posted on Tue 26 Apr 2016 4:55 PM
Resolution on the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture

Tomorrow morning (27 April), the Security Council and the General Assembly will concurrently adopt a resolution on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture. The two sessions are occurring simultaneously and statements are expected to be delivered in the General Assembly. The draft resolution was negotiated in an intergovernmental process, co-facilitated by Angola and Australia, which considered the findings and recommendations of an Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) in a report entitled “The Challenges of Sustaining Peace” (S/2015/490). The intergovernmental process officially began in October 2015. Following consultations with regional groups and member states, the co-facilitators circulated a draft resolution to the full UN membership in mid-December. Negotiations started in mid-January, and were completed at a late night session on 29 March two days before the co-facilitators’ mandate was set to expire. The next day, a Council expert level meeting was held to discuss technical changes to convert the draft General Assembly version into a Council resolution..

The review had been mandated by the Council and the General Assembly for the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO). The AGE report’s overarching thesis was the need to expand the concept of peacebuilding as an activity that happens not only in post-conflict situations but as a process occurring before, during and after conflict. Peacebuilding should therefore be seen as a responsibility of the entire UN system and greater emphasis should be placed on conflict prevention. The AGE suggested that a more appropriate term to reflect this broader understanding of peacebuilding could be “sustaining peace”. The report’s submission triggered the intergovernmental process which Angola was selected to lead on behalf of the Council, and Australia for the General Assembly.

The draft resolution expands the notion of peacebuilding, including a definition of “sustaining peace”, which it says encompasses “activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict … and should flow through all three pillars of the UN’s engagement at all stages of conflict”.

Negotiations over this and other conceptual issues introduced in the AGE report proved challenging. Members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) wanted greater clarity over the meaning of sustaining peace, while Russia initially did not favor expanding peacebuilding beyond a “post-conflict” activity. But overall, as demonstrated at the Council open debate on the review on 23 February, there was wide appreciation for the AGE report’s view that peacebuilding should be understood more broadly (S/PV.7629). Eventual agreement on a paragraph that defined “sustaining peace”, thus establishing a common understanding of the notion, facilitated negotiations on the draft text.

While Russia accepted this broader understanding of peacebuilding, it opposed including conflict prevention as part of the PBC’s mandate. On the other hand, including a conflict prevention role for the PBC was very important for a number of countries. This difference was overcome by noting the PBC’s role “in support of sustaining peace”, which based on the agreed definition covers prevention activities. NAM in particular raised concerns over the AGE’s recommendation that the PBC should consider a broader array of countries and not be so restricted to its current country-specific configurations. While this was difficult to negotiate, the draft resolution encourages the PBC to diversify its working methods and enhance its efficiency and flexibility, as well as provide options for its country-specific meetings and formats to be applied upon the request of the country concerned.

Another concept in the AGE report, which proved sensitive, was that of “inclusive national ownership”. The report said that national ownership is not enough if it is based on just the views of domestic elites or authoritarian governments, and does not reflect the concerns of the broader society. Russia, which traditionally takes a more state-building view of peacebuilding, questioned how to determine who should be included. The NAM wanted to highlight the primacy of national ownership. As a result, the draft resolution first reaffirms the importance of national ownership and leadership in peacebuilding, followed by language underlining the importance of inclusivity.

While NAM negotiated as a block, there was diversity in its members’ views. A number of its members felt that peacebuilding should involve prevention and inclusivity, which seemed to influence those countries inclined to a more adversarial position.

Funding was another difficult issue dealt with in the resolution. The AGE highlighted the underfunding of peacebuilding and recommended that 1% of UN peace operations’ budgets or $100 million, whichever is greater, be provided from assessed contributions to the PBF. Additionally, the AGE recommended that assessed contributions be provided for programmatic dimensions of peace operations’ mandates, such as security sector reform and rule of law, which is not currently the case.

The UN’s large financial contributors, particularly the P3, Germany and Japan, opposed this use of assessed contributions. They argued that providing assessed funds for the PBF could weaken what is considered the most successful entity of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture, since it would create an oversight role for the Fifth Committee and thus be likely to reduce the PBF’s flexibility and nimbleness. Ultimately the draft resolution emphasises the need for predictable and sustained financing, while taking note of the AGE’s proposals. Though no final decision is made on how to improve financing, the resolution requests a Secretary-General’s report for the 72nd session of the General Assembly with options for funding peacebuilding, including through assessed and voluntary contributions. The issue’s sensitivity was demonstrated by large financial contributors seeking to exclude here reference to “assessed” contributions while the NAM opposed mentioning “voluntary” contributions. These contrasting positions were largely symbolic since the Secretariat would develop options covering both possibilities.

One reason for the co-facilitators’ inclination not to pursue more concrete decisions over the funding question was that the AGE report offered just one specific proposal. It was felt that a stronger case could be made for assessed contributions if this is determined to be the best of available options. Requesting the report for the 72nd session was also deliberate as this would mean the next Secretary-General would be responsible for developing these options, and in the process may become more engaged in advancing the issue.

On the Council-PBC relationship, the resolution stresses the “bridging role” role that the PBC should serve among the UN’s principal organs—the Council, General Assembly and ECOSOC. The draft resolution moreover expresses the Council’s intention to regularly request and draw upon the PBC’s “specific, strategic and targeted” advice in the formation, review and drawdown of peacekeeping operations and special political missions. The elaboration of the type of advice that the PBC should provide addresses the P5 complaint that the PBC has not provided much added-value to the Council’s work, an issue that is also noted in the AGE report.

The draft resolution further seeks to address the problem of fragmentation among the Secretariat and UN agencies. According to the AGE, along with the fragmentation among the UN’s principal organs, this has been another hindrance to UN peacebuilding efforts. The resolution recognises that effective peacebuilding must involve the entire UN system, and emphasises the importance of joint analysis and strategic planning in its long-term engagement in conflict-affected countries. It further stresses the need for more coordination and coherence among UN missions, UN country teams and other national, regional and international development actors. The resolution stresses that the PBSO should be revitalised, reflecting member states’ views that the office could be more effective.

In addition to providing funding options, the Secretary-General is called upon to include an update on a number of areas: progress on improving coherence within the UN towards sustaining peace; support for women and youth participation in peacebuilding; and the strengthening of partnerships with regional and financial organizations. The resolution calls for a further comprehensive review in 2020.