77th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 71st Session

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SIX OFFICIAL 20-Apr-2017 02:33:53
Speakers hail Peacebuilding Commission as ‘lynchpin’ of diverse efforts supporting post-conflict stability, as General Assembly adopts decision on ocean protection, at 77th plenary.
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The Peacebuilding Commission was rapidly becoming a “lynchpin” body that brought together the diverse activities of the United Nations in support of peace, speakers in the General Assembly stressed today, as they also adopted a draft decision accrediting intergovernmental groups to a conference on ocean conservation.

During their annual debate, speakers in the Assembly explored how peacebuilding was evolving in the wake of the twin “sustaining peace” resolutions adopted by the 193-member body and the Security Council in 2016. Many said the Commission’s mandate — energized by Assembly resolution 70/262 and the identical Security Council resolution 2282 (2016) — rendered it well-placed to advance the nascent concept of “sustaining peace” advocated by Secretary-General António Guterres.

Among the changes introduced by those resolutions was a stronger focus on the Commission’s role as a bridge among the organs and entities of the United Nations. They also had mandated that the Commission pursue an integrated, strategic and coherent approach to peacebuilding.

In opening remarks, Assembly Vice-President Rubén Ignacio Zamora Rivas (El Salvador) said the Commission was now empowered to be more effective, flexible and innovative. Noting that the 2016 resolutions had called for the dissolution of silos in the United Nations work, he expressed support for its improved work methods and the Secretary-General’s commitment to providing “catalytic” support to sustaining peace.

Cho Tae-Yul (Republic of Korea), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, agreed that the parallel resolutions offered a timely opportunity to improve the body’s advisory role, and, ultimately, support to countries. Its priorities would include strengthening partnerships with regional and subregional organizations; ensuring more predictable funding; increasing women’s participation in efforts to build and sustain peace; and improving transparency and efficiency.

In the ensuing debate, delegates shared their countries’ experiences with peacebuilding both abroad and at home. Many spotlighted the Commission’s support to the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), assistance to Sierra Leone in carrying out its 2012 elections, and a 19 April meeting to discuss peacebuilding in the Gambia as examples of success. Others pointed to cooperation between the Peacebuilding Fund and the World Bank in both Yemen and the Central African Republic as evidence of its potential to work with external partners.

Several also described their work as Chairs or members of the Commission’s country-specific configurations, with Ireland’s delegate noting that, through its time on the Liberia configuration, his country had seen how Commission support could help a country drive its own peacebuilding process.

Sharing first-hand experience with peacebuilding, Nepal’s delegate stressed that sustained peace must engage all stakeholders, including the most marginalized. Nepal now enjoyed an inclusive and rights-based Constitution, with democratic elections planned for the first time in 20 years in May, he said, adding that United Nations support to his country had “come a long way”.

Brazil’s representative said the Peacebuilding Commission could transcend divisions among the Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. “Marking an evolution in relation to the original paradigm of peacebuilding, the concept of sustaining peace can contribute to enhancing our capacity to address what the Secretary-General identified as one of the most serious shortcomings of the international community: its inability to prevent crisis,” he stressed.

Amid such praise, a number of speakers also expressed concern that respect for national ownership, regional leadership and the consent of host States remained limited, with some warning that the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence must be strictly observed. “We must let the peoples of the world, in Africa and elsewhere, decide on their own destiny,” stressed Burundi’s representative, recalling that his country had been on the Commission’s agenda since 2006. While welcoming a shift in focus from Burundi’s political debate to the economic impacts of its recent crises, he cited “room for improvement” in the regional and subregional dimensions of peacebuilding, stressing that the principle of national ownership was not always respected.

Similarly, the Russian Federation’s representative said the role of the United Nations must be to support host countries with their consent. Assistance should never be imposed or allowed to morph into interference in domestic affairs. Pointing to the Peacebuilding Fund’s work in Kyrgyzstan as an example of its cooperation with the Commission, underpinned by consent, he said countries should be consulted throughout the process, but in particular when peace operations were transitioning or being drawn down.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sri Lanka, Egypt, Morocco, Guatemala, India, Argentina, Netherlands, Japan, China, Pakistan, Portugal, Colombia, United States, Estonia, Australia, Norway, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Germany, Indonesia, Senegal, Sweden, Uruguay, Ethiopia, El Salvador and Turkey, as well as of the European Union.

The former Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission delivered opening remarks.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 21 April, for an interactive dialogue on “Harmony with Nature” to commemorate International Mother Earth Day.
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