'Peacebuilding requires sustained political attention and financial support'

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

Statement by Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of the UK Mission to the UN, to the Security Council Debate on Peacebuilding in the aftermath of conflict

Thank you Mr President for convening this debate and for coming to New York to chair it here in the Security Council. I also want to thank the Deputy Secretary-General and Ambassador Antonio Patriota for their important and insightful comments this morning.

The United Kingdom welcomes the Secretary-General’s report on peacebuilding, and his update on progress on the key themes of inclusivity, institution-building and mutual accountability. And in particular, we fully support the report’s emphasis on the vital role of women in all peacebuilding efforts.

In August of last year, this Council had the opportunity to visit Somalia and South Sudan. And we saw first-hand the contrasting peacebuilding fortunes of these two countries.

In Somalia, we witnessed a country slowly getting back on its feet. In South Sudan, we saw a country tearing itself apart.

And the experiences of South Sudan and Somalia allow us to draw some important lessons on the effectiveness of UN peacebuilding. There is no doubt that the United Nations has significantly improved its support to countries emerging from conflict over the last twenty years. Countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Timor Lest頡re rightly celebrated as success stories. However, we must also acknowledge that there have been too many tragic examples of countries relapsing into violence, with the Central African Republic the most prominent recent example.

The United Kingdom believes that there are three over-arching lessons that we can draw from recent UN peacebuilding experiences.

First, the context in which the United Nations is trying to deliver peacebuilding support is changing. Although peacebuilding was first conceptualised as a ‘post-conflict’ endeavour, we are now increasingly asking the United Nations to support political processes and build institutions in the midst of ongoing violence and conflict. Almost 90% of UN personnel in Special Political Missions are working in peace operations in countries that are still experiencing high-intensity conflict.

There are also several new drivers of conflict. Civil wars are becoming “internationalised”, with regional actors fuelling and sometimes actively participating in intra-state conflicts. The growth of transnational organised crime and illicit trafficking as a lucrative funding stream for armed groups acts as a disincentive to reach durable political settlements. And the increasing number of violent extremist groups with maximalist demands – and that view United Nations’ personnel as legitimate targets – makes it harder to bring conflicts to an end. And when wars even appear to end often they do so without a clear resolution or with violence persisting.

These contexts are likely to become the ‘new normal’ for peacebuilding. We therefore need to develop a more sophisticated approach to core peacebuilding tasks in countries affected by conflict. To achieve this, the United Nations must improve its capacity to undertake rigorous and objective analyses of conflict drivers in each context. And to use this improved understanding to present the Council with sequenced, prioritised and tailored recommendations to deal with the root causes of violence.

Secondly, we must remember the primary primacy of politics in peacebuilding. Too often, the international community takes a technical approach to supporting countries in conflict, such as building police stations or improving budgetary processes. While these may be critical tasks, peacebuilding activities will fail if they become detached from a broader political strategy. The United Nations must ensure that their Good Offices mandates are used to create the political space required for key peacebuilding interventions to gain traction. Missions must seek to align security, development and political activities into a single, coherent, integrated strategy. And although the principle of national ownership should of course sit at the heart of all peacebuilding strategies, we need to be realistic about the limits of national ownership in situations of state collapse and where political legitimacy remains contested.

Thirdly, peacebuilding requires sustained political attention and financial support. The Ebola crisis in West Africa has demonstrated the fragility of peacebuilding gains. But even without an external shock like Ebola, there are no short-cuts to building durable national institutions. The World Bank estimates that making meaningful improvements to institutions takes between ten and seventeen years at the very minimum. International efforts to build institutions will inevitably extend beyond the lifetime of a peace operation. Effective, well planned transitions are therefore essential. We must ensure that a mission’s drawdown does not result in a huge drop in donor financing. The United Nations’ Peacebuilding Fund is an important mechanism to achieve this, and that is why the United Kingdom continues to be the Peacebuilding Fund’s largest donor, providing seventy million dollars since 2011. We encourage others to contribute generously to this important peacebuilding tool.

Mr President,

As many colleagues have pointed out, 2015 will be an important year for peacebuilding. The United Kingdom hopes that both the Review of the Peacebuilding Architecture and the Secretary-General’s Review of Peace Operations will provide innovative recommendations to improve the way in which we support countries recovering from conflict. In particular, we need bold and meaningful reform of the Peacebuilding Commission if it is to adapt to the changing context and remain relevant in the future.

Mr President,

We also hope that these Reviews will emphasise the importance of conflict prevention as a core peacebuilding task.

As the Deputy Secretary General so eloquently said this morning, too often the Security Council focuses solely on the intensive care phase of the conflict spectrum. We need much more attention to be focused both on conflict prevention and on post conflict peacebuilding, which you might call the “convalescent treatment” of the problem.

We live in an age where we have immediate access to information about potential risks of instability in countries around the world. The challenge for this Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and the whole UN system, is to act early. Because early action can prevent enormous human suffering, fear and displacement. And it is far more cost-effective than the high human and financial costs of peacebuilding after conflict has taken root.

I thank you.