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United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office

Peacebuilding FAQ

What is Peacebuilding?

The understanding of the United Nations is that peacebuilding involves a range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacity at all levels for conflict management, and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and development.

Peacebuilding uses a variety of strategies, processes and activities to sustain peace over the long-term by reducing the risk of relapse into violent conflict

How does peacebuilding differ from peacekeeping, peacemaking, humanitarian support and development?

There is no simple, clear cut definition of peacebuilding that sets it apart. Peacebuilding is rather the continuum of strategy, processes and activities aimed at sustaining peace over the long-term with a clear focus on reducing chances for the relapse into conflict. Therefore, there is considerable overlap of goals and activities along the spectrum from conflict to peace. It is useful to see peacebuilding as a broader policy framework that strengthens the synergy among the related efforts of conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, recovery and development, as part of a collective and sustained effort to build lasting peace.

What is the UN Peacebuilding Architecture?

The UN Peacebuilding Architecture has three components:

Established in 2006, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) is an intergovernmental advisory body to the General Assembly and the Security Council, the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) provides rapid and catalytic funding for peacebuilding priorities and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) assists the PBC in carrying out its mandates, administers the PBF and supports the Secretary General's efforts to coordinate the UN System in the area of peacebuilding.

How has the Peacebuilding Architecture (PBA) worked?

The UN PBA has functioned relatively well. There are currently six countries in the agenda of the PBC- an intergovernmental component of the architecture that provides accompaniement to post-conflict countries through policy advocacy, promoting coherence among various actors, and resources mobilization for peacebuilding programmes. The PBF has provided financial support to 24 countries. The 2010 Review of the UN PBA has highlighted a number of challenges in its functioning and effectiveness. Notably, the review has called on the PBC to reduce transactions cost of its engagement with countries, increase capacity building of countries on the agenda, strengthen regional dimension of the peacebuilding and intensifying efforts on resources mobilization.

What is the role of women in Peacebuilding?

As outlined in the founding resolutions of the UN peacebuilding Architecture and in the Secretary-General’s report on Women’s participation in Peacebuilding, women are crucial partners in the transition from war to peace. They are key agents for promoting social cohesion, political legitimacy and economic recovery. The Peacebuilding Support Office jointly with UN Women is supporting the implementation of a seven- point Action plan which is a commitment of the United Nations to improve the situation of women in post-conflict countries. In 2011, the Peacebuilding Fund began implementation of a Gender Promotion Initiative, which has resulted in the financing of additional activities for women’s empowerment in peacebuilding in 7 countries (Guatemala, Guinea Bissa, Guinea, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and South Sudan).

What are the most frequent peacebuilding needs?

  • Support to basic safety and security, including mine action, protection of civilians, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, strengthening the rule of law and initiation of security sector reform;
  • Support to political processes, including electoral processes, and promoting inclusive dialogue and reconciliation;
  • Support to the provision of basic services, such as water and sanitation, health and primary education, and support to the safe and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced people;
  • Support to restoring core government functions, particularly basic public administration and public finance;
  • Support to economic revitalization, including creating jobs, particularly for youth and demobilized former combatants.

When does peacebuilding begin?

Peacebuilding may occur before the end of large-scale conflict (e.g. the UN can work in pockets of peace to support conflict resolution mechanisms or provide basic services) but the volume of action ramps up significantly in the immediate aftermath of conflict, usually defined as the first two years after large scale violence ends.

Who are peacebuilders?

Peacebuilding is a task for everyone, from national governments, civil society and local communities to international partners, whether they are involved in peacekeeping, development or humanitarian activities.

National ownership is critical and it involves all national actors and stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector and the general public. It is therefore the citizens of countries where peacebuilding is underway who are primarily responsible for building lasting peace. In most post-conflict countries they are supported by a range of international actors, including peacekeepers, development and humanitarian staff, whose efforts the UN is often expected to coordinate and lead.

How do you prioritize what is important in peacebuilding?

Peacebuilding needs to be based on an analysis of the conflict dynamics to drive a strategic, prioritized, coherent and sequenced approach. Critically, it needs to be nationally owned and tailored to the specific needs of the country concerned.

A key defining consideration is "how important is the issue related to the risk of relapse into large scale violent conflict?"

The first step should include an analysis of structural causes of the conflict, complementing that by examining the ongoing triggers of conflict that might prompt a relapse into conflict.

For example, a peace agreement is devised and one side may feel excluded or aggrieved by it. This group then becomes a high conflict risk unless they can be included and share in the benefits of peace.

How has the nature of conflict changed since the creation of the United Nations?

