30 July 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY OUTGOING ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEBUILDING SUPPORT


Helping post-conflict countries re-launch their economies and get on track for long-term development might not be headline-grabbing work, but the nascent United Nations peacebuilding architecture had thus far made significant steps towards providing more consistent support for post-conflict societies, the outgoing Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support said today.


“I haven’t got a headline for you […] but what we’ve got is a slow, quiet success story that, in the long run, is going to have a tremendous impact,” said Carolyn McAskie, summing up her two years at the head of the Peacebuilding Support Office during a farewell Headquarters press conference.


She said the Peacebuilding Support Office and the Peacebuilding Commission had been created by the General Assembly’s 2005 World Summit to bridge the recognized gap in the institutional workings of the United Nations, where no one entity dealt effectively with the challenges of transition from war to lasting peace in post-conflict countries.  While those challenges clearly could not be solved overnight, the new peacebuilding architecture was filling a critical void by helping to ensure that people in war-torn societies saw immediate peace dividends on the ground.


The Peacebuilding Commission brings together development, security and other actors to provide a cohesive approach to reconstruction and institution-building in post-conflict zones.


Ms. McAskie said Burundi and Sierra Leone had been the first two countries on the Peacebuilding Commission’s agenda and the focus of much of its substantive work during its first year.  It had since added Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic to the agenda.  The Assistant Secretary-General’s Office provided overall management of the Peacebuilding Support Office and the Peacebuilding Fund, a standing trust fund set up by the Secretary-General in 2006 with an initial funding target of $250 million.  It now had some $270 million at its disposal.


She stressed that, while the Commission’s mandate to bring political, peacekeeping, truth and justice, humanitarian and human rights actors together might seem rather pro forma, it was really a challenging -- and necessary -- endeavour.  The Commission worked with Government and civil society groups to identify just what was needed to jointly craft an integrated strategy -- or “mini-compact” -- identifying key priority areas for successful peacebuilding initiatives.  Such broad participation was vital, not only for meeting the needs of the respective populations, but also in ensuring that the country had a sense of ownership in the process.


“We’ve learned that peacebuilding cannot be externally imposed,” she said, emphasizing that it must be internally driven and externally supported.  In addition, the United Nations was dealing with the challenges of launching peacebuilding efforts much earlier than in the past.  Indeed, the international community was so driven to “get the politics right and peace agreements signed”, which was understandable, but it waited too long to kick-start economy and development.  “This should not be sequential; they must happen at the same time.”


Responding to questions, she said the challenge was to recognize that, while Governments had support in getting political frameworks right, they must also get help to develop proper economic policy frameworks.  Mozambique’s quest for post-conflict development, led by then President Joaquim Chissano, had been a model for others.  The Government had had the leadership to establish the political conditions required to convince national and international actors that good economic policies were in place.  Mozambique had benefited from having a stable and committed South Africa next door and Mr. Chissano’s foresight had ensured that the local private sector kick-started the economy at the village level.


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For information media • not an official record