Briefing Security Council, Secretary-General Calls for ‘Quantum Leap’ in Funding Activities to Prevent Conflict, Address Root Causes
With the adoption of landmark resolutions on the concepts of peacebuilding and sustaining peace imminent, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged Member States to strengthen their focus on conflict prevention, address its root causes and embark on a “quantum leap” in funding those critical activities, in a briefing to the Security Council this afternoon.
“Building and sustaining peace requires addressing the roots of conflict, which often lie in poverty, exclusion, inequality, discrimination and serious violations of human rights,” Mr. Guterres told the 15-member organ. The General Assembly’s adoption on Thursday of the draft resolution formally titled, “Follow‑up to the report of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding and sustaining peace” — to be followed by an identical text in the Council — would outline a joint path forward, allowing it to track the United Nations progress towards implementing the recommendations outlined in his report. Urging States to build upon positive examples seen in the work of the Peacebuilding Commission — established in 2005 to support peace efforts in conflict‑affected countries — he said sustaining peace required support for inclusivity and a firm rooting in respect for human rights.
Dan Neculăescu (Romania), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the resolutions to be adopted by the Assembly, and subsequently by the Council, provided opportunities for Member States to demonstrate their commitment to the concepts of peacebuilding and sustaining peace. The Commission would, in turn, provide a forum for related discussions and play a bridging role to enhance partnerships with actors beyond the United Nations, including civil society, international financial institutions and the private sector. Citing several examples, he said the Commission had supported more coherence in the United Nations work in the Sahel region, and assisted national authorities to develop a peacebuilding plan and carry out successful elections in Liberia.
Also briefing the Council today was Smail Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, whose presence was cited by many Council members as a strong signal of the United Nations deepening collaboration with regional organizations. Emphasizing that peace could not be achieved without development nor development without peace — and that neither would thrive without human rights and good governance — he said that approach underpinned the African Union’s work from the Central African Republic to Somalia to the Lake Chad Basin region. He cited several important lessons learned, including the need incorporate local perspectives and empower marginalized communities. Spotlighting his organization’s expanding financial responsibility, he expressed hope that the Council would also provide assistance. Funding Africa’s peace operations should be a collective priority in today’s complex and interconnected world, he said.
Council members — including several ministerial-level representatives — took the floor following those briefings, roundly voicing support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to bolster the United Nations conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities. Many speakers called for more coherent, inclusive and transparent approaches to the Organization’s peace and security activities, while others warned against the temptation to apply one-size-fits-all approaches to the many diverse conflicts around the world. Still others cautioned against relegating peacekeeping — long the flagship activity of the United Nations — to the background as attention shifted to prevention.
Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said the Secretary-General’s report offered a clear road map forward, and “we must move to action”. Boosting equality and inclusive national ownership were essential, as were improving early warning systems and commitments to preventive actions. The Council must establish a practice of addressing situations of concern with a view to preventing conflict. Other essential elements were targeting and addressing the drivers of conflict, ensuring cross-pillar cooperation and a system-wide approach and closer work with regional partners, she said.
Marcel Amon-Tanoh, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire, shared his country’s experience, noting that concerted efforts had helped the Government to calm the security situation following its 2011 elections. International support had also helped it advance reconciliation efforts, identify vulnerable groups and draft a plan of action to consolidate peace. Côte d’Ivoire’s spectacular economic growth was leading to post-conflict progress, improved social cohesion, national reconciliation and reconstruction, he said, calling on developed countries, multilateral partners and the private sector to provide the Peacebuilding Fund with the resources needed to more effectively help post-conflict countries to truly ensure peace was sustained.
France’s representative noted that “the United Nations was born of the goal of prevention”, but said that goal had been side-lined for too long. The Council, for its part, should be better able to pre-empt crises. Vulnerable countries must be assisted in developing the capacities necessary to stave off weaknesses, he said, emphasizing that, when prevention failed, it remained the United Nations’ responsibility to intervene. Indeed, peacekeeping operations remained a critical tool, but their mandates should be tailored to specific contexts and should prioritize political solutions. Now that the links between peace and development had become evident, it was up to the international community to act.
The representative of Bolivia, meanwhile, said sustaining peace should be approached through tools and policies based on dialogue and negotiated political solutions. That meant working to reach common ground and taking into account the perspective of all parties. Calling for strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter, she emphasized that breaking the vicious cycle of conflict required tackling its structural roots. States must avoid interventionist approaches that had historically led to chaos, destruction and terrorism which were still being felt today.
