Ten Year Review of the UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture (PBA)

ReportIn October 2015, member states in the UN’s General Assembly and the Security Council will agree on, and adopt, resolutions on the ten-year review of the UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture (PBA). They will be the result of negotiations, taking into consideration the Report of the Advisory Group of Experts for the 2015 Review of the PBA

The 2015 Review is widely understood to represent a cross-roads for the PBA: the stock-taking and analytical exercise will either serve to prove the structure’s added value to UN peace efforts overall, or it will realistically fade in significance. The structure is composed of four bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), made up of member state contributors to UN peacekeeping efforts; the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), an emergency fund capable of mobilizing resources quickly to prevent countries emerging from conflict or otherwise affected by conflict from being rocked by funding gaps; the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO); the Working Group on Lessons Learned, a group of peacebuilding experts from around the world who advise on policies being developed by the PBSO.

As the purpose of the structure is to prevent countries on its agenda from relapsing into violence, it aims to mobilise resources, political will and expertise to tackle the root causes of violence and build national capacity for long-lasting peace and development.

As such, the role that civil society can play in the decision-making processes of this structure – as the conveyors of up-to-date, context-specific and grounded analysis – is a vital one.

Without civil society voices being heard, it is difficult to gain perspective on whether policies and funding priorities match the viewpoint and expectations of local society. Despite the PBA being a member state structure, it is important to hear from non-state voices to give a richer context and perspective to the work.

The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) and the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) have advocated for the inclusion of local civil society perspectives in the work of the PBA since its inception. The two organisations co-authored a report highlighting the relevance of inclusion and the practical means for its implementation. The report, titled “How Civil Society Engagement can help the UN Peacebuilding’s Architecture Meet its Purpose” affirms that civil society is a vital link for the UN peacebuilding efforts as it helps the UN better understand the people and communities they serve, and traces the history of civil society engagement within the PBA. Although initial resolutions of the PBA acknowledge the importance of civil society engagement, these resolutions and guidelines have not resulted in regular and effective engagement with civil society.

The report concludes that better consulting mechanisms with local civil society organisations could lead to deeper insight of local communities and networks in order to successfully fulfill PBA’s mandate. These nongovernmental organizations could also help execute, supervise and examine the projects funded by the Peacebuilding Fund. The report makes several concrete recommendations, based on thorough analysis of existing policies and guidelines, one of which is for greater transparency in the work and schedule of the PBC.

By providing greater transparency in the work of the PBC, civil society based in New York could be incentivised to mobilise their local networks and provide timely input into country-specific meetings. These PBC meetings are often held before the Security Council considers the renewal of that country’s mission mandate, during which the Chair of the PBC meeting will brief the Council. The meetings therefore provide an important opportunity for the UN to consider perspectives that can reflect on how the UN’s mission is delivering on the ground and where there is room for improvement. Civil society inclusion in PBC meetings is one practical avenue for bringing these perspectives to the attention of decision-makers in the UN.

Sweden, the Chair of the Liberia configuration in the PBC, has indicated its willingness to include Liberian civil society input during the next PBC meeting on Liberia, ahead of the Security Council’s renewal of the country’s mission, which is expected to include the terms of the draw-down of UN troops there. This is a positive step and has already resulted in civil society based in New York inviting their partners in-country and in the region to articulate their concerns about the draw-down either in writing (for distribution at the meeting) or in person via video-link during the meeting itself. The Liberia configuration meeting is expected to be held in October 2015. We hope that this experience will prove to be useful for all sides involved and serve as a practical example for member states as they negotiate the end result of the 2015 PBA review, of the added value of civil society inclusion in the PBA.

The relevance of listening to local civil society on peace and security matters is also emphasised in the 2015 report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.