In reference to General Assembly (A/RES/70/262) and Security Council (S/RES/2282(2016)) resolutions on the Review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture, the President of the General Assembly convened a High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace, with a goal to assess opportunities to strengthen the United Nations' work on peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
The event brought together representatives of Member States, observers, UN entities, civil society organisations, research institutions with global and regional reach, media, and other stakeholders to discuss how to advance sustaining peace through engaging women and youth, fostering conflict prevention, strengthening policy coherence and partnerships, including with civil society, as well as ensuring predictable and sustained financing of peace work.
In the opening discussion, the President of the General Assembly confirmed that “prevention means tackling conflict at its roots”, through ensuring sustainable development, access to justice, respect for human rights and inclusion. Similarly, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, emphasised the need for a holistic approach that prioritises prevention through adequately financed and inclusive operational partnerships, gender equality, sustainable development, human rights, as well as action on the root causes of conflict. In that regard, the Secretary-General called for a renewed commitment to implementing his 7-Point Action Plan on Women's Participation in Peacebuilding. Such determination confirms a shift in the UN's rhetoric, changing the course of the organisation towards prevention, gender equality and sustainable peace, in line with the key priorities identified in both UNSCR1325 and UNSCR2282.
WILPF International Vice President and WILPF Nigeria President Joy Onyesoh provides civil society statement to the Opening Session of the PGA’s High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace (Photo Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider)
Local women were introduced as one of the key players in the process of implementing the Sustainable Peace Agenda. As Joy Onyesoh, WILPF International Vice President and WILPF Nigeria President, reiterated, “sustaining peace is a multipronged integrated approach that involves putting local women’s voices and rights at the center”. She drew particular attention to the need for ongoing support for women civil society, effective gendered conflict analysis, addressing violent masculinities and disarmament, and financing that substantially scales up funding for gender equality. “Sustaining peace requires consistent and committed political will to move out of the comfort zone and challenge dominant narratives on gender, conflict analysis and power”, she said.
High-Level Segment and Plenary Debate:
During the High-Level Segment and Plenary Debate, speakers highlighted the importance of action on women’s participation and conflict prevention, among others. Specifically, there was a consistent acknowledgment of and advocacy for ensuring the meaningful participation of women and girls as a method of building peaceful and sustainable societies, whether through education or access to economic, political and other resources and services. The representative of Kenya in this regard highlighted the increased focus on women’s participation and empowerment in the National SDG Plan of Action. The representative of Finland also shed light on the link between arms proliferation and women’s security and presented Finland’s UNSCR1325 National Action Plan as a good practice of incorporating a gender perspective into arms-control, disarmament and non-proliferation.
Speakers also acknowledged that gender analysis should be incorporated in all aspects of peace and security efforts. As the representative of Sweden pointed out, effective gendered conflict analysis is a political action aimed at changing structural power between governments for gender equality and women’s human rights. Such analysis enables the meaningful participation and rights of at-risk and marginalised communities; enables measures to reverse structural discrimination; or builds democratic engagement for human rights and sustainable peace.
Explicitly or implicitly, many speakers discussed the need to ensure an integrated approach to peace and security, by mobilising different stakeholders and resources to achieve a common goal. Reconsidering the way resources are spent and practices are carried out can significantly mobilise action for change. For example, using an African Union (AU) regional model to build peace was noted as a good practice, as the AU can deploy rapidly in the region, while it would take much longer for the UN Security Council to do so. Also, as Switzerland noted, the Human Rights Council should play a greater role in conflict prevention. Speakers also welcomed building ongoing relationships with civil society.
Representatives of Member States, including Sweden, Libya and South Korea, recognised the vital contributions of women’s civil society organisations and called for increased partnerships with grassroots women-led organisations. Specifically, the representative of the Gambia suggested that it is in governments’ interest to help civil society grow in order to exchange ideas and cooperate. Indeed, local women human rights defenders and peace activists best understand the concerns and opportunities on the ground and can identify, design and implement practical strategies to overcome challenges.
