Recently, the UN Secretary-General released his much anticipated report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace that provides ideas for improving the UN system to deliver on sustaining peace. This report responds to dual resolutions adopted in April 2016 by the UN Security Council and General Assembly (S/RES/2282; A/RES/70/262), which marked a fundamental shift in the UN’s understanding of peacebuilding by introducing the new concept of sustaining peace. In these resolutions, sustaining peace is seen as “a goal and process…aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict,” meaning that peacebuilding efforts are needed before, during and after conflict. It also called for a more comprehensive approach to peacebuilding.
Both the Secretary-General’s report and the twin resolutions also note the importance of including civil society organisations in the peacebuilding agenda – a message that GPPAC and the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) have long been advocating. In fact, GPPAC and QUNO released a report, “Filling the Gap” in 2015 which evaluated the UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture’s engagement with civil society both in New York and at the country level, and provided concrete recommendations for improving cooperation. Building upon this report and taking into account the changing dynamics of peacebuilding and sustaining peace, GPPAC and QUNO recently released a new joint report, “Building Sustainable Peace” that seeks to increase the practical understanding of sustaining peace; assess the progress and remaining challenges facing peacebuilding practice; and articulate recommendations for the way forward.
Our report focuses on the need for partnerships and inclusivity to effectively and collectively deliver on sustaining peace at UN Headquarters, and on the ground where it matters most. Many of the points in our report are also reflected in the Secretary-General’s new vision for sustaining peace. Three areas in particular that GPPAC and QUNO have long promoted based on their experiences that are also in focus in the Secretary-General’s report include bolstering the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), ensuring the full participation of women in peacebuilding, and increasing the inclusion and impact of civil society organisations (CSOs).
Since the “Filling the Gap” report, GPPAC and QUNO have called for the UN PBF to increase and improve its direct support to CSOs working on the ground on these critical issues; the Secretary-General’s new report in fact calls for a quantum leap in funding for the PBF, bringing the Fund’s budget to $500 million USD, which will strengthen its capacity to provide support. Our organisations welcome this call, and urge Member States to consider the UNSG's financing recommendations, and support a way forward that meets the needs projected by the PBF to ensure the predictable and flexible funding required for sustaining peace. We also recommend in our newly released report that the PBF consider expanding and diversifying direct funding of CSOs to enhance opportunities for their continued work to support local, national and regional efforts to build sustainable peace.
GPPAC and QUNO have also advocated for increased participation of women and CSOs in peacebuilding activities, both at UN Headquarters and at the country and regional levels in order to ensure that their best practices and experiences improve peacebuilding policies. Additionally, meaningful and equal participation and inclusion of women is essential for truly fostering peaceful societies. This necessity of inclusive peacebuilding practices is adamantly advocated within our report, and we are encouraged by the Secretary-General’s recognition of the importance of civil society, and women and youth in particular, in his latest report. However, our research has shown that turning this rhetoric into action has been difficult at best. Developing UN-wide civil society engagement guidelines, which is an innovative recommendation within the Secretary-General’s report, would be a helpful tool in this regard, but these guidelines need to ensure that this interaction is focused on impact and sensitive to conflict dynamics. We provide further concrete recommendations on improving inclusivity in our report, and stand ready to support the UN and its membership as it moves forward in developing such guidelines.
CSOs active at the international, regional and country levels are key peace actors who must be recognised, included, and supported in the shared goal of developing and strengthening peaceful societies. GPPAC and QUNO welcome the Secretary-General’s report on moving peacebuilding and sustaining peace forward, and we hope that these words will continue to translate into concrete action on more inclusive peacebuilding practices. With the launch of our new report, “Building Sustainable Peace” our organisations hope to further catalyse on this momentum, enhance work with all of our partners, and ultimately contribute to sustainable peace.