The nature of conflicts has changed dramatically in recent decades. When the United Nations was created, wars between countries were the predominant form of armed conflict. After a period in which wars of independence were prevalent, civil wars became the most frequent – and most deadly – form of armed conflict. Since the end of the Cold War however, the frequency and the lethality of civil wars have declined as well.

In recent years, we are seeing the persistence of a number of violent conflicts that are rather intractable, recurring and amorphous. Violence might involve rag-tag rebels, gangs, organized crime and violent deaths. Battle-related death rates are relatively low compared to the wars of the more distant past, but homicide rates in some countries in Central America for example are higher than during the civil wars.

Factors driving violent conflicts in the 21st century have become more complex and multi-dimensional. If wars in the past were driven by ideology or political goals (in Von Clausewitz words: "War is the continuation of politics by other means"), violent conflict in the world of today seems to be propelled by a combination of political, economic, social, environmental and justice factors. These factors can include socio-economic inequalities among groups, political exclusion, conflict over natural resources and the distribution of their benefits, lack of jobs, grievances over corruption, perceived or real injustices, human rights abuse, etc. In many cases, it is difficult to define a clear agenda behind the perpetrators of violence. The different factors often are interrelated, might morph into each other and/or change over time.

These kinds of conflicts are not easily addressed with traditional instruments, such as diplomacy or military means. If the drivers of violent conflict are multi-dimensional, they can only be addressed through a multi-dimensional approach that spans the development-political-military-justice spectrum.

Peacebuilding is an indispensable approach in this new world with multi-dimensional conflicts, and the United Nations is the only global organization that can bring all elements of peacebuilding to bear: political, security, human rights, humanitarian and development. The United Nations also has unprecedented convening power and legitimacy to bring all actors and stakeholders together around peacebuilding, both at the local level and at the global level.

What is clear is that peacebuilding is not an event, nor is it a term to describe a series of activities and tasks. Rather it is a term that describes the continuum of strategy, processes and activities aimed at sustaining peace. There is a clear focus on reducing the relapse of violent conflict. That implies that not every activity in a post-conflict context is automatically contributing to peacebuilding. There are many activities, whether it is an election – as we saw in Côte d'Ivoire – a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme or building a school that can potentially exacerbate conflict as much as they can lay the foundation for sustainable peace. In peacebuilding, it is not only the "what" but also the "how", the "who", the "where" and the "when" that are important.

Through the prevention of a relapse into violence, peacebuilding is a cost-effective way to protect the investments in peacekeeping operations and thwart new costs associated with a relapse.

Why did the UN create the Peacebuilding Commission?

The Peacebuilding Commission was created in 2006 to provide the political support for peacebuilding efforts by keeping the attention of the international community, mobilizing the necessary resources, and making sure that all actors are coherently behind an integrated strategy. If we look at how the Commission’s composition was conceived, we will realize that it brought together the most significant actors, state and non-state, to provide a viable political platform.

The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) was created by both the General Assembly and the Security Council in their respective resolutions A/60/180 and SC 1645 (2005).

The PBC is mandated to: "marshal resources and to advise on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery." The PBC focuses attention on reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development, in countries emerging from conflict. It is specifically mandated to:

What does the Peacebuilding Commission offer?

The Commission is a dedicated advisory organ that brings together the government of a specific country together with all the relevant international and national actors to discuss and decide on critical priorities to be addressed and a long-term peacebuilding strategy with the aim of preventing a relapse into conflict.

With the development of such a strategy, advocacy and political accompaniment will be sustained and available funds will be spent more effectively and efficiently and will close the gap between immediate post-conflict efforts on the one hand, and long-term recovery and development efforts on the other. The PBC will remain engaged with the country until such time that the risk of a relapse into conflict is considered minimal.

What is the PBC’s Composition?

The PBC includes an Organizational Committee and country-specific configurations. The Organizational Committee is made up of 31 member countries, as follows:

In addition to the Organizational Committee members, the Country-Specific Configurations (CSC) include other participants such as neighboring countries, regional organizations, multilateral organizations, financial institutions and representatives of civil society.

Can the PBC impose its recommendations?

The Commission is an advisory body which takes all its decisions by consensus. Its recommendations carry weight thanks to the diversity of its membership. The UN system as a whole, as well as other bodies and actors, is encouraged to take action on the recommendations and advice given by the Commission.

The Commission aims to work closely with national and transnational authorities involved, and fully recognizes the importance of national ownership of the peacebuilding process.

How do countries get included on the agenda of the PBC?

Requests for advice from the Commission can be made by the General Assembly (GA), the Security Council (SC), the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) or the Secretary-General, as well as any member state who wishes to seek advice.

