September 19, 2021

Deputy Secretary-General, at Peacebuilding Commission’s Annual Session, Stresses Need to Implement Agreements, Translate Words into Action

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson's remarks to the third annual session of the Peacebuilding Commission, in New York today:

I am honoured and pleased to be part of the opening of this annual session of the Peacebuilding Commission.

I would like to pick up where the Chair started, with the good news. In about two hours we will see the agreement in Colombia. You also pointed to other progress in South Sudan. We hope this year to see progress in Cyprus, Yemen and Syria. So let us be encouraged by some progress in a troubled world.

I also want to commend you the Member States on your success on the development side. With, for example, the agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals and on climate change you have laid a strong basis we can build on. You can be proud of what you have achieved.

The Secretary-General sends his greetings and sincere regrets. As you know, he has been called away to Cuba on important peacebuilding-related issues related to the peace process in Colombia.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the first meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission, which we now commemorate as Peacebuilding Day. I am proud to have been part of the negotiations establishing the Peacebuilding Commission, and very gratified to see how qualitatively it has turned into a very important tool for the United Nations and for the world.

Two months ago, the General Assembly and the Security Council simultaneously adopted the most comprehensive resolutions to date on peacebuilding. These resolutions move away from confining peacebuilding only to the post-conflict phase. Instead, they suggest that sustaining peace spans the entire conflict cycle, with a focus on prevention, as well as on addressing continuation, escalation and recurrence of conflict. This comprehensive approach spreads responsibility for prevention over the entire United Nations system. The resolutions place high expectations on the Peacebuilding Commission to play an active role.

You, the members of the Commission, have already shown that the Peacebuilding Commission can develop new ways of working. You have introduced a broader set of countries and issues. You have, through the annual sessions, assumed an explicit role in the development of peacebuilding policy. I urge Member States, not least of the Security Council, to make full use of the potential of the Commission and its advisory role in preventing violent conflict. Let me recall that prevention is a United Nations Charter obligation. I point to Article 1 of Chapter 1 and articles 33 and 34 of Chapter VI.

I welcome your encouragement of the Commission to give advice on how to address the drivers of violent conflict. This should be done in an effective, coherent and comprehensive manner, bringing together all relevant actors across the United Nations system. We have to work more horizontally and less vertically.

One of the advantages of the Peacebuilding Commission is that it can mobilize a broad set of actors. It can also take a complementary and longer-term perspective, beyond immediate crisis management. It can preventively discuss issues that are not yet or no longer considered ripe for discussion by the Security Council. This is especially the case when such issues may later become causes or triggers of violence.

The resolutions also emphasize the Peacebuilding Commission's advice during transition periods, the theme of today's meeting, when peacekeeping operations and special political missions' mandates are being defined or reviewed. I welcome the intention of the Security Council to regularly request and draw upon the specific, strategic and targeted advice of the Peacebuilding Commission during such transitions.

As you all know from previous experience, transitions are often delicate processes. Often, the risks of backsliding or a relapse increase during transition periods. For the United Nations system, it is during transitions that we jointly identify peacebuilding needs and in many cases reconfigure our presence on the ground. This involves in my view three key challenges.

Firstly, it is during transitions when the risks of fragmentation come more clearly to the fore. A smooth transition requires joint conflict analysis, identification of collective outcomes, joint strategic planning and resource mobilization throughout the conflict cycle. We are making progress on these fronts. The new resolutions on sustaining peace represent important impetus to these efforts.

One concrete case of common engagement and true partnership was the recent joint United Nations-World Bank-European Union mission to the Central African Republic. In response to a request from the Government, this mission laid the groundwork for addressing needs across the political and security, as well as the development and humanitarian, areas.

Here, I would like to underline the effective role played by the Peacebuilding Fund in enhancing coherence among different actors within the United Nations system. The Fund supports initiatives which align with a common peacebuilding vision of the Member States and which the United Nations can strengthen by bringing together various entities.

