An expert group of diplomats, UN officials, and representatives from civil society organizations and think tanks discussed the policy and programmatic implications of implementing the “sustaining peace” approach outlined in identical General Assembly and Security Council resolutions adopted April 27, 2016. The 2016 edition of the annual IPI New York Seminar was held June 7, 2016.
The event was co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Italy and Mexico to the United Nations, and their respective ambassadors, Sebastiano Cardi, and Juan José Gómez Camacho, delivered opening remarks.
Mr. Cardi said that Italy sees the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) “as the leader in ‘prevention’ at the UN.” He recognized that member states now have a clear and immediate mandate to engage the PBC in revising its working methods. Participants in the seminar recommended that the PBC use its convening capacity to bring different stakeholders into its consultations and inject a long-term perspective into its role.
On the conference theme, Mr. Cardi added, “UN relationships with regional organizations and financial institutions are key to ‘sustaining peace.’”
Mr. Gómez Camacho pointed out an incredibly disproportionate amount of the UN budget—seventy percent—is allocated to UN Peacekeeping operations. Calling for change, he said, “We must promote development first as a way to ensure long-term sustainable peace.” For this reason, Mexico “created the group of friends of sustainable peace to work with all members in promoting new concept,” he said.
In addition to the connection between sustainable development and peace, participants noted that in order to bring about the long-term shift from crisis response to sustaining peace, the concept of integrated planning and integrated missions—bringing together the different pillars of the UN together at headquarters and in the field—needs to be fully implemented and backed up with funding and staffing. This part of the seminar was held under the Chatham House rule of non-attribution.
Another key issue addressed was ensuring a reliable source of funding for sustaining peace, and connecting this to strategic planning in the field and at UN headquarters. Participants explored what new sources of funding and strategic partnerships are possible for the Middle East and Africa in particular.
Gillian Bird, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, and Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations, provided some background on the adoption of the dual resolutions. They pointed out that the resolutions build on the work of the 2015 reviews of UN peace operations, the peacebuilding architecture, and the women, peace, and security agenda, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sustaining peace, as defined in the resolutions, means that peacebuilding is no longer confined to the post-conflict period but applies to all phases of conflict: before it breaks out, while it is ongoing, and after it has ended, they explained.
The two measures offer new opportunities for the UN as a whole, and the PBC in particular, to work more effectively across divides.
Conflict prevention has remained under-prioritized for decades and needs to be brought back to the forefront, discussants said. To that end, they agreed that making a conceptual shift to sustaining peace will only be possible if UN entities, member states, international financial institutions, civil society, and academia take ownership of, and actively promote, a new understanding of the organization’s work. Member states have an especially crucial role in translating this mandate into action, closing the gap between rhetorical support and a willingness to act.
Finally, the participants issued a call to action to the incoming secretary-general to make this agenda one of his or her top priorities.