The Commission is likely to deal only with countries emerging from conflict, once a peace accord has been concluded and a minimum degree of security exists. Countries would be expected to express an interest in appearing before the PBC. A referral against the wish of the Government is unlikely to take place.

At present, Burundi, Central African Republic, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone are on the agenda of the Commission.

What role do countries that have emerged from conflict play in the PBC?

Many countries which are today considered peaceful have had turbulent pasts. Such countries, with experience in post-conflict recovery, have an important role to play in the Commission. It is the aim of the Commission to include such countries as its members at all times, as their knowledge and lessons learned are an important asset in helping countries who have more recently emerged from conflict.

How often does the PBC meet?

The PBC is a standing organ which meets in various configurations and does not as yet follow a prescribed cycle of meetings. The Organizational Committee (OC) deliberates on the organizational and the broader policy and normative aspects of the PBC’s work while Country-Specific Configurations (CSC’s) are held regularly for the countries under consideration. The PBC also holds thematic discussions using facilities such as video conferencing to engage directly with stakeholders in the countries. The PBC also has a Working Group on Lessons Learned which helps the various configurations to draw on good practices and key lessons learned in the thematic and policy areas of particular interest to the countries on the agenda.

How is the PBC supported?

A Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) was established in the United Nations Secretariat to support the Peacebuilding Commission in all its deliberations. The PBSO also assists the Secretary-General in catalyzing the UN system’s capacity to develop overall strategies for peacebuilding so as to ensure coherence at the strategic policy level. The PBSO is headed by an Assistant Secretary-General. The current head of the PBSO is Ms. Judy Cheng-Hopkins (Malaysia).

How can we assess whether the PBC is making a difference?

Too many countries emerging from major conflicts suffer a relapse into conflict within five years of signing a peace agreement. The PBC to ensure that countries are supported sufficiently to endure the very difficult transitional years when the economy, rule of law and institutions of governance can be extremely fragile. However, the majority of outputs resulting from the Commission’s engagement with countries on the agenda are often non-quantifiable and require long time to yield tangible results. The non-relapse into violent conflict and the generation of evidence that the society is increasingly resilient to internal crises will represent important indicators for the success of the Commission.

What is the role of civil society in the work of the PBC?

Civil Society is an important actor in peacebuilding and the PBC’s enabling resolutions encourage its active participation. Civil society representatives have been invited to make presentations at several PBC meetings and there are established mechanisms in place which should ensure that serious and field-based civil society organizations receive a seat and a voice in the Commission’s deliberations.

What is the Peacebuilding Fund?

The GA and SC tasked the Secretary General with establishing a standing Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) to address immediate peacebuilding needs in countries emerging from conflict at a time when other funding mechanisms are not available. On the basis of agreed upon priorities, the PBF can support a variety of measures to strengthen national capacities in sustaining peace and will therefore help to reduce the risk of a relapse into conflict. The PBF can support countries before the PBC but also others in similar circumstances, as designated by the Secretary-General.

Since 2007, the Fund has allocated US $356.4 million in 24 countries. The Fund’s work has been expanding. In 2011, the Fund allocated US $99.4 million in 14 countries, up from US $76.4 million in 2010 and US $52.4 million in 2009.

What is the synergy between the PBC and the PBF?

The PBF benefits from the political guidance and advice of the Commission. The PBC coordinates closely with the PBF and also receives briefings by the Chair of the Peacebuilding Fund’s Advisory Group on the PBC specific country priorities and projects. The PBF has so far supported countries on the PBC agenda with $217.8 million for critical peacebuilding priorities – or about 62% of its allocations to date.

How is the PBF strategically positioned to respond?

The Fund focuses on the following two situations:

What are the PBF’s priority areas?

The PBF’s Terms of Reference state that the activities with a specific scope to be funded by the Peacebuilding Fund will include

  • Activities designed to respond to imminent threats to the peace process, support for the implementation of peace agreements and political dialogue;
  • Activities undertaken to build and/or strengthen national capacities to promote coexistence and peaceful resolution of conflict;
  • Activities undertaken in support of efforts to revitalise the economy and generate immediate peace dividends for the population at large;
  • Establishment or re-establishment of essential administrative services and related human and technical capacities.

What countries are currently in the PBF portfolio?

* = Countries on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission

** = Declared eligible by the Secretary-General

Active: Peacebuilding & Recovery Facility (PRF)**

1. Burundi* 2. Central African Republic* 3. Côte d'Ivoire
4. DRC 5. Guatemala 6. Guinea*
7. Guinea Bissau* 8. Lebanon 9. Liberia*
10. Nepal 11. Sierra Leone* 12. Sudan
13. Uganda (Northern)

Immediate Response Facility (IRF)

14. Chad** 15. Kyrgyzstan** 16. Libya
17. Somalia 18. South Sudan 19. Yemen

Closing: Countries that close before end 2012

20. Comoros 21. Haiti 22. Kenya
23. Sri Lanka 24. Timor Leste

Who manages the PBF?

