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Source: United Nations MIL OSI

Speakers today urged the Secretariat to closely track the efficiency and cost benefits gained from the massive restructuring of the United Nations peace and security architecture into two main departments — the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations — as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) reviewed progress in implementing the reform begun in January 2019.

The representative of Mali, who spoke for the African Group, said a cost-benefit analysis and efficiency gains is essential and should have been part of the reform initiatives, pointing to a lack of clarity about the correlation between the Secretary‑General’s initial reform proposal’s four main goals and the nine benefits presented under the three objectives newly presented in the Secretary‑General’s progress report on implementation.  The Group, he said, also wants details on dual reporting lines, including on ensuring that line management within the single political-operational structure is clear, coherent and accountable.  The two departments’ composition should reflect more equitable geographical representation, including proper representation of the troop‑contributing countries, he added, a sentiment endorsed by China’s delegate, who emphasized that gender equality is not a replacement for such representation.

Guyana’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, urged the Secretariat to heed the evaluations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which warned of inconsistent instructions and redundant procedures between the two departments.  Agreeing with the concerns of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) about the end date of the reform process, the Group sought more clarity about the peace and security reform activities’ completion process and the type of mechanism which will be created to sustain the improvements.

The European Union’s delegate said the ambitious reform means the Organization’s unified peace and security pillar can better fulfil its central role:  helping to prevent violent conflicts.  Echoing other speakers, she noted the potential for smoother, sustainable transitions from peacekeeping to special political missions, citing as an example the downsizing of the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and creation of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).  The unified pillar also helps deliver the Secretary‑General’s vision of alignment between peace and security, human rights and development, by reducing internal barriers to collaboration.  Yet changes in practices, culture and processes take time.  “They require a continuous learning effort, and further re-alignment or re-engineering of administrative processes will be necessary to further increase concrete impact in the field,” she added.

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Under-Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the Secretary-General, introduced the Secretary‑Generals’ progress report on the reform, saying the structural changes have resulted in greater collaboration in the peace and security pillar across all areas of political expertise and technical capacity.  The ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic has created challenges to the Organization’s implementation of the reforms, but it also has demonstrated how the reforms have ensured the two departments provide support and guidance to all peacekeeping and special political missions in a coordinated, coherent way during a crisis.  Through the creation of the Field Support Group for COVID‑19, both departments worked closely with the Department of Operational Support to give the missions unified guidance and find cross-cutting solutions to issues faced in the field.

Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chair of ACABQ, who introduced its related report, pointed to some tools created to report on the reform benefits, including the first online benefits tracker.  While no formal cost-benefit analysis was presented for the peace and security pillar restructuring because the General Assembly did not require such analysis in the relevant resolutions, he said such an analysis and efficiency gains should be part of any reform initiatives as a norm, along with improved effectiveness and coherence.

Also speaking today were representatives of Japan, Mexico, Oman and Botswana.

The representative of Cyprus also spoke in exercise of the right of reply regarding the Fifth Committee’s meeting held on Friday, 13 November.

Implementation of Peace and Security Reform

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Under-Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the Secretary‑General, introduced his report titled “Review of implementation of the peace and security reform (document A/75/202).  She said the most immediately visible elements of the reform — proposed by the Secretariat after an internal review was launched in January 2017 and then endorsed by the General Assembly three years ago — are structural.  These structural changes directly translate into improved collaboration in the peace and security pillar across all areas of political expertise and technical capacity, which then help maximize the Organization’s impact on the ground.

“Papua New Guinea provides a good example of how the pillar is better able to deliver together,” she said, highlighting that working with the population of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and the national and subnational governments, the United Nations supported the peaceful delivery of a non-binding referendum in late 2019 on the Bougainville’s political future and continues assisting in the post-referendum period.  Technical capacities from across the pillar have coordinated efforts.  The Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs gave critical support to the Bougainville Referendum Commission; the Department’s mediation capacity helped carry out the work of the ministerial-level post-referendum planning task force; and the Department of Peace Operations’ Mine Action Service provided technical advice and capacity-building to help Bougainville prepare for the referendum.

