|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
2014 Annual Session
1st Meeting (AM & PM)
Keynote Speaker at Peacebuilding Commission’s First-Ever Annual Session
Hails Organ’s Key Role in Post-Conflict Situations
It’s Important to Restore Faith in State Legitimacy, Says Deputy Secretary-General
The Peacebuilding Commission had worked assiduously since 2005, not only as an intergovernmental body mobilizing financial and technical resources, but also providing advice and post-conflict recovery strategies, the keynote speaker at that body’s first-ever annual session said today.
Jose Ramos-Horta, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Guinea-Bissau and former President of Timor-Leste, said the Commission had focused international attention on reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development. It had also added value to the United Nations and helped to advance its peace and development agenda. When a country was on the Commission’s agenda, the national authorities would be required, at the very least, to devote energy and commitment to ensuring political stability and building peace in order to make forward progress with socioeconomic development. The Commission’s engagement would generate international attention and galvanize support for the country, he said, stressing the need for national ownership and continuing commitment, close consultation and cooperation between international partners and national Governments, as well as smooth coordination of international support.
Addressing recent developments in Guinea-Bissau, he noted that newly elected President Jose Mario Vaz had been inaugurated just this morning, and the new Government, led by Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, would soon be sworn in. Those events would mark a turning point in the “tortuous path” since the country’s independence 40 years ago, he said. “There is much to celebrate, but there is much to be done in coming days, weeks, months and years.”
Mr. Ramos-Horta, also Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), went on to underline the importance of continuing international involvement in the country, a “success story” in terms of how the international community had been able to steer it back to constitutional democratic order at very little cost. However, if the international community failed to respond to the needs and modest expectations of the people, that success story would be short-lived, he warned. There were no shortcuts to peace or nation-building. The first requirement was national ownership and strong, credible national leadership, he emphasized. “The international community cannot stand in for national actors and leaders.”
Recalling the case of Timor-Leste, he said national actors and democratically elected leaders had been able to pull together, live up to the challenges and bring the country back from the “abyss of failure”. In the case of Guinea-Bissau, there was renewed hope and optimism with the election of a new generation of leaders. In both cases, the international community had a critical supporting role to play in enabling civilian and military leaders to re-engage with each other in a frank and transparent manner, bridging the divides of the recent past.
Delivering opening remarks, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the Commission had been established to sustain international attention beyond the immediate moment of acute crisis. It had been envisaged at inception as a mechanism for enhancing the coherence of international response, and it was inspiring to see it making progress in the fulfilment of its mandate. For years, the Commission had taken a country-specific approach, but the annual session would provide a first-ever chance to begin addressing larger themes, he said. Today’s discussions would help galvanize international support and refine policy frameworks to make them more directly supportive of countries emerging from conflict.
He went on to emphasize that such countries desperately needed financial resources and political support. “The fighting may have stopped, but scars from the conflict and public mistrust often continue to be felt.” It was important to restore faith in the State’s legitimacy and in prospects for a peaceful road ahead. That required Governments to ensure that public services were delivered equitably, he stressed. It meant that safe water, proper sanitation, health care, justice, education and other services that people expected and deserved, became reality, or achievable goals at the least.
International aid was necessary in many situations, but it rarely helped in building a new social contract because it also weakened national ownership, he continued. The best way to support countries going through post-conflict transition was to help them generate their own resources and capacities, which was no easy task, he cautioned. In countries recovering from violent conflict, infrastructure was often destroyed, professionals had left and many former fighters were jobless. War-ravaged societies often lacked the capacity to generate domestic revenue through taxation, and the mobilization of domestic resources was also hampered by illicit financial flows. “The effects are hugely damaging,” he stressed. Confronting the problem called for international cooperation and new frameworks on financial transparency. Above all else, however, strong leadership and good national governance were imperative.
Antonio de Aguiar Patriota ( Brazil), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the first annual session represented an important step in the continuing evolution of the Commission’s engagement. The session should contribute to the development of policy directions relevant to countries emerging from conflict and become a standing occasion for reflecting on the role of international frameworks, policies and the commitment of Member States to help countries avoid relapse into conflict. The Commission had selected “The national and international aspects of sustainable resources and capacities for peacebuilding” as the main theme for the first session, in hopes of highlighting the importance of integrating peace and development in a mutually reinforcing relationship.
In closing the session, he summarized the day’s proceedings, saying that the discussions had touched upon critical policy gaps in intergovernmental action to provide timely, targeted and sustained support for countries emerging from conflict. The importance of continuing international commitment to countries undergoing post-conflict transitions had also been emphasized. The Commission stood ready to follow up on the discussions and to put forward a number of practical policy recommendations for further reflection and consideration by the General Assembly and the Security Council, he said.
John Ashe ( Antigua and Barbuda), President of the General Assembly, said the Commission had proven its value, with countries referred to it receiving constructive international attention, with a specific focus on their unique needs and challenges. The Commission’s focus on national ownership was fundamental for helping post-conflict countries rebuild institutions and promote peace and development. Since its inception, the Commission had also strengthened its relationship and cooperation with related United Nations organs and institutions, he said, noting that in 2015, the General Assembly and Security Council would conduct a mandated 10-year review of the peacebuilding architecture, with the aim of strengthening the Commission’s capacity and authority and improving the lives of those living in countries emerging from conflict.
Vitaly Churkin ( Russian Federation), President of the Security Council, said the day’s discussions had shed light on the Commission’s potential role as a platform for calling greater attention to specific gaps and policy frameworks that could possible help to enhance resource flows. The broad-based nature of the Commission’s composition and its outreach to partners from regional organizations, international financial institutions and civil society had provoked a lively and substantive exchange of views. Positive progress on peacebuilding activities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were good examples of the Commission’s added value to broader United Nations and regional efforts, a trend that should be further developed, including in Burundi, he said. The Commission should also reflect on lessons learned from the unfortunate relapse into violence in the Central African Republic and unconstitutional changes of government in various other countries.
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