Photoville “In Their Hands” exhibit at Brooklyn Bridge Park. UN Photo/Gaelle Sundelin

Women are peacebuilders, decision-makers, peacekeepers, community leaders, changemakers and activists. But, as Acting Executive Director of UN Women Pramila Patten pointed out, in her opening remarks at the New York City flagship photography festival Photoville at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York on Saturday, 18 September: “Too often, the narrative of women in war and conflict is that of victimhood. Yet we know there are countless stories of women across the globe who are actively working to prevent conflict, recover from crisis, and build peace — sometimes putting their own lives at risk.” …

Aerial view of shipping containers. Photo: Pexels/Tom Fisk

The approach to making and building peace has substantially evolved in the last three decades. The image of a group of men sitting around a table for peace talks is progressively giving way to a more expansive, inclusive and representative vision of the best way to end armed conflict and achieve lasting stability. The premise behind this change is simple: Those affected by conflict should have a say in ending and recovering from it. Women, youth and civil society generally are increasingly part of the peace and security conversation (see this example from Yemen). Still largely underexplored, however, is the…

Security Council Meets on Situation in Afghanistan. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

In August, the Security Council heard eight briefings on the work of political missions or peace processes under the purview of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA). There were three emergency meetings scheduled at short notice to discuss the worsening situations in Afghanistan and Ethiopia.


On 6 August, a little over a week before the Taliban captured Kabul, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Deborah Lyons briefed the Security Council on the worsening situation in the country. Lyons warned that Afghanistan was at a dangerous turning point: “Ahead…

A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the situation in Libya.
Security Council Meets on Situation in Libya. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

In July, the Security Council heard six briefings in open chamber and five behind closed doors on the work of political missions or peace processes under the purview of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA). The issues ranged from the need for a ceasefire in Ethiopia, electoral challenges in West Africa and the Sahel, rights and responsibilities over Nile water usage, milestones for reconciliation in Colombia, the lack of political will in Libya and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.


Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, in a briefing to the Council on the situation in…

Illustration: UNDP/OHCHR

Constitution making can be instrumental in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and the promotion of human rights, the rule of law and sustainable development. Constitutions drafted or revised through inclusive, participatory and transparent processes enjoy stronger legitimacy. Chile is currently engaged in a constitution making process considered widely inclusive, with the meaningful participation of different sectors of society, particularly women, youth, linguistic, religious, and ethnic groups, sexual and gender minorities and persons with disabilities. The results of this landmark process, set to culminate within one year, are eagerly anticipated.

In October 2019, Chile experienced an unprecedented wave of social mobilization — including…

DPPA’s Innovation Cell commissioned a Virtual Reality project in Colombia. The filmmaker is seen here with the VR camera. Photo credit: DPPA

Put on a headset at the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), and suddenly you are on a rooftop in Iraq, walking perilously close to the edge. You notice the return of life to the conflict-ravaged remains of the old city section of Mosul in front of you, to the left, to the right, above and below. Next, you are in front of the bombed out shell of a library building at Mosul university. To your surprise, it is bustling with life, as young students mill about the quad. Now, you’re moving in a white UN jeep along a…

Delegations from the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government at the first meeting of the Joint Post Referendum Consultations in Kokopo, New Britain, 18–19 May, 2021. Photo credit: DPPA

There’s a traditional rite of passage for men in some parts of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, symbolizing their transition from childhood to adulthood. “Upe” is the name of the process, as well as the distinctive head-covering that accompanies it. The upe also adorns Bougainville’s flag. Bougainville is now entering a rite of passage of its own and is consulting on its political future with the Government of Papua New Guinea, following a 2019 referendum in which the majority of Bougainvilleans voted for independence. …

Ship in the Aralkum desert, Moynak, Uzbekistan, on the sea bed of what used to be the Aral Sea. Photo credit and copyright: Alfred Diebold

Even if you know the history, it’s always jarring to look at photographs of the Aral Sea. Instead of water, there’s dry, inhospitable land, littered with the rusty hulls of abandoned ships. The Sea, once one of the world’s largest lakes and a valuable water source in Central Asia, has now all but vanished, a result of Soviet-era irrigation and agricultural practices. This activity left in its wake a bowl of contaminated dust that, when the wind blows, is picked up and falls onto nearby glaciers, which then melt polluted water into the nearby rivers every summer. …

The Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2579 (2021), extending the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) until 3 June 2022. Photo credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

June saw the Security Council move away from virtual consultations and towards the holding of more in-person meetings. A total of six Special Envoys, Special Coordinators and Special Representatives leading UN political missions or peace processes under the purview of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) briefed the 15-member organ on issues ranging from the need for stability in Yemen and the proposed referendum in Haiti, to the uptick in violence in Afghanistan and the need to solidify the ceasefire in Gaza.

Central Africa

On 7 June, the Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa…

The Office of the Special Envoy’s Syrian Civil Society Support Room

Proceedings of the CSSR consultations in Geneva, January 2020. Photo credit: NOREF

Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen’s recent warning to the Security Council was dire: after a decade of conflict, the country’s humanitarian situation was “immense, and growing.” He painted a picture of economic destitution, displacement, detention and abduction, all taking place in the midst of a pandemic. As violent conflict, terrorist acts and human rights abuses continue, he cautioned, Syrians were inching towards “an even deeper abyss”. Alongside a nationwide ceasefire, a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political solution was desperately needed. …

Politically Speaking

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

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