Press Conference by Chair of Peacebuilding Commission

13 April 2010

Press Conference by Chair of Peacebuilding Commission

Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Chair of Peacebuilding Commission


Improving resource mobilization, international cooperation, and national ownership were the main priorities of the upcoming five-year review of the Peacebuilding Commission, its Chairman said this afternoon.

“Of course, the litmus test of peacebuilding is whether the situation on the ground, in the field, improves,” German Ambassador Peter Wittig told correspondents at Headquarters upon his return from the first global meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, held in Dili, Timor-Leste.

Accompanying Mr. Wittig at the press conference and available to answer questions was Ejeviome Eloho Otobo, Director and Deputy Head of the Peacebuilding Support Office.

Mr. Wittig said another major priority of this year’s review would be to create a more organic relationship between peacekeeping and peacebuilding and, for that purpose, improve the relationship between the Commission and the Security Council.  For that reason, he welcomed this Friday’s Council meeting on peacebuilding, at which he planned to make a presentation.

In the interest of the main goal of improving the situation on the ground, he said, five years of lessons were now being gathered from the experience of the Commission, which was established in 2005 to help struggling States avoid slipping back into chaos by providing strategic advice and harnessing expertise and finance from around the world to aid with recovery projects.

That experience was built through work with the four countries now on the Commission’s agenda -- Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic -- he said, noting that a checklist of criteria for successful peacebuilding had accrued.

That checklist included national ownership, coordination between donors, realistic expectations and mutual accountability on the part of donors and partner countries.  In addition, due to the overwhelming needs and scarcity of resources in the subject countries, it had been found that it was best to focus on a narrow range of priorities in one specific sector, for example police training or focused capacity-building.

In addition, it was found that key priority areas of peacebuilding activities, as elaborated in the Secretary-General’s report “Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict”, were:  assuring basic safety and security; establishing political processes; providing basic services; and supporting core Government functions and revitalizing economic activities.

An important question for the next phase of the Peacebuilding Commission was considering how many fragile States to add to the agenda and what States should be added, he said.  It depended on the resources and personnel that were available, as well as work methods; certain countries wanted a more flexible approach that would enable focus on smaller areas in a wider range of countries.

It was his personal belief that the Commission should enlarge its agenda in the medium term, while acquiring the means to do so, and that it should take on countries outside of Africa.  He hesitated to name specific countries for that purpose.  The countries involved had to take the initiative and Commission members had to make the decision. 

In answer to correspondents’ questions, he said it was premature to discuss whether the Commission could take on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, even given the discussions of a drawdown of the peacekeeping mission there, he said, adding, however, that it was clear that a smooth transition to peacebuilding should ensue.

Similarly, he said that Afghanistan and Iraq would present enormous challenges and he had not heard any suggestions that the Commission “shoulder those kinds of burdens”, particularly since there were still military operations present.

Asked about countries already on the Commission’s agenda, he said that the political turmoil in Guinea-Bissau underlined how important it was to have a strong peacebuilding process. 

In regard to Burundi, he said that the departure of Youssef Mahmoud, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, was a big issue for the Commission’s country configuration.  He added that the prospects were very good that, in the future, there would be space for a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to work with the Burundian Government.

Asked about the grant to Sri Lanka from the Peacebuilding Fund, which was meant to help kick-start peacebuilding, he noted that the Commission did not dispense that fund, but that, as often was the case, there was a need for both reconciliation and assistance, as well as a need for accountability on the part of the Government.  If support was not given, the chance of a relapse could be much higher.  He added that the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka facilitated the grant.

It was impossible to create a blue print on how to handle issues of justice, impunity and reconciliation, he said, concluding that, in the end, it was up to the respective societies and Governments to make their own decisions in those areas. 

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.