As an active participant in post-conflict peacebuilding efforts in our own region, the Asia Pacific, New Zealand has followed the evolving international discussions on peacebuilding with considerable interest.
Significant strides have been made in the past decade. In particular, the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) has provided a valuable tool for strengthening peacebuilding policy and practice across the United Nations system. Inevitably there has been teething problems, including those identified in the 2010 Review of Peacebuilding Architecture. Setbacks at the country level have also underlined the challenges inherent to post-conflict peacebuilding. But the PBC can also claim significant accomplishments during its first six years; and New Zealand believes today we should focus on its positive potential.
Too often international support to post-conflict states has been disparate and dysfunctional. The PBC deserves our warm congratulations and support for demonstrating a new model for engagement with such states, one that better integrates international support for addressing their development and security challenges.
The PBC has also been a pillar of support for small, vulnerable states. Small states are overrepresented amongst those countries struggling to achieve development goals, and those afflicted by fragility and instability. Small states also often lack capacity to effectively coordinate international assistance and meet donor requirements. It is not surprising, therefore, that five of the six states that have sought PBC assistance have been small states. The PBC has helped promote more consistent, integrated support at a time when the principal organs of the UN have appeared preoccupied with other issues.
We acknowledge also the work of the current Chair, Ambassador Gasana of Rwanda, who has demonstrated the excellent leadership contribution small states can make to the Commission’s work.
Madam President, the PBC deserves our particular commendation for its flexible, innovative working methods. Its approach has been inclusive. It has engaged all parties needed at the table and who can make a difference, involving all states with interests in the issues - be they neighbours, regional friends or donors – and relevant international and regional organisations in its work in practical ways.
Nor has it been jealously wedded to uniformity. Its configurations are tailored to the priority needs of the countries on its agenda, rather than the preconceived frameworks of New York diplomats; and their work on the ground has been detailed and practical. Configuration Chairs, to whom we also give thanks today, make many in-country visits each year. Focusing on national ownership and national capacity-building in ways this Council often fails to do, the PBC has been able to engage host countries on the basis of local realities, rather than the remote political perspectives sometimes dominating discussions here in New York. As such, it generally avoids politicisation.
In short, Madam President, PBC working methods are well adapted to the practical needs of the complex situations it deals with, situations which were never foreseen in the Charter. As the Security Council reflects on its own working methods, it could benefit from drawing lessons from the PBC regarding the practical benefits of more flexible and inclusive working methods. Enhanced dialogue between Council members and PBC configuration chairs represents a useful first step in this regard.
This brings me to some wider issues. New Zealand is concerned, Madam President, that a wide and dangerous gap is now apparent in the UN’s peacebuilding architecture. While the PBC is doing well overall with respect to the items on its agenda, there are undeniably peacebuilding needs which would benefit from PBC attention where, for a mix of reasons, a PBC country configuration is not possible.
One way of addressing this need would be to explore more varied, multi-tiered forms of PBC engagement, as recommended in the 2010 Review. New Zealand would support consideration of options short of full country configurations that could broaden the utility and appeal of the PBC for post-conflict states.
But this Council also has an important role to play in meeting this challenge. Current Council practice doesn’t readily accommodate the inclusive, practical, sustained approaches required to effectively tackle peacebuilding challenges. For more than a decade, it has acknowledged the need for better integration of peacebuilding and peacekeeping efforts in its work. S/PRST/2001/5 of February 2001 provided an early articulation of this problem, followed by many Council debates and PRSTs on this topic since. We acknowledge the leadership of current Council members, such as South Africa, and former members, such as Brazil, in highlighting the need for better integration of UN effort, and the dangers – and expense - of focusing solely or principally on peacekeeping tools.
But it is not enough for the Council to keep rediscovering this question in the abstract every few years. We need to move forward from theoretical debates, repeating the problem identification without arriving at solutions that can be implemented on the ground, to considering innovative practical responses tailored to specific cases. This may require new working methods that would enable Council members to interact, in partnership with other UN bodies, to better manage cases where both peacekeeping and peacebuilding are essential, but where the PBC is not able to assume primary responsibility.
Madam President, let me touch on one final cross-cutting challenge for peacebuilding: the provision of relevant civilian capacities for national capacity-building.
Ensuring national ownership and building sustainable national capacities are core goals in post-conflict peacebuilding; and those with practical experience in this field understand the fundamental importance of ensuring the timely identification and deployment of appropriate civilian expertise for this purpose. Yet the range of specialised expertise required, and current inadequacies in the UN’s ability to identify, deploy and effectively utilise such expertise, have severely limited its effectiveness in this regard.
New Zealand welcomed last year’s report of the Secretary-General on Civilian Capacity in the Aftermath of Conflict, and encourages its timely consideration and implementation by relevant UN bodies, including the PBC and the Security Council. Our success in in these endeavours will have a material impact on the UN’s ability to meet the lofty goals it has set itself for supporting the development of effective national institutions in post-conflict states. We have made good progress in identify important sources of relevant expertise, particularly in the Global South, and in developing mechanisms for matching this with priority needs. It is also important that the UN system become more nimble in deploying such expertise in a timely manner.
The PBC can be proud of its contribution over the past six years towards more effective peacebuilding policy and practice, and towards facilitating more sustained and integrated international assistance for the countries on its agenda. There is much that other UN bodies, including this Council, could learn from its flexible, pragmatic approach. But there is also clearly more the PBC can do to fulfil its considerable potential.
New Zealand will continue to play its part in our collective efforts towards this end.