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Special Report II
Last Updated: 03/03/2008
The UN Peacebuilding Commission: the baby takes its first steps
Jacon Enoh-Eben"

Jacob Enoh-Eben examines the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, its composition, mandate, purpose, modus operandi, and its initial activities.

At a book launch in early 2007 in Cape Town, South Africa, for The UN at 60: A new spin on an old hub, edited by Garth le Pere and Nhamo Samasuwo, one of the keynote speakers asked, “If there is so much criticism about the UN and its failures, should it be scraped? And replaced with what?” Criticisms of the United Nations have continued to rage throughout its sixty-two-year history. In spite of all its challenges, however, it has been difficult to call for its total dissolution. Rather, efforts, initiatives, programmes, and strategies are constantly being deployed to overcome these challenges, and reinvent the UN.

The UN Peacebuilding Commission is one the most recent initiatives, created within the framework of the latest reforms of the UN. This paper examines the background to creation of the Commission, its composition, mandate, purpose, modus operandi and its initial activities; its first steps. It also highlights two other institutions, the Peacebuilding Support Office and the Peacebuilding Fund established to support the Commission. The paper focuses specifically on Sierra Leone, which is one of two countries selected by the UN to begin to experiment the new concept.

Less than two decades after the end of the cold war, the world has witnessed an unprecedented increase in the spate of violent conflicts. Most of these conflicts present a shift from inter-state to intra-state conflicts. Africa, Asia, and the Middle-East have largely been the theatres of the immediate-past, actual, and potential conflicts. In reaction, the UN stepped up its responsive capacity and significantly multiplied its engagement in the area of peace and security. In his “Supplement to An Agenda for Peace”, former UN Secretary General, Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali, noted that the most important instruments for engaging with these new security challenges are, preventive diplomacy and peacemaking; peace-keeping; peace-building; disarmament; sanctions; and peace enforcement (UN; 1995). Consequently, the number of peacemaking missions and peacekeeping operations around the world increased dramatically.

Within a framework of UN reform, then Secretary General, Kofi Anan set up a High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, in order to fulfil one of the UN’s purposes, “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace…”  (UN Chapter 1, Article 1). The Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, entitled, “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility”, examined various threats and challenges to peace and security in the world today. These threats, viewed from a Human Security perspective include: inter-State wars, “violence within states, including civil wars, large-scale human rights abuses and genocide; poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation; nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons; terrorism; and transnational organized crime.” The report finally recommended the creation of a UN Peacebuilding commission, Support Office, and Fund. (UN: 2004)

Taking on board these recommendations, Kofi Anan, in his report entitled: “In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all” (UN 2005a), recommended members of the General Assembly to support the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, Support Office, and the Fund. The rationale for creating the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), it was argued, was to assist countries emerging from violent conflicts, using adequate peacebuilding strategies and development efforts, in order to prevent them from sliding back into violent conflict. The UN had found out that, “50 per cent of countries emerging from war have fallen back into armed conflict within five years” (UN 2005).

Following the adoption of an outcome document during a UN World Summit and the 59th UN General Assembly in September 2005, a UN Security Council Resolution (1645) established the Peacebuilding Commission in December 2005. According to the Resolution, The Peacebuilding Commission will marshal resources at the disposal of the international community to advise and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict recovery, focusing attention on reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development, in countries emerging from conflict (UN 2005).

The PBC was established alongside a Peacebuilding Support Office and a Peacebuilding Fund. Two countries just emerging from devastating violent conflicts – Burundi and Sierra Leone – were selected as pilot countries to begin to implement this initiative. Before the end of 2007, Guinea Bissau became the third country to be added on the PBC (UN 2007).

Composition and Mandate of the Commission

The PBC has an Organisational Committee which is made up of 31 countries: seven each from the Security Council (including permanent members) and the Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (ECOSOC), particularly countries that have experienced post-conflict recovery; five of the ten top contributors to UN budgets; five of the 10 top providers of military personnel and civilian police to UN missions; and seven members incorporating geographical imbalance and post-conflict experience. Of the 31 countries on the committee, seven are African. Committees are created for each of the countries. The Country-Committees are tailored to suit each of the countries under review.

According its mandate, the Commission is supposed to marshal resources at the disposal of the international community to advise and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict recovery, focusing attention on reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development, in countries emerging from conflict.” (UN 2005)

Peacebuilding Support Office and the Peacebuilding Fund

A Peacebuilding Support Office (PSO) was established to provide both facilitation and technical support. Its UN staff have expertise and capacities in the areas relevant to post-conflict peacebuilding and also draws on resources outside the UN system to deliver the expected tasks, which include, “to facilitate coherence, identify gaps, recommend ways in which these gaps may be addressed and ensure that the Peacebuilding Commission is able to draw, as necessary and in a timely and efficient manner” (UN 200%). The Office oversees the management, coordination and decision-making aspects of the Peacebuilding Fund.

