26 March 2012

Moving from Peacekeeping to Peacebuilding Depends on Clarifying Priorities, Not Expanding Mandates, Security Council Told in Briefing

26 March 2012
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6740th Meeting (AM)

Moving from Peacekeeping to Peacebuilding Depends on Clarifying Priorities,


Not Expanding Mandates, Security Council Told in Briefing


Peacekeepers Have Prime Responsibility to Help Secure

Enduring Peace beyond United Nations Presence, Peacekeeping Chief Says

A successful transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in post-conflict countries required a clear determination of national priorities, delineation of roles of all partners and frequent review, not new responsibilities for peacekeeping missions, the United Nations top peacekeeping official told the Security Council this morning.

“Talking about the role of peacekeepers in peacebuilding is not about expanding peacekeeping, adding new tasks to mandates,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in a briefing that also included Susanna Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.  “It is about making the best of tasks that peacekeepers are already being asked to perform.”

When the Council mandated peacekeeping operations, Mr. Ladsous said, it was not only to stabilize the country and keep the peace, but also to contribute to sustainable peace.  Over time, peacebuilding tasks had become more complex and wide-ranging, but most focused on support to basic safety and security and to political processes.

In a joint “nexus paper”, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support stated that missions’ primary peacebuilding tasks were helping Governments articulate priorities through building consensus among national and international stakeholders and providing a security umbrella, logistical support and political space for other actors to implement peacebuilding tasks.  Early peacebuilding tasks, including support for political processes, security sector reform and early capacity-building, could be implemented by missions themselves, in close collaboration with other partners.

To maximize the contribution of peacekeepers to peacebuilding, he said that it was critical to identify and address the specific priorities of a country and its people; clarify roles and responsibilities of the various United Nations actors and strengthen partnerships with others; and periodically review and adjust the engagement to best adapt to an evolving situation on the ground.

Peacekeepers were best suited to prioritize those initiatives that advanced the peace process or political objectives of a mission, he said.  Among the most delicate tasks in that regard was determining national priorities in post-conflict countries, since they were often still too torn and politically polarized, and institutional capacity was often weak or non-existent.  That was why the role of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General was essential to balance the political process and institution-building imperatives, in close consultation with national actors.  It was important to avoid overwhelming fragile institutions and provide consistent and coherent support.

In speaking of national ownership, he emphasized the “New Deal” that had been adopted at the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Republic of Korea, last year, which stressed the mutual obligations of recipient countries and the international community.  Seven countries hosting United Nations missions had already volunteered to try the approach, which reflected a strong expression of commitment by host countries to strengthen their leadership role in the peacebuilding process.  He counted on Member States to align their various national policies behind the priorities articulated by host countries.

To help national actors transition from war to peace, he said, wide partnership was required within the United Nations system, as well as with other international organizations, regional organizations, and bilateral partners, through a coordinated and coherent approach.  The Integrated Mission Planning Process provided a framework to articulate a joint vision and strategy among United Nations actors.

A strong integrated plan, he added, should clarify the contribution of each actor based on comparative advantage and actual capacity to deliver.  Responsibilities might change over time as priorities and capacities shifted, however, and it must be kept in mind that peacekeeping missions had a restricted time horizon and must synchronize their plans with those actors better suited to undertake long-term engagements, while United Nations partners often needed time to scale up, early in post-conflict engagement.  In such circumstances, it was important to bring relative strengths to bear.

He stressed that there was no universal answer to the question of when to move beyond a peacekeeping mission.  A key consideration was the need for the security assistance represented by “blue-helmeted troops” components, and planning for any follow-on United Nations presence.  In an ideal scenario, drawdown should happen gradually, on the basis of a careful review of the situation on the ground, discussions with all partners and testing of the host country’s capacity to assume responsibilities and public perceptions.  Benchmarks for drawdown and exit should be included in initial deployment plans and revise as the situation evolved.  Transitions did not follow a linear process and should not be about simply reducing numbers in a peacekeeping operation.

In addition, it must be kept in mind that departure of a peacekeeping mission could be expected to raise anxieties and might be destabilizing in itself.  It was necessary, therefore, to build confidence and maintain clear communication between the host Government, key national stakeholders and the international community.  Helping to secure a peace that endured beyond the mission was a prime responsibility of peacekeepers.

Ms. Malcorra affirmed the fundamental importance of effective transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, stressing the impact that field missions, particularly large missions, had on the social and economic life of host countries in addition to their mandated goals in support of the security and political sectors.  That impact could spur development and consolidate peace, for example, if local and regional procurement of goods and services was prioritized.  At the same time, she recognized that the impact could be negative due to environmental degradation and distortion of the job market.

Creating a positive, peacebuilding impact was a central consideration of the Global Field Support Strategy.  Clearly communicating procurement requirements to local vendors, often in local languages, could be very challenging in the start-up phase of a mission, but over time, those vendors could get a sense of the requirements and utilize ingenuity to fulfil those needs — in the framework of United Nations rules and regulations.

Fostering employment opportunities was often a key peacebuilding task in which missions could have a positive effect.  In Liberia, for example, the United Nations Mission (UNMIL) and its partners, including United Nations agencies, the Liberian Ministry of Public Works and the World Bank, had designed a series of intensive road repair projects, creating more than 75,000 jobs and necessary economic infrastructure while improving the security situation in communities along the roads and spurring monetary flows.

A key element of successful transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding was the preparation of contingency plans for sustainable peace, as well as for a possible follow-on United Nations presence, she said.  Transitions could only succeed if well-prepared, well-executed and integrated.  Many of the support processes, such as liquidation of assets, could be highly political, considering their socio-economic impact.  While operating, peacekeeping missions often provided major support to national authorities with regard to infrastructure maintenance, transport logistics and other areas.

It was critical, therefore, to work with national counterparts to prepare for the impact that mission drawdown was likely to have on national resources, capacities and budgets, she said.  The experiences of UNMIL and other missions demonstrated how joint planning with national counterparts, along with capacity building, could mitigate those challenges.  The effects of drawdown on other partners within and beyond the United Nations system must also be taken into account, and efforts were being made through the Integration Steering Group to harmonize support costs across the United Nations.  Trust funds were an important element in that effort; the Peacebuilding Fund was being made more relevant in that way.

Development of national capacity should be a priority from the outset, she said.  Several missions had introduced programmes such as national staff certification for that purpose.  Accessing more effectively the civilian expertise needed for that effort was critical, and all must work together in that area to succeed.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was leading a system-wide group to study the tools that were needed in that area; recommendations were expected this summer.

The situation of civilian capacity remained critical, she added, pointing to capacity gaps in safety and security, rule of law, inclusive political processes, core government functionality, economic revitalization and niche capacities to respond to specialized needs.  To fill those gaps, her Department focused on building partnerships with Member States, regional organizations and utilizing South-South cooperation, especially from countries that had actually confronted and worked through similar challenges as the host country.  The principle of comparative advantage was critical.  Missions did not have to implement everything themselves.

All activities in transitioning to a sustainable peace were aimed at delivering on the mandates and ensuring that the international community did not have to return once missions had left.  The Security Council played an enormous role in that effort, setting the directions through mandates but building and maintaining the political support required for delivery.  In addition, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support counted on the Council and its members to work with them as partners in ensuring a coherent, coordinated and sustained response to the complex challenges faced in building peace before, during and after the departure of a mission.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:40 a.m.

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