The reforms have reinforced efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations, including through the recent finalization of the Peacekeeping Performance and Accountability Framework, as well as the broader Action for Peacekeeping agenda to facilitate mandate delivery and support political processes, she said.  For example, in the Central African Republic the single political operational structure strengthened that country’s engagement with the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and bilateral partners.  This engagement was indispensable to the ultimate signing of the peace agreement and facilitated greater support from the peacebuilding architecture to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), with the quick disbursement of $23.9 million to the United Nations country team and civil society partners from the Peacebuilding Fund after the peace accord was signed. 

The integration of the Peacebuilding Support Office into the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs has led to improved integration of political analysis and strategy into Peacebuilding Fund programming, as in the case of Colombia, where the United Nations Verification Mission and the country team work closely to implement peacebuilding activities.  The reform also builds on previous work to strengthen cooperation with Resident Coordinators to facilitate deeper collaboration with the development pillar, including the Development Coordination Office.

Ms. Viotti recognized the efforts of the heads and staff of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations and said while the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic had presented challenges to them carrying out the reforms, it has also demonstrated how the reforms have worked to ensure the two departments provide support and guidance to all peacekeeping and special political missions in a coordinated, coherent way during a crisis.  Through the establishment of the Field Support Group for COVID‑19, both departments worked closely with the Department of Operational Support to develop unified guidance to missions and find cross-cutting solutions to address issues faced in the field.

As a result of the restructuring, the peace and security architecture can better fulfil its central role to help prevent violent conflict and reduce large‑scale human suffering, she said. “The original vision of a whole-of-pillar approach to peace and security remains as valid today as it was three years ago,” she added.  No specific actions are requested now by the Assembly.  Implementation of the peace and security reform is moving ahead as the expected benefits are being realized.

ABDALLAH BACHAR BONG, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced its related report (document A/75/596), noting that some tools were put into place to report on reform benefits, including the first online benefits tracker.  Moreover, the Board of Auditors has identified areas for improvement, he recalled, adding that the ACABQ concurs with the Board and stresses the importance of fully implementing its recommendations.  He went on to highlight a lack of clarity on the correlation between the four main goals outlined by the Secretary‑General in his initial reform proposal as well as the nine benefits under the three objectives newly presented in his report on implementation.  On enhancing effectiveness, efficiencies and coherence, he noted that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) conducted an evaluation of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and found inconsistent operating procedures and duplicative processes between the two departments.  Measures are being pursued to review the processes, improve coordination and avoid duplications. 

Continuing, he noted that the OIOS indicated that shortcomings in regional division integration, work processes and knowledge management have created challenges to achieving conflict prevention goals.  The Advisory Committee trusts that the Secretary‑General will continue to ensure an effective and efficient integration into the single regional political-operational structure.  Moreover, he recalled that no formal cost-benefit analysis was presented for the peace and security pillar restructuring because no such analysis was required by the General Assembly in the relevant resolutions.  However, a cost-benefit analysis and efficiency gains should be part of any reform initiatives as a norm, along with improved effectiveness and coherence, he said, stressing that the ACABQ would have expected some efficiencies to be derived from an initiative of this magnitude.  Moreover, coordination and collaboration between the two departments and the Resident Coordinator system are a critical element in realizing the reform goal.  He also noted a lack of clarity about when the reform activities will be completed, the type of continuous improvement mechanism to be introduced as well as future reporting on reform activities.  Therefore, the Advisory Committee recommends that the General Assembly ask the Secretary‑General to give a progress report on this implementation during its seventy-sixth session.

MEGAYLA AUSTIN (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted the nine case studies listed in the Secretary‑General’s report, including the priority of prevention and sustaining peace in Burkina Faso; the needs-based peacekeeping operations focused on political processes in the Central African Republic; the systematic adoption of a holistic approach to the pillar in Mali and Papua New Guinea; and the increased impact of the Peacebuilding Commission, are already listed in the 2021 proposed programme budget.  Some of the related programme narratives have received recommendations from the Committee on Programme and Coordination.  The Group is concerned with the overloading of some key offices in the new structure, such as the Executive Office of the Department of Political Affairs and Peacebuilding, the Department of Peace Operations, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, whose responsibilities and workload have increased significantly.  This situation needs to be examined very carefully and corrected measures taken.

