31 January 2007The top United Nations peacebuilding official today said that fresh initiatives, bolstered by millions of dollars in resources and drawing upon the capacities and experiences of numerous agencies of the world body, are poised to aid post-conflict countries in consolidating stability and avoiding a relapse into violence. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Carolyn McAskie told an open debate of the Security Council that three new pillars – the Peacebuilding Support Office, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and the Peacebuilding Fund – offer “a new opportunity to address this critical and fragile period in the life of a country ravaged by conflict.”The PBC, established in December 2005, operates in conjunction with several of the UN’s principal organs, namely the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to focus on reconstruction, institution-building and the promotion of sustainable development in post-conflict countries.“Time and again it has been noted that there is a strong correlation between low levels of development and violent conflict,” ECOSOC President Dalius Cekuolis said, underscoring the necessity of providing timely assistance.“Our common objective should be to mobilize the whole institutional machinery of the United Nations to promote across-the-range policy approaches and best practices to develop answers to the complex and difficult needs of post-conflict countries and prevent their relapse into conflict.”Sierra Leone and Burundi, both recovering from devastating civil wars, are beneficiaries of the first-ever grants, aimed at generating confidence and encouraging economic recovery, to be distributed by the PBC.Critical challenges facing Sierra Leone include youth employment, consolidating democracy, and justice and security reform, according to a letter from the Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission to the Security Council. Burundi is endeavouring to promote good governance, strengthen the rule of law and ensure community recovery.While acknowledging that the PBC is still in an “experiment” phase, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone, Sylvester Ekundayo Rowe, told the Council that his country’s “expectations remain high” and that it has “faith in its commitment to help us address some of the problems and challenges that require urgent attention” to generate confidence and spur economic recovery.Burundi’s Permanent Representative, Joseph Ntakirutimana, welcomed the fact that the Council was grappling with such an important subject that has the potential to offer stability, development and hope to countries such as his own which have been ravaged by conflict. As part of the first round of contributions, Burundi is due to receive $35 million from the Fund.The money, however, can “only act as a catalyst,” cautioned Ms. McAskie, who previously served as the senior UN envoy to Burundi, heading peacekeeping operation there. “Alone, it cannot address the peacebuilding resource needs of countries emerging from conflict.”Instead, she said, an integrated strategic approach is necessary to reinforce peace, pledging that the PBC will take the lead in coordinating the peacebuilding efforts of UN agencies, donors, civil society and the private sector to thwart duplication or overlap.In the long run, peacebuilding “should define the way in which we frame our interventions to ensure that we can most effectively respond to the immediate needs of a post-conflict society and keep the peace process on a sustainable track,” she said.Over a dozen speakers addressed the Council session, which heard not only from countries but also representatives of international financial institutions. Speaking for the World Bank, Oscar A. Avalle pointed out that over 1 billion of the world’s poor were either directly affected or at high risk of being affected by civil war, and 80 per cent of the world’s 20 poorest countries had suffered a major war in the past 15 years.“We can and must work together to ensure national ownership, international support and strategic collaboration amongst all partners to ensure long-term sustainable peace and development,” he said.Richard Munzberg of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed that countries should have ownership of peacebuilding strategies, and pointed out that the IMF is actively working in both Burundi and Sierra Leone.