UN Secretary-General Details New Elements of Peace and Security Architecture
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The UN Secretary-General notes that the Standing Principals’ Group will be an internal management mechanism to ensure coherence and unified decision-making between the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations, and to facilitate coherence at Headquarters and in the field.

The four stand-alone divisions for Africa will be responsible for the broad spectrum of UN work in early warning, prevention of conflict, peacebuilding, mediation, sustaining peace, backstopping of special political missions and peacekeeping operations in designated sub-regions or geographical areas.

14 November 2018: UN Secretary-General António Guterres has provided an update on reforming the UN’s peace and security pillar, particularly on the Standing Principals’ Group and the four stand-alone divisions for Africa that will operate under the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations.

The reform of the UN peace and security pillar complements two other areas of reform overseen by the UN Secretary-General, related to the UN development system and UN management. A recently launched UN website provides information, news and resources on the three areas of reform.

In resolution A/RES/72/262 C on ‘Special subjects relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2018–2019,’ the UN General Assembly (UNGA) expressed support for the reform of the peace and security pillar as envisioned by the UN Secretary-General, and endorsed the establishment of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and the Department of Peace Operations (DPO). The resolution notes the intention of the UN Secretary-General to establish and chair a Standing Principals’ Group (SPG) to provide unified leadership for strategic, political and operational responsibilities, and requests him to present information to the UNGA on its functioning and composition.

In response to this request, in a letter addressed to the UNGA President on 14 November 2018, Guterres notes that the SPG will be an internal management mechanism to ensure coherence and unified decision-making between DPPA and DPO, and to facilitate coherence at UN Headquarters and in the field. According to the letter, the SPG will be chaired by the UN Secretary-General with the participation of: the UN Chef de Cabinet; the UN Under-Secretaries-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and for Peace Operations; and the Under-Secretaries-General of the Offices of Counter-Terrorism and of Disarmament Affairs. The letter adds that other UN entities may be invited to participate as needed and in an advisory capacity.

On functions, the UN Secretary-General indicates that the SPG will meet quarterly, and on an ad hoc basis as required, to: facilitate coordination, communication and coherence in the implementation of peace and security priorities; support managerial and leadership coherence at UN Headquarters and in the field; and resolve possible differences on political and operational issues. It clarifies that the SPG will not duplicate existing strategic-level decision-making mechanisms in the UN Secretariat, but bring greater coherence and unified decision-making to peace and security matters.

The four divisions for Africa will operate “within the single regional political operational structure” of the DPPA and DPO, effective 1 January 2019.

UNGA resolution A/RES/72/262 C also decides to establish four stand-alone divisions for Africa, effective from 1 January 2019, within approved resources, and requests the UN Secretary-General to present information on the organizational structure of these divisions, taking into account views expressed by UN Member States. In this regard, Guterres’ letter provides a paper outlining specific responsibilities for the divisions of Northern Africa, Western Africa, Eastern Africa, and Central and Southern Africa.

Per the paper, the four divisions will be responsible for the broad spectrum of UN work in early warning, prevention of conflict, peacebuilding, mediation, sustaining peace, backstopping of special political missions, and peacekeeping operations in designated sub-regions or geographical areas. The divisions will operate “within the single regional political-operational structure” of the DPPA and the DPO, effective 1 January 2019.

The paper specifies which countries will be covered by each division, as follows:

  • the Northern Africa Division will cover Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Western Sahara;
  • the Western Africa Division will cover Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo;
  • the Eastern Africa Division will cover Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda; and
  • the Central and Southern Africa Division will cover Angola, Burundi, Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The UN’s webpage on the peace and security reforms outlines the respective roles of the two new departments, the overarching goals of the reform, relevant resolutions and reports, and the five elements of the reform process. [All SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of UN reform processes]

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