Opening Address by Minister of State Erler “The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission – First review and the future role of Germany and the EU”, 7 March 2008

07.03.2008 - Speech

Ladies and gentlemen,

I'd like to warmly welcome you to today's expert meeting on the UN Peacebuilding Commission. Two years after the Commission's foundation, we want to undertake an initial review of its work and in doing so also focus on the role played by Germany and the EU. I'm pleased that our invitation to this event met with such great interest, and that it is being held in the Europasaal here at the Federal Foreign Office.

Let me particularly welcome Ms Carolyn McAskie, the Head of the Peacebuilding Support Office. Thank you, Ms McAskie, for travelling from New York to be with us today. Your practical experience of work on the ground and your view of the Commission's role within the UN will enrich our debate. We are of course keen to hear how you see Germany's role as a member of the Commission and how Germany – not least also in the EU context – can and should act in the future.

Today's conference is part of what I consider to be a fine new tradition of close and frank dialogue between the German Government and civil society on crisis prevention and conflict management, for which the Interministerial Steering Group for Civilian Crisis Prevention has increasingly provided a forum. I would like to thank the Group and its partner, the Development and Peace Foundation, for planning, organizing and participating in this event, and extend a warm welcome to the Foundation's Chair, Professor Sabine von Schorlemer.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's often said that it's almost as difficult to win the peace as it is to win the war. Eighteen years after the end of the Cold War, the international community still faces major challenges to peace and security worldwide, not only due to conflicts between countries but also due to a growing number of intra-state conflicts. These are often caused by inter-ethnic problems, disputes over contested raw materials, bad governance or the exclusion of sections of the population from a country's political, economic or societal processes. In February 2004 the monthly bulletin “Crisis Watch” published by the International Crisis Group listed around 70 crisis regions worldwide – four years later that figure is almost unchanged.

In this age of globalization and increasing integration, such conflicts are no longer strictly confined to one country or region. Refugee flows, illegal migration, as well as terrorism and organized crime, which thrive in such fragile states, also affect the international community as a whole and thus affect us, too.

Today more than ever the international community is called upon to help end existing conflicts as quickly as possible through peacemaking measures and to help the country concerned find its way back to lasting peace and stability. The UN, the only global player, has a prominent role to play. The figures speak for themselves – the UN is currently engaged in 17 peacemaking and peacekeeping missions around the world, with over 110,000 soldiers, police officers and civilian experts – more than at any time in its history.

The UN's answer to war cannot, however, be reduced to mediating peace agreements or safeguarding peace by military means. Looking back at the peacekeeping missions of the past fifteen years, it becomes clear that, post-conflict, either the basis is laid for sustained peace and development, or the conflict is bound to flare up again. According to the statistics, in almost half of all states where conflicts have ended, fighting breaks out again within five years. This shows that lasting and sustainable peace can only be created if the causes of the conflicts are lastingly and comprehensively dealt with, i.e. if the “roots” of the conflict are treated.

We can sum it up as follows – whereas peacekeeping treats the symptoms, peacebuilding deals with the causes. For that reason peacebuilding must go hand in hand with peacekeeping at an early stage – if possible during the acute crisis-management phase.

Kofi Annan recently and succinctly stated that peacebuilding is about more than just bricks and mortar. It goes far beyond physical reconstruction, aiming to create a solid basis for lasting peace and development. There are no blueprints for this, nor can there be any – peacebuilding must take account of the nature of each conflict, its actors and its background. It must pursue a simultaneously holistic and targeted approach. This in turn can only succeed if all players, national and international, are involved in a all-encompassing process, pool their resources and coordinate their measures to form a coherent whole. Only in this way can peacebuilding achieve its objectives.

Ladies and gentlemen, against this background the establishment of the UN Peacebuilding Commission is a major success. At the 2005 World Summit the heads of state and government recognized that the international community's peacebuilding efforts lacked an overall strategic approach and coherence. At the end of 2005, therefore, the Commission was created as a new and unique forum in which representatives of the UN system, troop contributors, major bilateral donors, relevant regional actors and organizations, international financial institutions and the authorities of the country in question can exchange data on their post-conflict activities and coordinate them on the basis of an overarching strategy. This now makes it possible to
identify strategic priorities for the peacebuilding process and to find consensus thereon among the actors involved,
ensure that the international community efficiently supports the national authorities and that its measures take due account of the conflict country's needs, and
to mobilize the requisite resources for this process.

We can therefore say that, while the Commission isn't doing anything new, it is doing something better: it brings the parties together during the all-important post-conflict phase. It is thus not just another actor in what is already a crowded field. A sorely-needed instrument has been created with the aim of improving transnational communication and consultation between states, international organizations and non-state actors, through which the UN can now react to crises worldwide in an even more efficient and coordinated manner. In this case efficient also means targeted towards the needs and prospects of the country concerned. National ownership, linked with a partnership of international actors, is in my view the sine qua non for successful peacebuilding.

Ladies and gentlemen, together with its partners in the EU the German Government has from the very beginning supported the creation of the Commission. As a member of the Organizational Committee, Germany plays an active role in shaping its policy and developing its work.

Even though it has been in existence for two years now, the Commission is still a young institution, cutting its teeth in many fields and searching for its proper role. Having said this, I still think we can today look back on the Commission's first two years in quite a positive light.

