The Security Council, which deploys peacekeeping missions to strife-torn countries, devoted a day-long session today to the equally important task of post-conflict peacebuilding – helping nations on the long road to forging institutions that prevent them from relapsing back into bloodshed.
In a presidential statement, the 15-member body called for “a more effective and coherent” national and international response so that countries emerging from conflict can deliver core government functions such as ensuring security, managing political disputes peacefully, protecting their populations, revitalizing the economy and providing basic services.
“Institution building should start early and be sustained not only for years, but decades,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the start of the session. “Unfortunately, the track record of international support to institution building is mixed. We can do better.
“Institutions can be critical in sustaining peace and reducing the risk of relapse into violence. Building legitimate and effective institutions that respect and promote human rights therefore must be a central element of the overall peacebuilding effort.”
Peacebuilding gained added momentum as part of UN reforms in 2005 when the Council and the General Assembly acted in concert to set up a 31-member Peacebuilding Commission to prevent countries emerging from conflict from falling back into chaos. Some 50 per cent of conflicts in the past two decades have recurred within five years of peace agreements.
The Commission’s first target countries were Burundi and Sierra Leone, two African countries emerging from years of civil war and ethnic violence. Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic and Liberia are now also on the agenda of the Commission and the related UN Peacebuilding Fund is currently supporting more than 100 projects in 15 countries – the five on the agenda and 10 others certified by Mr. Ban as eligible – by delivering fast financing.
“Peacebuilding is certainly a major challenge for the whole UN system,” the Commission’s Chairman, Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, told today’s session, stressing that institution-building goes beyond nurturing organizational structures.
“From power-sharing and rotation, active participation of women in decision-making processes, to fair distribution of wealth and economic opportunities, societies emerging from conflict struggle to rebuild themselves on the basis of ‘new rules of the game,’” he said.
Mr. Ban cited three major lessons that need to be applied to the collective efforts. “First, we need to reinforce national ownership and leadership and build on existing institutions,” he said. “Responsive and inclusive institutions can only be built by national actors, using their knowledge of the context, the institutions that do exist, and the root causes of conflicts.” He called for more nimble and agile systems including stronger partnerships to provide the best capacity.
Secondly, he warned against “one-size-fits-all solutions,” noting that trying to impose outside models can do more harm than good.
He noted that in Guinea-Bissau weak institutions at many levels remain a main cause of political instability and lack of socio-economic development, while Mr. Wittig cited Bosnia and Herzegovina, which emerged from conflict in 1995 and holds the Council’s rotating monthly presidency, as an example where some institutions for rebuilding already existed.
Finally Mr. Ban stressed the long haul needed to achieve true peacebuilding, although in the short-term, early and tangible progress needs to be made in a few priority areas to restore confidence and increase the legitimacy of national institutions, including providing security, increasing access to the justice system, and expanding health and education services.
“International efforts have often failed to recognize that building effective institutions is a long-term effort, even in relatively stable conditions. Some progress can be made in three to five years, but expectations need to be realistic. This, of course, has implications for the Council and the missions it mandates,” he said.
“There is much that we can do to improve our efforts, reduce fragmentation and promote a coherent approach.”
In its presidential statement, the Council acknowledged “the need for continued improvement in the delivery of supporting the immediate aftermath of conflict in order to help stabilize the situation, whilst at the same time starting the longer-term process of institution building, including those institutions that promote democratic processes and foster economic and social development with a view to sustainable peace.”
Nearly 50 Member States were scheduled to speak in today’s debate.