Chapter II: B. Maintenance of international peace and security

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) delivering election materials and deploying security personnel ahead of elections. UN Photo/Logan Abassi

Adapting to new conflicts 

Today’s conflicts pose complex challenges for the Organization. For us to be better prepared and effectively respond to these demands, we must reinvigorate our approach to include:

  • Fortifying our capacity to build political solutions to existing threats and emerging challenges; 
  • Ensuring that State and institution-building strengthen legitimacy through inclusion and attention to grievances; ​
  • Upholding the Organization’s impartiality; 
  • Making effective use of the Secretary-General’s good offices through mediation support.

The United Nations must go beyond reacting to events and build anticipatory relationships with national and regional partners to prevent conflict. Prevention requires addressing the root causes of conflict across the three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, human rights and inclusive development.

To bring us closer to a United Nations that is agile and able to deliver results in complex environments, I initiated a review of the peace and security architecture of the Secretariat. I strongly endorse the central message of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations to place political solutions at the centre of our work. We are also breaking new ground with the creation of the Office of Counter-Terrorism (General Assembly resolution 71/291). 

Women, peace and security 

The women, peace and security agenda is critical for preventing conflict and shaping more effective responses to today’s crises, and the United Nations must lead by example. I am dedicated to ensuring effective follow-up to the gender-specific recommendations emanating from previous reviews and the sustaining peace resolutions of 2016. I am currently urgently looking at how to increase the number of women appointed in United Nations-led or co-led mediation processes and in peacekeeping and special political missions (see figure III). The United Nations publication Guidance on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Strategies was issued during the reporting period to offer practical strategies for more inclusive and gender-responsive mediation. At a conference on United Nations peacekeeping, held in London in September 2016, more than 60 Member States pledged to increase women’s participation at all levels of peacekeeping operations. Women currently make up 26 per cent of head of mission and deputy head of mission positions, the highest proportion ever achieved, but we are still far short of gender parity. 

Youth, peace and security  

Recent Security Council resolutions have spearheaded a growing focus on harnessing young people’s contribution to sustaining peace. The ongoing progress study on youth, peace and security is documenting the positive contribution of young women and men through in-depth consultations with youth. Further research needs to be done to better understand the implications of technology on growing youth unemployment and how technology can be harnessed in youth education.  

Use of my good offices: preventive diplomacy and mediation  

 I am fully engaged in offering support in seeking peaceful solutions to disputes through the use of my good offices. Once the looming risk of violence emerges, my special envoys and representatives are often among the first responders. Working regularly with regional actors, my Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel played a critical role during the post-election crisis in the Gambia in support of mediation that resulted in former President Jammeh’s decision to cede power in a peaceful manner. My Special Representative heading the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia is committed to offering his good offices to facilitate negotiations on transnational water resources. My Special Representative for Central Africa continues to promote inclusive political dialogue and provide good offices in Gabon, the Congo, Chad and Cameroon. The peacekeeping operation for the Central African Republic is working with the African Union to implement the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, including measures to prevent intercommunal violence. I have called upon India and Pakistan to find a peaceful solution to tensions and have reiterated the availability of my good offices to assist in any way necessary. I also rely upon a pool of readily deployable experts at Headquarters and the Standby Team of Senior Mediation Advisers. Their technical knowledge has provided extensive support not only for my envoys but also for regional and national initiatives. I have also personally exercised my good offices in several contexts since my appointment and intend to continue to do so.

Engagement in preventing and ending grave violations against children can constitute an entry point for dialogue and mediation. State and non-State parties have pursued commitments to end grave violations against children. Together with the United Nations Children’s Fund and others, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict supports the implementation of the May 2016 agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army on the separation of children associated with the armed group, as an observer and guarantor. Working with my Special Representative, the Democratic Republic of the Congo committed to making progress in preventing the recruitment of children into the country’s armed forces.  

