3 May 2018
High-level Event Considers How UN Can Do Better for Peace and Security
Photo by IISD/Mike Muzurakis
story highlights

The UNGA held a high-level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, during which a Goodwill Ambassador, an advocate for war-affected children, and heads of state and government intervened.

Member States adopted a resolution requesting the UN Secretary-General to provide additional reports on his recommendations and options for the UN peacebuilding architecture.

26 April 2018: The UN General Assembly held a high-level meeting as part of its mandate on strengthening the UN’s work in peacebuilding and sustaining peace. A Goodwill Ambassador, an advocate for war-affected children, and heads of state and government intervened during the gathering, which adopted a resolution regarding the UN Secretary-General’s proposals on the UN’s peace and security architecture.

In 2016, the UNGA and Security Council adopted parallel resolutions setting out the ‘sustaining peace’ agenda (A/RES/70/262 and Resolution 2282). In January 2018, UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a report on progress in implementing the resolutions, which outlined recommendations to address remaining gaps. Briefing governments on this report in March 2018, Guterres noted that: some of his proposed changes require Member States’ approval, while he is already undertaking others; sustainable and inclusive development is both an end in itself and a means to preventing conflict; women must occupy leadership positions in mechanisms for conflict resolution; and the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) should have its resources increased to US$500 million annually, and the UN is exploring innovative financing solutions.

Also in March, UNGA President Miroslav Lajcak appointed Audra Plepyte, Permanent Representative of Lithuania, and Masud Bin Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, to lead negotiations on a UNGA resolution on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, and the resulting draft resolution was agreed via silence procedure on 16 April, and adopted during the UNGA high-level meeting (A/72/L.49). The text requests the UN Secretary-General to: during UNGA 73, provide an interim report to elaborate on his recommendations and options, including on financing UN peacebuilding activities; and during UNGA 74, submit a report in connection with the next comprehensive review of the UN peacebuilding architecture, focusing on continued implementation of the Sustaining Peace resolutions and progress in the implementing the recommendations and options contained in his report.

Opening the meeting on 24 April, in New York, US, Lajcak said it would help assess what has been done so far and plan ways to “do better.” He called for more of the following: mediation and diplomacy at all levels; coherence at the UN level between peace and security, human rights, development and other areas of work; partnerships; inclusion; and investments in preventing conflicts and sustaining peace. He noted that the PBF – the main funding mechanism for Sustaining Peace – is struggling to reach its US$500 million per year target.

Guterres said the world is going backwards despite globalization’s benefits, with record numbers of civilians displaced by violence, war and persecution, “horrific violations” of human rights, and rising nationalism, racism and xenophobia. He reported that his High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation seeks to support action for peace globally, and that the Action for Peacekeeping initiative was launched in March 2018 to mobilize greater support for stronger and safer UN peacekeeping missions. He also noted his intention to strengthen support to the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) by revitalizing the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and strengthening its role across the UN system.

Michelle Yeoh, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, called on women to be active agents in peace negotiations, adding that women’s empowerment and inclusion in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes helps make peace more sustainable. She also noted that over half of refugees in the world are children.

Ishmael Beah, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Advocate for Children Affected by War, indicated that in many countries including Syria, South Sudan and Nigeria, children are targeted and attacked, and “this level of brutality cannot be the new normal.” He called on participants to make sure that we do not violate “the fundamental right of human dignity.”

Joy Onyesoh, President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), said the financing allocated by major countries to gender equality decreased substantially from 2010-2015, and remarked that national budgets are often “gender blind.” She called for putting women’s rights at center of conflict prevention, and to carry out gender conflict analysis across the UN system.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, highlighted the report titled, ‘Independent Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security,’ which calls to address the growing mistrust towards political institutions and the exclusion of youth in peace related decision-making processes. She stressed the need to consider young people as partners in the sustaining peace agenda, and to include them in all stages.

As the event shifted into interventions from governments, European countries and others expressed strong support for Secretary-General’s vision of reform and focus on prevention and sustaining peace. Many called for including women and youth in peace processes. Several countries highlighted the need to focus on sustainable and inclusive development, with respect for human rights, as the best tool to prevent conflict and instability, emphasizing the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda to that end.

King Philippe of Belgium noted the need to heal the wounds caused by humiliation and violence, and to bring perpetrators of serious abuses to trial. Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of Colombia, recommended placing victims at the core of conflict resolution in a process that involves truth, reparations and sanctions. Michael Daniel Higgins, President of Ireland, called for investment in prevention as a matter of both moral duty and financial prudence.

Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic, cited the need to bolster staffing for the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Adama Barrow, President of Gambia, underlined the need for material and financial support, capacity‑building, and technical cooperation, adding that the PBSO and PBF must be provided with the necessary financial resources.

Venezuela for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) remarked that the XVIII Ministerial Conference of the NAM, which convened from 3-6 April 2018, in Baku, Azerbaijan, outlined the need to address root causes of conflicts in a coherent, well planned, coordinated and comprehensive manner, with other political, social, economic and developmental instruments. He called to ensure a good calibration of peacekeeping and peacebuilding mandates and operations with political and development objectives.

The EU said inclusive economic development and strengthening resilience lie at the core of prevention, and noted its cooperation with the UN and the World Bank on Recovery and Peace-Building Assessments in a number of post-conflict countries. He stressed the need to enhance the UN development system’s capacity to address the root causes of instability, vulnerability, exclusion and violent conflict in a system-wide manner in line with Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

Albania called for human rights monitoring and analysis to discover early warning signs of grievances that could lead to conflict. Latvia emphasized that human rights should be integrated in all peacebuilding and peacekeeping processes, in order for peace to be sustainable.

Bosnia and Herzegovina called for a focus on rebuilding national institutions, including the rule of law and the security sector. Greece stressed the need for the UN peacekeeping missions to stay on the ground long enough for peace to take root.

Acknowledging “well-grounded” criticism, Ukraine said there is currently no alternative to the UN when it comes to peace and security. Noting successful peace processes supported by the UN in Colombia and Liberia, he recommended studying best practices and implementing them in other cases. He added that the UN Security Council must reform in order for the UN to keep the membership’s trust.

The Czech Republic stressed the need to focus on the interlinkages between the three UN pillars in order to enable sustaining peace. Brazil said the UN should not merge the three UN pillars of peace and security, development and human rights, nor confuse their mandates, but rather focus on making each mandate more effective. Finally, Brazil argued that the Secretary-General’s proposals on policy coherence and the Resident Coordinator (RC) system, as contained in his report, imply a false correlation between poverty and conflict, and put the responsibility for peace and development disproportionally on developing countries.

Interactive dialogues took place in parallel with the plenary segment, on the topics of: sustainable financing; strengthening UN work on peacebuilding; strategic partnerships with the UN in the field; and a comprehensive and integrated approach to peace. The UNGA President is expected to issue a summary of the discussions held during the high-level meeting. [Meeting website] [UNGA President’s opening remarks] [UNGA President’s closing remarks] [UN Secretary-General’s remarks] [Meeting summary, 24 April] [Meeting summary, 25 April] [Meeting summary, 26 April] [UN News story] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on co-facilitators’ appointment] [UNGA President’s letter, text of final resolution]

Nathalie Risse and Ana Maria Lebada provided the reporting from the High-level Meeting for this story.

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