Notably, in comparison to the last year’s conversation on sustaining peace, the need to properly finance efforts to sustain peace, including by ensuring that 50% of peacebuilding activities go to support gender equality, strengthening funding for civil society, guaranteeing an allocated budget to implement relevant initiatives, were all frequently noted during the discussion. Additionally, participants recognised that focusing on paying for prevention measures is far more affordable than paying for post-conflict rebuilding. Speaking from his country’s experience, the representative of Liberia suggested that rather than investing in bullets and tanks, the world should invest in infrastructure, education and other services, so everyone can benefit from peace.
The discussions conducted during the forum also lacked significant regional focus. Crisis situations in states such as Syria, the DRC, Yemen and Myanmar, were afforded scarce attention, the majority of which manifested in brief references to dire humanitarian concerns or condemnations of violence. Even though the Rohingya crisis was addressed in the UN Security Council a week earlier, the speakers missed the opportunity to explore more specifically how to address violence and build peace. Emerging conflicts, such as the growing violence from militant Fulani Herdsmen in Nigeria, with numerous victims and a tremendous gendered impact, also retained little attention. Challenges on peace agreement implementation and discussion on how to address gaps on women’s rights were also a gap: Even though the situation in Colombia was cited as a good example of building peace, this recognition missed that much more must be done to better integrate women in conflict prevention and disarmament efforts, and that Member States need to show their support for the WPS Agenda by taking substantive action toward its implementation rather than just make rhetorical promises.
Switzerland State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Pascale Baeriswyl addresses the high-level General Assembly plenary meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace. (Photo Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider)
Interactive Dialogue on Sustaining Financing For Peace:
The discussion of the first informal dialogue focused on the need to shift financing from addressing the aftermath of conflict to a greater focus on conflict prevention, in line with recommendations from the 2018 UN-World Bank Pathways for Peace Report. Indeed, the participants suggested that financing for sustaining peace can be reinforced by using social impact investments and partnering with international financial institutions (IFIs), regional institutions and the private sector for innovative funding. A panelist from Deloitte Consulting stated that the private sector is uniquely placed to innovate, has a high reach, large talent pools and many resources and as such has the potential to finance sustainable peace more than any other sector. While there was a recognition that such partnerships may lead to depleting resources and exploiting communities, many panelists noted that partnering with the private sector and IFIs can also drive growth, employment and stable institutions, if properly carried out. Finally, panelists agreed that financial markets to drive peace would significantly benefit from embedding a gender lens into programs, working for women’s participation, partnering with governments, UN branches and CSOs and galvanising key stakeholders to create financial products for peace.
Interactive Dialogue on Strengthening the United Nations Work on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace in the Field:
Participants at the second interactive dialogue highlighted that UNSCR2282 should serve as a guiding principle for peacebuilding and conflict prevention engagement on the ground, with a focus on addressing the root causes of conflict, understanding local ways of tackling conflict, promoting gender equality, among other steps. Côte D’Ivoire earmarked $30 million for a priority action plan on peacebuilding, and the government partnered with UN programs to implement initiatives to drive reconciliation, social cohesion and the rule of law, among others. Clearly, these types of action require strong partnerships between international and national actors. Panelists explained that the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) is a key platform to address fragmentation within the UN system and enhance such partnerships, as it is uniquely placed to collaborate with IFIs, the private sector and civil society, all of which are critical for peace on the ground.
Interactive Dialogue on Strategic Partnerships with the United Nations in the Field for Peace:
While there was a general agreement that governments should be responsible for sustaining peace, panelists at this dialogue supported the fundamental role of relevant stakeholders, including civil society, to build on the comparative advantages of different actors. The representative of Cordaid stressed the importance of partnerships with local groups, joint conflict analysis and coordinating approaches, as local expertise is indispensable to prevention that strengthens women’s human rights and reduces armed and violent conflict. Mr. Yacoub El Hillo, Resident Coordinator for Liberia, explained that the situation in Liberia is an example of the necessity of continuing peacebuilding work that engages all sectors of society, as the situation in the country still remains fragile. For sustaining peace in societies like Liberia, addressing arms flows is also important, as one of the participants pointed out. While illegal arms flows are financed by powerful interests, this is not reported on or debated at the UN, and weapons continue to feed wars.
