posted on Wed 27 Jul 2016 3:32 PM
Open Debate on Peacebuilding in Africa and Presidential Statement

Tomorrow (28 July), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on peacebuilding in Africa with a focus on institution-building. The session will be chaired by Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed of Kenya, and AU Commission for Peace and Security Smail Chergui will brief. (Kenya is the current chair of the Peacebuilding Commission [PBC]) During the session, the Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement. Japan circulated an initial draft on 11 July, and expert level meetings were held on 14 and 22 July. The draft passed through a silence procedure yesterday.

Japan’s organisation of the session is the first Council meeting specifically focused on peacebuilding in Africa. According to a concept paper prepared by Japan (S/2016/586), the debate aims to identify lessons learned and best practices from African countries that have achieved peace, stability and strong economic growth, and to discuss how the international community can make its support for peacebuilding in Africa more effective and efficient. In this context, Japan has proposed a focus on institution-building, which can lay the foundations for conflict prevention, and how it is linked to the reasons why some countries face recurrent conflict while others have achieved stability.

The concept paper identified the range of institutions that need to be strengthened in peacebuilding, such as electoral institutions and civic freedoms of press and expression; security sector and rule-of-law institutions; public administration and economic and financial structures; and systems for dialogue and reconciliation. It also poses a series of questions for participants to consider, including high priority issues that need to be addressed to prevent the recurrence of conflicts and to sustain peace; how to mobilise the capacities of existing peacekeeping operations and special political missions, the PBC and the UN country teams in the area of institution building; and the roles of African regional organisations and women, youth and civil society in the context of institution building.

The debate comes on the heels of the Council and General Assembly’s adoption of resolutions this past spring that expanded the understanding of peacebuilding as a process that occurs before, during and after conflict, which is embodied in a definition of “sustaining peace” (S/RES/2282 and A/RES/70/262). Participants are thus likely to refer to key messages and objectives of the resolutions such as cooperation with regional organisations and inclusive national ownership.

Negotiations on the draft presidential statement appear to have been smooth and without significant disagreements. The draft statement highlights the role and importance of cooperation with the AU and sub-regional organisations in peacebuilding and sustaining peace, and recognises different AU peacebuilding and development initiatives. Regarding institution building, the draft highlights activities for economic development and related economic and financial structures such as fiscal and financial management capacities, anti-corruption structures and the role of the rule of law. The importance of the use of information and communications technology in strengthening institutions is also highlighted. Messages from resolution 2282 are further reaffirmed, including that peacebuilding is an inherently political process aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation or continuation of conflict, the importance of national ownership and inclusivity, and the need for predictable and sustained financing for UN peacebuilding activities.

Given the increasing terrorism threat in much of Africa, the statement links the role of peacebuilding, in particular youth related-issues, to countering violent extremism and terrorism. It does so by drawing from elements of resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security. The draft statement refers to long-term capacity building to promote a culture of, inter alia, tolerance and intercultural and religious dialogue which can discourage youth participation in violence and terrorism, and links issues of youth employment and education as contributing to countering violent extremism and terrorism.

The draft also highlights the Ebola epidemic that affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and underlines the importance of building strong national health systems and strengthening the global health architecture to respond to public health emergencies. Initially the text recalled the Council’s determination from resolution 2177 that the Ebola outbreak constituted a threat to peace and security in Africa. However, there were concerns that this presented the problem as a more immediate threat than it is, and the final version uses language noting the World Health Organization’s 29 March 2016 statement that the Ebola situation no longer constitutes a public health emergency while reiterating concern about the consequences of the disease.

While the statement reaffirms the importance of strengthening coordination, coherence and cooperation with the PBC, a reference to exploring the possibility of joint missions was removed in the agreed draft.

It seems several members had concerns over the resolution’s final paragraph setting the Secretary-General’s reporting cycle. Originally the draft statement requested the Secretary-General to brief the Council by December 2016 on UN peacebuilding efforts, including progress towards increasing women’s participation in peacebuilding and institution building efforts in Africa. Some members felt the Council should not be so specific in what it asks the Secretary-General to report on, and others wanted to ensure the Secretary-General was not burdened with additional reports. The final version recalls the General Assembly’s decision to invite the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of 2282, and no longer specifically requests a briefing, but instead recalls the Secretary-General’s suggestion to provide an oral briefing no later than December 2016.