Burundi + 1 more

Press conference by new chairman of Peacebuilding Commission, Kenzo Oshima of Japan

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With the foundations now laid for the Peacebuilding Commission during its initial year, the new body would deepen its work with the first countries on its agenda, widen its operations to other countries and incorporate a variety of cross-cutting issues, its new Chairman, Kenzo Oshima of Japan, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

"It's not easy when a new mechanism is being set up in a multilateral context such as the United Nations," said Mr. Oshima, who had been elected to the position earlier that morning in the first meeting of its second session. He paid tribute to the leadership of Ambassador Ismael Abraão Gaspar Martins of Angola, the previous chair of the Commission, who joined him on the podium along with Ambassador Johan Lovald of Norway, Vice-Chair of the Commission in its first year and Coordinator of the Country-Specific Configuration for Burundi.

Mr. Oshima recalled the hard work that had been put into the new body's structure before it had been able to begin work on its first two country-specific cases, Burundi and Sierra Leone. Now the Commission would soon be ready, in consultation with the Security Council, to take on new countries and to examine issues such as security sector reform, youth unemployment and other concerns affecting peacebuilding in a cross-cutting manner, he said.

The Commission would also be able to broaden its contact with the media and other partners in performing its advocacy functions, while strengthening its efforts to get things done in the field that affected people's lives, which was its ultimate objective, he said.

Mr. Martins summed up the first year's work of the Commission by saying: "We have been able to give to the international community and to the World Summit of 2005, a positive response to the challenge which was raised." That challenge consisted of addressing the needs of countries that were emerging from conflict to keeping them from relapsing into violence. He thanked the membership of the Commission, its bureau and the Secretariat, led by Carolyn McAskie, for their hard work in those efforts.

A major accomplishment of the Commission's first year, said Mr. Lovald, was the agreement, on 20 June, of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi, after extensive consultations with the Government of that country and other stakeholders. The objective of that framework was to specify who does what task. Explaining that peacebuilding had been going on for a long time inside and outside the United Nations, he said that the goal of the Commission was to coordinate those efforts for better results.

In pulling together the diverse partners, including United Nations agencies, the Bretton Woods financial institutions, the governments concerned and civic society organizations, the Commission had developed innovative and inclusive working methods, including the use of teleconferencing.

The focus in Burundi, Mr. Lovald added, would now be on developing monitoring mechanisms to make sure all gaps were filled and all challenges dealt with. There would also, of course, be a greater emphasis on implementation.

Asked by correspondents how the Commission would prioritize post-conflict situations in choosing its next country-specific cases, Mr. Oshima said that there was no fixed formula. The Commission worked as an advisory body that took referrals from the Security Council and, in some cases, from the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). There was much work to be done in Africa, he said, though situations in other areas -- such as Timor Leste in Asia -- were certain to come up when the time was ripe.

Asked about the participation of the European Commission in the work of the Commission, panel members replied that European countries were already major contributors to various peacebuilding efforts, and it was assumed that they would continue those contributions in various configurations, including through the European Commission, which was one of the largest donors in Burundi. In regard to the participation of the Portuguese-speaking community, the panel said that Angola, Brazil and Guinea-Bissau were members of the Commission.

Asked about the relationship between the Peacebuilding Support Fund and the Human Security Trust Fund, panel members said that the latter was administered by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and had already funded 150 projects to enhance human security, which were implemented by a multiplicity of agency. There was some overlap between that fund and the peacebuilding fund, since human security was an element in peacebuilding, but the two financial sources would be used in a complementary manner.

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