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DILI, East Timor — The United Nations has not been notably successful in moving from initial stabilization, infrastruc- ture reconstruction and re-establishment of local governance institutions to the more demanding goal of leaving behind self-sustaining structures of state that can implement rapid economic growth and social transformation.

Almost half of all countries emerging from conflict slide back into armed violence within five years. Some of the worst outbreaks of violence in recent times — Angola in 1993, Rwanda in 1994 — came after the conclusion of peace agreements.

East Timor has been a wonderful success story for the first part of immediate postconflict relief, but has barely begun the next, more arduous journey to recovery and development.

Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of countries coming out of bitter and protracted conflicts that have left their people deeply traumatized, their communities divided, their economies wrecked, their infrastructure gutted and their political institutions highly stressed.

International missions in these places confirm major gaps in the capacity to plan, finance and implement critical civilian components in nation-building missions. Hence, the calls for a new international architecture for peace-building.

The High-Level Panel on U.N. reforms has recommended, and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has endorsed, the establishment of a U.N. Peace-Building Commission (PBC) to identify countries sliding toward collapse, institute measures to halt the slide, and assist in the transition from war and conflict to self-sustaining peace. This marks an acknowledgment of the gap in institutional support for acquiring and using conflict-prevention and peace-building knowledge and skills, including an understanding of the conflict dynamics of local actors (“spoilers” as well as partners) and the limits to the capacity of relevant regional organizations, local governments and the U.N.

The PBC would be a forum in which many different actors could share information about their respective recovery strategies, enhance their effectiveness, and promote coherence between political-security and economic development agendas. Its double role would be to formulate and implement case-specific plans and to monitor and adjust them for midcourse corrections.

The PBC’s core work would ensure effective support to national authorities, propose overall priorities that reflect national realities, mobilize resources for immediate recovery and sustained institutional and economic growth and development, provide a forum for ensuring coordination of priorities and strategies, and consolidate the best practices on key cross-cutting issues such as human rights, gender, demobilization, disarmament, reintegration and rehabilitation.

Its composition would vary between core membership and country-specific operations. The core would comprise a subset of the Security Council, major donors to the peace-building fund and some leading troop contributors, perhaps 15 to 20 in total.

Country-specific operations could involve national/transitional authorities, relevant regional actors and organizations, troop contributors and major donors to the country under assistance. It could perform the following functions:

1. Provide needed information to the Security Council and focus attention on development and institution-building for rapid relief and recovery in the immediate aftermath of war and during the transition from relief to recover

2. Provide an overview of the planned financing for postconflict operations, then identify and fill shortfalls and gaps, for example, through a standing fund

3. Provide periodic progress reports on the establishment of public institutions and pillars of economic recovery, focusing, in particular, on the crucial links between political-security stabilization and financial/institutional recovery

4. Oversee the transition from recovery to development by building effective institutions for the rule of law, developing state capacity to deliver public services, formulating and implementing sound fiscal policies, and supporting the growth of a vibrant private sector and a robust civil society

5. Assist in conflict prevention at the request of member states

6. Improve coordination among U.N. agencies, funds and programs under the leadership of a senior U.N. official representing the secretary general

To help with all this, there should be a $250 million standing fund for peace-building. It could help with startup operations, in agricultural production for example, until development financing and private-sector investments started flowing months after the operation began; provide contingency funds to nascent national authorities for strengthening the rule of law and national reconciliation processes as well as for training and deploying indigenous police forces and judges; and offer sustained attention beyond immediate recovery.

For sustainable peace to be established in war-torn societies, we need simultaneously to pursue the goals of establishing and consolidating liberal representative democracy, a market economy to underpin economic growth and prosperity, and a robust and resilient civil society to underwrite social and political stability.

The PBC, backed by its support office, would be an authoritative intergovernmental mechanism that links diplomatic, security and development functions; ensure a comprehensive and integrated mission for each war-torn country; mobilize the necessary resources; and facilitate coordination among the bilateral, financial and intergovernmental donors. It would mark a milestone in recognizing the importance of engaging with postconflict peace-building so that efforts at conflict management do not go to waste.

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