Also speaking were the representatives of Peru, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Kuwait, China, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Kazakhstan, United States, Russian Federation and Ethiopia.
The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 5:27 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said peacebuilding and sustaining peace were, first and foremost, about enhancing the Organization’s coherence in support of nationally owned solutions. They required strong partnerships beyond the United Nations system and collaboration with host country authorities, regional and subregional organizations and international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, as well as other multilateral donors, civil society and local actors. For its part, the Peacebuilding Commission could bring far greater coherence by providing a platform for complementarity and partnership across the United Nations three pillars. “It also brings national and local voices to the table,” he said.
Urging Council members to build upon such positive examples as the Peacebuilding Commission’s support in the Sahel region, he said sustaining peace required support for inclusivity — particularly of those who were frequently marginalized or excluded, such as women, girls, young people, the elderly and those with disabilities. Women’s empowerment through meaningful participation was a proven way to deepen the effectiveness and sustainability of peacebuilding, he said, calling on the Council to more consistently apply its own robust women, peace and security agenda. “Most critically, building and sustaining peace requires addressing the roots of conflict, which often lie in poverty, exclusion, inequality, discrimination and serious violations of human rights,” he said, adding that the human and financial cost of focusing on responding to crises was unsustainable. Prevention was the foundation of building and sustaining peace.
In that vein, he said, sustainable, inclusive development — deeply rooted in respect for all human rights — was not only an end in itself, but also the world’s best preventative tool against violent conflict and instability. Indeed, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was the world’s common blueprint to tackle the root causes of conflict and build more peaceful, stable and resilient societies. Noting that his peace and security reform proposal included a 50 per cent increase in regular posts in the Peacebuilding Support Office at no cost, based on gains in efficiency in other areas, he said the High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation would build on the experience of skilled diplomats and strengthen relationships with regional organizations and others engaged in activities critical for peace.
United Nations peacekeepers, he said, had a crucial role to play on the front lines of those efforts. Their overriding objective was to create the space for political processes, while also helping to contain violence and protecting civilians. In order to make peacekeeping operations fit for those purposes, he launched the Action for Peacekeeping initiative in March. It would refocus United Nations peacekeeping in three areas, namely: setting realistic expectations; making them stronger and safer; and mobilizing more support. Key conditions for success would be clear, defined, more focused mandates, as well as a long-term view and adequate exit strategies.
Calling for smarter investment in those missions, he said his report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace also set out several options to increase, restructure and better prioritize funding dedicated to peacebuilding activities, including assessed and voluntary contributions and innovative financing. In that regard, he reiterated his call for a “quantum leap” in Member States’ support for the Peacebuilding Fund, concluding that — following the General Assembly’s imminent adoption of a resolution outlining the joint path forward — “now it is time for action”.
DAN NECULĂESCU (Romania), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the resolutions to be adopted by the Assembly and the Council provided opportunities for Member States to demonstrate their commitment. The Commission would, in turn, provide a forum for related discussions ahead of a follow-up meeting and the envisaged 2020 review, which reflected its bridging role to enhance partnerships with actors beyond the United Nations, including civil society, international financial institutions and the private sector.
Offering several examples, he said the Peacebuilding Commission had supported more coherence in the work of the United Nations in the Sahel, having collaborated with affected countries and regional partners and keeping apprised of developments. In Liberia, it had actively assisted national authorities and engaged with civil society, United Nations leadership on the ground and relevant partners to support a national peacebuilding plan and discuss election preparations. In the Gambia, it was responding to requests from the Government for assistance during a critical period of transition, bringing together United Nations actors, Member States, global banks and civil society.
SMAIL CHERGUI, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, emphasized that peace could not be achieved without development, nor development without peace, and neither would thrive without human rights and good governance. That approach underpinned the African Union’s work to achieve a peaceful and prosperous African continent, he said, adding that it had assumed greater responsibilities on conflict prevention, management, resolution and post-conflict reconstruction and development over the last decade. Spotlighting the implementation of an African Union Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Policy — which employed both preventative and stabilization dimensions – he also described the organization’s quick-impact and peace-strengthening projects and work carried out through its various liaison offices.
