The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation is a non-governmental organisation established in memory of the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Foundation aims to advance dialogue and policy for sustainable development, multilateralism and peace.
A central message of the 2020 Review of the United Nation’s Peacebuilding Architecture (PBA) was the need to secure adequate, predictable and sustainable resources for peacebuilding, with the twin resolutions adopted at the conclusion of the review calling for the convening of a high-level General Assembly (GA) meeting on financing for peacebuilding.1
In the lead-up to the high-level meeting, which took place on 27 April 2022, significant efforts were made to advance the discourse on financing for peacebuilding. As part of this, four interactive roundtables were convened by the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO): 1) funding local peacebuilding; 2) Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) results and resourcing; 3) peace-responsive investing through the private sector; and 4) flexibility of funding for peacebuilding, including in transition settings. These discussions included high-level representatives of Member States, civil society organisations (CSOs), the private sector and UN entities.2
Leadership towards more sustainable financing
In the wake of the 2020 PBA review, several Member States have stepped forward to show leadership in strengthening financing for peacebuilding. Sweden, for example, has led the Good Peacebuilding Financing initiative, which encourages existing donors to recommit to a set of agreed-upon ideals aimed at achieving sustained, adequate and predictable funding and engaging new donors.3 Colombia and Germany have taken strides in advancing ‘innovative financing’ approaches4; South Africa has spearheaded a drive towards leveraging private sector investment; and Egypt has fostered engagement in a dialogue on financing in peacekeeping and transition contexts.5
Roundtable discussions: Key themes
It was noted in the roundtable discussions that, within and outside the UN system, there are persistent patterns of fragmentation, duplication and lack
of coherence in programming and resourcing of peacebuilding efforts at the country level. Participants thus called for the UN peacebuilding architecture to increase its efforts towards system-wide coherence. The PBF has proven itself to be a valuable mechanism in this regard, recognised as a flexible and effective tool that promotes joint programming in support of nationally-owned peacebuilding efforts.
The roundtable discussions saw near-unanimous agreement on the imperative to find new ways to invest in local peacebuilders, with current funding modalities often restricted to short-term interventions, hampered by unrealistic donor expectations and high administrative barriers. There was also acknowledgement of the need to increase transparency and diversity when selecting local peacebuilding partners6, providing local actors with opportunities to meaningfully shape the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of peacebuilding initiatives, in line with the UN Community Engagement Guidelines on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace.7
Given resource limitations and international donor requirements, it may not always be possible to fund local organisations directly. In such cases, international donors should develop good partnership standards and look for CSOs, as well as networks and platforms of local organisations, as intermediaries, based on mutually agreed accountability, visibility and ownership principles. Moreover, roundtable participants underscored the importance of making peacebuilding funding more inclusive and accessible, particularly to youth- and women-led organisations.
The roundtable discussions also focused on alternative funding sources, including how the private sector can more effectively invest in peacebuilding. Such work, however, needs to be done in ways that promote accountability to national, regional and internal
laws, as well as in accordance with the Do No Harm framework.8 In this regard, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) was identified as ‘uniquely positioned to facilitate collaboration among the UN, IFIs [international financial institutions] and the private sector to invest in conflict-affected countries with a focus on peacebuilding, and in developing global norms for peace-positive investments’.9 Finally, it was suggested that more work is needed to structure private sector investments in ways that enable resources to reach local organisations.
In discussing the need for new and strengthened partnerships, participants emphasised that flexibility of funding is critical, particularly in transition settings. Here again, the PBC has an important role to play as a convener of key actors, and in advising the UN Economic and Social Council, Security Council and the GA when it comes to supporting national transitions and international and regional peacebuilding strategies.
A critical element of the discussions that took place in the lead-up to and during the high-level meeting involved the viability of securing assessed funding for the PBF. Voluntary contributions have proven insufficient to meet peacebuilding needs, with assessed contributions proposed as one possible solution to narrow the gap. This proposal, first made by the UN Secretary-General in 2018 following the recommendations of the 2015 Advisory Group of Experts convened for the Peacebuilding Architecture review, suggests an allocation of US$ 100 million in assessed contributions – approximately 1% of the peace operations budget – to the PBF.10 Ahead of the high-level meeting, concerted efforts were made to generate support within the GA for using assessed contributions for peacebuilding. While Russia and China expressed opposition, a cross- regional group of over 100 Member States conveyed support for assessed funding.
