Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

25 April 2013 - Statement to the United Nations Security Council

25 April 2013


Statement by H.E. Philippa King
Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative
of Australia to the United Nations

(Check against delivery)


Thank you Mr President for convening this briefing. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador and Ambassador Vilović for their briefings and for their leadership of the PBC.

This discussion, and the interactive dialogue tomorrow, are timely as we head towards the 2015 review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture.

We are all familiar with the statistics on relapse of post-conflict states into violence. The situations preoccupying the Council provide clear illustrations: the relapse into violence in the Central African Republic; last year’s coup in Guinea-Bissau — its fourth since independence; and the recent violence in the DRC.

The PBC, together with the Peacebuilding Fund and the Peacebuilding Support Office were established to fill gaps in the UN’s capacity to assist post-conflict states to avoid such relapses. At that time, there was little in the way of peacebuilding architecure in other fora. The field is now relatively crowded. While it has been rightly acknowledged that the PBC has yet to realise its full potential, there are useful lessons we can draw on to provide it with guidance on fulfilling its core mandate.

Mr President

I will focus my remarks in three areas.

First, the PBC’s value-add and impact in the field. The core challenge for the PBC is how a New York-based organisation can make an impact on the lives of people on the ground. The PBC works well when it uses its comparative advantage as a Member States-based entity, to play a strong political accompaniment role. The organisation can deliver coordinated and targeted messages at key times. We saw this in the lead-up to Sierra Leone’s successful elections last November.

The PBC has made efforts over the past year to maxmise its value-add. We welcome the ambitious exercise to improve and clarify its working methods, especially as they relate to its linkages and collaboration with the field. We support its efforts to set targeted and realistic priorities, to focus on key thematic issues such as youth employment and national reconciliation, and to examine innovative ways to mobilise resources.

But further efforts will be needed to strenghten the PBC’s practical impact in the field. Country-specific configurations can — and must — focus on supporting Special Representatives of the Secretary-General (SRSGs), Executive Representatives of the Secretary-General (ERSGs) and Resident Coordinators. They can add weight to advocacy, mobilise member-state engagement, and draw attention in New York to threats and challenges in the field.

Their effectiveness depends on their relationships with host governments and with SRSGs and ERSGs, and the depth of their understanding of the situation on the ground. We must all consider how we can best bridge the gap between our capitals, New York and our vital work in the field. For its part, Australia has deployed a peacebuilding adviser to Freetown to provide strategic advice on the peacebuilding activities of, and challenges faced by, West African countries.

We should also actively consider more nimble and flexible models for country-specific configurations — for example, the practice that is evolving of having smaller steering groups involving major partners and regional countries, while retaining the more representative nature of the overall configurations.

Mr President

The second issue on which I would like to focus is partnerships. The PBC has made serious efforts over the past year to strengthen its partnerships and build valuable synergies with financial institutions, especially the World Bank and the African Development Bank. It is pleasing to see these strands coming together. Greater coherence between the UN’s Peacebuilding Fund, the World Bank’s State and Peacebuilding Fund and the African Development Bank’s Fragile States Facility will help minimise duplication of efforts, and ensure that all stakeholders obtain the best value for money and leverage economies of scale with limited resources. As a Member-State based organisation, the PBC can play a strong political role to complement the work of the financial institutions. We welcome the PBC’s thematic focus on job creation and rule of law assistance in partnership with international and regional financial institutions and other stakeholders. As a perennial peacebuilding challenge, youth employment strategies should be a key funding priority.

Often, the PBC is criticised for its failure to mobilise resources. This is a challenge in these times of fiscal austerity. So the PBC must look to non-traditional donors, including the private sector. For example, multinational corporations, particularly those involved in the natural resources and extractives sectors, have an interest in ensuring long-term peace and stability in the countries in which they operate.

Country configurations can also help coordinate donor efforts to minimise duplication and identify gaps. We welcome the pilot mapping exercise of Guinea’s peacebuilding priorities. The working group on lessons learned is also doing important thinking on the organisation of donor conferences and how they can help, building on the successful conference in Geneva last October in support of Burundi’s second poverty reduction strategy.

We welcome efforts by the PBC to support new models of partnership between conflict-affected states and development partners. It absolutely makes sense for the PBC to align its country-specific commitments with national peacebuilding priorities. For example, the Sierra Leone and Liberia configurations have supported the two pilot countries in implementing the New Deal, by aligning mutual commitments with those countries’ own development strategies. Australia for its part is working closely with Timor-Leste to implement the New Deal by placing Timorese priorities at the heart of Australian development assistance in that country.

Mr President

The third issue is the role of women in peacebuilding. The evidence is clear that engaging women in the negotiation of peacebuilding settlements and post-conflict decision-making is key to ensuring sustainable recovery and long-term peace. More effort is needed to take forward the Secretary-General’s seven point action plan on gender-responsive peacebuilding, particularly in the areas of economic recovery and governance.

As an example of efforts in this area in Australia’s own region, Australian police are working closely with the Pacific Islands’ Chiefs of Police to support female police officers from across the region undertake leadership training and mentoring programs. We are developing a Police Deployment Gender Strategy to promote the participation and protection of women in conflict and post-conflict settings.

I encourage the Peacebuilding Fund to maintain its commitment to the SG’s target of allocating 15 per cent of UN-managed funds to projects addressing women’s needs and empowerment, building on the 10.8 per cent achieved in 2012. Australia’s commitment to the Fund is reflected in its $12 million contribution between 2012 and 2016.

Finally, Mr President, a few words on interaction between the Council and the PBC. The key issue is how both bodies can work in pursuit of the same objectives. The Council should draw on the PBC’s expertise more readily, and the PBC should draw to the Council’s attention emerging threats in the countries on its agenda.

I fully agree with Ambassador Vilovic’s comment that the PBC can and should play a key role during the Council’s consideration of mandate renewals and in transitions in UN missions. Sierra Leone is a good example. The configuration is supporting the drawdown and exit process of UNIPSIL by assisting in transition planning to a UN Country Team, and will soon be deeply involved in the key task of mobilising resources to assist this transition. The Council and the PBC must continue to talk to each other on this.

Similarly in Liberia, as UNMIL continues its transition process, the PBC configuration is well placed to highlight to the Council any risks to the transition timeline, and to provide guidance on how the Council could respond. As the transition process continues and technical assessment missions are deployed to assess implementation, the Council could benefit from enhanced interaction with the Liberia configuration in considering the outcome of those missions.

In concluding, Mr President, let me assure you of Australia’s commitment to ensuring the PBC continues to develop its role and strengthen its partnerships so that it can make a real difference to the people who suffer the most from relapses into violence.