Demand-Driven and Consultative: The Peacebuilding Commission in 2022

Ambassador Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, was elected in February 2022 as the Chair of the 16th session of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the body established in 2005 by the General Assembly and the Security Council to support peace efforts in countries emerging from conflict. We spoke to Fatima, the first woman to head the PBC, about the Commission’s priorities for the rest of the year.

Can you briefly describe your vision for the PBC in 2022?

Rabab Fatima: We are going through a challenging time. Deadly conflicts, extremist militant attacks and political instability observed in different parts of the world continue to undermine our efforts to build and sustain peace, and often risk reversing the gains that the Commission has for years supported to achieve. On top of that, the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating inequality and polarization in most of the contexts where the PBC engages.

As the Chair, my top priority now is to ensure that the PBC continues to deliver effective and impactful support to the increasing number of countries that come to us and request for our engagement.

I plan to follow a demand-driven and consultative approach, to ensure that the PBC responds to the real needs on the ground. Keeping that in mind, I held, for the first time, an open consultation with the member States to develop and finalize this year’s programme of work. I would also like to prioritize consultations with all relevant stakeholders, especially those engaged in actual operations on the ground to ensure maximum impact.

Take the case of the PBC meeting on the Sahel that took place on 22 March. With support from the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), extensive consultations have taken place with local and regional representatives in the Sahel and international partners. Building on a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/International Organization for Migration (IOM) cross-border initiative on transhumance in the Sahel region, which has been successfully implemented with Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) support under the auspices of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, the meeting created an opportunity to generate additional political, technical, and financial support for specific climate change initiatives in the region, where tensions between farmers and herders are exacerbated by the adverse impacts of climate change, which, at times, often trigger forced population displacement.

In general, challenges emanating from climate change, humanitarian-development-peace nexus, forced displacement, linkages between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, institution and capacity building, enhanced UN coherence, including engagement with agencies, funds and programmes, the women, peace and security agenda, and the youth, peace and security agenda are some of the important priorities, I wish to pursue this year.

I would also like to advocate South-South cooperation, as I strongly believe that countries of the global south, such as Bangladesh, have a lot to share with countries that engage with the Commission. And in this regard, I would like to see more engagement of other regions, including my own region Asia, and I am pleased to see interest being shown. Timor Leste for instance, has expressed interest in sharing their institution building and reconciliation experiences with the Commission.

Ensuring adequate, predictable and sustained financing for peacebuilding is another priority that I plan to vigorously pursue, including by encouraging predictable and more sustained contributions to the Peacebuilding Fund. A stronger PBF would have a positive impact on the work of the Commission since many of the countries and regions that it covers would directly benefit from it. I have been encouraging Member States to seriously consider all the options that the Secretary-General has put on the table. This will be the subject of discussion during the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on 27 April, which I am hoping will result in concrete outcomes.

The PBC features prominently in the Secretary-General’s “Our Common Agenda” report. What role do you envisage for the PBC in the pursuit of relevant recommendations contained in that document?

I was greatly encouraged by the peacebuilding related recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report. And I have tried to reflect that in the 2022 PBC programme of work, which focuses on seven areas of action that aim to transform the Commission into a more effective and result-oriented body.

As indicated in the programme of work, consultations are ongoing for engagements on at least 12 different countries this year, including Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Timor Leste. The focus will range from mobilizing political, financial and technical support for context-specific peacebuilding priorities, to sharing results and lessons learned from peacebuilding trajectories. Consultations are also ongoing in follow-up to past commitments in support of regional peacebuilding activities, including in the Great Lakes region, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad Basin, Sahel, and the Pacific Islands. If the UN system commits to Our Common Agenda, then we should be able to collectively ensure results in all these contexts.

As a gender equality advocate, what do you envisage the PBC’s role in support of the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda?

As you may know, this year I am also chairing the Executive Board of UN Women. Advancing the women, peace and security agenda is an important priority for Bangladesh and for me, personally. The Commission has already done impressive work in this area.

Guided by its gender strategy and action plan, the Commission has delivered tangible support to women peacebuilders, including by mainstreaming gender dimensions of peacebuilding into its country and regional activities. In 2021, women peacebuilders participated in meetings of the Commission at a growing rate since 2016, with the most significant increase from 22% in 2019 to 74% in 2021.

I am determined to continue to create space within the Commission for women peacebuilders and to amplify their voices, including by bringing more systematically to the attention of the Security Council their recommendations. In collaboration with DPPA and UN Women, we are planning a PBC meeting in 2022 to discuss ways of sustaining inclusive peace on the frontlines of climate change. This is an important challenge for women peacebuilders across the world and I look forward to working with them in support of their efforts.

We understand that you are a staunch promoter of efforts to promote United Nations coherence, with a focus on the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. What can the PBC do in this area?

The PBC is already doing quite a lot in this area. It has consistently encouraged synergies and greater coordination across the United Nations system, promoted coherent support in transition and conflict-affected settings, and emphasized the need to continue to assess the impact of the relevant United Nations reforms on the Organization’s performance in that regard. The Commission has also stressed the role of United Nations system-wide coherence, international solidarity and South-South and triangular cooperation in addressing challenges related to COVID-19 and advancing the long-term goals of economic recovery, peacebuilding and sustaining peace, while protecting the planet.

For example, in 2021, representatives of Special Political Missions comprised nearly one third of all United Nations briefers at the Commission’s meetings, which demonstrates the value that the Commission places on the voices from the field. The percentage of Resident Coordinators, Humanitarian Coordinators or Resident Representatives briefing the Commission increased from 3.6% in 2020 to 17.6% in 2021, which clearly indicates that the Commission has become an important platform to discuss development priorities of conflict-affected countries and regions. I plan to sustain this trend in 2022.

The briefings by the Resident Coordinators in particular, help to enhance understanding of the important role of United Nations common country analyses and United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks in support of national peacebuilding priorities.

The Commission has recently proven its vital role as a platform for coherence and coordination in support of the United Nations transition in Guinea-Bissau. A recent PBC meeting on Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, organized in collaboration with the UN Regional Offices for Central Africa (UNOCA) for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), stressed the importance of focusing even more on coherence and impact and encouraged stronger coordination among all actors concerned as well.

The PBC also brought together representatives from the United Nations and the World Bank to provide information on their support to Burundi and to discuss linkages between analytical, strategic and planning instruments, with a view to maximizing impact and coherence.

The importance of enhancing coherence and coordination in the context of the different funding streams was also underscored by the Commission. Tracking more regularly the funding for peacebuilding activities, for example, will help us to understand and diversify the sources of peacebuilding financing and recognize the contributions of varied set of actors, including local and international NGOs, and civil society organizations.

And here, the key to impactful coordination would be to ensure national ownership and participation at all levels. This would also pave the way to building national capacity and sustainability of programmes and efforts to building and sustaining peace and development.

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