UN Security Council Open Debate: post-conflict peacebuilding in Africa

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 28 July 2016

Thank you Foreign Minister Kishida for your presiding over this important debate today. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of the other distinguished ministers.

Mr President, the Secretary-General, Cabinet Secretary Chewahir Mohamand and Commissioner Chergui have each thoughtfully laid out important issues we must address as we seek to give life to the United Nations peacebuilding efforts in Africa. Many of those themes are addressed in the Presidential statement that we have adopted today under Japan’s leadership. I want to now comment on a few of those themes.

The Peacebuilding Architecture was established a decade ago to address what former Secretary-General Kofi Annan described as a ‘gaping hole’ in the UN’s capacity to support countries transitioning from violent conflict to sustainable peace. 

There has been progress since then, including through the recognition that peacebuilding must underlie the whole of the conflict cycle and this year’s resolutions on sustaining peace. But, as last year’s review by the Advisory Group of Experts found, there continues to be serious, systemic shortcomings.   

We recognise that peacebuilding is a task that extends well beyond the mandate and responsibility of the Security Council.  But supporting effective peacebuilding is core to the Council’s role of maintaining international peace and security. And what the Council does in this area is critical to the success of work of the other actors in peacebuilding. Yet fragmentation of approaches across the UN and the wider international effort continues to be a major obstacle. 

We wish to reiterate key areas where we believe the Council must do better, not just in Africa, but especially in Africa.

First, the Council needs to play a more deliberate and active role in peacebuilding. 

Council mandated missions contribute directly to creating the enabling environment for peacebuilding by providing security and political stability, by facilitating reconciliation and accountability, and by supporting governance.

These mutually reinforcing peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts are most effective when they are planned and considered from the very earliest stages of a mission.  

And what the Council does in mandating and ensuring the implementation of peacebuilding tasks and in mobilising the necessary resources is critical to the success of post-conflict efforts.  Making the peace stick is key to avoiding another conflict spiral.

Second, the Council needs to do its part to ensure the institutions of governance, security, and economy that are central to peacebuilding are supported by a wide range of organisations.

Better coordination with other peacebuilding contributors – including UN agencies, International Financial Institutions, regional and bilateral partners, and donors – is crucial.  This is especially the case when operating environments change.

We welcome the inclusion of language encouraging such cooperation in the recent resolution renewing the UN mission in the Central African Republic, We hope to see similar provisions included in other relevant peacekeeping missions.      

Even when they are well-coordinated, peacebuilding efforts suffer when the Mission’s activities are unable to be sustained beyond the life of the mission.

As we have seen in countries like Guinea Bissau, emerging from conflict and fragility is a long process. It requires equally long-term engagement by the international community.

And if we look at South Sudan or other situations, too often we focus on a fragile and conflict-affected state only as long as it takes to resolve the immediate crisis. Too often our attention and resources are pulled onto the next crisis.

Third, the Council needs to ensure the host state in particular takes early joint ownership and leadership of relevant peacebuilding activities. This does not mean host government can dictate the course of the peacebuilding effort for all the reasons outlined by Ambassador Power. The horrific problems we are seeing in South Sudan only reinforces the point that national ownership is the greatest determinant in the success or failure of peacebuilding efforts.

As a means of building public confidence in the state, UN missions should aim to reinforce national ownership by assisting but not displacing the delivery of critical services.

And UN missions should plan for peacebuilding activities to transition to the host state, as soon as possible.  In this context we also reiterate our support for Resident Coordinators to focus on ensuring continuity of peacebuilding efforts during such transitions.

Additionally, ongoing national commitments to peacebuilding and political stability require the vocal support of this Council and regional organisations in ensuring that local leaders deliver on their promises.

The  African Union and the Regional Economic Communities, such as ECOWAS and SADC, have demonstrated the important role they can play in encouraging political leaders to maintain their commitments to peacebuilding.

The Security Council should support these efforts and should more actively seek the views of regional organisations on African peacebuilding. In so doing, we should seek to enhance regional ownership of peacebuilding in Africa.  

Finally, the Peacebuilding Architecture is a valuable framework for sustaining peace in Africa. As we have emphasised regularly, there is room for improving interaction between the Peacebuilding Commission and the Security Council.

We need to be much more joined up.  Maintaining a significant disconnect between our respective efforts because of artificial ideological constructs about the respective roles of the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission is a major impediment to our shared objective, that is, sustainable peace. 

We reiterate our strong support for close Council engagement and meaningful dialogue with Country Configurations, moving beyond the briefings to which we are currently constrained.  This could be accomplished through informal formats if necessary, similar to informal consultations with Troop Contributing Countries.  We also believe it makes sense for Country Configuration chairs to participate in Council missions where feasible and where interests overlap.

Mr President, the themes I have covered are not new. Our task is to translate them into a greater and clearer sense of purpose in the way the Council and other stakeholders support peacebuilding.

The Council’s readiness to tackle the challenges of peacebuilding in Africa will be judged by the results, in our willingness to prioritise long term sustainability of peacebuilding efforts; in our willingness to work more closely with regional organisations and the Peacebuilding Commission; and in our willingness to encourage greater coordination and longer term planning of the peacebuilding activities we authorise.  

I thank you.


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