Richard Ponzio, “The UN’s new ‘Sustaining Peace’ Agenda: A Policy Breakthrough in the Making” (Stimson Center, 2018).

The following excerpt is from an article that was originally published on the Stimson Center website. To read the article in its entirety, please click here.

Dr. Richard Ponzio directs the Just Security 2020 Program at the Stimson Center. Previously, he led the Global Governance Program at The Hague Institute for Global Justice and was Project Director for the Albright-Gambari Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ much anticipated Report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace was recently released, in the lead-up to the U.N. General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace to be held April 24-25 2018 in New York, in accordance with the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council “peacebuilding resolutions” (A/RES/70/262 and S/RES/ 2282). Breaking new ground conceptually, these April 2016 resolutions focused on sustaining peace “at all stages of conflict and in all its dimensions” and on the imperative to prevent “the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict”, in response to worrying trends such as the spike in violent conflict worldwide and unparalleled levels of forced displacement. The Secretary-General, in turn, has sought to forge a more coherent vision and to offer new tools and approaches to help the U.N. system better support both Member States and civil society in building more just and peaceful societies.

Especially if its recommendations are skillfully rolled out, the Secretary-General’s Report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace can be the start of a policy breakthrough that contributes, over time, to significant positive change in how the U.N. approaches, manages, innovates, and resources its peacebuilding work. The Secretary-General’s team, led by the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), Department of Political Affairs (DPA), and U.N. Development Program (UNDP), has moved the needle toward forging a new consensus among the world body’s 193 Member States. In particular, the Report advances a more integrated and coherent framework for global conflict management in four concrete ways:

First, it elevates the role of civil society (including women’s and youth groups), the private sector, and regional organizations in sustaining peace. Rather than just paying lip service to these less visible peacebuilding actors, the Secretary-General offers examples of productive U.N. partnerships with them through new platforms (e.g., the U.N. Global Compact’s Business for Peace network) and tools (e.g., the Joint UN-African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security and the Department of Peacekeeping Operation’s [DPKO] new community-engagement framework) that harness their capabilities and financial resources to create or sustain peace. And it stresses the need to scale-up these innovations not only in U.N. peace operations but across of the U.N.’s resident country teams.

Second, the Report highlights recent advances in joint assessment, planning, and programming, including the tripartite U.N., World Bank, and European Union Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment in Liberia, the UNDP-DPKO Global Focal Point for police, justice, and corrections, and the field focused UNDP-DPA Peace and Development Advisers. Importantly, the Secretary-General also calls for ensuring that the U.N. Country Team can handle peacebuilding priorities that will fall in its lap when a peacekeeping mission draws down, and for triple-hatted support across development, humanitarian, and peacebuilding entities for the deputy heads of peace operations who are now routinely responsible for all three areas of activity, but with scattered or uneven support.

Third, the Secretary-General buttresses the case for “more predictable and sustained financing” for civilian-led peacebuilding, against the backdrop of declining development assistance to conflict-affected countries as a share of global aid (from 40% in 2005 to 28% in 2015). He astutely underscores the billions in potential savings from effective conflict prevention, while calling for a “quantum leap” in un-earmarked and multi-year contributions to the U.N.’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). However, despite the recent progress in now allocating—as one positive illustration—approximately $250 million annually from UN peacekeeping missions’ assessed budgets for mandated peacebuilding programmatic activities, this amount (alongside proposed PBF and other funding stream increases) is still insufficient given the scale of the challenge—and compared to the annual peacekeeping budget, which continues to hover around $7.5B per annum. With the Trump Administration once again calling for severe cuts in the U.S. financial contribution to the U.N. (including a proposed 37 percent cut to peacekeeping from FY’17 enacted levels and the complete defunding of UNDP, UNICEF, and other agencies), it is critical that both old and new donors prepare to step-in and fill the potential gap.

Fourth and finally, the Report stresses up front that the UN development system and development practitioners in general are central to conflict prevention and sustaining peace. Given continued worries about “the securitization of development”, it strikes a balance between development and security tools and approaches in efforts to build a durable, just peace and to prevent the outbreak of deadly violence, reflecting the U.N.’s evolution in this complex space since the end of the Cold War. The Report will also accelerate efforts to put into practice—across the U.N.’s development programs, funds, and agencies—proposals recently introduced in the more comprehensive United Nations-World Bank conflict prevention study, Pathways for Peace, including its emphasis on improving upstream and downstream peacebuilding programming to restore citizens’ confidence in state leadership.

Feature Image Photo Credit Juan Cristobal Zulueta