In 2005, the UN wanted to “coordinate UN agencies in their peacebuilding efforts” and therefore created what is today known as the UN Peacebuilding Architecture (PBA). This is a set of bodies made up of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), and the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). The PBC in particular was created to help countries emerging from conflict and limit the risk of relapse.
As a civil society response, GPPAC and WFM set up the Together for a Better Peace website to keep track of the PBC’s developments and to ensure the international community has access to the necessary resources to understand them. Although the website has been dormant for some years, in the light of recent developments in the peacebuilding community, it is now being revived.
The website, which is also accompanied by a Twitter account, is an information-hub for civil society and UN actors and member states who wish to understand more about UN’s peacebuilding activities more generally and analysis and updates on developments in the six countries the PBC currently works in (Burundi, Central African Republic, Liberia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau).
Now is a particularly ripe time to revitalise this website as there seems to be a momentum for a shift towards a more integrated, inclusive and sustainable approach to peacebuilding at the UN. In April this year, the UN adopted a landmark resolution that introduced the notion of sustaining peace and reminded the UN community that peacebuilding is a responsibility shared by all and also encompasses conflict prevention. This new focus on integrating UN’s three pillars of development, human rights and peace and security also resonates with the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September.
You can read more on GPPAC’s recommendations for the PBA in Filling the Gap - how civil society engagement can make the UN Peacebuilding Architecture fulfil its purpose, a recent joint report by GPPAC and QUNO.
The countries currently on the PBC's agenda are Burundi, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. (Image source)
The Peacebuilding Commission to take a new approach to peacebuilding?
The PBC held its Annual Session on June 23rd, 2016. Here, the UN Member States who make up the PBC discuss the challenges of post-conflict transitions and the role the PBC in addressing them. The PBC members described conflict as a process with no definite beginning or end. The complexity of conflicts therefore requires the involvement and coordination of all stakeholders; it also requires a more inclusive approach to peacebuilding. Instead of only concentrating on classic approaches such as disarmament or organization of elections, the PBC and its partners should also try to work towards sustaining peace.
The idea of sustaining peace is a multi-dimensional approach that encompasses conflict prevention, enforcement of international Human Rights Law and development work.
However, various challenges make it difficult for the PBC to act on this understanding. For one, some member states worry that prevention equals intervention, which would threaten their sovereignty. Another challenge is that the different UN agencies working on development, human rights, peacekeeping and peacebuilding still work in silos. Although there is wide agreement that these efforts should be much more integrated, the UN system lacks the mechanisms and incentives for coordination of the different activities done in conflict-affected countries.
Similarly, a major point of concern during the Annual Session was the lack of coordination within the PBA and between the PBA and other actors involved such as international political or financial organizations and NGOs. The relationship between the Security Council and the PBC has been relatively weak in the past due to lack of communication and confusion as to possible overlaps between their mandates. Although the Security Council can ask the PBC to brief it on relevant matters, up until now it has rarely done so, and many feel the country-specific knowledge of the PBC is not being sufficiently used.
The PBC among other country focuses on Burundi, where a political crisis is currently unfolding. (Image source)
The PBC discusses links between sustaining peace and sustainable development
On June 24th 2016, the PBC met with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the UN’s central body for all matters pertaining to sustainable development. This joint meeting was organized in order to discuss the relationship between sustaining peace and the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Most members agreed that peacebuilding should be an ongoing effort, one that starts as soon as there is any threat to peace rather than after conflict resolution and many pointed to the link between sustaining peace, sustainable development and the prevention of armed conflict.
These meetings seem to indicate a general will to make the UN PBA more efficient and ensure that the PBC’s work is useful to other UN agencies. The push to link peacebuilding efforts to the Sustainable Development Goals illustrates the change in perception of conflict and conflict prevention to a broad, multi-dimensional one. Although these changes have yet to translate into concrete action, GPPAC continues to follow developments and through its advocacy work in New York to seek to make the PBC actively engage in more inclusive and sustainable peacebuilding that engages civil society and works to prevent conflict rather than merely respond to it.
Stay tuned for more updates on peacebuilding on our website and Twitter account.