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Remarks by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations to the Security Council debate on Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding

26 Mar 2012
Hervé Ladsous

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is my pleasure to be here today with you as the Council debates once more the important issue of the role of peacekeepers in peacebuilding and the related issue of  transitions.

2. In the last three years, we have come a long way in sharpening our understanding of what building peace entails. There is consensus across the UN and beyond on the broad priorities, in what is inevitably a complex and long-term effort.

3. Building peace means helping national institutions reach a point where they are able to maintain a sufficient level of stability and security, in particular through respect for the rule of law and human rights. It also means that these national institutions are sufficiently representative so that they can maintain the consensus necessary to advance the peacebuilding process. Peace is more likely to be sustained if tangible progress is also made to address basic needs and advance economic recovery.

4. The consensus on peace-building has been refined through the Secretary-General’s Report on Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict of 2009 and further elaborated in the World Development Report of 2011. The SG’s 2009 report, in particular, provides a broad framework by highlighting five recurring priorities for UN engagement in peacebuilding: 1) the delivery of basic safety and security for 2 citizens; 2) inclusive political processes; 3) provision of basic services; 4) restoration of core government functions; and 5) economic revitalisation.

5. Building peace is an ambitious undertaking and reflects a generational effort that will continue long after peacekeepers have left. Success depends on national and international political will and decades of support from a broad array of international and regional actors.

6. What then is the specific role of peacekeepers in this effort? Peacekeepers are seen as the guarantors of a fragile shift from conflict to peace. When the Council mandates peacekeeping operations, it is not only to stabilize the country and keep the peace but to also contribute to building a sustainable peace.

7. Multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations are fundamentally political tools. A study undertaken by the Center for International Cooperation on the peacebuilding elements of peacekeeping mandates found that peacebuilding tasks have been a steady feature of peacekeeping mandates since the early 90s. Over time, these tasks have become more complex and wide-ranging. Most of the mandated peacebuilding tasks focus on the first two priority areas outlined in the SG’s report, namely “support to basic safety and security”, and “support to political processes”. For instance, the term “peacebuilding” itself: resolution 1996 (2011) setting UNMISS’ mandate mentions it nine times. Talking about the role of peacekeepers in peace building is not about expanding peacekeeping, adding new tasks to mandates. It is about making the best of tasks that peacekeepers are already being asked to perform. J 8. In an effort to further clarify the role of peacekeepers in peacebuilding vis-à-vis other actors, DPKO and DFS developed the “nexus paper”, which states that peacekeeping operations have three peacebuilding roles: 3 _ We help governments articulate priorities, by supporting consensus among national counterparts and the broader international community, and guiding overall strategy development and implementation _ We enable other national and international actors to implement peacebuilding tasks, by providing a security umbrella, logistical support and political space for reconciliation efforts and economic recovery to develop.

_ We implement certain early peacebuilding tasks ourselves, including through support to political processes, security sector reform and by engaging in early capacity building in certain areas, in close collaboration with other partners.

9. While we have developed a better and shared understanding of what peacebuilding entails and our specific role in it, the answer to successful peacebuilding does not lie in terms and definitions. The true challenge remains the question of how we build peace. Just to give you an example, there is broad consensus that strengthened institutions are a critical element of sustainable peace. Yet, after years of engagement in countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, the DRC, Timor-Leste, Haiti and others, despite undeniable and substantial progress, national institutions remain fragile and we as well as our partners are still grappling to find the best approach that allows us to improve our individual contributions and yield the expected results.

10. To maximize the UN’s contribution to building peace and specifically that of peacekeepers, three elements are critical: _ We must ensure that we identify and address the specific priorities of a country and its people.

_ We have to clarify roles and responsibilities of the various UN actors and strengthen our partnerships with non-UN actors.

_ We should periodically review and adjust our engagement to best adapt to an evolving situation on the ground.

11. Applying these elements continuously and systematically throughout our presence will have the added benefit of facilitating a more controlled drawdown and withdrawal of our engagement and thereby help guarantee that our combined investment will result in long lasting progress.

Context-specific engagement built on national priorities Mr. President, 12. We do not believe that peacekeepers should address the full spectrum of peacebuilding activities. Peacekeepers are best suited to prioritize those initiatives that advance the peace process or political objectives of a mission. These initiatives may also ensure security or lay the foundation for longer-term institution building in a few key areas. The DPKO-DFS Early Peacebuilding Strategy guides peacekeeping operations to use this political and security prism to identify appropriate activities. For the rest, other partners must come to the fore.

13. As I mentioned earlier, this is not about expanding the tasks of peacekeepers. In our experience, the Council does not need to assign new or more detailed tasks or mandates to peacekeeping operations. Rather, our focus should be to translate the broad goals of the Council into operational plans and tools on the basis of national priorities.

14. Determining national priorities in post-conflict countries is a delicate task. When societies are still too torn and politically polarized, when national consensus and reconciliation remains elusive, formulating objectives and pursue them in a consensual manner is a political challenge. This is why the SRSG’s role is essential to balance the political process and institution building imperatives, in close consultation with national actors. Also, institutional capacity to formulate priorities can be weak or non-existent.

We must avoid overwhelming fragile institutions and provide consistent and coherent support.

15. Strong national ownership and leadership in the formulation of peacebuilding priorities is essential. In Liberia, the host government and the Peace Building Commission adopted a Statement of Mutual Commitments in October 2010, which outlines commonly agreed peacebuilding priorities, namely rule of law, security sector reform and national reconciliation. In Timor-Leste, the Strategic Development Plan provides the basis for international support to the country and is coordinated through the National Priorities programme supported by UNMIT. The South Sudan Development Plan provides the national priorities around which the UN Country Team and UNMISS have developed their peacebuilding goals, called for in Security Council resolution 1996.

