While international aid is necessary to help countries emerging from conflict to consolidate peace and embark on much-needed development, it is vital to help them generate their own resources and capacities, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson stated today, as he addressed the first annual session of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission.
“International aid is, of course, necessary in many situations. But it rarely helps build a new social contract,” Mr. Eliasson stated, adding that it can also weaken national ownership.
“The best way to assist countries going through post-conflict transition is to help them generate their own resources and capacities,” he added.
This is no easy task, he acknowledged. “In countries recovering from violent conflict, infrastructure is often destroyed; many professionals have left the country. Former fighters are often jobless. In most cases, you would be hard-pressed to find normally functioning economic activity in the ashes of war.”
The Commission was set up in 2005 to help post-conflict nations make an irreversible transition from war to sustainable peace. There are currently six countries on its agenda – Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Countries can also avail themselves of the UN Peacebuilding Fund, which harnesses expertise and financing from around the world to aid with recovery projects.
The Commission’s first annual session is being convened on Peacebuilding Day. By helping countries lay the foundation for more inclusive politics and development, peacebuilding saves lives, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on the observance, adding that peacebuilding helps countries protect human rights, promote justice and lay the seeds for prosperity.
“Our work cannot stop when guns fall silent. We must seize the post-conflict moment, and help societies find a safer, just and more prosperous future. That is the essence of peacebuilding. Let us resolve today to strengthen that essential work, the UN chief declared.”
“Countries emerging from conflict desperately need financial resources and political support,” Mr. Eliasson pointed out in his remarks, which echoed Mr. Ban’s message. “The fighting may have stopped but scars from the conflict and public mistrust often continue to be felt.
“It is important that countries maintain or restore people’s faith in the legitimacy of the State and in a peaceful road ahead,” he continued.
“This requires that Governments work to ensure that public services are delivered equitably. It means that safe water, proper sanitation, health care, justice, education, and other services become realities or, at least, achievable goals for the people.”
He highlighted the need for Member States to support the development of capacities and institutions that enable post-conflict countries to raise their own revenues.
Member States should also fight illicit flows by supporting action on the basis of existing agreements or through regulations on corruption, bribery and sharing of tax information, as well as consider developing additional effective policies to eliminate illicit financial flows.
In addition, Member States should ensure predictable and more stable support to post-conflict countries to facilitate ongoing transitions, said the Deputy Secretary-General.
Also addressing the meeting, Jose Ramos-Horta, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Guinea-Bissau and former President of Timor-Leste, said the Commission had focused international attention on reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development.
It also added value to the UN and helped advance its peace and development agenda. When a country was on the Commission’s agenda, the national authorities would be required, at the very least, to devote energy and commitment to ensuring political stability and building peace in order to make forward progress with socioeconomic development, he said.
“The Commission’s engagement will generate international attention and galvanize support for the country”, he said, stressing the need for national ownership and continuing commitment, close consultation and cooperation between international partners and national Governments, as well as smooth coordination of international support.
Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota of Brazil, the current Chair of the Commission, said the idea of the session is to take a broader view of the challenges in the area of peacebuilding.
“What we’re trying to do through this annual session… is looking at ways where we can work to reinforce the positive trends and avoid the situations that have been negative,” he told a news conference held on the margins of the annual session.
He noted progress in some countries, such as the inauguration of a new president in Guinea-Bissau, which had been trying to restore constitutional order following a coup, while the Central African Republic has unfortunately relapsed into conflict.
Also speaking to reporters was the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, who highlighted the importance of the Peacebuilding Fund which has about $100 million a year covering some 20 countries.
The Fund, she noted, has been branded as a fast, catalytic and risk-taking tool, designed to move quickly in situations where there are very small windows of opportunity.
“When ex-combatants are willing to disarm, they’re not going to sit around waiting forever for the funding and the programmes that can help them disarm properly. We have to strike, as they say, while the iron is hot,” she stressed.