To date, he said, the African Union had provided support to the Central African Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, the Lake Chad Basin region, the Sahelo-Saharan region and Somalia. Its efforts ranged from strengthening human rights institutions to scaling up health facilities to reforms of security sectors and in the rule of law. The African Union was currently providing technical advisers to support security sector reform and transitional justice processes in the Gambia, as requested by that country. It also planned to scale up stabilization efforts in such areas as the Lake Chad Basin — where initiatives would tackle areas impacted by Boko Haram — in Somalia within the framework of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and in Sudan through African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
Citing some critical lessons learned in the African Union’s work, he said there was an urgent need to strengthen cooperation in prevention, which remained the most cost-effective, but least-resourced, tool. There was also a need to shift from the current top-down approach towards a more people-centred paradigm with a specific focus on peace dividends, especially for women and girls. Local perspectives must be incorporated and marginalized communities must be empowered. That shift also meant taking into consideration the regional dimensions and transnational nature of conflicts in Africa. Noting that the African Union had already begun to incorporate those lessons in its work, he said another was the importance of establishing close cooperation and working relationships among national, regional and international actors. The recently signed Joint African Union-United Nations Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security and the subsequent memorandum of understanding with the Peacebuilding Support Office provided a solid basis in that regard.
However, he continued, all those efforts would yield few results without the mobilization of adequate resources for the implementation of defined priorities. The African Union was working to assume greater responsibility for funding its peace activities, including by operationalizing its Peace Fund. Expressing hope that such efforts would help convince the Council to respond positively to Africa’s demands in that regard, he emphasized that “sustainable funding for peace efforts in Africa should not be considered only as an African priority, but also an international and strategic imperative” against the backdrop of the world’s complex and interconnected threats.
NÉSTOR FRANCISCO POPOLIZIO BARDALES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Peru, and Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, saying that promoting sustainable peace involved taking an effective approach. That included addressing root causes and strengthening State institutions, with women included in the process going forward and targeted efforts tackling persistent challenges, such as terrorism. For its part, Peru had used broad national consensus on development, the protection of human rights and fostering peace to overcome conflicts of the past. In times marked by deep global interdependency, working together was critical to overcoming broad challenges, from desertification to violent extremism. The proliferation of violent conflicts and humanitarian crises had recently extended the Council’s agenda, he said, adding that the United Nations and the Council must play their respective roles in building capacities to overcome such challenges, working in tandem with the Peacebuilding Commission. The Council must also adopt a more systemic approach to conflict prevention, which had been proposed by former United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in 1991, and must underscore the need for strengthening collaboration with regional partners, including the African Union, in sustaining peace.
MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, wondered if the world could afford to remain inactive in preventing conflict, given increasingly complex security challenges. As the Secretary-General’s report offered a clear road map forward, “we must move to action”, she said, outlining core commitments to operationalize the sustaining peace agenda. Boosting equality and inclusive national ownership were essential, as were improving early warning systems and commitments to preventive actions. The Council must establish a practice of addressing situations of concern with a view to preventing conflict. Other essential elements were targeting and addressing the drivers of conflict and ensuring cross-pillar cooperation and a system-wide approach led to results that were greater than the individual parts. Also critical was working closely with regional partners, she said, emphasizing the importance of the Peacebuilding Commission and Peacebuilding Fund. Preventing violent conflict was a United Nations Charter obligation, with the sustaining peace approach allowing the Council to improve its ability to do its part in delivering on that responsibility.
MARCEL AMON-TANOH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire, sharing his country’s experience, said concerted efforts had helped the Government to calm the security situation following the 2011 elections, advance reconciliation efforts, identify vulnerable groups and draft a plan of action to consolidate peace. The State had been the cornerstone for sustaining peace, with efforts focusing on a range of activities, including economic development, opportunities to ex-combatants and reducing poverty and inequalities. Côte d’Ivoire’s spectacular economic growth was leading to post-conflict progress, improved social cohesion, national reconciliation and reconstruction. Highlighting several lessons learned from Côte d’Ivoire’s experience, he said that, in order for the United Nations to be effective on the ground, it must work collaboratively. He called on developed countries, multilateral partners and the private sector to provide the Peacebuilding Fund with the resources needed to more effectively help post-conflict countries to truly ensure peace was sustained.
