Peacebuilding is one of the most complex challenges we collectively face. Its effectiveness helps determine whether post-conflict societies achieve sustainable peace and development, or descend once again into bloody conflict. It also strongly influences prospects for preserving and building upon the positive gains achieved through the considerable investments made in post-conflict countries by the international community.
The complex challenges posed by peacebuilding are not new. Yet it is only relatively recently that the international community has begun to develop a comprehensive conceptual and institutional framework for planning, implementing, and resourcing peacebuilding missions effectively.
The establishment in 2005 of the Peacebuilding Commission was an important step in this regard. Much has been learned during the first five years of its existence, and we look forward to further discussions over the coming months on how its effectiveness, and that of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture more broadly, can be further enhanced.
Nonetheless, the work of the Commission represents only one element of the UN’s involvement in post-conflict peacebuilding, which increasingly forms an important - sometimes central – element of missions mandated by this Council. It is important therefore that there is a shared understanding of what is required for the effective implementation of peacebuilding mandates, and that lessons learned through our experiences are applied system-wide.
New Zealand has been a key contributor to numerous peacebuilding operations, including our participation in UN Missions in Timor-Leste and in UN-mandated operations in Bougainville, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands. We have also been active in providing bilateral peacebuilding assistance within our region and beyond. Our experiences have taught us much about both the real impact that such programmes can make on the ground and the practical challenges in their effective implementation.
The crucial importance in peacebuilding operations of meaningful national leadership, ownership and engagement, and the need for this to guide and inform every stage of planning and implementation, are widely acknowledged. Yet all too often this awareness is not adequately reflected in practice. We encourage early attention in all peacebuilding activities to processes and mechanisms for building and sustaining national ownership and engagement.
The Partnership Framework agreed last year between the Solomon Islands Government and the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) is one example of how this can be achieved in practice. As well as facilitating national ownership and aligning national and mission priorities and expectations, it provides a mechanism for establishing agreed benchmarks and monitoring progress towards achieving shared objectives. Moreover, it is a “living document” that can be adjusted to meet changing circumstances.
Nowhere is the need for national ownership more pronounced than in the development of national institutional capacities. National capacity development lies at the heart of peacebuilding, and must be a central consideration in the formation and implementation of peacebuilding mandates from Day One. As the Secretary General has observed, when capacity building is considered seriously only in the context of an exit strategy, this is always too late.
Effective capacity building assistance must be part of a coherent strategy that is shaped by an accurate assessment of priority needs and realistic goals reflecting the local context, which must be developed in cooperation with local partners. This is essential for enabling peacebuilding efforts to be guided by realities and requirements on the ground, and for identifying, utilising and further developing existing national capacities rather than automatically substituting international personnel. For this to be possible, these strategies and the assessments on which they are based must be completed before significant investments are made in capacity building activities with long term implications.
New Zealand encourages the Council and the Secretariat to keep in mind the central importance of national capacity building strategies based on robust needs assessments from the very outset of mandate development. The availability of effective analytical tools has the potential to assist with this, and we welcome in this regard the Secretariat’s current efforts to develop a more strategic approach to identifying, prioritising and sequencing critical early peacebuilding tasks.
Effective national capacity building also requires a range of specialised skills and experience far beyond those required for traditional peacekeeping operations. But it is clear that our ability to identify, recruit and deploy sufficient numbers of personnel who possess these is currently inadequate. A comprehensive review of essential civilian capacities is therefore a priority of the utmost urgency. New Zealand supports the Secretary General’s initiative to conduct such a review in order to expand the pool of suitable civilian personnel available for rapid deployment.
It will be important for this review to consider the appropriate mix of skills and experience required in such personnel. Relevant technical expertise is obviously of central importance; but this must be complemented by competence in skills transfer and an understanding of core peacebuilding principles and practice. We hope the review will provide suggestions on how this balance of domain and peacebuilding expertise can best be achieved.
Civilian personnel shortages appear particularly critical in the area of rule-of-law expertise. Given their central importance in many post-conflict situations, New Zealand supports in principle the Secretary General’s call for an enhanced police standing capacity and the establishment of a limited standing capacity for justice and corrections expertise, provided this is presented on the basis of a clear needs assessment and in the context of a broader framework for generating essential civilian capacities.
In this regard, we hope the review will consider the full range of possible options for sourcing civilian expertise, including making more strategic use of existing UN Volunteers, enhanced use of standby arrangements and regional pools of expertise, as well as more innovative approaches including potentially partnerships with the private sector. We will also look to the Secretary General’s proposed staff mobility policy to provide options for better leveraging existing peacebuilding expertise from throughout the UN system when this is presented to the Fifth Committee later this year.
Post-conflict environments are invariably fluid and unpredictable, involving a diverse range of political, social and humanitarian challenges competing for urgent attention from a complex array of actors; and requiring prompt decisions that entail complex trade-offs, often with far-reaching consequences.
A decisive factor in the success of peacebuilding operations is therefore the strength of their leadership. The selection and preparation of appropriately skilled, experienced and balanced leadership teams is clearly crucial, as is ensuring these teams are provided with sufficient analytical, planning and coordination support. We welcome the steps taken to date within the Secretariat to strengthen capacities in this regard. Such efforts must be intensified. We note also the currently insufficient numbers of women in senior positions in peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations, and commend the Secretary General’s ongoing efforts to address this.
A key leadership challenge, even within relatively small peacebuilding operations, is achieving effective coordination and synergies between the efforts of the often broad range of actors on the ground, including different elements of the Mission itself, the UN country team and other international stakeholders. The importance of such coordination in terms of preventing gaps or duplication of effort and providing Missions with the agility to respond effectively to crises and rapidly changing circumstances cannot be overstated.
New Zealand welcomes improvements made in recent years to the coordination of humanitarian response as a result of the introduction of the cluster approach. This has improved the effectiveness not only of response but of preparedness, which leads in turn to better response. Humanitarian assistance provided on the basis of humanitarian principles helps to dampen conflict, and is thus an important early phase in a comprehensive peacebuilding response. Greater efforts to link early recovery and peacebuilding phases, and to meet humanitarian needs as early recovery gets underway, are important for maintaining early gains.
The strengthening of UN efforts towards “delivering as one” is also important throughout the life of a peacebuilding mission, in order to enable the most efficient and effective application of peacebuilding resources across the UN system.
Providing missions with coordinated and coherent support is also important. New Zealand has been encouraged by recent steps to implement more integrated planning and operational management processes at UN headquarters. We would encourage the Secretariat to keep the adequacy and effectiveness of such mechanisms under continuous review.
New Zealand is proud of its contribution to the peacebuilding operations to date, and of the lessons we have learned from our experience. But we are equally aware of the complex challenges such missions pose, and of how much more we and the international community have yet to learn about how best to tackle these in practice.
I hope that today’s open debate can take us another step closer towards such an understanding.