The March 2011 independent report of the Senior Advisory Group on Civilian Capacity in the Aftermath of Conflict made a compelling case for urgent measures to strengthen the ability of this United Nations to identify and deploy specialised civilian expertise, and proposed a number of practical steps for doing just that.
Its recommendations are wide-ranging; their implementation is likely to be complex and time-consuming; and, before any decisions are reached, some will require broader consultation and deeper analysis to clarify their full implications.
Yet the increasing range of UN activities requiring specialised civilian expertise, and current inadequacies in the UN’s ability to identify, deploy and effectively utilise such expertise, make the implementation of this report a matter of importance - even one of urgency.
Nowhere are these inadequacies more starkly evident than in the area of post-conflict peace-building.
To speak plainly, Mr President, in this area, the UN can never be the relevant and effective contributor it aspires – and indeed needs - to be until it credibly addresses those deficiencies.
Those with practical experience of peace-building understand the central role that institutional capacity building can play in moving to a sustainable peace.
As the Secretary-General stressed in his 2009 report on post-conflict peacebuilding, effective capacity building is complex and difficult.
Great care is necessary to ensure that any support works to supplement existing capacity, without displacing it.
This requires personnel with a blend of technical expertise and an understanding of skills transfer – skill-sets that are in short supply internationally.
Such support is more effective the earlier it is deployed.
Currently, the UN lacks the tools or mechanisms for the rapid identification of relevant personnel who might be available for such tasks, even from within its own ranks - and it lacks the ability to recruit and deploy such personnel in a timely manner.
For countries seeking urgent assistance to revive core government functions and services, delays of 18 to 24 months for deployment of experts are woefully inadequate, and are totally unacceptable.
And, when such personnel are deployed, many lack the requisite skills, experience or training for the effective rebuilding of national capacity.
The result? Too often, it’s the wrong people with the wrong skills at the wrong time – arriving far too late to be effective.
And that means that we create too little in the way of genuine, sustainable local capacity.
We can do better.
And we must do better.
The Group’s Report sets out clearly the principles that must guide our work as we address these inadequacies.
First, and most fundamentally, it places national ownership and the strengthening of national capacity at the centre of everything.
It emphasises the need for strengthened partnerships, to enhance the UN’s ability to call, with speed, on external sources of relevant expertise, particularly from the Global South.
It calls for better systems for identifying expertise and determining accountability for delivery.
And it suggests practical ways in which UN field operations could be more nimble and responsive.
All that is easy to support; but, as always, the devil will be in the detail of implementation.
Ensuring a coordinated response from the UN system to this report will be crucial to its implementation.
So, we’re pleased the Secretary-General has established a Steering Committee to provide coordinated follow-up, and that Under-Secretary-General Susanna Malcorra will lead this process.
We have great confidence in USG Malcorra, and are impressed with the able team she’s assembled; and we wish them all well in their challenging task.
Many of the proposals in the Report are complex, and, as I said earlier, some will require further analysis and refinement by the CivCap team, in close cooperation with Member States.
New Zealand therefore supports the approach (outlined in the Secretary-General’s recent report) of beginning this process with some "quick wins", by first implementing measures that fall within the Secretary-General’s existing authority, before moving on to more complex issues.
We also welcome moves to pilot specific approaches in the field; and urge that, in due course, these trials be subject to frank and independent assessments.
The Group’s report, and the processes initiated by the Secretary-General in response, provides the opportunity to move our performance on post-conflict peace-building closer to its lofty goals and rhetoric.
It’s an opportunity that must not be missed.
To accept that is not necessarily to accept each and every one of the report’s recommendations; rather it simply acknowledges the basic objectives and principles that underline those recommendations.
Above all, it challenges us to do better in this vitally important area; and to commit to a constructive dialogue in taking this forward.
What lies ahead is a lengthy and complex process of working through the recommendations and implementing them in a manner most conducive to attaining the goals of timely deployment of the right civilian expertise, and building sustainable national capacities.
That process must be rigorous, inclusive and transparent.
We must be honest in identifying potential problems and acknowledging success or failure (and there will no doubt be both).
But we all have a stake in seeing this process through; and, Mr President, New Zealand looks forward to playing its part.