A Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian truck convoy, similar to that destroyed by an airstrike on 19 September 2016 in Urum al-Kubra, Syria. Photo credit: SARC

A former Prime Minister assassinated while leaving a rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Hundreds of Syrian men, women and children in Ghouta murdered in a chemical weapons attack. ISIL/Da’esh capturing and controlling large swathes of territory in Iraq, and carrying out executions, torture, rape and ethno-sectarian attacks. These events drew international condemnation, but also pressing calls for answers and accountability. But who would hold those responsible accountable? And how would the facts be established?

In cases such as these, Member States often look to the United Nations and to the Secretary-General in particular, for answers. The Organization has several tools it…

Woman casts her ballot in Bolivia on election day, 18 October 2020. Photo credit: UNDP Bolivia

On 3 June 2021, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) will present to the countries that support its work with voluntary contributions — and to potential donors — an update to its Multi-Year Appeal. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of voluntary contributions to the Department. In 2020, this funding, which countries provide over and above what they contribute to the UN’s regular budget, enabled the Department to carry out much of its conflict prevention and peacemaking work around the world, and that in the middle of the pandemic. DPPA is requesting $40 million in contributions for 2021.

The Security Council meets on the situation in Somalia, 25 May, 2021. Photo credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

May was an extremely busy month in the Security Council, with briefings from Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Syria, all of whom lead mandates under the purview of the Department of Peacebuilding and Political Affairs. As tensions flared between Israel and Palestine, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process also updated the Council on several occasions.

The situation in the Middle East

Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, updated the Security Council in closed sessions on the situation in occupied East Jerusalem, once on 10 May and…

Security Council members hold a videoconference on the Middle East (Syria) on 28 April, 2021. Photo credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

April saw six envoys leading UN political missions or peace processes under the purview of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) brief the Security Council on issues ranging from proposed ceasefires in Yemen and Syria to the progress made to implement the Colombia Peace Agreement and improved relations between Sudan and South Sudan.

Below are some key takeaways from those discussions:

Great Lakes Region

On 12 April, Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia briefed the Council on a recently proposed new plan for consolidating peace and preventing conflict. The Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention…

Photo credit: Markus Spiske

One morning last July, a staffer in the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) received an email alert. Chaos had erupted in a Member State after a fierce storm had knocked out its entire electrical grid. Quickly checking social media, she noticed that a large number of Twitter users were reporting a complete loss of power in hospitals, resulting in the death of patients on life support. The staffer alerted her colleagues as reports continued to come in. …

Participants at a “Youth Building Peace” event commemorating International Youth Day, 12 August 2017, hosted by the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in collaboration with the Working Group on Youth and Peacebuilding of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development. Photo credit: UN Photo/Kim Haugton

Allwell Akhigbe is a 28-year-old member of a youth-led peacebuilding organization in Nigeria. He grew up in Jos, a city in the north-central region of his country. In 2001, when he was just eight years old, his life was turned upside down. His community fell apart as deeply entrenched religious and ethnic differences spilled over into conflict and bloodshed. Intolerance, coupled with competition over scarce resources, led to slaughter and loss of livelihoods. Throughout his teenage years, he witnessed brutal uprisings, states of emergency and heavy military presences. He still mourns friends and teachers lost to the violence.

Young people…

Security Council Extends Yemen Sanctions Regime: The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2342 (2017), extending until 26 February 2018 sanctions on those threatening stability in Yemen. Photo credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

There used to be a thriving export business for monuments and statues of world leaders in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In November 2016, the Security Council adopted a resolution to ban such trade, as part of a series of sanctions intended to halt the east-Asian nation’s nuclear tests and launches using ballistic missile technology. At the time, then-United States ambassador Samantha Power pointed out that exports such as “two statues for which Robert Mugabe paid $5 million … and countless others found around the world” generated millions of dollars in revenue for Kim Jong-un. The Council has also…

A poll worker preparing ballots for election day, 18 October, 2020, La Paz, Bolivia. Photo credit: Alma Films for the Electoral Pillar of the UN.

On 19 March 2020, eight days after the World Health Organization designated COVID-19 as a pandemic, the small archipelago state of Vanuatu in the South Pacific decided to go ahead with its general elections on schedule. Even though Vanuatu had yet to record a single COVID-19 case, election officials were not taking any chances. With the assistance of the United Nations, they quickly put together a public information campaign to instruct voters and polling officials on physical distancing and hygiene protocols. …

“Cinema for Peace” event in Putumayo, Colombia. October 2019. Photo: Laura Santamaría / UN Verfication Mission in Colombia.

Traditional approaches to post-conflict situations often focus on what might be termed “external safeguards”, such as security building, good governance and transitional justice initiatives. However, there is a growing body of work in the field of brain and behavioral science that explores the role of human psychology and patterns of thinking in the success, or failure, of peace agreements.

Andrés Casas, a behavioral scientist from the University of Pennsylvania and consultant for the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), has worked in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and North America on the development of behavioral change programs using…

The resolution of large-scale internal conflicts nearly always involves some form of renegotiation of access to public power and resources, and/or recognition and autonomy for specific societal groups. As a result, whether it be in South Sudan or Syria, Mali or Myanmar, processes of constitutional reform are intertwined with, and often at the heart of, conflict mediation.The Secretary General’s Guidance Note on UN Constitutional Assistance (updated in 2020) recognizes constitution making assistance as integral to an overall conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding strategy. Yet, mediators are often unfamiliar with good practices and common challenges in constitution making processes, and…

Politically Speaking

The online magazine of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs

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