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Launch of the White Paper on Peacebuilding

27 February 2015
Launch of the White Paper on Peacebuilding

Opening remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Launch of the White Paper on Peacebuilding

Maison de la Paix, Ivan Pictet Auditorium
Friday, 27 February 2015 at 10:30 a.m.

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

It is a pleasure to be back here with you and to be part of this launch of the White Paper on Peacebuilding. Let me, first of all, congratulate the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, its four partners and the large network that contributed to this very valuable document. The White Paper is an important achievement. It is the result of a collaborative, inclusive and open process that broadens our collective knowledge about one of our critical shared challenges: building sustainable peace. And it is a good example of the value-added of the International Geneva approach, reaching across disciplines, and combining headquarters and field perspectives, to bring greater depth and nuance our to our discussions.

Depth, nuance and better reflection are needed in the setting of our policies - not just in peacebuilding, but across the board. Sound, long-term policies have to be framed on the basis of evidence. The White Paper expands our evidence base, and it is a useful and welcome contribution not only to the ongoing review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture but in the peacebuilding field more generally.

As the different papers that form the foundation of the White Paper highlight, challenges are multi-faceted: they cut across traditional institutional and thematic lines, they cannot be neatly compartmentalized, they cannot be seen in isolation from broader societal challenges and they cannot be addressed in the strict sequencing that we as the international community tend to prefer. The White Paper is also timely in making that point as we are now finalizing the post-2015 development agenda. We need to ensure that this analysis underpins all of our policy frameworks and that these frameworks are aligned. The course for the next decades is being set this year and we obviously need to get it right.

The White Paper highlights a number of trends that we must react to in a meaningful way if we are to support peacebuilding processes more effectively. As the characteristics of violent conflict are changing, we experience a shrinking operational space for building peace. There is a shift towards a securitization of peace and development work, and less direct emphasis on addressing root causes of instability and lack of social cohesion. State capacities are challenged, and the function of the State is in a process of transformation.

A common thread throughout the White Paper is the lack of trust, within communities and between countries undergoing peacebuilding processes and the international community working to support them. I see a need both for a better analysis of the drivers of conflict in a changing security landscape - with emphasis on the analysis of those who are affected - and a need to adapt our operational responses.

For the United Nations, the Paper concludes that the positive impact of the Peacebuilding Architecture has been limited, with the exception of individual efforts by Chairs of the country-specific configurations and the Peacebuilding Fund. The creation of the Peacebuilding Architecture was seen by many, together with the Human Rights Council, as the major innovation of the 2005 World Summit. But the peacebuilding architecture has not lived up to the expectations. We need to take heed of this finding. And we have the opportunity now with the review of the architecture to do so. I hope that Member States and our many partners seize that opportunity.

A key finding of the White Paper is also the importance of more inclusive partnerships that combine a broader range of actors and draw on local expertise. The United Nations is an important actor in peacebuilding, but it can only fulfil its role properly working together with others. This is not just to say that we need to have realistic expectations about what the United Nations can deliver with limited resources, but also that the challenges are such that it is simply neither feasible nor sustainable to address them by one entity alone. This is not new, of course, but the Paper brings home the point strongly, with clear ideas for where and how to build better partnerships. In this respect, there is significant potential for regional organizations to engage in peacebuilding, and cooperation among regional organizations and with the United Nations has improved considerably in recent years. But we can do a lot more to build on that.

A powerful overarching conclusion that I draw from the White Paper is the need for all of us to get more serious about prevention. A key message as we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations - an Organization that was created exactly to prevent rather than to react to conflict. A promise that we have not really lived up to. We have better capacities than we may think for this, but we are not using them well enough. There is an abundance of data and information that does not get connected properly because actors are dispersed and not joined up. We saw that very clearly recently in relation to the Ebola crisis - a different area, but a similar challenge of an emergency that could have been confronted more effectively if we had connected the dots better earlier on in the process. But prevention requires a genuine long-term view and the readiness to invest time and resources up-front in building trust, institutions and processes in time-frames that go far beyond electoral cycles.

This White Paper deserves a wide readership. Not just for its reflections and suggestions specifically on peacebuilding but also for the sophisticated analysis of our security and development challenges more broadly - and for the call for more long-term sustainable policies and for greater emphasis on prevention.

I hope you have a good discussion today.

Thank you very much.