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28 July 2016 – Citing persisting instability in number of African countries – from South Sudan to Mali and Libya, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed that building peace and restoring institutions in post-conflict settings are long-term processes that must be rooted in a country’s historical, political, social, cultural and economic contexts.
“There are no one-size-fits-all solutions,” the UN chief told the Security Council’s open debate on peacebuilding in Africa. But “when institutions are weak, nations cannot thrive. Inclusive and accountable institutions are the cement that bonds States and citizens,” he stressed.
Institutions provide security, justice, and essential services, from sanitation and health care to an enabling environment for business to flourish. “They are the bedrock of peace and sustainable development,” Mr. Ban said.
“Peace in Africa is a top priority. As we meet, South Sudan remains precariously poised on the brink of an abyss. The promises of the new State for peace, justice and opportunity have been squandered. I am appalled by the scale of sexual violence documented by our Human Rights teams,” said the Secretary-General, demanding accountability for all atrocities and that the leaders of South Sudan commit to the peace process.
And while he cited a number of other situations of “grave concern” on the continent, he said it is also important to emphasize that this is “not the full story of Africa.” Indeed there is another narrative, largely untold, of growing economies, improved living standards and expanding democratic space.
“Our shared responsibility is to nourish these seeds of peace and prosperity. One way we can do that is to nurture inclusive, transparent, effective and accountable institutions and help the nations of Africa achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” explained the UN chief.
The 15-member Council adopted a wide-ranging Presidential Statement as an outcome to the discussions that stressed, among others, “the importance of institution-building as a critical component of peacebuilding and sustaining peace in Africa, which requires comprehensive approaches bearing in mind African countries’ national development strategies.”
The debate follows the adoption of landmark resolutions by both the Council and UN General Assembly this past spring that expanded the understanding of peacebuilding as a process that occurs before, during and after conflict, which is embodied in a definition of “sustaining peace.”
According to a concept paper prepared ahead of the meeting by Japan, which holds the Council’s presidency for July, the debate aimed to identify best peacebuilding practices in Africa and discuss how the global community can enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of its support.
“Building effective and legitimate institutions is not easy,” Mr. Ban said, offering some lessons learned.
He said that institution-building has to be rooted in national historical, political, social, cultural and economic contexts and that imposing an outside model on a post-conflict country can do more harm than good.
Institution-building also needs to be rooted in political agreement. National ownership and leadership are key, he said. That means broad, inclusive dialogue, encompassing central government, local authorities, communities, the private sector and civil society, especially youth and women and marginalized groups. Such dialogue enhances social cohesion, strengthens the legitimacy of the State, and increases the sustainability of reforms, he added.
Further, institution-building is a long-term process, sometimes taking decades, he said. Each country’s institutions should be allowed to develop incrementally, allowing for experimentation, learning and adaptation. Pressures from donor countries for instant results can be detrimental to long-term development objectives and – ultimately – peace, he said.
United Nations missions and humanitarian and development actors are committed to working closely as one to support institution rebuilding and strengthening in Africa, including in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said.
The tool used to support the payment of civil servants in the Central African Republic in 2014 is currently being piloted in Libya, and would be deployed in Yemen and South Sudan, a country which Mr. Ban described as remaining “precariously poised on the brink of an abyss” and where “the promises of the new State for peace, justice and opportunity have been squandered.”
Peacekeeping operations and political missions have seen a significant increase in institution-building mandates from the Council in recent years, Mr. Ban said.
However, these have not always come with realistic timeframes, or the necessary resources and support, he added, calling on Governments to support the Peacebuilding Fund, which faces a desperate funding shortfall. He also encouraged the Council to continue to strengthen its relationship with the Peacebuilding Commission.