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UK statement at the Peacebuilding Commission review

Statement by Philip Parham, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Final Informal Consultation on the 2010 PBC Review : 7 July

I would like to thank the co-facilitators for their work on the review so far and for this further opportunity to discuss the emerging recommendations. It is important that we maintain the momentum of this important exercise.

As requested, I will focus my comments on your paper.

On the first issue of Multi-tiered engagement, we support the need for an integrated, or “delivering-as-one”, approach to peacebuilding, which brings together political, security and development strands in a prioritised and sequenced way. The UN mission on the ground, from the very start of its deployment, has a key role in promoting such an approach, both within the UN system and with the wider international community.

The PBC should also be a natural advocate for this approach. But, as we have seen from the existing country configurations, this is not always the case in practice. Little or no added value has come from the PBC generating parallel strategies and spreading itself too thin by trying to cover all issues. Where we have begun to see progress is where the country-specific mechanisms have focused on a few specific issues which have become bottlenecks to peace building, and started working with the government and wider international community to tackle them. Addressing such bottlenecks should be the PBC’s staple.

But this doesn’t mean a country-specific mechanism should be focused solely on one or two issues. This is where it may start, but its involvement can grow over time as the country gains confidence in the PBC’s support, or when the Security Council or other referring body wants additional advice. New issues could start to be tackled as others are overcome. This is what multi-tiered means. It shouldn’t be a question of mutually exclusive options. Flexibility and pragmatism should be the watchwords.

We question the suggestion that the PBC OC might have a country chairing role. A key lesson learned over the past five years is that the PBC needs to be less New York centric and more field oriented. Getting the PBC OC to take on a country would be a step in the wrong direction. PBC country-engagement, however ‘lite’, should be undertaken by a dedicated chair - preferably a Government rather than an individual - with the necessary time, commitment, presence on the ground, resources and political weight with other relevant governments, regional organisations, UN agencies and IFIs, combined with continued close engagement in New York.

We also need to be cautious about the PBC OC having more oversight over the CSMs. Adding layers of bureaucracy will only dilute the PBC’s practical impact, and reduce its speed of response, flexibility and innovation. We do, however, see potential value in the proposal that the PBC OC take on the role of the Working Group on Lessons Learned. In doing so, it should focus on only one or two thematic issues per year.

On entry and exit criteria, we should again avoid being overly prescriptive. However, it is worth pointing out that the PBC’s engagement is likely to generate much better results where there is a host Government genuinely committed to peacebuilding; a top quality SRSG/ERSG; and a dedicated Chair.

On conflict prevention, let me first stress the importance that we place on this. The founding resolutions make clear that the PBC can and should play a role in prevention where relevant. But we need to be realistic. The PBC already helps prevent conflict by reducing the likelihood of post-conflict countries relapsing into conflict. But are we being too ambitious, and creating unrealistic expectations, by suggesting the PBC should take on some form of pre-conflict prevention role? Similarly, do we want the PBSO to assess and report on situations where new conflict is potentially imminent? Let them focus on their core mandate on post-conflict countries.

We fully support the point that the PBSO needs to ensure better analysis for the PBC, so that the PBC has a better understanding of what’s needed to make real progress in addressing particular peacebuilding challenges, and where the gaps in response are. But the PBSO should commission this analysis from experts within the UN, IFIs, regional organisations and elsewhere, rather than trying to do it all in house. In terms of PBSO staff members, we believe that staff working on its core functions should be regularised. But that should be sufficient.

On the PBF, we have serious reservations about using it as an incentive to get countries onto the PBC’s agenda. This would not be consistent with core aid effectiveness principles. It would also be a poor advertisement for the PBC. If it were taken forward, the UK would need to consider very carefully whether to provide any further replenishment to the PBF.

A country emerging from conflict should want to come onto the PBC’s agenda because it has confidence that the PBC can genuinely help address its critical challenges. One of the best ways of ensuring better delivery is for the PBC to develop a simple model for its work, in which it:

• focuses on one or two critical issues, rather than spreading itself too thin;
• undertakes analysis of the underlying problems in those critical areas, including gaps in assistance - so that it can talk with authority;
• calls for actions by specific players to help overcome those problems;
• and encourages and monitors the implementation of those actions.

If it follows that simple model effectively, the PBC’s support and advice will be sought and heeded.

Thank you.

Acronyms guide:
PBSO: Peacebuilding Support Office
PBC: Peacebuilding Commission
PBC OC: Peacebuilding Commission Organisational Committee
SRSG: Special Representative of the Secretary-General
ERSG: Executive Representative of the Secretary-General
PBF: Peacebuilding Fund
IFI: International Finance Institution_

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Published 7 July 2010