A recent evaluation by the OIOS noted inconsistent instructions and redundant procedures between the two departments, she said, hoping that the Secretary‑General’s demand for the two departments to review the role of the Office of the Director of Coordination and Shared Services — to which the Executive Office reports — in relation to the roles of their management teams, will be acted upon as soon as possible.  It is also important to heed the areas of improvement noted by the Board of Auditors, in its report on the financial statements of the United Nations for the year ended 31 December 2019.  This includes planning and implementation of the reform; change management; revitalization of the Peacebuilding Support Office; and financing the Peacebuilding Fund.  The Group agrees with the Advisory Committee’s concerns about the end-date of the reform process and would like more clarity on the completion period of the peace and security reform activities as well as what type of mechanism will be created to sustain improvements.  The Group will seek updated information on the reform’s impact, particularly the results regarding improved effectiveness and coherence, she said.

MOHAMED TRAORE (Mali), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, recognized the complementary roles of cultural change, leadership and accountability in the success of structural changes.  “A major project of this magnitude will ultimately raise challenges and short-comings during the process of implementation,” he observed.  One such issue involves the monitoring of benefits, he said, pointing to the lack of clarity with respect to the correlation between the four main goals outlined by the Secretary‑General in his initial reform proposal and the nine benefits under the three objectives newly presented in his report.  Moreover, the bloc will seek to assess and discuss further cost-benefit analysis and efficiency gains of the reform, which should have been made part of the reform initiatives, he said.  On the issue of dual reporting lines, the Group will seek details in this regard including on ensuring that line management within the single political-operational structure is clear, coherent and accountable.

He continued to note that coordination and collaboration between the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations as well as the Resident Coordinator system are critical to realizing reform goals.  He also called for the composition of the two departments to be further improved to reflect a more equitable geographical representation.  As such, he recalled the General Assembly’s request that the Secretary‑General bolster his efforts to ensure proper representation of troop-contributing countries at all levels in the new departments, taking into account their contributions to United Nations peacekeeping.  He noted that regarding the Board of Auditors’ report the ACABQ had outlined several areas where improvements can be made as, including in reform planning and implementation, change management, revitalization of the Peacebuilding Support Office and financing the Peacebuilding Fund.  “The Group cannot but stress the importance of the full and expeditious implementation of the recommendations of the Board and the Advisory Committee,” he said, adding that he looked forward to discussing the matter in greater detail. 

KATARINA SALAJ, European Union, said that thanks to the Secretary‑General’s ambitious reform, the restructured peace and security pillar is better positioned today to fulfil its central role in helping to prevent violent conflicts.  The pillar’s overriding focus on effective conflict prevention and sustaining peace helps to ensure that peace and security engagements are undertaken early and are able to answer the Secretary‑General’s call for a “surge in diplomacy for peace”.  The unified pillar further enhances the effectiveness and coherence of its field presences, from peacekeeping to special political missions and has enhanced prospects for more forward-looking, sustainable mission transition processes, she said, pointing to the downsizing of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and creation of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).  The unified pillar also helps deliver the Secretary‑General’s vision of alignment between peace and security, human rights and development; internal barriers for collaboration in this area had have been significantly reduced.

However, changes in practices, culture and processes take time, she observed, adding:  “They require a continuous learning effort and further re-alignment or re-engineering of administrative processes will be necessary to further increase concrete impact in the field.”  In that context, she emphasized the importance of monitoring progress in reform implementation and ensuring a regular and systemic review of how better results can be achieved.  All the improvements resulting from the reform of the peace and security pillar proved critically needed during the global pandemic as they enabled the two departments to address more consistently the field-based needs, she said.

BING DAI (China) said the departments should strengthen the capacity of the peacekeeping operations in order to make them more efficient.  The Secretary‑General’s reforms should be transparent and provide Member States with timely feedback on their progress, taking into account Member States’ concerns.   Timely adjustments and greater internal coordination are needed.  The reforms should also address the imbalance in equitable geographic representation in the missions, he said, calling for an increase in the number of international staff from developing countries and emphasizing that gender equality is not a replacement for equitable geographic representation.  He also called for effective measures to implement Council and Assembly resolutions and for measures to ensure the safety of all peacekeeping staff during the pandemic.  China will engage in talks on these issues in a timely manner, he said. 

