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Friday, January 16, 2015


U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Security Council Briefing on Post-Conflict Peace-building
01/14/2015 01:30 PM EST
Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs 
New York, NY
January 14, 2015

Thank you, Mr. President. And let me begin by thanking the Deputy Secretary General and Ambassador Patriota for your leadership on this issue and for your briefings this morning, and to you, Foreign Minister Muñoz, for your presence here today, and to Chile for convening this important discussion.

Mr. President, preventing relapse into conflict was the primary objective for the creation of the Peacebuilding Architecture in 2005. And a decade later, it remains an urgent undertaking.

It has been said by others and we know that war is not like the weather – it doesn’t just happen; it is not inevitable. And it can be stopped. But we also know that countries that have experienced conflict once have heightened risk for relapsing into conflict again, and again. And we have seen the devastating consequences of that deadly cycle of conflict, from South Sudan to the Central African Republic.

But while war or conflict should never be deemed inevitable, too often, too many adopt a cynical passivity to emerging signs of tension or indicators of potential conflict – a passivity that assumes the futility of efforts to prevent potential conflict from metastasizing into actual conflict; and a cynicism that assumes, essentially, that certain places are just destined to fight it out.

The Peacebuilding Architecture is a living challenge to that dangerous cynicism and deadly passivity. It is a challenge for us to turn expressions of concern into coordinated actions -- actions to ensure that societies recovering from conflict do not relapse back into it. And it is a commitment to the idea that our past can indeed be put behind us and that our shared future can be built, together and in peace.

We know that when the international community mobilizes in concert with national authorities, together we can change behavior and assumptions and we can stop that which may have been written off by some as “inevitable.” Peace is built through hard work and, as the Secretary-General notes in his report, we have made “significant gains” in places and countries as diverse as Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Tunisia in efforts to consolidate peace.

In Sierra Leone, the integrated work of successive UN missions and the country team, as well as the engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission, has been critical to breaking the cycle of violence – providing space for a country and a people hungry for peace to turn their focus from war to prosperity; from conflict to electoral contests; from isolation to sustainable development. Sierra Leone has held three peaceful, credible elections since the end of the civil war in 2002, and new institutions, supported by the international community, are finding their place in society and contributing to the important work of building a government that is responsive to its citizens. Support from the United Nations has been critical to this transition.

For instance, United Nations support for institutions such as the All Political Parties Women’s Association, with a target of 30% female participation in all political parties, has increased women’s participation in Sierra Leone’s elections, building public trust in the elections process. And we know that the full and equal participation of women – whether in forging peace agreements, electing leaders, or leading post-conflict reconstruction – is absolutely critical to sustainable peace and stability. We cannot build peace for half of a society and expect it to be meaningful or lasting.

That is why the work of entities like the United Nations Peace Fund for Nepal, which has designated 30% of their funding for projects addressing the needs of women and girls -- including projects in the domain of land reform, conflict prevention, the rule of law, and the reintegration of child soldiers -- is so important. A project on land issues ensured extensive women’s participation in consultations on land use planning, a domain from which women had traditionally been excluded. Developments in Nepal demonstrate that appreciable progress can be made with targeted funding, leadership, and capacities for gender-responsive programming.

As the Deputy Secretary General noted, in Guinea, the creation of a “Women’s Situation Room” to support a network of local women’s organizations during the 2013 parliamentary elections not only increased women’s participation in the elections, it enabled them to actively participate as elections monitors and helped build confidence in the entire electoral system. The creation of community-led, early childhood development centers in Cote d’Ivoire enhanced social cohesion by bringing together women of diverse backgrounds focused on the well-being of children.

Kyrgyz women, with training from UN Women and United Nations Development Program, have formed women’s peace committees and have become important actors in monitoring tensions and government response within their community -- again, building social cohesion as well as trust between local populations and authorities in regions affected by conflict.

