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Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: Open Debate

Tomorrow (26 January), the Security Council will hold an open debate on “Investment in people to enhance resilience against complex challenges”, under the “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace” agenda item. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith (Bangladesh), and a civil society representative are expected to brief. The session is one of Japan’s signature events during its January Council presidency.

The concept note that Japan prepared for the open debate, dated 5 January, describes the meeting as an opportunity for Security Council members and the wider UN membership to review the Council’s work on peacebuilding and discuss how to adapt and strengthen this work considering contemporary threats and challenges to the maintenance of international peace and security. It further connects this discussion to the consultations that the UN Secretariat is conducting with member states and regional groups on a “New Agenda for Peace”. The Secretary-General’s 5 August 2021 report titled “Our Common Agenda” proposes that investing in prevention and peacebuilding be included among the core areas of the new agenda for peace.

Tomorrow’s open debate is likely to revolve around several issues set out in the concept note. Speakers may reflect on the effects of new international challenges, threats, and risk multipliers—which the concept note identifies as food security, pandemic diseases, and climate change. According to the concept note, these have further complicated peacebuilding work and the efforts to address root causes of conflict, while increasing the risk of the outbreak, escalation, continuation, and recurrence of conflict.

The concept note also stresses the importance of institutions to peacebuilding and in serving as a “bulwark” against these new challenges. The note highlights inclusive national ownership, including the involvement of women and youth, as critical for building strong institutions. It also underscores that “investment in people”—including through promoting socioeconomic development, protecting human rights and human security, and empowering individuals to be “agents of change”—is critical to institution-building because this strengthens people’s trust in their governments and makes institutions more resilient and effective.

Thirdly, the concept note stresses that the Council can benefit from enhanced engagement with other UN bodies in light of current risk multipliers. The note highlights the PBC’s advisory role to the Council, notably its ability to convene a diverse range of stakeholders and thereby serve as a nexus between peace and security, development, and humanitarian action.

The concept note provides a list of guiding questions for briefers and member states to consider in their interventions:

At tomorrow’s meeting, Muhith may comment on the PBC’s work to enhance its advisory role to the Council. Last year saw the PBC intensify its submission of written advisories to the Council, a practice that started in 2018 when the chair of the PBC’s Central African Republic (CAR) configuration wrote to the Council with recommendations ahead of the mandate renewal of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA). In 2022, the PBC submitted 11 written advisories to the Council ahead of various Council meetings, before the MINUSCA mandate renewal, and for a Council press statement on Burkina Faso, surpassing its two written advisories in 2021. Additionally in 2022, the PBC Chair provided five briefings, or “oral advisories”, including the PBC’s first briefing on Colombia at a Council meeting in October 2022.

Members may acknowledge the progress that has been made in the PBC’s advisory role. In addition to the PBC’s increased engagement with the Council, its advice appears to have become more substantive in identifying and elaborating on issues such as socioeconomic challenges, national reconciliation, and inclusivity. A frequent shortcoming has been in the timeliness of the PBC’s advice—an issue that the Commission has recognised for some time as important for strengthening its advisory role. Since 2017, an annex on the PBC’s working methods attached to the Commission’s annual report has stated that the PBC should organise its workplan by accounting for the relevant calendar of work of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Last year, some written advisories to the Council were agreed to on the day before, or on the same day as, the relevant Council meeting, giving Council members little time to consider the advice as they prepare their statements or positions. The PBC’s written advisory for the MINUSCA mandate renewal was dated 9 November 2022, the same day that the Council’s draft resolution on MINUSCA was first placed under silence procedure and after Council members had already held two rounds of expert-level negotiations on the mandate. One challenge for the PBC in preparing advisories is its requirement for consensus among the 31 member states of the Commission’s organisational committee.

The PBC appears to be making efforts to improve the timeliness of its advice. Written advisories so far in 2023 have been submitted on 6 January for the Council’s 10 January briefing on West Africa and the Sahel, and on 9 January for the Council’s 11 January briefing on Colombia. The PBC held an expert-level meeting on 4 January to negotiate its advisory on West Africa and the Sahel—a new practice that the Commission has started last year to facilitate the preparation of its advisories. Traditionally, the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) drafts and circulates the advice, and PBC members submit comments to the PBSO, or break silence on the text, without being required to identify themselves to other members. Meetings at expert level are therefore intended to increase transparency among PBC members and prompt agreement on PBC products.

On 13 January, the Council informed the Secretary-General that it had selected Ecuador and Mozambique as its two elected members to serve on the PBC during 2023. The P5 members (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US) are allocated the Council’s five other seats on the Commission. In addition, Council member Brazil serves on the PBC as one of the seven member states that the General Assembly elects, while its permanent representative chairs the PBC’s Guinea-Bissau country configuration. Japan holds one of the five PBC seats allocated to the UN’s top financial contributors. New Council member Switzerland has also been active in the PBC, having served since 2009 as chair of the PBC’s Burundi configuration, which ended on 31 December 2022. Next week, on 2 February, the PBC will elect its chair for 2023, who is expected to be Ambassador Ivan Šimonović, the Permanent Representative of Croatia.

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