development. As described in the concept note, insecurity hinders development, while persistent underdevelopment can lead to conflict and instability. The emergence of contemporary risk factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change has further complicated security challenges, according to the concept note. It stresses that because of the interconnected nature of such challenges, the Council must work with other UN organs and across the UN system to address the root causes of conflict, which include “social, economic and political inequalities; economic stagnation and decline; acute levels of unemployment and abject poverty; incapacitated governance structure; health and environmental challenges; and the fears, uncertainties, and economic incentives to conflict that emerge during moments of crisis”.

The aim of tomorrow’s debate is to provide an exchange of views about the security impacts of contemporary conflict drivers and instability, such as pandemics and environmental challenges, including climate change—which, as the concept note says, tend to disproportionately impact the least developed countries. 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.

The concept note sets out a series of questions to be considered at the debate:

  • What lessons can the Council extract from the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing climate crisis, and persistent development challenges of countries?
  • Should pandemics, environmental challenges and underdevelopment be considered in the context of Article 39 of the UN Charter?
  • How can the Council collaborate more closely with the UN development system to support conflict-affected countries in achieving the sustainable development goals?
  • Is there an opportunity to explore new modalities alongside the PBC and ECOSOC for more comprehensive development approaches to conflict prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding?
  • What can the Council do to strengthen and mainstream the integrated approach across the peace-security-humanitarian-development nexus to promote people-centred, climate-informed, and sovereignty-supporting solutions to contemporary challenges to international peace and security?

The COVID-19 pandemic this year has brought new attention to the nexus of the UN’s peace and security, development, humanitarian and human rights pillars. Security Council resolution 2532 states that the pandemic “is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security”, and Council members have often discussed its destabilising effects, such as the economic fallout and loss of trust in government institutions. Amina Mohammed may echo the Secretary-General’s characterisation of the health crisis in his 30 July report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, where he says that 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”.

Mayaki of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and Beckles of the University of the West Indies, are expected to add perspectives about the conflict drivers from their respective regions, which are both experiencing the challenges posed by climate change. Ambassador Akram could elaborate on the increased cooperation in recent years between ECOSOC and the PBC, which led to ECOSOC’s adoption last year of a resolution on the Sahel (E/RES/2020/2) aimed at better coordinating support to the region, which has been so afflicted by conflict. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines served as ECOSOC president in 2019. Its concept note observes that the UN’s founders recognised that social and economic cooperation “are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations”, and recalls that under Article 65, ECOSOC “may furnish information to the Security Council and shall assist the Security Council upon its request”.

Some members believe that the Council is not the right platform to focus on the various socioeconomic factors that are related to armed conflict. Russia, in particular, often recalls the value of the division of labour among the UN’s principal organs regarding its peace and security, development and human rights pillars. While addressing the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Council has proven less controversial than its efforts on climate change, US-China tensions often surface during discussions on the global health crisis.

Tomorrow’s meeting is being organised as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also serving with New Zealand as the co-facilitators of the ongoing intergovernmental process to the third comprehensive review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture. The 2020 peacebuilding review is assessing progress in implementing the 27 April 2016 General Assembly and Council resolutions on the 10-year review of the peacebuilding architecture, which has served as an impetus for current reforms to better integrate the work of the UN system and improve UN peacebuilding. Last month, the co-facilitators circulated a short “procedural” draft resolution that member states are negotiating for eventual adoption by both the General Assembly and the Council. At the debate, members could make reference to the ongoing peacebuilding review.

For additional background on the 2020 peacebuilding architecture review and tomorrow’s open debate, see Security Council Report’s November 2020 Monthly Forecast.