Full and equal inclusion of women and girls is not something that is just “just”; it is essential to build the peace of which we speak. Yet still, the participation of women in peacebuilding receives too little attention, is too often underfunded, and is too often thought of as an “effort to be inclusive” rather than a recognition that the full participation of women is a precondition of lasting peace. We must change this mindset and, in the process, change minds. And we must build our peacebuilding efforts to ensure they are inclusive, and in doing so we will make them more effective.

The recent outbreak of Ebola presented a new kind of threat to international peace and security that has indeed demanded an unprecedented response. We commend the United Nations’ critical efforts to mobilize human, financial, and technical resources to deliver an integrated response in the post-conflict countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The Peacebuilding Commission can play an important role in bringing together key partners to coordinate assistance efforts and maximize the impact of the international community on the ground.

Unfortunately, international efforts have been less successful in producing results towards ending the enduring and daily threat to international peace and security presented in places like South Sudan. Despite a hard-won independence, South Sudan has erupted into deadly and devastating conflict, exacerbating ethnic tensions, eroding hope, and provoking a dire and man-made humanitarian crisis. Despite one of the most comprehensive UN peacekeeping mandates ever adopted by the Council and despite historic levels of international support, and despite almost infinite goodwill from international partners, political leaders in South Sudan have prioritized political power and conflict over peace and stability. Their actions have exacerbated tensions, have brought about tens of thousands of deaths, have displaced nearly 2 million innocent people, and are bringing this young nation – the United Nations’ newest member state – to the threshold of state failure. We cannot give up and we cannot allow the parties in South Sudan to abandon their people’s aspirations and right to live in peace and prosperity. And in standing with the people of South Sudan, we must be unified in our demand for the violence to end and that those responsible for this carnage be held to account.

Until recently, successive conflicts in the Central African Republic, received too little attention from the international community. A lack of vision for national reform, limited political will from the international community, and successive weak UN presences with little capacity to help develop state institutions further destabilized the country’s weak governance structure and undermined social cohesion. Our action last year in authorizing an integrated peacekeeping mission to protect civilians, facilitate humanitarian access, and support the state as it seeks to re-establish governance was a necessary action to stop the ensuing bloodshed. Bolstered by the contribution of troops from member-states from several regional organizations and humanitarian donations from around the globe, these collective actions represent the most comprehensive level of international engagement in the Central African Republic to date.

Mr. President, we must reflect on these lessons as we undertake the five-year review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture. We have learned that peacebuilding requires the sustained, not sporadic, and coordinated commitment of national, regional, and international actors. It requires inclusivity – meaning women and girls are at the forefront and at the table, not an afterthought or excluded. It means the international community holds political actors accountable to the agreements they undertake and agreed frameworks to which they subscribe. And it means that addressing human rights abusers, hate, and discrimination head-on is the path to sustainable peace, not a diversion from it or an obstacle to it.

We hope that the Peacebuilding Architecture Review’s Advisory Group of Experts will heed these lessons and develop concrete recommendations to enhance the Peacebuilding Commission’s relevance and real-world impact by focusing on achieving results through its core competencies of coordination, resource mobilization, and advocacy.

2015, as others have noted, will also see the Secretary-General’s High Level Review of UN Peace Operations, as well as the Global Study of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. We must challenge ourselves not to think about these issues only in silos. Peacekeepers are essential in setting the stable foundation for peace and development and peacekeepers are increasingly and appropriately being called upon to protect civilians in dire need of protection. Protecting civilians is not only an essential element of creating space for peace, it is vital for the credibility of the United Nations in the eyes of local populations and around the world. As such, it is essential for UN peacekeepers to carry out their protection of civilian mandates robustly and in a way that gives people confidence that we mean what we say.

And in this vein, let’s mean what we say when we sit at this table and recommit ourselves to the work of the Peacebuilding Architecture. Let’s translate our commitment to the inclusion of women into the actual inclusion of women. And let’s translate our hope for peace into the hard work required of building it.

Thank you, Mr. President.