HSP Seminar (#231) “The United Nations in Peacebuilding: Is it Falling Short?”

Description: In a survey of experienced UN-watchers undertaken in 2015, respondents found that the UN’s role in peacebuilding and development was less effective than its roles in humanitarian relief, human rights and peace-keeping. In fact those with the most experience of conflict situations were the most critical of UN peacebuilding.

The importance of the UN in helping countries (and regions) to recover from conflict and consolidate peace is unquestioned. The universal body is the port of first recourse when conflict breaks out and when peace is being restored, although the UN often works in close conjunction with other organisations. But while it has had long experience of peace-keeping – an essentially military activity – the UN is less successful in the aftermath of conflict, when many actors and interests are involved. Still less is the UN effective in early warning of potential conflict.

The 2015 survey asked respondents to rank ten peacebuilding phases. The result indicated that humanitarian and human rights activities were quite positively viewed. But at the other end of the scale, the UN was seen as less successful in preventing new conflicts and suppressing crime.

There are many reasons why the UN is not more effective in peacebuilding. One obvious problem is that resources are never enough. Peacebuilding is a long and complex process dependent on the generosity of donors. But donor fatigue can set in before all tasks are accomplished. A second problem is related to the Peacebuilding Commission established more than a decade ago, but which has come in for a lot of criticism. It is still seen as a junior partner of the UN Security Council, with which it has maintained an awkward relationship; it is a “voluntary” body which countries must choose to join; and it does not adequately address the third problem: the disjointed nature of the UN system. Peacebuilding requires that all parts of the UN get involved. But such is the structure of the system that it is difficult to get a cohesive approach. There is a lot of inter-organisational rivalry, and peacebuilding operations do not enjoy clear chains of authority. A fourth reason is that the development organisations of the UN retain their technical orientation, and are not well adapted to complex political and security situations which surround the tasks of peacebuilding.

In this discussion, selected results of the survey will be presented and the above arguments will be elaborated, drawing in part from the speaker’s experience with the UN development system in Rwanda, Somalia and elsewhere.

This seminar is open to the public. No need for prior registration.

Date: June, 20, 2017(Tue) 18:45 – 20:15
Venue: Bldg.18, 4th floor, Collaboration Room 1, Komaba Campus, University of Tokyo
Lecturer: Stephen Browne (Co-Director, Future United Nations Development System [FUNDS] project, Senior Fellow of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York)
Commentator: Sukehiro Hasegawa (President, Global Peacebuilding Association of Japan; former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Western Samoa, Rwanda and Timor-Leste)
Moderator: Ai Kihara-Hunt (Associate Professor, Graduate Program on Human Security, University of Tokyo)
Language: English
Materials: To be handed out at the venue.
Organizers: Graduate Program on Human Security, University of Tokyo (HSP)
Co-organizers: Research Center for Sustainable Peace, Institute of Advanced Global Studies (IAGS), Research Center
for Sustainable Development, Institute of Advanced Global Studies (IAGS), Research Center for African Studies, Institute of Advanced Global Studies (IAGS), University of Tokyo
Supporters: Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS)