Clark: Developing national capacity for peacebuilding

Mar 25, 2011

Introductory remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
On the occasion of the Peacebuilding Commission Retreat
Session 2: “Developing national capacity for peacebuilding”

25 March 2011
New York

I am delighted to join you today, and to introduce and chair this session on “Developing national capacity for peacebuilding”.

The background note for this session suggested five questions as departure points for this discussion. Let me comment very briefly on each from a UNDP perspective and throw out some additional questions before I open up the floor for a wider discussion.

First, we need to be clear about what external support to peacebuilding can achieve. Peacebuilding is a political process. It depends on political will and leadership, but it is about development and supporting societies to recover from conflict. There is no substitute for building national capacities and ownership to make that happen. 

A.    What are the most common challenges to national capacity development in post-conflict settings?

Building capacity is a daunting and long term process in traditional development settings. Doing so in the immediate aftermath of conflict poses even greater challenges.
For example, in the immediate aftermath of conflict there may not as yet be a credible and legitimate national leadership to take charge of the recovery process.

Different groups may not trust each other, power alliances from war times may still be in place, and political opposition and civil society could be very weak, especially at the local level. In such a context, there is a danger that we end up reinforcing power blocs and actors which may further fuel conflict.

Weak capacities of partners and agencies may in some cases increase the fiduciary risks, or even the risk of programme failure. There can also be difficult trade-offs between shifting short-term stabilization objectives and long term capacity development imperatives. I would suggest that we discuss what role the PBC can play in managing these risks and trade-offs.

B.    How should the PBC members contribute to national capacity development in the countries on the Commission’s agenda?

As the 2010 PBC review rightly points out, we need to listen more and better to those we seek to help and focus on support for country driven processes.

Long experience has taught us that externally imposed blueprints will not work. Our common capacity development approaches must therefore be calibrated to each national context, taking fully into account its specific drivers of conflict and fragility, and related capacity challenges.

“Least bad” responses are as good as it may get if we are to deliver services and peace dividends fast and respond to the expectations of the population. Over the long haul, however, true ownership can only be achieved through appropriate exit strategies and properly supporting national authorities.

Going forward, for example, the PBC can help to ensure synergy with the Peacebuilding Priority Plans developed by the Peacebuilding Fund and a strong focus on coherence and capacity building in these. PBC Members could also work to mobilize broader support for peacebuilding priorities to supplement the limited financing available from the PBF.

C.    What should the PBC members do to ensure that the instruments of engagement encourage sufficient focus on and mutual accountability around national capacity development?

The PBC and its Members can play an important role in ensuring sufficient focus on and mutual accountability around capacity building. For example:
PBC Members can call for inclusive but also light planning processes in support of clear national priorities. Light planning processes were recommended by the PBC review last year.

The Statement of Mutual Commitment between the Government of Liberia and the PBC is a new and innovative framework which is light and fast and can hold the international community and the national authorities accountable for delivering articulated priorities.

To ensure coherence, it will also be important that the PBC Membership engages even more closely with the UN funds and programmes who will be working with national counterparts to implement peacebuilding programmes and help to develop capacity.
The PBC Membership, especially through its Country Specific Configurations, can also help manage risks inherent in peacebuilding support, providing the political cover and generating the international interest needed to ensure momentum and the provision of a peace dividend when there is a window of opportunity.

One question I will throw out to you is : what more can PBC Members do to ensure that interventions reach those who are marginalized, and that the capacities we build help national counterparts to weather, adapt to, and overcome challenges in an inclusive manner ? We all know that the dangers of a return to conflict will grow if young people and former combatants are not included in and do not benefit from peacebuilding efforts.

D.    How can the PBC best support national ownership even when capacity is limited?

When national capacity is limited – of the government, civil society and the private sector - programmes need to be especially attentive to the risks of inadvertently doing harm to whatever capacity does exist, as can happen through excessive deployment of technical advisers and the distortion of incentives in the public sector.

PBC Members should underscore the importance of doing everything possible to develop the widest set of national capacities and can call for mechanisms to be put in place to transfer to the government and other national entities the management and implementation of plans as quickly as possible.

Helping to identify core government functions warranting capacity building support - whether it is in the area of fiscal management, aid co-ordination, basic service delivery, public safety or access to justice - could also be an integral part of the PBC’s support, especially when it is first articulating Statements of Mutual Commitment.

Another question for you is : what else can PBC Members do to emphasize the need to develop process capacities - the forums, institutions, and skills, including those of civil society, which can mediate tensions over access to resources; manage recurring conflicts before they lead to violence; and build consensus around national development priorities ? Developing technical capacities for public safety and service delivery are critical, but so too are these process capacities.

E.    What role do UN missions and UN Country Teams play in building national capacity and how can the PBC help addressing political and funding obstacles to this role?  (e.g. in aligning capacity development and institution-building needs behind a national vision)

UN development agencies are well placed to develop national capacity. With our long term presence we work closely with national partners to support the development of national capacities.

Through integrated missions and processes like “Delivering as One”, we are also working to ensure that our efforts at the country level are co-ordinated with other parts of the UN system, so that together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

For its part, the PBC’s strong convening authority can help bring together all development partners to forge consensus among Member States, UN agencies, secretariat departments, and Bretton Woods Institutions, for harmonizing and integrating support for national peacebuilding priorities.

PBC Members can identify the need for providing support to national aid management structures, rally donors and development actors around common goals, call for donor funding to be predictable and based on aid effectiveness principles, and use its convening authority to bring everyone on the same page.

Let me conclude by suggesting that the PBC organize a separate debate later this year about evidence-based capacity development for peacebuilding. This could be an excellent opportunity to review our common experiences and chart the way forward.

UNDP is ready to launch a process of discussion and reflection among UN entities and other key partners to support the preparation of such a debate.

With that, let me open up the session for discussion of this important topic.

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