Democratic transitions and elections  

The importance of accompanying electoral processes with preventive diplomacy was demonstrated over the year. In Ghana, the good offices of my Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel were critical in bringing about a peaceful denouement to electoral tensions. Coordination with regional and international actors, particularly the Economic Community of West African States, was central to avoiding violence. In Afghanistan, the United Nations supported key reforms to strengthen the electoral process, including the election of three women to the election commission. The conclusion of the electoral process in Haiti in early 2017, with the support of the United Nations, paved the way for the return to constitutional normalcy and political stability.

In contrast to these successes, political tensions rose in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the expiry of President Kabila’s second term approached in December 2016. The peacekeeping mission mandate was refocused to support the protection of civilians and the implementation of the agreement brokered by the Conference épiscopale nationale du Congo, made up of national Christian leaders. Significant support from the international community will continue to be required to allow the organization of credible and peaceful elections by the end of 2017.  

Crisis management  

United Nations peace operations are increasingly deployed earlier than previously to prevent, contain or help end violence. The imperative to prevent the further escalation of violence may dictate the need for the presence of United Nations missions even when a viable political solution is weak or absent. Experience has demonstrated that no matter how well equipped or robust, peacekeeping cannot effectively fulfil protection of civilian mandates without a political strategy or plan supported by the parties and by regional and international stakeholders.

This was apparent across a number of peacekeeping theatres. The United Nations mission in the Central African Republic has intervened on many occasions to prevent communal violence from spiralling out of control, averting major massacres. The mission in South Sudan has struggled to protect civilians against a backdrop of intensified hostilities between the parties to the conflict and an array of crippling obstructions erected by national authorities. The deployment of a regional protection force has generated minimal progress in improving the situation because of a lack of government cooperation. Nevertheless, while falling short in certain serious instances, the United Nations mission is protecting and sustaining hundreds of thousands of people every day. Multiple discussions within and statements by the Security Council, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development have failed so far to produce a clear way forward for a cessation of hostilities and a revitalization of the political process.

Ensuring that peacekeepers have the right capabilities and the political will to protect civilians is critical. In Mali, delays in generating critical military assets have limited the United Nations mission’s ability to fulfil the robust and proactive mandate authorized in June 2016. While the mission has pursued tireless efforts through mediation to support the implementation of the peace agreement, protracted disagreements and a lack of trust between signatory parties has stalled progress, further contributing to the deteriorating situation. A framework to strengthen commitment and better deliver on civilian protection mandates is under development.

Achieving negotiated settlements during full-blown hostilities, taking into account complex local, regional and international interests, has proven challenging in mission and non-mission settings alike. In the Syrian Arab Republic, the inability to reach agreement has allowed violence and human suffering to fester for far too long. Negotiations for a political transition in the Syrian Arab Republic resumed under United Nations auspices and were facilitated by my Special Envoy in January 2017. Yet on the ground, relentless assaults on civilians continue, causing massive displacements that threaten stability in the region and beyond. In Yemen, despite the efforts of my Special Envoy, the parties have not returned to the negotiating table. In Afghanistan, my Special Representative continues to support reconciliation initiatives within a prolonged humanitarian crisis. Progress towards a political solution in Burundi has been similarly slow, owing largely to the reluctance of parties to engage without preconditions.  

Sustaining peace  

General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on sustaining peace have expanded the notion of peacebuilding. Previously seen as a purely post-conflict endeavour, peacebuilding aims to prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of violence in order to sustain peace throughout a conflict cycle.

My forthcoming report on sustaining peace will set out the implications of this holistic approach, including links to broader reforms. My prevention platform will be a central element and will support a more integrated, strategic and coherent approach among the three pillars of United Nations work: peace and security, development and human rights.

