The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) was first proposed by the Secretary General's "High Level Panel on Threats Challenges and Change" in December 2004. The reform panel reasoned that prevention of violent conflicts would be more effective than the UN's usual task of ending existing conflicts. The Secretary General took up the proposal in his own report "In Larger Freedom" (March, 2005), which gave the Commission a post-conflict role, so as to prevent countries (or regions) from relapsing into civil war. Annan proposed that the PBC would have a broad membership that would include not only UN member states but also development agencies and possibly even NGOs. The PBC would be aided by a new Peacebuilding Support Office in the Secretariat and it would draw on a $250 million Peacebuilding Fund made up of "voluntary contributions."
At the September 2005 Millennium+5 Summit, UN members agreed to establish the PBC and affirmed that the PBC should be "fully functional" by December 31, 2005. However, most of the details were left for further negotiations. There was much debate during the 60th session of the General Assembly over which UN body the PBC would report to – the Security Council, the GA or ECOSOC. A compromise ruling decided that the Commission would serve as an "advisory subsidiary organ" of the GA and Security Council, but the GA will be responsible for the overview of the PBC's work. The PBC consists of a 31-member organizational committee including some from the Security Council and ECOSOC. On October 11, 2006, the UN launched the Peacebuilding Fund, which will rely on voluntary contributions from member states, to finance the PBC. Still, further issues remain to be solved: How closely will the World Bank and IMF be linked to the PBC? And how much NGO involvement will be allowed? In the articles below, GPF analyzes the PBC within the larger context of UN reform.
UN Key Documents | UN Documents | Articles and Papers | Links
UN Key Documents
The General Assembly (GA) and the Security Council adopted joint resolutions, bringing the concept of a Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) to fruition in time for the December 31, 2005 deadline established at the Millennium+5 Summit. The resolution ultimately makes the PBC an arm of the Security Council, dashing the hopes of member states who hoped the PBC would help to revitalize the GA and/or ECOSOC. Many NGOs were also disappointed that the role of civil society in post-conflict nations was not explicitly noted.
The co-chairs of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) discussions have presented a draft resolution of the PBC mandate. Unlike the previous "options papers," this resolution presents concrete rules for PBC membership, reporting, and function. General Assembly members must now consider the recommendations and provide comments, so that the GA can establish the PBC in time for its December 31, 2005 deadline.
Although the US allegedly "supported" the idea of the Peacebuilding Commission, John Bolton's rash of revisions to the Ping II draft outcome affected even the final language on the PBC. The final outcome document waters down considerably the language that would have explicitly allowed for NGO participation.
Secretary General Kofi Annan took up the idea of a Peacebuilding Commission in his UN reform report. Annan proposes that the Peacebuilding Commission be made up of relevant state and NGO actors, and should report to "the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council in sequence."
The High Level Panel's 2004 report introduced the idea of a Peacebuilding Commission. This excerpt from the Panel's report recognizes peacebuilding as a "key institutional gap" at the UN, and details the Panel's proposition for closing it.
As the General Assembly prepared to begin its second month of negotiations on the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) , the ambassadors from Tanzania and Denmark kept up their joint leadership role. As the co-chairs of the PBC debate, the ambassadors released a paper that summarizes the results of negotiations to date, and presents a framework for the remainder of the talks.
Following the release of "In Larger Freedom," the General Assembly, led by President Jean Ping of Gabon, began to work on a draft outcome document for the Millennium+5 Summit in September 2005. In this draft, the GA proposes that the PBC be fully functional by December 31, 2005.
Secretary General Kofi Annan distributed this letter to member states, which he hoped would clarify the debate on the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), and insure that the PBC be included as an outcome of the Millennium+5 Summit. The Secretary General also explains his recommendation to make the PBC a subsidiary organ of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, in sequence.
Articles and Papers
The recent earthquake revealed several interesting facts about Haiti, one of them being that the nation has the highest number of local NGOs per capita in the world. The heavy presence of humanitarian and anti-poverty NGOs in the small country - which is also one of the poorest and worst developed in the Western hemisphere - begs a few questions: doe the presence of NGOs hinder Haitian efforts in pursuing development and self-sustainability? If there are more local NGOs in Haiti than any other, then why has it never managed to pull itself out of the quandary of chronic poverty and underdevelopment? As the Haitian government struggles to recover and respond to the recent calamity, increased involvement of foreign players triggers troubling concerns regarding its sovereignty. (All Africa)
The Peacebuilding Commission has so far failed to serve as a forum for mutual commitments and accountability among national and international actors. The article sees national peacebuilding discussions as burdened by overly detailed discussions and negotiations. Nevertheless, the Commission has the potential to contribute to global debates on aid effectiveness, considering its experiences in a wide range of conflict-afflicted regions. (International Peace Institute)
Strong global partnerships can help reform UN peacekeeping. During the Security Council's debate on this topic, the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations highlights the need for communication between everyone involved in peacekeeping missions. Council members called for increased interaction between the Council and the Secretariat in mandate drafting and during mission deployment. (un.org)
The General Assembly and the Security Council created the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) in 2005. Since then, the PBC has operated in four countries and as it expands its country operations, it plans to cooperate with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Union and the European Union. Many member countries have stressed the need to better monitor the PBC's work as well as to improve transparency when it comes to setting priorities and selecting the country specific operations. (ReformtheUN.org)
During its first 18 months, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) has linked governments, opposition parties and civil society in Burundi and Sierra Leone to UN agencies, donors, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The PBC has also maintained the attention given to post conflict countries after the UN Security Council has moved them off its agenda. However, the PBC has had a complex and opaque decision making process, which has meant that some PBC members and NGOs have not been able to participate in the process. (Center on International Cooperation)
In June 2007, the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) adopted guidelines for the participation of civil society in its meetings. A working group of the PBC set out these rules without consulting NGOs, while referring to civil society's "valuable contribution" to peacebuilding processes. Several NGOs have criticized the guidelines because of the prescribed requirements for reporting and participating in meetings. (International Service for Human Rights)
In this interview, Carolyn McAskie, head of the Peacebuilding Support Office evaluates the Peacebuilding Commission's first year of work. McAskie argues that the PBC must cooperate more closely with other UN bodies to achieve sustainable peace in a post-conflict situation. She also pleads for greater involvement of NGOs at the Commission's headquarters to complement their presence in the field. Speaking about her own office, McAskie argued it should further develop its information support to the PBC and its members. (Center for UN Reform Education)
In this background paper, Klaus Hüfner describes the development of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. From 1992, under then Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN sought ways to coordinate postwar peace efforts. Negotiations ultimately resulted in the creation of the PBC in December 2005, indicating that reform "is not a one-shot static affair" but a "permanent process of learning and revision." (Global Policy Forum)
This Friedrich Ebert Foundation report summarizes the outcome of a September 2006 conference on how to boost NGO involvement in the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). Local organizations in post-conflict societies play an important role in raising awareness and keeping citizens informed about the peacebuilding process. Participants at the meeting advised the PBC to take advantage of the deep ties that exist between local NGOs and their communities. Thus, the PBC can ensure that it develops strategies based on the true needs of the affected peoples, and not on the "political compromises among the elite."
