General Assembly Plenary Meeting on Peacebuilding
– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Plenary meeting of the General Assembly on Report of the Peacebuilding Commission [item 30]; Peacebuilding and sustaining peace [item 65]; Report of the Secretary-General on the Peacebuilding Fund [item 111]
Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I want to start by thanking Ambassador Ion Jinga, as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, and his predecessor, Ambassador Cho Tae-yul.
I am delighted to open this crucial discussion today.
And, in doing so, I will make three main points.
First, I want to talk about how this meeting came about.
More than 15 years ago, world leaders gathered, here…. to do something new.
They had seen that we had a hole, in our international system.
We had the tools, to respond to conflict – once it had broken out. But we had very little, for what came after…When a peace deal started to buckle….. Or when violence looked set to flare up again.
This, clearly, did not make sense. Why invest heavily, in responding to conflict? Only to let the gains slip through our fingers?
And so, in 2005, we decided to change things. We chose to create new tools. They included the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund…… as well as the Peacebuilding Support Office, to coordinate and advise.
Then, 10 years later – we took a step back, to review how we had done.
And the answer was quite simple: we had done good work. But not enough.
This was most stark in the area of conflict prevention.
Yes, we had the tools to respond to conflict. And, yes, we had developed new ones to use, in its immediate aftermath.
But there was much more left to do. Particularly, before conflict erupted, or when a country is piecing itself back together.
And so, we committed to doing more, to prevent the outbreak and recurrence of conflict. And we called this concept: Sustaining Peace.
That is why, in April 2016, twin resolutions were adopted, here, in the General Assembly – and a few feet down the hall, in the Security Council.
Not only did they call for a new approach to peace – they also mandated a special, high-level event – to take stock, down the line.
Which brings me to talk about last month’s High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace.
And, as my second point, I will give a very brief snapshot of this Meeting.
To start, I believe three main achievements came from it:
One: It raised visibility.
Nearly 30 delegations were represented at ministerial level and above. This included six heads of state and government.
And this meant that our meeting – on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace – attracted the highest levels of attendance at the United Nations this year. Which, I think, is really significant.
Two: It carved out wider space, on our agenda.
Although peacebuilding has been on our radars for over 15 years, the Sustaining Peace resolutions called for a new approach… An innovation…. an expansion…and a new way of working.
This High-Level Meeting showed that this was not a once-off call – which would soon be left on the shelf.
Instead, it outlined a framework, for follow-up. At the meeting’s conclusion, we adopted a consensus resolution. And this gave a mandate to Secretary-General Guterres – who will continue reporting on how we are doing – and where we can improve.
And, three: It allowed us to hear about what is and is not working, on the ground.
We had wide participation – including 130 delegations and 150 civil society participants.
This allowed us to share best practices and lessons learned. And to reflect on the various recommendations of Secretary-General’s report on Sustaining Peace– which was released before the event.
And, we heard many stories from the ground.
Some of them were, frankly, horrifying.
We heard about the realities of war. Its toll on people. Its staggering financial costs. And the trauma it brings, which is felt by whole societies – even after the guns have fallen silent.
Other stories were more hopeful.
Governments told us about changes they are making, to better prioritise peacebuilding and sustaining peace. We heard about ideas for new, strategic partnerships. Women peacebuilders took the floor, and shared some amazing results of their work. Business representatives expressed major interest in deeper engagement on this issue. And United Nations officials, from across the system, shared inspiring success stories.
Some, however, pointed to gaps. Many voices criticised the chronic under-funding of the Peacebuilding Fund. They called for increased focus on conflict prevention – both through tackling the root causes of conflict…… and through faster, and more responsive, diplomacy and mediation. And, they told us that inclusion is still the exception, not a norm – with women and young people still being blocked from the table.
I have attempted to reflect these – and many more issues – in my Chair’s Summary, which was released yesterday.
And this meeting gives us a way, to follow-up on them.
Because we are here to assess and recommit to some of our most important tools. And I will do that, briefly, for my third point.
Turning, first, to the Peacebuilding Commission…… The PBC has become a more flexible – and adaptable – mechanism. It has expanded its agenda, to focus on new countries, in a more flexible way – from The Gambia to Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and Colombia – as well as regional situations, such as the Sahel, the Great Lakes, and the Lake Chad Basin.
And we saw its value, clearly, in the case of Liberia – when the drawdown of the UN peace operation was approaching. It brought partners together, to respond to requests for action, from the United Nations Security Council. And, in doing so, it helped the Government develop one of the most comprehensive peacebuilding plans we have seen.
And, its work on the Sahel deserves special note. More than 20 different strategies have been designed for this region. They have come, not only from Sahel countries themselves, but also through comprehensive partnerships. While this level of support is positive, there is also a risk of confusion, or duplication. However, the Peacebuilding Commission – along with the Peacebuilding Support Office – is working hard to coordinate, and integrate. This includes engagement with the UN Security Council.
We have also seen exciting things from the Peacebuilding Fund.
It has been investing faster – and farther – than many other funds. And it is trying new ways of working. For example, it has expanded its innovative cross-border programs. And, it has been making great strides, when it comes to inclusion; more than 30% of all its funds in 2017 were dedicated to gender and youth initiatives.
This is not just a meeting. It is something bigger.
We made a promise, when we signed up to the United Nations’ Charter:… to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
We are still far off, from meeting it. But we are getting closer.
That was obvious, from the show of support we saw in this very hall – at last month’s High-Level Meeting
And today, we have a chance to make some of our most valuable tools, in meeting this commitment, even stronger.
Let us take it.
I thank you.