We are operationalizing the concept of sustaining peace, where appropriate. The Secretariat is supporting the Peacebuilding Commission’s working methods to bring together Member States, regional and subregional organizations, civil society and international financial institutions to address a broad range of country-specific, cross-border and regional situations. Immediately after the peaceful resolution of the post-electoral crisis in the Gambia, a United Nations assessment mission, a visit by the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and the quick disbursement of grants from the Peacebuilding Fund were critical in ensuring support to the new Government’s efforts to consolidate stability.

In Liberia, at the request of the Security Council, the United Nations developed a peacebuilding plan through a tripartite United Nations, European Union and World Bank mechanism to direct the transition out of peacekeeping. In the Central African Republic and Mali, the United Nations began developing community engagement strategies to build local capacity and prevent and mitigate intercommunal tension and conflict.

Steady progress in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti and Liberia has paved the way for the planned drawdown of peacekeeping operations in those countries in 2017-2018. An attempted army mutiny in Côte d’Ivoire in May 2017 signalled that the Government must address grievances both within the Ivorian security sector and more broadly to sustain peace consolidation in the country. In Haiti, a smaller specialized peacekeeping operation will build on the work done by its predecessor in support of the rule of law. Nevertheless, the withdrawal of a mission does not mark the end of the road towards sustainable peace but rather the reconfiguration of the Organization’s presence.

Fast, catalytic and risk-tolerant funding is crucial for sustaining peace. The Peacebuilding Fund maintained its support levels with the renewed commitment of 33 Member States at its pledging conference in September 2016. The Fund exceeded the United Nations-wide target to allocate at least 15 per cent to gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also expanded its role in financing cross-border and regional peacebuilding initiatives, launched the first United Nations dedicated funding stream on youth, peace and security, and for the first time directly funded civil society organizations.  


We stand a better chance of success if we join together to address potential crises and support communities in the pursuit of peace. I have, therefore, prioritized partnerships and signed an agreement in April 2017 with the Chairperson of the African Commission, formalizing joint mechanisms for regular consultation and cooperation at the strategic and working levels. The agreement covers the gamut of peace and security, from the establishment of a United Nations-African Union working group on conflict prevention to crisis management. In Somalia, Darfur, the Central African Republic and Mali, our cooperation with the African Union showcases a history of innovative and adapted solutions. I hope that my proposals on sustainable, predictable and flexible financing for African Union peace support operations mandated by the Council will receive favourable consideration by Member States. Such collaboration must be based on an understanding of comparative advantage and added value. 

Our partnerships are among the most valuable preventive tools of  the United Nations  

Effective partnerships are among the most valuable preventive tools available to the United Nations, whether with Governments, non-governmental organizations or the private sector. In Central Asia, we are working closely with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on a range of issues, including addressing the threats of terrorism, violent extremism and drug trafficking. In Southern Africa, the United Nations supported national mediation training conducted by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Lesotho ahead of the June 2017 elections, as a contribution to the broader SADC mediation effort. In Southeast Asia, the United Nations concluded a new plan of action with the Association of South-East Asian Nations, emphasizing a closer partnership for sustaining peace and preventive diplomacy and in economic and sociocultural affairs. In Europe, I am committed to supporting a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine through the efforts of the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Our close cooperation with the European Union was further strengthened, particularly in Mali, the Central African Republic and Somalia, and we have worked together in key political processes across Africa and the Middle East. We have also focused on rapid deployment and security sector reform.

In April 2017, the World Bank President and I signed an updated Partnership Framework for Crisis and Post-Crisis Situations, expanding the partnership to include collaboration in preventing violent conflict. We renewed our commitment to work together on development, humanitarian, political, security, peacebuilding and human rights challenges. 

To prevent conflict and sustain peace, we must assist countries in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals    

To prevent conflict and sustain peace, we must assist countries in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet the link between inclusive sustainable development and the prevention of violence is not well understood. A joint United Nations-World Bank flagship study on how development and political processes interact for the prevention of violence, the first of its kind, is under way and will examine the evidence on how grievances linked to inequality and exclusion increase the risk of violent conflict.