What did these meetings accomplish? What happens going forward?
Discussions prior to and at the high-level meeting reflected widespread recognition of peacebuilding’s enduring importance, particularly in relation to prevention, humanitarian aid and the Sustainable Development Goals. If these goals are to be realised, flexible, predictable, sustainable and quality financing for peacebuilding is essential. While this argument is not new, the near-universal consensus can be seen as progress, with the same applying to the call for increased funding for local peacebuilding.
Though the ‘what’ in both cases seems to have been agreed upon, the question of ‘how’ remains a challenge. The key themes requiring further consideration are elaborated below.
Consensus on finding more effective pathways to support local peacebuilders. Fostering local resilience, knowledge and agency requires a paradigm shift that centres the work of local peacebuilders and provides them with sustainable, flexible funding. To enable this, Member States must explore pathways through which local organisations can be funded bilaterally or through instruments such as multi-partner trust funds.11
Explore sustainability. The Ukraine crisis has brought into sharp relief the challenge of predictably funding peacebuilding and the over-reliance on a handful of donors. The international community must explore other ways of supporting local peacebuilders in order to ensure their work is not halted when a subset of governments pause their peacebuilding budgets.
Forward movement on the issue of assessed contributions. There has been longstanding tension between Member States on whether assessed contributions should be used to fund peacebuilding. Given that only a small number of donors are currently responsible for the majority of voluntary contributions received by the PBF, assessed contributions would bring in much-needed resources and signal multilateral support for this part of the UN’s mandate.
Engagement of private sector and non-traditional actors.
There is considerable scope for strengthening coherence and frameworks on how best to approach private sector engagement. This could increase clarity in which entity – private sector, foundation, government, multilateral – is best positioned to provide what type of funding to whom. The UN is well suited to be a catalytic force in promoting coherence among different groups, helping to articulate ethical standards and lessons learned, and serving as a convenor of institutions and individuals that rarely interact.
The key outcome of the high-level meeting was that the President of the GA appointed Sweden and Kenya as co- facilitators for a resolution on peacebuilding financing. At the time of writing, they are undertaking regional consultations ahead of negotiations on the resolution, which are expected to conclude in early September 2022. While the scope and comprehensiveness of the anticipated resolution remains open to question, it will at least maintain the momentum achieved thus far when it comes to the discourse on financing for peacebuilding and hopefully in addressing the issues highlighted above.
Peacebuilding Commission, ‘The Peacebuilding Commission Annual Session:“Financing for Peacebuilding” – Chair’s Summary’, 29 November 2021, www.un.org/peacebuilding/sites/www.un.org. peacebuilding/files/documents/211203_chairs_summary_pbc_annual_ session_financing_for_peacebuilding.pdf. See also Aswan Forum, ‘Chair’s Summary: Financing for Peacebuilding in Peacekeeping and Transition Contexts’,April 2022,www.aswanforum.org/ctrl/images/ img/uploads/3251_08063142.pdf.
UN Peacebuilding, ‘United Nations Community Engagement Guidelines on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace’,August 2020, www.un.org/peacebuilding/sites/www.un.org.peacebuilding/files/ documents/un_community-engagement_guidelines.august_2020.pdf.
See Riva Kantowitz, Ebba Berggrund and Sigrid Gruener,‘Financing Peacebuilding:The Role of Private-Sector Actors’, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, January 2021, www.daghammarskjold.se/publication/ financing-peacebuilding/.
UN,‘The Challenge of Sustaining Peace: Report of the Advisory Group of Experts for the 2015 Review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture’, 29 June 2015, www.un.org/pga/ wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2015/07/300615_The-Challenge-of- Sustaining-Peace.pdf.