The Secretary-General has delegated overall management responsibility for the Peacebuilding Fund to the Head of the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO). The United Nations Development Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office administers the Fund.

At the country level, management of the Fund is delegated to the Joint Steering Committee, co-chaired by the national Government and the United Nations with a broader membership representing national and international stakeholders.

An independent PBF Advisory Group is appointed by the Secretary-General to provide advice and oversight of the speed and appropriateness of fund allocations and to examine performance and financial reports. The group consists of 10 eminent persons, from all regions, with significant peacebuilding experience.

How is the PBF supported?

The PBF receives voluntary contributions from nearly Member States, reflecting its broad support from the Member States in the United Nations. The PBF received $57 million in contributions last year, and aims to programme $100 million annually. The PBF is currently seeking to expand its donor support.

How can we assess the success of the PBF?

The Peacebuilding Fund, one of the three components of the Peacebuilding Architecture, has and continues to demonstrate its worth. It allocated US $100 million in 2011 to stimulate smarter UN responses to critical- and often politically sensitive or symbolic- peacebuilding activities. It focuses on countries where there is demonstrated commitment from actors- especially Governments- to tackle the sensitive and thorny issues related to sustainable reconciliation and peace.

What is the role of the private sector in Peacebuilding?

The United Nations needs to take into account better the role of the private sector, from the simplest form of engagement and in-country informal contacts to transformative multistakeholder partnerships. It is still far from being an automatic reflex for the UN community, but many different initiatives are underway. The UN now needs to increase this momentum. The UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture has a key role to play for this to become more systematic and to scale up that engagement so that including business in peacebuilding becomes business as usual for the UN.

Countries currently on the PBC agenda

Burundi

Current PBC Chairperson: H.E. Mr. Paul Seger (Switzerland)
Date the country was placed on the agenda 23 June 2006
Name of Instrument of Engagement Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding [superseded by the Final Outcome Document of the 5th Review of the Strategic Framework adopted on 21 April 2011*]
Priorities agreed in the Instrument of Engagement Promotion of good governance; comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement between Government of Burundi and PALIPEHUTU-FNL; security sector reform; justice, promotion of human rights and action to combat impunity; the land issue and socio-economic recovery; mobilization and coordination of international assistance; gender. *Areas of current focus: Consolidation of democracy and dialogue; good governance, human rights and rule of law; support to PRSP and socio-economic reintegration of the vulnerable groups; regional integration.

 

Sierra Leone

Current PBC Chairperson: H.E. Mr. Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada)
Date the country was placed on the agenda 23 June 2006
Name of Instrument of Engagement Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework [superseded by the Final Outcome Document of the High Level Event of 10 June, 2009*]
Priorities agreed in the Instrument of Engagement Youth employment and empowerment; justice and security sector reform; consolidation of democracy and good governance; capacity-building; energy sector; sub-regional dimensions of peacebuilding. *Areas of current focus: Tackling drug trafficking; youth employment and empowerment; improving governance.

 

Guinea-Bissau

Current PBC Chairperson: H.E. Mrs. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti (Brazil)
Date the country was placed on the agenda 19 December 2007
Name of Instrument of Engagement Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding
Priorities agreed in the Instrument of Engagement Elections and institution-building for the National Electoral Commission; measures to jump-start the economy and rehabilitate infrastructure, in particular the energy sector; security sector reform; strengthening of the justice sector and consolidating the rule of law.

 

Central African Republic

Current PBC Chairperson: TBC
Date the country was placed on the agenda 12 June 2008
Name of Instrument of Engagement Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding
Priorities agreed in the Instrument of Engagement Reform of the security sector and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; governance; rule of law; development hubs.

 

Liberia

Current PBC Chairperson: H.E. Mr. Staffan Tillander (Sweden)
Date the country was placed on the agenda 16 September 2010
Name of Instrument of Engagement Statement of Mutual Commitments
Priorities agreed in the Instrument of Engagement Strengthening rule of law; supporting security sector reform; supporting national reconciliation.

 

Guinea

Current PBC Chairperson: H.E. Ms. Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg)
Date the country was placed on the agenda 23 February 2011
Name of Instrument of Engagement Statement of Mutual Commitments
Priorities agreed in the Instrument of Engagement Promotion of national reconciliation and unity; SSR; youth and women’s employment policy.