Review of UN peacebuilding activities will benefit post-conflict nations, says official

Amb. Peter Wittig

13 April 2010 – Efforts to help post-conflict countries build sustainable peace could be improved, the head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) said today, welcoming this year’s review of the world body’s efforts in this crucial arena and the impact it will have on the countries concerned.

“The litmus test of peacebuilding is whether the situation on the ground improves,” the PBC’s Chairman, Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, told a news conference in New York.

The Commission was set up in 2005 to help struggling States avoid slipping back into war and chaos by providing strategic advice and harnessing expertise and finance from around the world to aid with recovery projects. There are currently four countries on its agenda – Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic (CAR).

In addition to support from the PBC, countries can also avail themselves of financial assistance from the Peacebuilding Fund to jump-start rebuilding projects.

This year the commission is being reviewed to assess its progress so far and determine its future direction. In a statement at the launch of the 2010 review earlier this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that in its short existence, the PBC had shown its worth but looking ahead, Member States must consider how to make its impact more tangible at the country level.

“Strengthening peacebuilding will better enable us to keep countries from relapsing into conflict, and sustain peace beyond the life of a peacekeeping mission,” said Mr. Ban. “It will help ensure that the enormous investments that Member States make in peacekeeping will achieve their intended result.”

Mr. Wittig, who was elected to head the commission in January, noted that, prior to the establishment of the PBC, the work of peacekeepers in fragile States too often turned out to be in vain because the phase between the end of the peacekeeping mission and the start of development had not been adequately addressed.

In the crucial phase between peacekeeping and development, insufficient attention was being paid to issues such as lack of coordination by donors, unrealistic goals and contradicting priorities, he said. “In order to fill this gap, this lacuna, the PBC was founded.”

Mr. Wittig said that important lessons have been learned, and prerequisites for successful peacebuilding identified, over the past five years since the establishment of the PBC. These include national ownership, coordination between donors, realistic objectives, and mutual accountability of countries concerned and donors.

“In post-conflict countries, we are faced mostly with the crucial dilemma of high financing needs and low capacity, numerous priorities and scare resources,” he stated. “The best way for donors to help reconcile those overwhelming needs, on the one hand, and the lack in resources, on the other, is to focus on a very narrow range of priorities.”

Mr. Wittig said this year’s review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture needs to address several important questions, the first of which is how to strengthen the relationship between the PBC and the Security Council.

“The peacebuilding phase is crucial for the future of fragile States. Thus, the PBC should occupy a more central role we feel within the UN architecture, and ideally there should be a more organic relationship between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and a closer relationship between the PBC and the Security Council.”

Other questions to be tackled include how to improve cooperation between the PBC and international financial institutions and regional organizations, how to help to mobilize sufficient resources for successful peacebuilding, and which countries could be added to the agenda of the commission in the future.


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