To be more effective as a system, we need to break down silos through a unified vision and through coherent, "horizontal", actions. Member States, I believe, also need to re-think the scope of peacebuilding and to consider ways in which they, too, can bring a greater level of coherence to efforts to sustain peace. The international community has a responsibility to end fragmentation, which is not only costly, but also reduces impact.

Secondly, we should recall that different parts of the United Nations system are financed through a variety of mechanisms. The different financing streams have their own complications - for the United Nations and for the countries themselves. Critical long-term peacebuilding tasks are often underresourced. This is especially true when we move from operations funded by assessed contributions, such as missions mandated by the Security Council, to activities funded by voluntary contributions, such as those undertaken by United Nations country teams. Development funding tends to come too late and goes down too early, often just as, or even before, our missions are drawing down.

Some have referred to this as a "financial cliff". The Peacebuilding Fund was created in part to avoid this cliff by providing quick funding for critical peacebuilding initiatives - as it did, for example, in Sierra Leone after UNIPSIL [United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone] left. However, resources of the Fund are insufficient to ensure necessary longer-term and larger-scale support. In fact, the Peacebuilding Fund is currently facing a desperate funding shortfall - despite the high praise it has received from various reviews and evaluations.

This situation needs to be urgently addressed. It is gratifying that Member States are hosting a pledging conference for the Peacebuilding Fund in September. I urge all Member States to attend and to contribute generously. Much is at stake for people in need and for the credibility of the new direction we are setting for United Nations peacebuilding.

The sustaining peace resolutions requested the next Secretary-General to present options to ensure adequate resourcing of United Nations peacebuilding. This can be done with your support through both assessed and voluntary contributions, including during mission transitions and drawdown. This would substantially support the stability and continuity of peacebuilding activities.

To that end, we have constituted a group to start work on these options immediately, building on what has already been done. I am especially pleased to see that the Fifth Committee [Administrative and Budgetary] recently approved $14 million in programmatic funding in peacekeeping budgets in five countries to support mandate implementation through United Nations country team peacebuilding, including in important transitions such as of MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti]. This work will form part of the overall framework for implementation across the United Nations system, bringing together leaders of all concerned entities.

The third challenge is political support. The role of the Secretary-General's Special Representatives is critical to political processes, ranging from mediation, to convening of actors, to reconciliation work, to preparing for elections and to supporting inclusive political dialogues. After a transition, this role often receives significantly less support, but the importance does not diminish.

This creates a critical gap, which has been partly filled by regional political offices, such as in West Africa and Central Asia, and by the Resident Coordinator, supported in some countries by Peace and Development Advisers through a joint programme of DPA [Department of Political Affairs] and UNDP [United Nation Development Programme], and supported by PBSO [Peacebuilding Support Office]. The Peacebuilding Commission can play a vital role in filling this gap through engagement with stakeholders on the ground, in neighbouring countries and in regional and subregional organizations.

Here, I would like to express my appreciation to the leadership exercised by the current Chair, Ambassador [Macharia] Kamau of Kenya, who just visited West Africa to support the ongoing post-Ebola recovery process and long-term peacebuilding priorities. I would also like to commend his predecessors, Ambassador [Olof] Skoog of Sweden and Ambassador [Antonio de Aguiar] Patriota of Brazil for their important contributions. I would also like to commend my friend and colleague Oscar Fernandez-Taranco for his engaged and enthusiastic work.

In closing, the peacebuilding architecture was created in 2005 to fill a "gaping hole" in the institutional machinery of the United Nations. The new resolutions on sustaining peace provide a vision and a road map for the whole United Nations system to move in a new direction. We now need to implement what we have agreed and move from words to action. The people of the world count on the support, on the political will and on the leadership of the entire membership to truly sustain peace. This is a challenge we should all accept and embrace.

Thank you.

Source: United Nations