ANDRÉ HASPELS, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said there were no quick fixes and to prevent conflict and address its root causes, it was critical to respect fundamental human rights, the rule of law and human dignity as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace. In addition, efforts must be made to implement the Sustainable Development Goals as a path to peace and to promote inclusive negotiations and political processes. While an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process had taken a good direction, the recent attack in Kabul had darkened the path forward. Situations of increasing risks must be brought in a timely manner to the Council’s attention, which should improve its role in preventing violence from escalating. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s action plan for peacekeeping, he said an integrated approach must resolve root causes through political solutions and implementing peace agreements. “All too often, we have learned the hard way the risks of relapse,” he said, adding that efforts must be made to strengthen the Council’s cooperation with the Peacebuilding Commission. “Liberia represents a successful example,” he said. “But, without our political will, the only result is an irresponsible standstill. The bloody conflict in Syria shows us the consequences of this Council’s lack of action. The United Nations system and we, the Member States, must play the role that people expect from us.”
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) echoed expressions of alarm about the complexity and costs of today’s escalating conflicts. Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s focus on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, as well as his emphasis on prevention, he said that approach should be adopted throughout the United Nations system. In that vein, the United Kingdom had decided that over half of its development assistance would be spent in fragile and conflict-affected States. That did not, however, mean that the mandates of some United Nations bodies were under threat, he said, calling for stronger partnerships between peacebuilding actors and the World Bank, as well as more effective diplomacy and the enhanced participation of women. Smoother peacekeeping transitions from mission to non-mission settings were also crucial, he said, declaring: “Right from the moment when we deploy peacekeepers, we should be thinking about their exit.” In that regard, the Secretariat could provide deeper analysis and clear benchmarks — allowing the Council to track a mission’s progress — which was an approach currently being tested in Haiti. “Not everything is up to the United Nations,” he said, emphasizing that national ownership and smooth handovers to Governments — as had been successfully accomplished in Côte d’Ivoire — would help ensure that the United Nations did not take over tasks that should rightly be led by States themselves.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), noting that the United Nations now took into account the whole lifecycle of conflict — rather than just focusing on crisis response — said conflicts often had their roots in development and governance gaps. Member States should adopt a cross-cutting, holistic approach, and the Council, in particular, should step up its prevention initiatives. “The United Nations was born of the goal of prevention,” he stressed, saying that goal had been side-lined for too long. The Council should be better able to pre-empt crises. Regional organizations also had a critical role to play, as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had demonstrated in the Gambia. Vulnerable countries must be assisted in developing the capacities necessary to stave off weaknesses. When prevention failed, however, it was the United Nations responsibility to intervene, as France had done in both Mali and the Central African Republic. Indeed, peacekeeping operations remained a critical tool, but their mandates should be tailored to specific contexts and should prioritize political solutions. Now that the links between peace and development had become evident, it was up to the international community to act.
Ms. CORDOVA (Bolivia) said the United Nations efforts to support States in post-conflict situations were some of the Organization’s most critical activities. Describing cooperation with regional and subregional organizations as a crucial element of that work, she said that sustaining peace should be approached through tools and policies based on dialogue and negotiated political solutions. That meant working to reaching a common ground and taking into account the perspective of all parties, which would help maintain peace following a conflict and prevent re-escalation. Calling for strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter, she underlined the importance of stronger cooperation among the Security Council, General Assembly and the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as more support for national ownership, efficiency, flexibility and inclusive dialogue. Women must play an active role in prevention, mediation, dialogue and in negotiating conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Breaking the vicious cycle of conflict required tackling their structural roots, she said, warning against interventionist approaches that had historically led to chaos, destruction and terrorism which were still being felt today.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that, in many conflict situations, the Council had failed to act until tensions had reached a very advanced stage, and resolving them would already be very complex. Calling on the Council to shoulder its obligations under Articles VI, VII and VIII of the United Nations Charter, he expressed support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to reform the Organization’s peace and security pillar. The United Nations should also become more transparent, accountable and better able to shoulder its duties. However, addressing peace should not be constrained to thematic issues, and the effective implementation of the resolutions to be adopted by the Council and the Assembly must be effectively followed up. Emphasizing that development and human rights were closely linked to security, he said ensuring that all people were able to enjoy their civil, economic and political rights would help eradicate conflicts around the world.