The Commission has succeeded in launching a wide-ranging debate on post-conflict stabilization, peacebuilding and reconstruction in two post-conflict states, Burundi and Sierra Leone. Moreover, with the “Strategic Framework for Burundi” and the “Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework” for Sierra Leone, it has created strategic structures for the international community's further engagement in these countries.
In December 2007 a third country, Guinea-Bissau, was included in the Commission's work. By the end of May that country will also be provided with an integrated peacebuilding strategy, based on previous experience from Burundi and Sierra Leone.

The Commission's country-specific approach has proved to be the correct one. The task now will be to optimize its impact on the ground, in the post-conflict countries. In Burundi and Sierra Leone the agreed strategies must now be implemented continuously and with all due consequence, so that people there see the effects. To do this it will be necessary to maintain the international community's focus on these countries and to ensure that the necessary funds are available for implementing the strategies so that the peacebuilding process can be vigorously pursued.

In my opinion it is also important and necessary to develop mechanisms to monitor strategy implementation on the ground and to periodically check whether the desired aims have been achieved. Only in this way can errors and delays be spotted in good time and countermeasures taken. Although the main responsibility for implementation lies with the post-conflict countries themselves, UN flanking and support also remain vital during this phase.

Finally, we will have to ask ourselves when the Commission's engagement in a country is to end and how to ensure that there is no delay between the end of peacebuilding and the start of regular development and economic cooperation in that country. Answers will need to be found to such questions.

To this end, it will also be important to systematically assess the experiences gained to date and to incorporate the findings into future work. These experiences, from peace processes, the drawing up of country-specific strategies and their implementation in situ, must be used as best practices and lessons learned to benefit future post-conflict situations. The establishment of a lessons learned working group is a major step in that direction, and I'm very pleased that this group has already begun its consultations, meaning that for the first time non-country-specific issues such as post-conflict security-sector reform, reconciliation and justice are now being dealt with by the Commission.

Ladies and gentlemen, together with the Peacebuilding Support Office and the Peacebuilding Fund, the Commission forms part of a new and holistic peacebuilding architecture within the UN. All three elements are independent and have clear mandates, and together are designed to ensure that peacebuilding is timely, comprehensive and effective.

Effective peacebuilding is impossible without sufficient funding. One of the Commission's tasks is therefore to mobilize resources. As part of the new architecture, the Standing Fund for Peacebuilding was created to provide initial funding for key reconstruction projects and in support of transitional governments. In many countries, such as Nepal, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and the Central African Republic, to name but a few, the Fund has already enabled the launch of major peacebuilding initiatives and has assumed the role of catalyst for medium- and long-term financing by national and multilateral donors. However, with the provision of around US$ 35 million each for Burundi and Sierra Leone, financing 21 projects in each state, the Fund has also been instrumental in the implementation of the specific strategies for these two countries. The targeted use of these funds for the areas prioritized by the Commission will go a long way towards sustainably consolidating peace as well as, hopefully, acting as a catalyst for further donor funding.

From the very beginning Germany, through the European Union, has contributed to the Peacebuilding Fund. Today the EU is the Fund's largest contributor.

I take particular pleasure in announcing here and now that Germany will also support the Fund bilaterally, providing it with US$ 10 million for this year. As member of the Peacebuilding Commission Germany attaches particular importance to adequate funding. We feel we have a special responsibility to help the Commission's work succeed and to lend it our support.

The relevant agreement is currently being prepared in New York and, Ms McAskie, the sum will be transferred to the Fund in a few days' time.

Ladies and gentlemen, although there is still some room for improvement two years after the founding of the Commission, I'm convinced that the UN's new peacebuilding architecture can become a structure with real authority and the power to act, an instrument able to face the risks and challenges of the globalized world. Together with the Peacebuilding Support Office and the Standing Fund for Peacebuilding, the Commission is the international community's answer to the question of how we can meet the worldwide demand for holistic, flexible and sustainable peacebuilding in the long term.

But it will only succeed if it finds its niche within the UN and if it improves its advisory role, using its discretion more actively. In turn, the UN bodies should make better use of the Commission's capabilities, actively demand its involvement and include its recommendations in their work and operating processes. This interaction, envisaged in the Commission's founding resolution, is the key to finding its place within the UN.

In the final analysis the Peacebuilding Commission will be judged by its ability to achieve tangible results for the people on the ground. For that reason the country-specific approach must remain at the heart of the Commission's work. To that end, however, it must define its role, tasks and objectives more clearly, not least to differentiate itself from other UN bodies and in particular from classic development-cooperation instruments. In addition, it must better publicize that role and make it clear where its value-added lies – to the actors, the target countries and above all the general public.

Today's meeting is designed to address the question of how this can be successfully done and of the role Germany and the EU can play in this regard. I hope we will have a genuine dialogue encompassing many different views and opinions. We have invited representatives of various organizations – ministries, think-tanks, scientific, political and research institutes, NGOs and private institutions – to be here today, and I hope this leads to a broad spectrum of proposals, suggestions, questions and answers.

I therefore invite you all to actively participate in the discussions, with comments, critique and concrete proposals. With this in mind I wish you all a stimulating and interesting event.

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