The United Nations and peacebuilding

In the 1990s the United Nations became aware of the risk of countries which are emerging from crises relapsing into their previous state. In the crucial period immediately following a conflict, the international community must support the still-fragile national institutions of the concerned States and allow them to meet the basic needs of their populations. To support the State’s transition towards stabilization and, where appropriate, facilitate use of “normal” terms of international assistance, the 2005 United Nations World Summit enabled two tools to be created.

The Peacebuilding Commission

The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) is a subsidiary body of the Security Council and the General Assembly. Its role is to improve the coherence of interventions by the international community and draw up a strategy to guarantee the convergence of efforts of all actors involved in managing the emergence of each conflict situation. In particular, it provides a roadmap to the relevant country and its partners. An advisory body, the PBC also enables countries which refer to it to be monitored by the international community and to follow developments in internal reforms which are necessary in order to emerge from the crisis.

While national ownership of State reconstruction is a central part of the peacebuilding process, the PBC supports the relevant State in identifying its needs and holds regular dialogue with it. In this context, mobilizing funds remains a major challenge for the PBC. From this perspective, the PBC’s interaction with international financial institutions and regional organizations is essential. In order to ensure aid effectiveness, the PBC plays a major coordinating role for all peacebuilding actors both within the United Nations system (PKO civilian and military components, specialized agencies) and with the main donors.

So far, the PBC has been referred to on six occasions: Burundi and Sierra Leone since 2006, Guinea-Bissau since 2007, the Central African Republic since 2008, Liberia since 2010 and Guinea since 2011.

The Peacebuilding Fund

To support the PBC, a Peacebuilding Fund was also created. This Fund is maintained by voluntary contributions and its goal is to finance emergency expenses to help countries emerge from crises in situations where normal financing procedures are insufficient. It is directed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support and acts as a catalyst to encourage development bodies and bilateral donors to provide more long-term support. It is managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The six countries which have referred to the PBC receive financial assistance from the Peacebuilding Fund. But other countries (16 since the Fund was established) can also benefit from it following a decision from the Secretary-General, even if their cases have not yet been referred to the PBC. Finally, certain United Nations agencies (the UNDP in particular) and international or non-governmental organizations working to build peace can also benefit from the implementation of programmes financed by the Fund.

Contributions for 2012 reached $80.5 million, the highest amount since 2008. In 2013, the main donors made pledges until 2015, thus enabling significant contributions and ensuring strong financial assistance.

The role of field missions

Beyond budgetary considerations and issues linked to coordinating international actors, the process of emerging from crises also greatly depends on the manner in which the international community supports the local efforts of the relevant State.

The United Nations thus increasingly emphasizes the importance of peacebuilding during its field missions: Peacekeeping operations (with a military component) or special political missions (solely civilian). The mandate for these missions changes according to the goal of the transition, e.g. highlighting support for political processes (national dialogue, organizing elections, constitutional reform, etc.) or security system reform (SSR) to allow local authorities to take responsibility for their own security. The missions themselves change gradually: reduction of military staff, shift towards an international presence in the form of police forces, light footprint of the civilian component.

Eventually, as was the case in East Timor in 2013, the United Nations missions aim is to move out of the country, to be replaced by traditional international assistance.

updated : 24.12.13