MA ZHAOXU (China) said efforts must focus on finding political solutions to conflict affected “hotspot” areas of the world, promoting national reconciliation and preventing a relapse of violence. Relevant United Nations agencies must have clearly identified priorities and must respect the aspirations of countries of concern. In addition, the Peacebuilding Commission must play its critical role, he said, welcoming a strengthening of its efforts. When desired goals had been achieved in peacekeeping, it was imperative that peacebuilding efforts swiftly followed, including with clear plans beyond mission mandates that would ensure smooth operations during times of transition.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) highlighted the critical need to address the root causes of conflict and the links between clashes and violent extremism, terrorism and organized crime. For its part, Equatorial Guinea supported the Secretary-General’s efforts, particularly the approach for fostering sustainable development with a view to prevent conflicts. Instead of funding war, investments should focus on development, lifting people out of extreme poverty and promoting and boosting cooperation, including among South-South and triangular stakeholders. Expressing support for reform efforts related to the peacebuilding architecture, he said Equatorial Guinea supported the twin Assembly and Council resolutions and the Secretary-General’s proposals.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said long-term peace and security hinged on addressing development and human rights. Peacebuilding and sustainable peace were a fundamental condition for development and the United Nations should address conflicts in a comprehensive manner, using all available tools. Turning to development, the 2030 Agenda pledged to leave no one behind and create conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth, providing the best way to prevent crises and conflicts. Cooperation among all stakeholders was of utmost importance, he said, emphasizing a need to align the core business of the private sector with the international community’s strategic goals. Above all, respect for human rights must lead peace processes, which should be inclusive, including respect for the rights of women, children and young people.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said early warning, preventive diplomacy, mediation and peacekeeping were interdependent and complementary components of an integrated strategy. As such, investments must begin early to avoid conflict, he said, adding that Kazakhstan had been at the forefront of preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and confidence-building measures. A three-fold strategy guided actions to address current conflicts — recognizing the security-development nexus, taking a regional approach and ensuring the United Nations delivered as one. Such an approach complemented the Secretary-General’s efforts and combining the three elements could create a universal model to address conflicts and sustain peace that could be replicated around the world. Kazakhstan aimed at introducing the three-fold strategy to the wider United Nations membership, he said, calling on the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office to explore the efficiency of that approach.
KELLEY A. ECKELS-CURRIE (United States) said that almost every conflict-affected country the Council had discussed had faced great challenges in consolidating post-conflict peace. Expressing optimism about reform proposals for the United Nations, she emphasized that changes in the structure alone would not trigger progress. Steps should also include deeper collaboration among partners to address the drivers of conflict, while the Peacebuilding Support Office could share more information on best practices. Also needed were better exit strategies and more viable plans for transitions from peacekeeping to peacebuilding. Pointing to a successful example of that, she said a best practice model was the Council’s work in Liberia ahead of the closure of the mission in that country. She highlighted several other effective activities, including civil society in peace processes and partnerships in the financial and private sectors. Governments must do their part, including showing the political will to solve problems.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said peacebuilding had begun in 2005 when the Council had aimed at helping countries along a post-conflict path of reconstruction and recovery. A decade later, twin General Assembly-Security Council resolutions had specified the Peacebuilding Commission’s aim of achieving lasting solutions and addressing root causes of conflict. Sustaining peace was a challenge supported by all stakeholders. At the international level, peacebuilding implied that attention must be focused from the beginning and at every stage of conflict, with United Nations agencies operating strictly within their mandates, he said, noting that the Secretary-General had contributed to the discussion on how to make the United Nations system more effective. Yet, in defining a new term, peacebuilding should not relegate peacekeeping to the back burner. Raising several other concerns, he said one-size-fits-all approaches did not work, with each situation requiring a tailored strategy and consent of the country involved. Established mandates on relevant issues, from development to human rights, must be respected. The Russian Federation supported the new twin resolutions to be adopted by the Assembly and the Council, he said, expressing hope that procedural elements would be correctly interpreted.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said unprecedented challenges reflected growing geopolitical tensions among major Powers, exacerbated by terrorism, cybercrime and transitional organized crime. The impact on Africa was worrying, he said, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s latest proposals. The concept of sustaining peace had brought a paradigm shift in how related issues were being addressed. The proposed overhaul of the United Nations would allow the Organization to comprehensively tackle challenges by reducing overlapping mandates and improving planning so it could deliver more effectively in the field. Peace, security, development and human rights were inextricably linked, he said, adding that the Peacebuilding Commission’s contributions must be scaled up to ensure it continued to promote an integrated strategic approach to pressing issues. The United Nations must also enhance partnerships, including with regional organizations, civil society and private organizations. Pointing at African Union peacebuilding initiatives, he expressed hope that the new framework for an enhanced partnership with the United Nations would be instrumental to further strengthening cooperation on sustaining peace on the continent. More broadly, a change in mindset was needed, summoning the international community’s long commitment to multilateralism. “This, no doubt, is a period when much wisdom is needed in relations among States,” she said.
This article was originally published in Meeting Coverage.