Established by a separate UN Resolution, the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) has the objective to mobilise funds, ensure that existing issues are addressed immediately, and support quick impact projects. An amount of approximately US $25 million has been allotted for Sierra Leone, as an initial catalyst for the process. This was available earlier in 2007. All stakeholders are at liberty to develop project proposals and submit them to a strategic planning committee. Projects fall within each of the priority areas identified by the Government of Sierra Leone in consultation with other stakeholders. Beyond the Peacebuilding Fund, more funds are expected from multilateral, bilateral, and others donors.

Making it Happen in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone still ranks one of the poorest countries in the world. It is endowed with enormous natural resources, yet poverty, unemployment, corruption, poor governance, weak institutions, and mismanagement are widespread. These factors and a lucrative Diamond industry are widely believed to have caused and fueled its civil war (1991-2002). It has remained famous for Conflict or Blood Diamonds and child soldiers. Following a peace deal (Lome Peace Agreement) brokered in Lome, Togo in West Africa, the United Nations deployed a Peacekeeping mission, United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). As the country regained stability, UNAMSIL gradually pulled out and was replaced by the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSL). The country is slowly getting more stable, especially after the last (August-September 2007) Presidential elections that provided a smooth and transparent democratic transition from the immediate post-conflict President to the then government’s opposition party.

Following the selection of Sierra Leone as a pilot country of the PBC, very many meetings, consultations, conferences and workshops have taken place at different levels. They have all aimed at providing the necessary impetus to enable the new-born baby to begin creeping, attempt standing up and start walking. The Sierra Leone Country-Committee has had meetings, prepared and adopted workplans and sent out field missions to the country and launched an Integrated Peacebuilding Strategy (IPBS). The Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL), with support from the United Nations and the Commission, initiated consultations for the development of its priority areas within IPBS. These four priority areas include: Youth employment and empowerment; Capacity building of government institutions to deliver essential services; Judicial and security sector development; and Reinforcing democracy and governance.

Following the last Presidential and Parliamentary elections, this plan has been refined and finalized, and is now entitled, “Sierra Leone Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework”. Presenting the framework to the UN Security Council in December 2007, Frank Majoor (Netherlands), Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Country-Specific Meetings on Sierra Leone, described the progress made as, “another major milestone ‘in Sierra Leone’s journey from conflict to peace, stability and prosperity.’” He added that, “With the Framework in hand we now have the opportunity to provide focused support to a country that has emerged from conflict, but that is still struggling to address those factors that could trigger a relapse into conflict, in spite of the good progress that has been made in many areas.  In other words, we now have the opportunity to do what the Peacebuilding Commission was created for” (UN 2007).

The UN has certainly faced many challenges, and some outright failures, especially in situations where a lot was expected of it. However, it has also registered successes in its 62 years history which must also be highlighted and celebrated. Nevertheless, it seems determined to uphold its responsibilities and leave up to the expectations. Creating the Peacebuilding Commission is aimed at filling up the gap of weaknesses. Its success depends on very many factors and actors. Full participation of the GOSL, involvement of the civil society and the private sector provide positive signs of increasing local ownership of the process. Building local ownership is a key element to this success of the PBC. Two years is not too soon to begin evaluating the capacity of the UN Peacebuilding Commission to walk its way through and deliver the expected results. The successful elections in August and September 2007 are a successful first step that must be counted.


-         A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility. Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, United Nations, 2004. (Accessed December 2007)

-         Annan, Kofi, In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all. Report of the Secretary-General. United Nations, 2005. (accessed 2007)

-         Boutrous-Ghali, Boutros, Supplement to An Agenda For Peace: Position Paper of the Secretary-General on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations (1995) (accessed December 2007)

-         Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice. United Nations. New York.

-         Goulding, Marrack (2007). United Nations and International Peace. Papers presented at lectures at the University for Peace



Jacob Enoh-Eben is an MA student in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies at the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. He holds a BSc. in Journalism and Mass Communication obtained in 1996, at the University of Buea, Republic of Cameroon, and has an 11-year work experience in the fields of Peacebuilding, Conflict Prevention, Early Warning and Journalism and Mass Communication. Prior to UPEACE, he was a Senior Project Officer at the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), University of Cape Town, in South Africa. Before joining CCR in 2006, he worked for the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), where he was, at different times Coordinator of the Peace Monitoring Centre (the Situation Room) and earlier on Program Coordinator for Capacity Building for Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding and Good Governance, facilitating coordination and collaboration between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Civil Society Organisations.