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Peacekeeping and Sustaining Peace

Expected Council Action

In August, Egypt will organise an open debate on peacekeeping operations and sustaining peace. No outcome is planned. 

Background

Sustaining peace is a concept that emerged from the Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) report for the 2015 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture (PBA). This review of the PBA was one of three simultaneous reviews initiated in 2015; the others examined UN peace operations and the implementation of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

A key conclusion of the AGE report was that a broader understanding of peacebuilding was necessary. It said that peacebuilding should not be viewed as only a post-conflict activity as had become the common understanding. Instead, peacebuilding should be recognised as including activities to prevent conflict in the first place, during peacemaking and peacekeeping, and in post-conflict situations. Occurring throughout the conflict cycle, peacebuilding should be seen as a responsibility of the entire UN system and not limited to the PBA. The AGE suggested that this broader process and understanding could more appropriately be termed “sustaining peace”.

An ensuing intergovernmental process culminated in the adoption of substantively identical resolutions by the Security Council and the General Assembly on 27 April 2016: Council resolution 2282 and General Assembly resolution 70/262. The resolutions included a definition of sustaining peace, described as “a goal and a process to build a common vision of society…which encompasses activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict”. According to the resolutions, sustaining peace “should flow through all three pillars of the UN’s engagement [peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development] at all stages of conflict”.

The two resolutions, which have since become known as the “sustaining peace resolutions”, emphasised the importance of a comprehensive approach to sustain peace, particularly through the prevention of conflict and addressing root causes of conflict. Other important aspects included the inherently political nature of peacebuilding and the importance of integration, coherence and partnerships among the activities of UN missions, the UN system, and non-UN actors.

Peacekeeping operations are situated within this continuum of sustaining peace across the conflict cycle. The High-Level Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), which carried out the 2015 review of UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions, made a number of convergent conclusions with the AGE. These included the “primacy of politics”, which recognised that peace operations are a tool to support a political process that must be conceived and planned in support of the broader objective of obtaining political solutions. The HIPPO addressed lessons from the past experience of peace operations in sustaining peace and recommended that mission budgets should include programmatic resources necessary for mandated tasks to support the sustaining of peace. The AGE had noted that programmatic peacebuilding activities in the mandates of peace operations depend on voluntary funding.

Secretary-General António Guterres has since taken up sustaining peace as part of his agenda for prevention. His 2016 vision statement as a candidate for Secretary-General called for the development of “a comprehensive, modern and effective operational peace architecture, encompassing prevention, conflict resolution, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and long-term development—the ‘peace continuum’”. 

This open debate is meant, in part, to build on the Council’s 10 January open debate on conflict prevention and sustaining peace organised by Sweden and the Council’s 6 April debate on peacekeeping operations during the US Council presidency.

For this session, Egypt is seeking to have member states consider how peacekeeping operations can more effectively contribute towards the broader objective of sustaining peace. Areas of focus of the debate are likely to include how Council members could bear the goal of sustaining peace more in mind when designing peacekeeping operations’ mandates and what a sustainable peace would look like in the specific country where a mission is being deployed.

Members are likely to discuss how to manage and ensure smooth transitions from a traditional peacekeeping operation to either special political missions or UN country teams. The sustaining peace resolutions highlighted the role envisaged for the Peacebuilding Commission to provide the Council with “specific, strategic and targeted advice…including to assist with the longer-term perspective required for sustaining peace being reflected in the formation, review and drawdown of peacekeeping operations and special political missions”.

The debate is meant to have a strong focus on specific peacekeeping operations and practical ideas for these missions. Members are likely to reflect on ongoing transitions in Haiti and Liberia or the recently concluded operation in Côte d’Ivoire and the means still required for sustaining long-term peace in these countries. Where there are peacekeeping operations deployed in much les stable situations, such as in the Central African Republic, members may explore ways to ensure that the mission’s activities still contribute towards longer-term sustaining peace objectives, in addition to fulfilling immediate security needs.

The debate will also seek to draw lessons from past peacekeeping operations that were deployed to countries that have remained free from war, such as Sierra Leone, and consider how or why such missions were able to contribute to this long-term peace.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Among some Council members and the broader UN membership, there are countries that remain sceptical of what “sustaining peace” entails. The main concerns are over implications for sovereignty and the focus on conflict prevention. Questions have also been raised about mixing issues of development and peace and security, and possible shifting of development funds to peace and security activities. Egypt has emphasised that the application of the concept of sustaining peace will vary according to the context of each situation. For this reason, Egypt is also keen to ensure that the open debate will have a strong focus on how the ideas of sustaining peace could be applied to specific peacekeeping operations.

UN DOCUMENTS ON PEACEKEEPING AND SUSTAINING PEACE

Security Council Resolutions
27 April 2016 S/RES/2282 This was a concurrent resolution with the General Assembly on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture.
Security Council Letters
29 June 2015 S/2015/490 This was the report of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Peacebuilding Architecture.
17 June 2015 S/2015/446 This was the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.
Security Council Meeting Records
6 April 2017 S/PV.7918 This was a meeting on peacekeeping operations.
10 January 2017 S/PV.7857 The Council held a ministerial-level open debate on conflict prevention and sustaining peace.

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