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Operationalizing the Sustaining Peace Agenda: Lessons from Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Papua New Guinea

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The twin resolutions on peacebuilding and sustaining peace adopted by the General Assembly and Security Council in 2016 made a breakthrough in the UN’s conception of peacebuilding. Significant work has since been undertaken to reconfigure the UN system to work toward the implementation of these resolutions and the fulfillment of this vision. First and foremost, this has required reforms to revitalize the UN’s peacebuilding architecture and enhance its synergies with all the pillars of the UN. Further, it has necessitated the revision of internal UN processes, which the secretary-general put forward in 2018 in a set of forty-two recommendations to implement the peacebuilding and sustaining peace resolutions.

To inform the review of the peacebuilding architecture, this issue brief synthesizes findings related to the operationalization of the peacebuilding and sustaining peace resolutions at the country level in Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Papua New Guinea. In all three countries, the reforms and recommendations are in the process of being implemented, albeit unevenly. Liberia was an early test case for the implementation of the recommendations, while Papua New Guinea has made significant advances, and Burkina Faso is moving forward with the reforms amid unfolding security and humanitarian crises.

Implementation can be assessed across four areas: (1) operational and policy coherence; (2) leadership, accountability, and capacity; (3) financing; and (4) partnerships. The reform of the resident coordinator’s offices is one of the most concrete manifestations of improved operational and policy coherence, leadership, and accountability. Partnerships have been established or reinforced at all levels and across sectors, but partnerships with civil society organizations, local communities, and the private sector could be better systematized and better integrated into the UN way of working. The Peacebuilding Commission, along with the Peacebuilding Fund and Peacebuilding Support Office, have backed up this country-level work with political and financial support, though funding remains inadequate.

To date, much of the focus has been on improving the effectiveness of how the UN delivers its mandates. To fully realize the vision of the sustaining peace agenda, its operationalization must increasingly focus on the impact of these efforts. This requires questioning and testing the theory of change underpinning these operational reforms to ensure the UN is effectively helping societies build the foundation for sustaining peace.