Helen Clark: Speech at the UN Security Council’s Public Briefing on Post-conflict Peacebuilding

Mar 19, 2014

Statement by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group at the UN Security Council’s Public Briefing on Post-conflict Peacebuilding
United Nations, New York

Madam President,

Since the Peacebuilding Architecture was established in 2005, the United Nations has made important progress in clarifying its approaches to peacebuilding, building on lessons learned and practical experience on the ground.  Today, peacebuilding is mainstreamed across the UN system and used in different contexts and situations affected by conflict and violence.

Peacebuilding has also been a driver of reform and initiatives such as the new Global Focal Point for police, justice and corrections. Individual UN agencies have developed their own peacebuilding strategies based on their mandates and programs.

There continue, however, to be important challenges in UN support for peacebuilding.

For the members of the United Nations Development Group, a more inclusive approach to peacebuilding than what we often see today is a key priority.  Achieving sustainable peace requires engagement and participation of all social groups beyond the main protagonists to a conflict and beyond the urban centres.  It requires meaningful participation by women, youth and other marginalized groups. 

It also requires that we maintain a sustained presence at the local level to understand and respond to immediate and longer term needs of communities, including on issues of livelihoods, basic social services, provision of security and justice to victims. For example, the UN has worked with local authorities in Eastern DRC in 2013 to investigate five recent incidents of serious crimes affecting 900 victims of sexual and gender based violence, murder, and pillage, and to convict those responsible.

Institution-building is closely linked with peacebuilding, but we need to take a less narrow view of this and strengthen our understanding of how a valid social contract can contribute to peace, and how international actors can support such a contract developing. Without both responsive and inclusive state institutions and a vibrant civil society, there is unlikely to be sustained peace nor a basis for long-term development.

An example of an approach which addresses both these elements is to be found in Somalia, where the UN is working with the federal government to assess and strengthen its capacities to perform core state functions. At the same time, we are also focusing on supporting governance at the local level – the level at which people most frequently engage with authorities, and to which they are most likely to turn for services and support. 

Our efforts in Somalia have enabled local governments and municipalities to collect property and business taxes.  That revenue is now funding municipal services to people in around sixteen districts across the country.  Local elections are being held, waste is being collected and roads are being maintained. If trust in institutions of government is to be built after a conflict, then the local level is a good place to start.

Peacebuilding requires predictable and sustained international support, based on clear and focused priorities and mutual accountability. In recent years, governments and international actors have agreed on compacts or mutual accountability frameworks to provide a basis for that – and for on-going monitoring of progress and dialogue. The United Nations has supported such mutual accountability processes in Afghanistan, Yemen, Sierra Leone and Somalia, and we expect that more countries will engage in this way.

By setting clear and realistic goals which cover the whole peacebuilding spectrum, including building inclusive politics, security, justice, livelihoods, and social service delivery, and then agreeing on how to deliver on these goals, we can help strengthen the credibility of peace processes and peacebuilding, and ensure effective delivery and results.

For this approach to work, both national and international actors must be fully committed to deliver on shared goals, and be willing to work together. That will help reduce the risk of failure, and strengthen the chance of peace processes succeeding.

Nonetheless, success can never be guaranteed, and nor will every individual programme in a post-conflict context produce results. These situations are inherently risky, and setbacks are frequent.

It is therefore important to integrate risk management better in peacebuilding approaches, and to ensure that we are at balancing the risks of failure of individual programmes with the importance of trying to make a difference where we can. Discussion on managing the risks of operating in these difficult environments needs to be ongoing with national governments and with donors.

Pooled funding is one important way of sharing and managing risks together. The United Nations has recently established multi-partner trust funds in Mali and Somalia, to enable donors to channel funding towards programs which might be more difficult for individual donors to support directly. These pooled funds enable stronger risk mitigation and management through a shared platform, and they divide the residual risk among several participants. The Mali Stabilization Fund has already had an important positive impact on the situation in the country.

When setbacks occur in countries, as they have in a traumatic way in Central African Republic and South Sudan in recent months, it is important that we in the UN maintain our capability to support and work with local partners, and protect their capacities to deal with and respond to crisis themselves.

Too often, funding for vital early recovery work gets squeezed out during crises, and local communities lose the ability to support themselves. When new peacebuilding opportunities arise, we are then forced to begin all over again. We must find ways to address this conundrum and ensure predictable funding for early recovery.

Let me conclude by emphasizing the paramount importance of national ownership and leadership in peacebuilding processes. At the end of the day, sustained peace and long-term development, led and fully owned by the countries themselves, is always the goal of peacebuilding. We must support countries to make progress towards that goal as rapidly as possible.

That is why it is important to strengthen inclusion, institution-building, and mutual accountability as crucial elements in peacebuilding and as foundations for national ownership. While crisis and conflict create many obstacles to these in the short term, we should never lose sight of that long-term goal.

This should be a major priority in the discussion of how to strengthen UN peacebuilding and prepare for the review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture in 2015.

Thank you, Madam President.

UNDP Around the world