13 November 2017
Governments Discuss Proposals on Peace and Security Reform
Photo by IISD/ENB
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The Secretary-General informed UN Member States that his reform proposals address the regional, vertical and horizontal disaggregation of the UN peace and security pillar, aiming to engender a whole-of-the-pillar approach.

The Nordic Countries, Georgia, and Japan supported the idea of a new peace and security structure, with two pillars instead of three, while Kenya favored keeping the three pillars (political affairs, peacekeeping and peacebuilding) distinct.

9 November 2017: UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently briefed UN Member States on his proposals for reform of the UN peace and security pillar, as issued in October 2017, following which delegates presented their feedback and discussed the way forward.

Opening the meeting, which convened on 9 November 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Miroslav Lajčák noted that over 140 heads of state, government and delegation had addressed UN system reform during the 2017 UNGA General Debate. He stressed that, while the Secretary-General has made proposals on reforms, the outcome of the process needs to be owned by all Member States.

Guterres said the peace and security reform process is linked with the reform processes on development and management. In particular, he underlined that implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change will help the UN in its prevention and peacebuilding work.

Guterres highlighted that the UN’s peace and security pillar lacks an integrated vision for its work, and it is split into three departments with different structures, which has important operational consequences. He said his reform proposals address regional, vertical and horizontal disaggregation, aiming to engender a whole-of-the-pillar approach. The reforms would not affect current mandates, he noted, nor current financial structures. He announced plans for a campaign for contributions to the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

In the ensuing discussion, Uruguay, the Nordic Countries, EU, US, Morocco, Georgia, Cuba, El Salvador, Algeria and Japan expressed “full support” for the Secretary-General’s reform proposals, with Uruguay stressing that Member States should not micromanage the reform but fully support the Secretary-General. China, Pakistan and PSIDS underscored the importance of inclusiveness, openness and transparency, and of ensuring that the reform process is driven by Member States. Singapore said Member States need a framework of assurances to assure them that, in undertaking the reform, the interests of all Member States will be safeguarded and the reform will be cost-neutral. He highlighted that the success of the reform depends on the breadth of Member States’ support base.

The Nordic Countries, EU, Kenya, Thailand and Japan expressed their “strong belief” that the three UN pillars (development, peace and security, and human rights) cannot be separated. the US called for a comprehensive roadmap of the three reform tracks to ensure interlinkages. China and Russia called for keeping the differentiation between pillars set by the UN Charter. Russia said the three UN pillars are not interdependent, and it is “not advisable” to make sustainable development and human rights main components of the UN’s peace and security work. Kenya also noted an overemphasis on human rights over economic and cultural rights, which he explained influences how the Secretariat prioritizes instructions coming from Member States, and called for a balance between rights. Guterres said political and civil rights are as important as economic and cultural rights, adding that human rights will not be used for political purposes.

The Nordic Countries, Georgia and Japan supported the idea of a new peace and security structure, with two pillars instead of three. Gabon for the African Group stressed the need to keep a “careful balance” between the areas of peace and security, with regard to funding and human resources. Kenya did not welcome the proposal to merge the peacebuilding and political affairs pillars of the peace and security architecture, favoring maintaining the three pillars (political affairs, peacekeeping and peacebuilding). Guterres noted that by bringing together the peacebuilding and political affairs pillars of the peace and security pillar, without conflating them, he aims to strengthen support for the peace continuum. He said the peacebuilding department will be strengthened by being together with a department that has broader views.

Russia inquired about funding for the proposal for a single regional operational structure (for the peace and security pillar), given the intention of being cost-neutral. Guterres reiterated that his proposals do not change anything in existing mandates, but aim to only establish a mechanism, which is a proposal of the Peacebuilding Commission contained in the Sustaining Peace resolution adopted by both UNGA and the Security Council. He said the mechanism would serve as a “hinge” between the three UN pillars, to facilitate communication and cooperation.

Morocco expressed particular support for the reform proposals related to preventive diplomacy, increasing support for the Peacebuilding Commission, and strengthening transparency, accountability and performance management. Japan welcomed the idea of making the Peacebuilding Support Office more active and placing it under the guidance of the Department of Political Affairs. Kenya noted that the work on elections should be undertaken through the peacebuilding and not the political affairs pillar.

Solomon Islands for the Pacific small island developing States (P-SIDS), the Nordic Countries, El Salvador and Morocco supported prevention as the core focus for reform. PSIDS called to include climate-related conflict in the vision of future conflicts. Guterres said in his view climate change is a security problem and has security implications, adding that he will do everything possible to address that.

Finland for the Nordic Countries, Kenya and China underlined the centrality of gender aspects, which they said must be mainstreamed at all levels and in all functions. China and Cuba called for equitable geographical representation in senior leadership. Guterres expressed commitment to ensure the regionally equitable distribution of high-level leadership posts.

The Nordic Countries congratulated the Secretary-General for the measures aimed at protecting whistleblowers and combatting sexual exploitation and abuse. El Salvador stressed the need for increased and expedited field support.

Colombia noted that the Resident Coordinator plays an increasing role in conflict prevention, and inquired how that will be reflected in the organigram. Guterres explained that where there are peacekeeping or political missions, the Secretariat will need to hone and perfect the link between them and the UN country teams. Where there are no such missions, the reform’s goal is to help country teams become more robust, adding that he will call for stronger support to the Peacebuilding Fund.

On process, Cuba suggested intergovernmental negotiations on the reform proposals before their adoption by the UNGA. Japan, US and Colombia suggested that the UNGA adopt a short, simple resolution endorsing the Secretary-General’s vision for reform, with the understanding that details will be discussed later on.

Guterres said the practical details of the reform will be presented in the second stage of the reform process, where Member States will be presented with more detailed proposals. However, he stressed, the details will not be fleshed out through intergovernmental negotiations. He explained that he was mandated to design these details, which can be honed as the implementation advances. He also noted that he held consultations will all regional groups “to take their pulse,” and their feedback will be reflected in the proposals. [Restructuring of the United Nations peace and security pillar: Report of the Secretary-General (A/72/525)] [UNGA President’s Letter]

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