What's In Blue

Posted Sat 19 Dec 2020

Resolution on the 2020 Peacebuilding Architecture Review*

On Monday (21 December), the Security Council and the General Assembly will adopt substantively identical resolutions on the 2020 peacebuilding architecture review. The written voting procedure for Council members to submit their votes expires at 10 am Monday and the Council president (South Africa) is expected to announce the adoption during the afternoon. The General Assembly is expected to adopt the draft resolution at an in-person session on Monday at which several adoptions are planned.

The intergovernmental process of the review officially began 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 circulated a first copy of the draft resolution to member states on 12 October. Three ambassadorial-level meetings were chaired by the co-facilitators on 19 October, 30 October and 20 November and informal expert level consultations on the text were held on 11 November, along with bilateral and regional group consultations before the draft resolution was placed under silence procedure last Monday (14 December). One delegation (Japan) broke silence before the 16 December expiration, but subsequently withdrew its objections, resulting in a final agreement.

This was the third review of the UN peacebuilding architecture since the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) in December 2005 by the Security Council and the General Assembly. The 27 April 2016 General Assembly and Security Council resolutions (A/RES/70/262; S/RES/2282) for the ten-year review of UN peacebuilding mandated the current review to assess progress in implementing these two resolutions. These resolutions set out a broader understanding of peacebuilding, through the concept of sustaining peace, as including prevention activities and occurring across the UN’s three pillars (peace and security, development and human rights), and ushered in a series of reforms to improve UN peacebuilding both at headquarters and in the field. For the 2020 review, it seems there was a widespread perception that it was unnecessary to produce the same type of comprehensive resolutions as four years ago, which remain relevant to the ongoing reforms, and also risked opening up still sensitive issues from that negotiation.

The co-facilitators thus circulated an initial short “procedural” resolution. Over the course of the process, the many inputs that were submitted expanded the text to become what member states called a “procedural-plus” resolution, though the final product remains quite concise.

Assessing developments since 2016, the General Assembly and Security Council draft resolutions welcome “the progress made in the implementation of the resolutions on peacebuilding and sustaining peace by Member States, including through the relevant intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations, and by the entire United Nations system, including through the reforms of the United Nations, and in particular at the field level through the work of peacekeeping operations, special political missions and UN country teams”. Continued action is encouraged to implement the 2016 resolutions and to advance greater coherence in peacebuilding efforts.

Despite the text’s brevity, a number of issues had to be reconciled. The most difficult of these seemed to be how, if at all, to mention human rights as part of the nexus with peace and security and development. Russia and countries from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) were not comfortable with the human rights reference, while it seems European countries, among others, were keen to recognise and even strengthen this aspect.

In the end, agreement was reached by reverting back to language of the 2016 resolutions on peacebuilding and sustaining peace. A more general paragraph reaffirming that effective peacebuilding must involve the “entire UN system” and emphasising the importance of “joint analysis and effective strategic planning” is drawn from the 2016 resolutions to substitute for proposed language on integrating the UN’s political, security, development, human rights and humanitarian work. Additional paragraphs from the preambular section of the 2016 resolutions were added to the final text, including one defining the concept of ‘sustaining peace’. This was done to appease member states concerned that the new products could signal a regression from the 2016 resolutions if these paragraphs were excluded, after adding other language from the 2016 resolutions.

Other differences among member states were on referring to Women, Peace and Security (WPS); Youth, Peace and Security (YPS); unilateral coercive measures; and financing. Russia had proposed deleting a paragraph on WPS and YPS, and subsequently, with the paragraph still in the text, it pushed back, apparently with China’s support, on having a stand-alone paragraph on WPS and YPS. With China’s support, Russia also advocated throughout the negotiation to include language on unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) and their detrimental effect on development and peacebuilding. (UCMs usually refer to one state or group of states’ economic measures applied to another state in order to compel it to make changes in its policy).

In the end, the draft resolutions note that this year marks the twentieth and the fifth anniversaries of resolution 1325 on WPS and resolution 2250 on YPS, respectively, and recognise the importance of full, equal and meaningful participation of women and youth in peacebuilding. In the same paragraph, the draft resolutions recall that this is the fifth anniversary of General Assembly Resolution A/RES/70/1 on the 2030 sustainable development agenda. During negotiations, the African Peacebuilding Caucus—which is comprised of African members to the PBC and African countries that have engaged with the PBC and champions the AU’s Common African Position on the 2020 UN peacebuilding review—and the NAM, supported by China and Russia, had sought to incorporate language on the Sustainable Development Goals. They therefore liked the new reference to this General Assembly resolution. Mentioning General Assembly resolution 70/1 also satisfied Russia since this resolution contains a paragraph urging states to refrain from “unilateral economic, financial or trade measures”.

On financing, discussion centred around a proposed General Assembly meeting on the financing of peacebuilding, including its timing and objectives. The funding question, as indicated in the Secretary-General’s report submitted for the review, has been the area of least progress since the 2016 resolutions, and according to the report, “remains our greatest challenge”. The African Peacebuilding Caucus and the NAM called for the meeting to be held during this year’s 75th session. Other member states, as well as the Secretariat, felt that this was too soon and not practical. Ultimately, the draft resolutions establish that a high-level meeting of the General Assembly will occur in the seventy-sixth session “to advance, explore and consider options for ensuring adequate, predictable and sustained financing for peacebuilding”. The draft resolutions add that member states affirm “a commitment to pursuing action-oriented outcomes”.

Silence was broken by Japan, which had pushed to highlight the importance of institution building in the text. Japan has long championed institution building in peacebuilding. This includes sponsoring a high-level debate and initiating a presidential statement during its Council presidency in 2016 on institution building in Africa, and chairing several meetings as PBC focal point on institution building in 2017, a year when the PBC experimented with creating focal points on thematic issues (an idea that Japan has suggested reviving in the PBC). Other members apparently felt that Japan’s proposed additions on institution building were too prescriptive, and did not want to elevate institution building above other priorities. In the end, Japan withdrew its objections.

While the first draft circulated by the co-facilitators welcomed progress by the PBC, member states felt that the PBC deserved its own paragraph and sought to strengthen the initial text about the intergovernmental body. A separate paragraph was therefore added on the PBC that welcomes its “important role” and calls on it “to continue strengthening its advisory, bridging and convening roles in support of nationally-owned priorities and efforts and regions under its consideration”, while continuing to improve its working methods.

There was some discussion, among other points raised, about referring to the Secretary-General’s reforms where the draft resolutions establish the new reporting cycle for the Secretary-General on peacebuilding and sustaining peace. The African Peacebuilding Caucus and NAM wanted to highlight that upcoming reports should assess the effectiveness of these reforms, which by the next report will have been in place, or ongoing, for several years. The draft resolutions, thus, set out that the Secretary-General’s follow-up reporting include “due attention to the impact of relevant reforms on the performance of the United Nations system…with emphasis on the systematic impact made at the field level”.

A further comprehensive review of UN peacebuilding should take place in 2025, according to the draft resolutions, which request the Secretary-General to present an interim report in 2022, as well as a second, detailed report in 2024 in advance of the review, and to continue to present a report every two years following that review.

Additional Background on the 2020 Review Process

The latest review of UN peacebuilding was launched in October 2019, starting with an initial informal phase, organised around three tracks—regional consultations, consultations by the PBC, and reflections by a group of independent eminent persons. These tracks were meant to provide input for the Secretary-General’s report, to be submitted ahead of the formal 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, whose observations 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 their reflections and recommendations in a 7 July letter transmitted by the Secretary-General to member states. 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.


*Post-script: On 21 December, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2558 on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture.

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