This International Peace Academy paper highlights the lack of sustained efforts by the international community to rebuild societies emerging from conflict. Challenges to peacebuilding include insufficient funding in the immediate post-conflict phase as well as the unpredictability of aid flows in the long run. The new UN Peacebuilding Commission is supposed to get key donors working together on a strategy for the transition from war to peace.
Denmark's ambassador and co-chair of the General Assembly Working Group on the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Ellen Margrethe Loj, discusses the purpose, mandate and functions of the PBC. She anticipates that most of the PBC's work will focus on intra-state conflicts, addressing national reconciliation, the rule of law and "laying the basis for sustainable development." She adds that it will be crucial to get actors on the ground in specific countries involved, as well as international financial institutions to achieve long-term development. (UN Chronicle)
Many welcomed the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) for its diverse and large membership. But this article argues that consensus will be difficult to reach, thereby restricting the PBC's ability to react decisively. The author believes a Peacebuilding Commission is necessary and urges member states to give the PBC "the support it needs" to boost the UN's effectiveness to handle post-war situations, such as the Caribbean nation of Haiti. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Many challenges face the newly formed UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). Consensus will be difficult to reach, given the diverse range of participants, particularly between north and south. The article predicts that the PBC will inevitably face "political realities" and will act primarily in the interests of the major powers, that have a "behind the times" notion of peace building. Primarily the PBC must define what "peace" actually means and not purely focus on post-conflict recovery. (International Relations and Security Network)
Gareth Evans argues that all too often "fragile and incomplete peace" reverts back into conflict. The Peace Building Commission (PBC) must coordinate actions of groups such as UN agencies, donors and government officials so that post-conflict construction and reconstruction of society occurs. Past failures in states such as Afghanistan led to the rise of the Taliban regime. Some however have concerns that the UN has merely established a new bureaucracy that relies too heavily on donor resources, making it vulnerable and dependant upon these donor countries. (Baltimore Sun)
The General Assembly (GA) and Security Council officially established the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) as a UN body. The UN resolutions came after months of GA debate about the composition and functionality of the PBC. After the resolutions passed, many developing countries expressed reservations about the amount of power given to the Security Council, at the detriment of the UN's more democratic bodies like the GA and the Economic and Social Council. (Associated Press)
Global Witness believes that the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) should have the mandate to look into the role of natural resources in conflict. The PBC will likely work in many areas where natural resources have driven and perpetuated conflicts. Therefore, the PBC should take action against illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources in order to build sustainable peace and reconciliation.
Many NGOs have weighed in on the debate surrounding the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). In this report, Saferworld regrets the Millennium+5 Outcome Document's failure to endorse the doctrine of conflict prevention as a motive for establishing the PBC. This omission is a mistake, since the UN already focuses on post-conflict recovery through missions and peacekeeping operations.
While the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) sounds like a "good idea" in theory, it is difficult to wholeheartedly endorse it, because the details of its structure and mandate are extremely sketchy. The question of exactly how the PBC will be funded is the biggest mystery of all. (InterAction)
The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) has political value for Germany, and other countries vying for permanent seats on the UN Security Council. Recognizing the potential futility of their efforts for Security Council expansion, these countries hope that gaining a seat on the PBC will grant them at least some increased influence in Council affairs. (German Institute for International and Security Affairs)
Professor Peter Wallensteen of Uppsala University examines the distinctions between the High Level Panel's and Secretary General Kofi Annan's conceptions of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). Wallensteen regrets Annan's decision to make the PBC a subsidiary body of the Security Council. Doing so enables the Security Council members to make the decisions about employing the PBC. Wallensteen worries that this would politicize the PBC, and severely limit its capacity for independent analysis. (Fundación Para las Relacions Internacionales)
The US has endorsed the idea of a Peacebuilding Commission. Some view this as a step in President George Bush's promise for "effective multilateralism." However, Washington's motivations may be purely selfish, driven primarily by a dread of singlehandedly "cleaning up" post-war Iraq and Afghanistan. (Knight Ridder)
New York University's Center for International Cooperation lays out specific prescriptions for the various aspects necessary to get the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) up and running. Unlike any UN documents to date, this independent paper lays out concrete recommendations for both the financing and functioning of the PBC.
Links and Resources
WILPF has put together a document entitled "References made during the 60th Session of the UN General Assembly to the Peace Building Commission."