By Minna Hojland and Kofi Dakinah
Last week, a conference was held to raise funds for the UN’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), a fund that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon established in 2006 to provide quick and catalytic support for peacebuilding projects in countries emerging from conflict. Yet, even though the UN Member States time and again stress their support for peacebuilding and conflict prevention, the conference barely managed to raise half of the amount necessary to enable it to meet its commitments for the coming three years.
The Peacebuilding Fund and the governments of Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sweden and the United Kingdom hosted the conference in the margins of the opening of the UN General Assembly, inviting Member States to contribute to the Fund, which depends fully on voluntary contributions.
The Peacebuilding Fund was established in 2006 as part of UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture (which also counts the Peacebuilding Support Office and the Peacebuilding Commission) and was intended to ensure the early availability of resources for launching critical peacebuilding activities. The ‘Sustaining Peace resolution adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council in April this year, expanded the role of the PBF to also include conflict prevention, not just conflict recovery.
Lately, the PBF has started funding civil society organizations directly, so far focusing on projects benefiting women and youth, and currently, more than 120 projects in 25 countries benefit from the PBF’s projects. However, the Fund’s ability to support these projects depends on the willingness of UN’s Member States to provide voluntary contributions, since it does not get any resources from UN’s regular budget. Lately, these voluntary contributions have decreased to the extent that the PBF was unable to raise the 100 USD a year it needs to maintain its work at the current level.
The objective of the conference was therefore to expand the number of UN Member States supporting the PBF and increase the volume of resources available through multi-year contributions. The target was USD 300 million for 2017-2019. The final amount pledged was 152, million USD, pledged by a total of 30 Member States. Some speakers also stressed the importance of non-financial contributions, such as technical support and south-south cooperation on capacity building. While states like the UK, Germany, Sweden and Norway pledged the largest amounts, also less wealthy countries like Kenya, Liberia and and Namibia were among the contributors.
Forest Whitaker, who is an actor, social activist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, greets the UN Secretary-General. Mr Whitaker spoke to UN Member States about the importance of investing in young peacebuilders
As Mr. Ban Ki-Moon pointed out, the costs of conflict worldwide exceeded 13,6 trillion USD in 2015. “And yet, we are struggling to raise a tiny fraction of that amount for conflict prevention and peacebuilding,” he said. The UN chief stressed that the UN must change approach and start prioritizing prevention, which was echoed by most of the interventions. However, all of the countries speaking at the conference had either benefited from UN’s peacebuilding assistance or pledged to the fund. The latter category counted 30 out of the UN’s 193 Member States.
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said, that “we cannot overlook the fact that this Conference didn’t reach its target amount of $300 million over three years, the amount necessary to reach our objective to fund $100 million in projects each year.” The Minister continued that, in that sense, the conference was a wake-up call for the UN, reminding all that it cannot keep spending its resources on crisis management rather than conflict prevention.
His Swedish colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström argued that the UN Charter calls for the organization to save future generations from the scourge of war - not to come to the rescue after conflict and violence has destroyed entire societies. “Our commitment to the sustaining peace agenda must be backed by sufficient investments in conflict prevention and peacebuilding”, Ms. Wallström stated. However, the pledging conference demonstrated that translating the widespread rhetorical support into tangible political commitments remains a major challenge.