Opening their eleventh session today, members of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Organizational Committee elected that body’s 2017 Bureau and the Chairs of its country-specific configurations, in addition to discussing its goals for the coming year.
Acting by acclamation, they elected Cho Tae-yul (Republic of Korea) the new Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as outgoing Chair Macharia Kamau (Kenya) and Juan José Gómez Camacho (Mexico) as Vice-Chairs. They also re-elected five Chairs of the Commission’s six country-specific configurations, as follows: Marc-André Blanchard (Canada), Sierra Leone; Mauro Vieira (Brazil), Guinea Bissau; Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), Burundi; Omar Hilale (Morocco), Central African Republic; and Carl Skau (Sweden), Liberia. Their terms of office will end on 31 December 2017. A decision on the Chair of the Guinea configuration would be taken at a later date.
Members of the Organizational Committee also approved the draft report of the Peacebuilding Commission’s 2016 tenth session (document PBC/10/OC/L.1), which reviews the work carried out over the past year, as well as the provisional work plan for 2017.
Mr. Kamau (Kenya), the outgoing Chair, outlined the Commission’s achievements in the cause of peace, saying it had prioritized an action plan in order to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in the area of peace and justice. Its participation in General Assembly discussions had produced resolutions and its diverse membership was testament to its crucial efforts for peace around the world. The Commission had also taken specific measures to leverage opportunities to implement the 2030 Agenda, particularly through discussion with the Security Council and the General Assembly, wherein the Commission had consistently “sounded the gong that the era of sustaining peace and sustainable development is upon on us”.
The Commission had also reached out to international financial institutions with a view to intensifying its work in West Africa, he continued, welcoming the Commission’s deepening cooperation with the African Union. Recognizing the role of women as “grassroots peacebuilders” and trailblazers, he emphasized that events on sustaining peace and sustainable development, whether in the General Assembly or the Security Council, were important milestones in the work of the United Nations, representative of the seriousness that peacebuilding was gaining in the 2030 Agenda.
Mr. Cho (Republic of Korea) said he counted on the support of members to make 2017 a successful year for peacebuilding because that was what the world expected from the United Nations. Welcoming the new Secretary-General’s appointment, especially in light of the current complex international climate, he pledged his support, saying the Commission would continue to mainstream the concept of sustaining peace throughout the United Nations. He said he would build upon the progress already made in boosting and strengthening international partnerships, including with regional and subregional organizations, the African Union in particular.
He went on to state that he would redouble efforts to ensure predictable financing and resources for peacebuilding operations. Strengthening partnerships with civil society and international financial institutions such as the World Bank would also be a priority, he said, emphasizing that young people must be involved in the peacebuilding process. The Chair would continue to improve the Commission’s working methods. Citing his country’s post-conflict transition out of violence and the collapse of the social infrastructure, he welcomed the Commission to examine the Republic of Korea as a case study, stressing that peace must never be taken for granted.
Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, said 2016 had been a productive and successful year, particularly in making the Commission more relevant and dynamic. Over the course of 2017, a more flexible Commission would help to address challenges and provide support for countries undergoing transition, he said. The issue of funding was also very important, as was defining a work plan that would “breathe much more life” into the Commission’s work. Noting that the Security Council had increasingly made reference to the Commission’s work over the past few months, he said there was much opportunity to offer critical value to Council debates. Welcoming calls for closer synergies, he underlined the need to continue to support countries requiring financing, and to ensure that sustained and predictable funding remained the key to the Commission’s eleventh session.
Chairs of the country-specific configurations also spoke about their goals for the new session, with Mr. Blanchard (Canada), Chair of the Sierra Leone configuration, emphasizing the importance of keeping the Ebola recovery on track. Despite progress, Sierra Leone continued to look to the international community for institution-building assistance, he said, underlining the need to prioritize and move forward on the gender dimension.
Mr. Vieira (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration, said there was need for one coherent voice, unified support for mediation efforts, and an approved plan of government. Civilians could not go on carrying the burden alone, he emphasized, adding that he looked forward to collaboration with the Department of Political Affairs.
Mr. Lauber (Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration, described the situation in that country as “dynamic”. There had been progress on issues concerning social and economic development, he said, pledging to extend the base of cooperation, including through international financial institutions.
Mr. Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration, described 2017 as “the year of hope”, saying he had been encouraged by pledges to provide much-needed funds. The international community must continue to help the Central African Republic stabilize itself and extend hope to its people. The configuration’s 2017 programme of work would include a meeting with the World Bank and a trip to the Central African Republic, he added.
Mr. Skau (Sweden), Chair of the Liberia configuration, said the notion of sustaining peace would only matter when it was translated into action. He went on to outline several priorities in the areas of development, strengthening the social fabric, and taking the sustaining peace agenda forward.
Albert Shingiro (Burundi) took note of the Peacebuilding Commission’s ambitious programme for 2017, saying that while there was much more to be done, it would be important to take regional dimensions, such as the current situation in the Gambia, into account.
Soumah François Abou (Guinea), recalling the Commission’s visit to his country, said much progress had been made on various issues, particularly strengthening institutions, and he looked forward to further engagement.
Rubén Ignacio Zamora Rivas (El Salvador) expressed the views of many, when he emphasized that although the Commission’s work was universal in nature, its work had been limited to only a few countries, adding that it had been working essentially for one continent — Africa. The almost exclusive focus on a handful of countries deprived the Commission of its universal responsibility, he stressed. Having just celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary of peace, El Salvador could exemplify that peace did not come naturally with the signing of an agreement. Calling for an expansion of focus, he declared: “Meetings here sometimes are meetings where we listen, but there is scarce opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way.”
Also speaking today were representatives of Japan, Sweden, Norway, France, Egypt, Bangladesh, Belgium, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia and Senegal.
The Peacebuilding Commission will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.