What's In Blue

Posted Tue 26 Jul 2022

Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: Presentation of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Annual Report

On Wednesday (27 July), the Security Council will hold a briefing on the annual report of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), which covers the period 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021. Ambassador Osama Abdelkhalek (Egypt), who served as PBC chair last year, will present the annual report. Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’affaires Monwar Hossain of Bangladesh, as the current chair of the PBC, is also expected to brief, focusing on the Commission’s work programme for 2022.

This year’s annual report, which was released in February, outlines the PBC’s activities and trends from its work during 2021. The Commission continued to convene meetings on a broader range of country and regional issues—meeting on 13 issues last year, according to the report. Ambassador Abdelkhalek may observe that these included meetings of the PBC for the first time on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the political transition in Chad, which brings the Commission’s engagement to a total of 23 country and regional situations. This expanding geographic focus reflects a notable difference from the PBC’s first decade of work between 2006 to 2015, which was largely limited to six country-specific configurations. Today the PBC only maintains four country configurations, but the Commission has sought in recent years to have its 31-member state organisational committee be the main forum for meetings on a greater number of issues.

Much of the PBC’s discussion last year was on thematic issues, such as Women, Peace and Security (WPS); Youth, Peace and Security (YPS); the COVID-19 pandemic; and peacebuilding financing. New thematic items, which Abdelkhalek may flag, included discussing the Secretary-General’s “Our Common Agenda” and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support. Overall, 40 percent of the PBC’s meetings in 2021 were on thematic issues, a significant increase compared to 2018, when this comprised about 15 percent of its meetings.

The annual report also observes that non-UN representatives made up 67 percent of all PBC briefers last year, reflecting its ability to bring together diverse stakeholders, a comparative advantage of the PBC. These included briefers from national and local governments, regional and subregional organisations, international financial institutions, civil society, and the private sector. Among the PBC’s UN briefers, 17.6 percent of these were UN resident or humanitarian coordinators, an increase from just one year earlier when UN resident and humanitarian coordinators in 2020 comprised only 3.6 percent of UN system briefers.

As part of Hossain’s briefing, he may observe that the PBC continues efforts to enhance its advisory role to the Security Council. So far in 2022, there has been a notable increase in the Commission’s practice of providing “written advisories” or letters to the Security Council. The PBC has sent five written advisories this year to inform a press statement on Burkina Faso, and ahead of Council meetings on WPS, COVID-19, the Great Lakes region, and Central Africa. A new innovation since March, which Hossain may also mention, has been to provide the PBC with the advance copies of relevant Secretary-General’s reports to the Council.

Kenya has played an important role in spearheading these initiatives as the informal coordinator between the PBC and Security Council. In this capacity, it has sought to identify at least one opportunity per month where the PBC can either provide written advice or brief the Council in person. Earlier this month, the then PBC chair, Ambassador Rabab Fatima, who has since become UN High Representative for Least Developed, Landlocked Countries, and Small Island Developing States, briefed the Council at its 7 July meeting on the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).

Another recent initiative from Kenya is to hold expert-level negotiations on PBC written advisories and Council statements. In part, these negotiations are an effort to facilitate earlier agreement on PBC advice. Most of the PBC’s written advisories, which require consensus among Commission members, are only agreed upon the night before a Council meeting or even at the same time as the start of a Council meeting. As members may observe tomorrow, if the PBC is seeking to influence or inform Council members’ statements or positions, Council members should receive this input sooner.

These expert-level negotiations are also meant to improve the transparency among Commission members on how these texts are negotiated and how members arrive at consensus. Traditionally, the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) drafts and circulates the advice, and PBC members submit comments or break-silence to the PBSO without needing to identify themselves to other members. Actual negotiations between Commission members remove such anonymity that might shield them from explaining their positions and being more flexible. During the briefing, Council members may discuss other ways to strengthen PBC-Council cooperation.

Speakers tomorrow are likely to refer to the recently launched intergovernmental process on peacebuilding financing. On 27 and 29 April, the General Assembly convened a high-level meeting on financing for peacebuilding. The meeting had been organised pursuant to the twin resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council, A/RES/75/201 and S/RES/2558, respectively, at the conclusion of the 2020 UN Peacebuilding Architecture Review in December 2020 in order to address the persistent “critical challenge” of peacebuilding financing. In a 1 March report to the General Assembly, the Secretary-General requested the General Assembly to appropriate a total of $100 million to the PBF for the 12-month period from 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023, which the General Assembly’s 5th Committee “deferred” in deciding on last month.

At the April meeting, member states decided to establish the intergovernmental process on peacebuilding financing. Kenya and Sweden were appointed as its co-facilitators to lead negotiations on a joint General Assembly and Security Council resolution on peacebuilding financing to be adopted later this year. On 15 July, the co-facilitators circulated the initial draft resolution. Briefers and Council members could express their hope for the intergovernmental process to result in concrete outcomes.

The PBC began presenting its annual report to the Security Council in 2012, but there has been a break in this practice since 2018. Brazil, a long-standing proponent of the PBC and chair of the Commission’s Guinea-Bissau configuration, has decided to resume this practice during its Council presidency this month.

Ireland, which served on the PBC in 2019 and 2020, has also been an advocate of the PBC in Council products. Resolution 2594 on transitions, which Ireland spearheaded last September, underscored the PBC’s role in supporting the planning of transitions. Language in resolution 2594 that requested the Secretary-General to “liaise with the PBC in advance of relevant reporting to the Council, with a view to facilitating the provision of complementary and timely advice” from the Commission to the Council helped to set in motion the eventual agreement to share Secretary-General’s reports with the PBC.

Currently, nine Council members serve on the PBC. Seven PBC seats are allocated to the Security Council, which always include the P5 (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US). Kenya and Mexico hold the other two Council-allocated seats. Brazil serves on the PBC as one of the seven member states that the General Assembly elects. India is one of five PBC members selected for being a major troop and police contributor to UN peace operations.

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