Convening its first 2018 meeting amid several major shifts in the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, the Peacebuilding Commission today elected Ion Jinga (Romania) as Chair of its twelfth session, while also adopting a workplan aimed at expanding the Commission’s work and building synergies both within and beyond the United Nations system.
Elected as Vice‑Chairs for the same period were the representatives of Germany and the Republic of Korea.
At the meeting’s outset, the Commission adopted, without a vote, a draft report on its eleventh session. Presenting the document, outgoing Chair Cho Tae‑yul (Republic of Korea) said it outlined the Commission’s work in 2017 to implement the relevant recommendations and resolutions laid out in the wider review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, as well as priorities identified in the previous report’s “Agenda going forward” section. It also identified key priorities to serve as the framework of its future workplan, he said, noting that the report would be transmitted to the General Assembly and the Security Council for their respective annual consideration.
Prior to the report’s adoption, the representative of Japan welcomed its contents, stressing: “The Commission has come a long way in the last couple of years.” While the body had been going through a difficult time, those challenges could also be used to make great headway. Among other things, members had worked to make the Commission’s work more transparent and allowed it to venture into new territory, including a partnership with the World Bank and the inclusion of new countries which had not previously been included on its agenda. Recalling that the Secretary‑General had presented several important reform proposals, he emphasized that “we must respond in kind, showing that we are committed to improving our own performance”.
Mr. Jinga, addressing the Commission for the first time as its Chair, outlined the proposed 2018 workplan, which he said focused on five key priorities. The first was to maintain its regional approach, which presented important opportunities and positioned the body to carry on its coordinated, coherent approach to peacebuilding. “As demonstrated during recent discussions on Asian and Latin American experiences, peacebuilding is a universal imperative,” he said, encouraging countries from various regions to consider using the Commission as a platform to share peacebuilding experiences and build partnerships with key stakeholders.
Regarding partnerships, he said the Commission had demonstrated a high degree of flexibility in engaging with peacebuilding stakeholders. Underlining his intention to further strengthen collaboration with regional and subregional organizations — especially the African Union — as well as global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank and civil society organizations, he said partnerships with the private sector should also be further explored.
Recalling that a key outcome of the recent peacebuilding review had been the recognition of the importance of supporting conflict‑affected countries “through the whole process”, including preventing the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of conflict, he went on to stress that peacebuilding must respect the sovereignty of the States concerned and be based on the concept of ownership. Pledging to further strengthen the synergies between the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, he voiced his intention to continue convening regular discussions with the Peacebuilding Support Office with the goal of keeping the Commission updated on the countries supported by the latter and enhancing coherence between the two bodies, all while preserving the Fund’s independence. In addition, he said, there was a need to raise the Commission’s profile and broaden public awareness of its work, which would be accomplished in part by transmitting its meetings via webcast.
Mr. Cho, delivering final remarks in his capacity as Chair of the Commission, said the progress achieved during his tenure had largely been made possible by the twin resolutions adopted in 2016 by the Security Council and the General Assembly on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture. Indeed, it had been an “opportune time” for reinvigorating the Commission’s role, allowing it to expand its work and consider new countries and regions. Most notably, the Commission had begun to assist the Gambia in its critical transition period by sustaining international attention on the country after the Security Council ended its deliberations on it.
Additionally, he said, the Commission had discussed the situations in the Solomon Islands, Colombia and Sri Lanka at their requests, contributing to the synergies between the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, and continued to take a regional approach through its discussions on the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and the Great Lakes regions. Stressing that such support must not end with one‑off meetings, he said the body should focus on identifying and implementing practical ways to help countries and regions in achieving their peacebuilding priorities.
The Commission had also continued to strengthen its partnerships with stakeholders within and outside the United Nations, he continued, recalling in particular a meeting convened with the World Bank in June 2017. Building a partnership with the African Development Bank would be another priority for 2018, as was continuing its recent exploration of ways to engage with the private sector and civil society.
Within the United Nations, he said, interaction between the Commission and the Security Council was improving, and the former had also convened a joint meeting with the Economic and Social Council in June 2017 to address the social and economic dimensions of the challenges facing the Sahel region. “We should continue to deliberate on how to better work with these bodies to bring about a cross‑pillar, coherent, integrated approach to peacebuilding,” he stressed.
Among other elements, he said the Commission should build on recent efforts to diversify its working methods — with a view to promoting the concept of a “one PBC” — and move beyond simply convening meetings to explore more practical support it could provide to countries. That could include regular visits with international financial institutions in order to advocate on their behalf.
Oscar Fernandez‑Taranco, Assistant Secretary‑General for Peacebuilding Support, also addressed the Commission, thanking the outgoing Chair for his efforts over the recent year. “You have helped raise the profile and impact of the PBC during this unprecedented year,” he said, citing its meetings on the Sahel and Great Lakes region, as well as the Gambia, as important examples. Discussions on the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and Colombia had also been critical, as they provided a space for interested counties to share their experiences with peacebuilding, underlining the principle of national ownership and sharing lessons learned.
Equally important was the Commission’s intention to expand its work, he said, outlining several major challenges ahead. First, the Commission must continue to build on and consolidate the progress achieved and continue to become nimbler in its ability to assist countries. A high‑level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, to be convened by the President of the General Assembly on 24 and 25 April, would focus on accountability, leadership, partnerships and funding, among other issues. Noting that 2018 would see critical changes to the United Nations peace operations architecture — including the repositioning of the various relevant bodies — he said there would also likely be changes to the Peacebuilding Fund aimed at improving its ability to support the priorities of Member States and encouraging a “quantum leap” in their contributions to it.
Juergen Schulz (Germany), Vice‑Chair of the Commission, expressed his delegation’s strong support for both the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, noting that Germany had been the latter’s second‑largest donor in 2017. Welcoming changes to the Commission’s working methods in recent years, which had transformed it into a more flexible body, he also voiced support for efforts to strengthen its advisory role to the Security Council and urged members to build on the current positive momentum in sustaining peace.
Representatives of El Salvador, Colombia, Kenya, Burundi, Belgium, Bolivia, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Indonesia, France, South Africa, the Central African Republic and Mexico — as well as the European Union delegation — also took the floor to deliver general statements about the Commission’s past and upcoming work and pose questions about elements of its 2018 workplan. Many expressed support for its core priorities, while also drawing attention to the United Nations recent paradigm shift in support of a more holistic concept of sustaining peace. Others voiced concern that the Peacebuilding Fund remained woefully underfunded and called on States to boost their contributions to that critical entity. Mr. Jinga and Mr. Fernandez‑Taranco responded to several questions.
In other business, the Commission re‑elected, without a vote, representatives to serve as chairs of its country meetings during 2018. They were: Brazil, for Guinea‑Bissau; Canada, for Sierra Leone; Morocco, for the Central African Republic; Sweden, for Liberia; and Switzerland, for Burundi. Each delivered brief remarks outlining his or her priorities for the coming year.