16. In this context, I would like to also mention the “New Deal”. It was adopted at the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan last year and aims to align international development assistance around five peacebuilding and statebuilding goals.

The New Deal stresses mutual obligations and strong national ownership. Among the signatories, seven countries playing host to UN missions (Afghanistan, Liberia, Timor- Leste, South Sudan, the DRC, Sierra Leone, and Central African Republic) volunteered to trial this new approach. The Government of South Sudan has also requested the UN family to orient its engagement around those goals.

17. The New Deal reflects a strong expression of commitment by host countries to strengthen their leadership role in the peace building process. We are working closely with relevant missions, PBSO, UNDP and the World Bank on the follow up to the New Deal at the global level.

18. We count on Member States to align their various national policies behind those priorities articulated by host countries, and to speak with one voice in your multiple functions as Council members, Fifth Committee delegates, C34 members or in your capacities as members of executive boards of UN agencies, funds and programmes and international financial institutions.

Clarify roles and responsibilities of UN and non-UN actors Mr. President, 19. To help national actors transition from war to peace, we have to work in partnership with UN and non-UN actors to help national actors make the transition from war to peace. Integrated multidimensional UN missions help to realize this partnership as they bring together through one leadership team the whole spectrum of UN capacities.

Yet, differing mandates, governance structures and financing arrangements complicate effective coordination and coherence focused on priorities.

20. An answer to this challenge lays in integrated planning and leadership. The Integrated Mission Planning Process provides a framework through which the UN leadership on the ground can articulate a joint vision and strategy for UN engagement based on the mandate and national priorities. A strong integrated plan would ideally clarify the contributions of each UN actor based on comparative advantage and actual capacity to deliver.

21. Responsibilities may change over time as priorities and capacities shift.

Peacekeeping missions have a restricted time horizon and must synchronise their plans with those actors better suited to undertake long-term engagements. For their part, UN partners often have limited capacities in the early post-conflict period and need time to scale up. In such circumstances we try to bring our relative strengths to bear. For instance, in 2005 in Sudan, the peacekeeping mission provided bridge funding for the integrated UN DDR programme until the UNDP-administered Multi-Donor Trust Fund became available.

22. We must do more to increase incentives across the UN to work together. The International Review of Civilian Capacities recommended strengthening interoperability and flexibility across the UN to make better use of our own resources to support peacebuilding priorities and harmonise service delivery across agencies. DPKO is 7 working within the Secretary-General’s Civilian Capacity Steering Committee to see how best to take these recommendations forward.

23. The UN is only one of many actors contributing to any peacebuilding effort.

Building strong partnerships with regional organizations, bilateral partners and international financial institutions in the early stages of our planning processes is also necessary to ensure a coherent and coordinated approach. Likewise, as missions draw down, regional and bilateral partners are critical as risks may persist after mission drawdown requiring planning of over-the-horizon security guarantees with the help of partners. This takes me to my final point.

Towards a sustainable exit: regular review and adjustment of our engagement Mr. President, 24. How do we know when to move beyond a peacekeeping mission? There is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Just as the full impact of peace building cannot be measured quantitatively, it requires keen judgement to know when it is appropriate for peacekeepers to withdraw. A key consideration in many cases is the need for security assistance represented by blue helmeted troops. As they draw down, the civilian elements of a peacekeeping operation may in some cases continue in a follow on presence. Indeed, the functions reflected in the mandate of the “ peacebuilding missions” or “integrated offices” are largely the same as those of multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations because they are focused on the same goal, supporting a political process, assisting with institution building in specific areas and linking through integration with the UN Country Team to ensure a coherent approach.

25. In an ideal scenario, drawdown should happen gradually, on the basis of a careful review of the situation on the ground, discussions with our national, bilateral and regional partners, and testing of the host country’s capacity to assume responsibilities and public perceptions.

26. Benchmarks for drawdown and exit should be included in our initial deployment plans and revised to reflect the evolving situation on the ground.

27. Transitions do not follow a linear process. In the DRC, the mandate, size, components, and structure of our mission has evolved over the last 12 years to reflect the changes in the political and security situation. As part of the last reconfiguration, we have strengthened our peace building contribution in the west while maintaining a strong focus on the protection of civilians in the eastern parts of the country.

28. In Liberia, a technical assessment mission conducted in February this year suggests that the security situation would allow for a reduction of UNMIL’s force component over the next three years while strengthening our police presence, potentially reconfiguring our civilian roles and maintaining our political engagement.

29. This is why a regular review and adjustment of our mandates needs to consider the roles of our UN and non-UN partners and their contributions to the building of peace, along with what we expect to be a possible follow-on presence. A drawdown for a mission often means significant adjustment, start-up or surge of activities for our partners. A transition is not – and should not be – about simply reducing numbers in a peacekeeping operation.

30. No matter how much progress a country has made towards building peace, we have to be mindful that the departure of a peacekeeping mission can be expected to raise anxieties, and may be destabilising in and of itself. Building confidence between the host government, key national stakeholders and the international community and clearly articulating the facts of a transition through continued dialogue and communication strategies is critical to a successful drawdown planning.

Mr. President,

31. Efforts to build peace will continue long after a peacekeeping mission has left a country. As peacekeepers, we have a responsibility towards countries emerging from conflict to help secure a peace that will endure without our presence.