In an effort to address the rise in human suffering as a result of armed conflict, the UN General Assembly and Security Council reaffirmed their commitment to ‘sustaining peace’ on Wednesday, mutually adopting comprehensive resolutions on the UN peacebuilding architecture.
The UN system intends to interact more closely and strategically with governments and other groups to develop a ground-level approach not only to resolve conflict, but to prevent the outbreak of violence and its reoccurrence. This emphasis on conflict prevention, the first of its kind for the UN, is a long-awaited and welcome sign.
Equally intriguing is the renewed focus on tackling root causes of conflict, suggesting a more preemptive policy approach to confronting the social, economic and political tensions that often lead to the outbreak of violence. Similarly, an emphasis on building sustainable and inclusive post-war peace through reconciliation, recovery, and reconstruction suggests the UN is beginning to look at peacebuilding as something that happens before, during and after a conflict.
The UN’s recent renovation to its peacebuilding strategy signals a presumed shift in outlook. This hints at a more robust, collaborative outlook on sustainable peacebuilding, dismantling roadblocks and opening up space. This allows the Peacebuilding Commission, an advisory body supporting peace efforts in countries emerging from conflict, to work more freely.
“These resolutions are a statement of intent pointing to a change in strategy and mindset,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, after the news. “The adoption of these comprehensive resolutions simultaneously by the General Assembly and the Security Council sends a powerful signal [to the international community ].”
The concept of ‘sustaining peace,’ defined as a more holistic concept not limited to sector or time, is “broadly understood as a goal and a process to building a common vision of a society, ensuring that the needs of all segments of the population are taken into account .”
Another groundbreaking advancement was the aim of the resolutions to decentralise peacebuilding within the UN. This means peacebuilding is recognised as a shared responsibility for all departments across all UN agencies. The Security Council and Development and Human Rights departments now overlook each UN mission, bringing the responsibility of peacebuilding into everyone’s laps.
This emphasis on shared responsibility incorporates not only UN agencies, but also governments, civil society and the global community. This should be celebrated as a step forward in the UN’s approach to building sustainable peace.
However, while the resolutions signal an important change in policy, they could do more to support local approaches to building peace. By centering international efforts on ground-level and community-based solutions to transforming conflict, the UN would gather contextual knowledge needed to prevent and resolve conflicts in the long term.
Locally developed solutions to conflict play an unprecedented role in the modern era. Conflict increasingly affects communities and civilians as the battlefield has shifted to the village. Social or economic grievances can spark violent reprisals that quickly escalate. Without intimate local knowledge of the reasons for and solutions to these issues, peace cannot be sustained.
With the resolutions in place, the challenge now is to put rhetoric into action. This will be the true test of the UN’s strategy towards sustainable peace. We can begin by supporting local organisations on the ground who are working to solve conflicts in their communities and build the foundations for sustainable peace.