Global Policy Forum

UN OKs New Peacebuilding Commission

Associated Press
December 20, 2005

The General Assembly and Security Council overwhelmingly approved resolutions Tuesday establishing a new U.N. Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict manage the difficult transition to stability and development. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the resolutions go a long way to bridging a critical gap that too often has seen "a fragile peace... crumble into renewed conflict."

At the U.N. summit in September, world leaders decided to create the commission but the resolutions were needed to launch it and spell out its exact role, composition and operation - which were the subject of intense debate. The adoption of the resolutions by the two main U.N. bodies marked the first major outcome of the summit - the largest-ever gathering of world leaders in history which focused on U.N. reform.

General Assembly President Jan Eliasson called the resolutions "truly historic" because they will for the first time in the history of the United Nations create a body to try to ensure that countries emerging from war move toward peace. "It will be our best chance to reverse the trend which in recent years we have seen around the world where half the countries emerging from conflict are lapsing back into it again within five years," he said. "Our goal for the Peacebuilding Commission must be to reduce the number of countries falling back into conflict," Eliasson said. "It must work out there in the field - that's how we test this commission."

South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said the commission will be judged on whether it makes a difference for millions of people in Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and other African countries. The General Assembly approved the resolution by consensus with a bang of the gavel by Eliasson after Venezuela objected that the commission was a mechanism "for intervention by states through a perverted and bogus multilateralism, serving the will of the United States and its allies."

The Security Council approved a nearly identical resolution by a unanimous 15-0 vote. The Security Council then voted on a separate resolution that would give the five permanent council members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - membership on the permanent Organizational Committee that will oversee the commission's operations. That would leave just two seats for the council's 10 non-permanent members. That resolution was approved 13-0 with non-permanent members Brazil and Argentina abstaining.

In speeches in the General Assembly after the vote, many countries including Egypt, India, Pakistan and Jamaica objected to the power that the resolutions give the Security Council in the commission's operation. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton stressed this, saying U.N. members must ensure that the commission "realizes its potential to make an important contribution to the work of the Security Council to build sustainable peace in the aftermath of immediate threats to international peace and security." The best way to prevent backsliding toward war, he said, is to ensure "that the Security Council is aware of all of the elements that are essential to achieving sustainable peace in a given nation, from immediate humanitarian assistance to transitional security, to national efforts at institutional building."

By contrast, Eliasson, the General Assembly president, stressed the importance of all U.N. bodies working together. The Peacebuilding Commission as envisioned in the resolutions will bring together all the key international players involved in ending conflicts and promoting reconstruction and economic development of countries emerging from war. Adoption of the resolutions ended a lengthy dispute about the size of the Organizational Committee that will oversee the new commission and who it should report to - the Security Council, the General Assembly, or the Economic and Social Council which is responsible for development issues.

The commission will submit an annual report to the General Assembly. But the resolution states that its main purpose will be to provide advice to the Security Council at its request on post-conflict situations on its agenda, and underlines that its advice will be "of particular relevance" to the Economic and Social Council. Under the provisions, a 31-member Organizational Committee will serve for two years.

It will include seven Security Council members, seven from the Economic and Social Council, five top financial contributors to the U.N., five top providers of troops and police for U.N. peacekeeping missions, and seven members elected by the General Assembly to ensure representation from all regional groups and countries that have emerged from conflicts. Representative of the secretary-general, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other institutional donors will be invited to all commission meetings.

Annan said the commission will bring all the relevant actors together to share information, develop a common strategy, advise on recovery, focus attention on reconstruction and institution building and "improve coordination both within and beyond the U.N. system." The secretary-general wanted 21 new posts to staff the new commission but the U.N. budget committee objected, insisting that the U.N. stick with the world leaders' request that it must use existing U.N. staff. It asks Annan to establish a voluntary fund for post-conflict peacebuilding.

More Information on UN Reform
More Information on the Peacebuilding Commission
More Information on the Security Council


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