YUKIO SUZUKI (Japan) noted that reform is an evolving process which entails not only structural but also cultural changes.  As such, it requires continuous effort and engagement by the United Nations Secretariat and its staff, he said, highlighting the importance of monitoring and reviewing implementation progress so that the reform process can achieve the four goals outlined by the Secretary‑General in his report.  Moreover, this reform process will also contribute to more effective, efficient mandate delivery as well as fiscal discipline and the judicious use of resources.  In this context, his delegation looks forward to hearing how the process contributes to these aims by avoiding duplication in the peace and security pillar’s policy structures.  He also noted the potential for smoother transitions from peacekeeping operations to special political missions or non-mission settings, as well as closer collaboration among the peacekeeping and special political missions that operate in the same region.  Welcoming the Secretariat’s efforts to improve transparency and provide accountability through the Benefits Management Framework, he said appropriate evaluation is contingent upon adequate indicators and targets, clear linkages with quantitative and qualitative evaluation as well as field mission voices, he observed. 

JESUS VELASQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) said reform of the Organization’s peace and security pillar is an indispensable step for it to be able to respond to a changing world.  Welcoming progress in this regard, he stressed the importance of restructuring the pillar to give priority to conflict prevention and sustaining peace, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of peacekeeping and special political missions, and making the pillar more coherent and harmonized with the human rights and development pillars.  Moreover, changes to the peace and security pillar must be effective, he emphasized, noting that such changes must consider sustaining peace as a guiding principle.  In this context, he spotlighted examples from the Secretary‑General’s report with respect to the usefulness of tracking benefits and recording accomplished goals, also endorsing the greater level of cooperation in the human rights pillar, among them the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Human Rights Council and the human rights components of peacekeeping and special political missions.  Noting a change in working culture that moves away from containment and reaction towards prevention, he called for the further promotion of this philosophy.

SALEH JAAID HAMED AL HADDABI (Oman), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, supported the Secretary‑General’s detailed report.  Agreeing with the assessments on how the COVID‑19 pandemic has impacted Member States and the peacekeeping and special political missions, he said recovery and reform can only be obtained through cooperation among all States.  Management and financial reforms are needed as is improved equitable geographical distribution at all levels, including greater representation from the Gulf region and Arabian Peninsula. The recruitment of personnel who know these regions well is needed.  Oman supports the United Nations in its mission to promote international peace, he said, emphasizing that there should be adjustments in the scale of assessments to help alleviate the difficult economic situation of some Member States.

KATLEGO B. MMALANE (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, noted the progress made in implementing the reform including the restructuring of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations, despite restrictions caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic.  He also acknowledged the tools established such as the online benefits tracker system to enable better reporting of the reforms.  However, challenges remain, he observed, calling for equitable geographical representation of Member States at all levels of the two Departments mentioned.  He went on to emphasize the importance of the full and expeditious implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors and the ACABQ and said his delegation will seek further discussions and clarity on the issues they have raised.

Ms. VIOTTI, responding the delegates’ statements, said the two departments will be at the Fifth Committee’s disposable to answer all questions.  Reform is an ongoing process that includes changes in practice and culture, which is a long-term process.  Regarding the reports of the OIOS and the Board of Auditors, she said the Secretariat is fully committed to making changes.  She noted the OIOS report was made during the early stages of the reforms, and many of those issues have already been handled.  Both departments have been asked to put together an action plan.

Mr. BONG thanked the delegates for their insights.

Right of Reply

The representative of Cyprus, speaking in exercise of the right of reply and responding to Turkey, objected to that delegate’s remarks made at the Fifth Committee’s meeting on 13 November.  Attempts to challenge the United Nations mandate in Cyprus can only be perceived as an attempt to undermine the Organization’s core principle regarding the peaceful settlement of disputes.  As such, she rejected the remarks of the representative of Turkey in total, also citing numerous resolutions adopted by the Security Council and General Assembly on Cyprus.  These resolutions cannot be unilaterally challenged, she stressed.

For information media. Not an official record.

MIL OSI United Nations News