Interactive Dialogue on UN Comprehensive and Integrated Approach to Peace:
Participants of this dialogue agreed that sustaining peace should be broadly understood as a goal and a process to build a common vision of a society, using all available tools within the UN system. Participants affirmed the need for an integrated approach across the UN system that ensures policy coherence across major UN Agendas, including Women, Peace and Security, Disarmament, Sustainable Development, and Sustaining Peace for effective conflict prevention. The moderator of this dialogue, Ms. Adriana Abdenur, Director of Peace and Security of Igarapé Institute, argued that the WPS Agenda has contributed the most to prove the effectiveness of prevention measures. In the interest of further holistic action on prevention, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called for action to support women's leadership and participation, gender financing (such as the Peacebuilding Fund Gender Promotion Initiative), and more and better data collection (such as with the Global Study on UNSCR 1325). UN Women Director of Policy Division Purna Sen also discussed the importance of discussing disarmament and the legal and illegal arms trade when attempting to give women a legitimate place in shaping peace. With this, the Agendas become useful tools to facilitate integrated action, transform gender power dynamics and address the drivers of conflict for sustainable peace.
WILPF International Vice President and WILPF Nigeria President Joy Onyesoh contributes as civil society speaker at the High-Level Breakfast on Gender Equality as a Key to the Sustainability of Peace hosted by Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, Germany and Switzerland (Photo Credit: WILPF)
On the Margins of the Forum:
The discussions held on the margins of the High-Level Meeting provided a useful space to shed light on the operational and structural elements of Sustaining Peace, which are essential for the implementation of the Sustainable Peace Agenda in a coherent and integrated way. Many conversations were focused around local ownership, long-term vision and sustainability as key aspects of successful peacebuilding. At a dialogue on national experiences around gender and sustaining peace, Joy Onyesoh of WILPF Nigeria spoke about how women in Nigeria contribute to sustaining peace through Women’s Situation Room Nigeria and highlighted how overcoming barriers to gender equality, including by curbing arms, is key to conflict prevention. Some key initiatives discussed included Ghana’s National Peace Council made up of civil society, religious leaders and tribal elders, African Women Mediators Network, as well as UN-Habitat’s partnership with the Afghan government on land policy reforms. Introducing the UN 2020 Initiative, participants explained the need to reconsider existing indicators of fragility for more effective conflict prevention that would include gender inequality and address military expenditure and arms proliferation as key indicators of instability.
The two-day forum clearly affirmed a normative shift across UN work and supported by Member State action to shift from crisis response to conflict prevention through action to Sustain Peace. Beyond this, there was strong support across different conversations for WILPF’s recommendations for action, including on strengthening support for women and women's organisations in conflict prevention; ensuring gender conflict analysis, and prioritising funding for gender equality and peace. There were also rich exchanges of good practices on that went beyond normative support and began to explore how to translate sustaining peace commitments across different areas of work. In addition, the adoption of a procedural resolution following up on the UN Secretary-General’s Report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace provided a framework for follow up and accountability to continue attention and action on this issue.
Now, it is important not to lose the momentum. As part of WILPF’s 100+ years of action for an integrated approach to peace and security, we call for this shift to reorient work around amplifying local women’s root cause analysis for peace. This requires:
Gendered Conflict Analysis: Ensuring consistent conflict analysis across the UN system that takes a gender perspective by amplifying local women’s root cause analysis for peace;
Women Civil Society Partnerships: Prioritising partnerships with women civil society as key stakeholders by taking measures to ensure their meaningful participation through full and equitable access, information, follow up, and justice;
Women, Peace and Security Financing: Significantly scaled up funding for holistic Women, Peace and Security (WPS) implementation and core, ongoing support for women civil society.
Full statement of Joy Onyesoh at the Opening Segment of the High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace can be found here>>
The Official Programme of the High-Level Meeting is available here>>
The Concept Note is available here>>
Security Council Resolution 2282 (2016) on sustaining peace is available here>>
2018 Secretary-General Report on Sustainble Peace ais available here>>
More information can also be found here>>