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"The Challenge of Sustaining Peace": The Report on the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture

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At the request of the General Assembly and the Security Council the Advisory Group of Experts for the 2015 Review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture prepared a report titled “The Challenge of Sustaining Peace” in June 2015. This report represents the first part of a two-stage review of the role and positioning of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), the Peace- building Fund (PBF) as well as other UN entities active in peacebuilding.

The UN Peacebuilding Architecture

Against the backdrop of increasing criticism of UN peace operations, in 2004 the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change noted that the UN system lacked institutional structures aimed at pre- venting states from collapsing or at supporting countries in their transition from war to peace. Conse- quently, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan endorsed the panel’s recommendations to create a commis- sion in order to centralize and coordinate the actions taken by the UN and to establish an office and a fund to assist countries emerging from conflict. These three organs together are commonly referred to as the “UN Peacebuilding Architecture” (PBA).

  • PBC | The Peacebuilding Commission is an intergovernmental advisory body that supports sustain- able peace by (1) bringing together all relevant actors, including donors, the international financial institutions, national governments, and troop contributing countries, (2) marshalling resources, and (3) advising on and proposing integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery.

  • PBF | The Peacebuilding Fund supports activities, programs and organizations that seek to build a lasting peace in countries emerging from conflict. It works through two mechanisms: the Immediate Response Facility is designed to jumpstart peacebuilding and recovery needs while the Peacebuilding and Recovery Facility supports more long-term processes.

  • PBSO | The Peacebuilding Support Office was established to assist and support the PBC with strate- gic advice and policy guidance, administer the PBF and to serve the Secretary-General in coordinat- ing United Nations agencies in their peacebuilding efforts.

Key Findings of “The Challenge of Sustaining Peace”

  1. Peacebuilding is commonly understood as an activity undertaken only in post-conflict situations whereas it can in fact occur in all phases of the conflict cycle. The panel criticizes that peacebuild- ing is often treated as an afterthought and is consequently often under-prioritized and under- resourced.

  2. The UN system is fragmented at every level – from the intergovernmental organs and the Secre- tariat to the field missions – into separate “silos” that each perform solely from the vantage point of their particular responsibilities.

  3. Against the backdrop of a rising number of violent conflicts and their increasing complexity, frag- mentation and intractability, the panel highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach of sustaining peace as it represents the core task of the UN.

  4. Fostering “inclusive national ownership” is crucial for the success of a peace operation since neither a functioning nation state nor an inclusive system of governance can be taken as givens in post-conflict situations. The national responsibility of driving efforts to sustain peace must be broadly shared across all social groups and include a wide spectrum of political opinions. The inclu- sion of women and youth is of the utmost importance.

  5. Realistic timelines must form the basis for UN peace operations as sustaining peace after a conflict presents a lengthy and costly challenge. Undue haste and narrow focus on cessation of hostilities rather than on addressing the root causes are significant factors for relapse.