Remarks by Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff, U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Debate on Post-Conflict Peace-building, in the Security Council Chamber

Alejandro Wolff
United States Deputy Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
April 16, 2010


Thank you, Mr. President.

My government is pleased to participate in this debate on post-conflict peace-building. Foreign Minister Okada’s personal participation and the Secretary-General’s direct involvement illustrate the importance of this debate.  We are also pleased that the Managing Director of the World Bank joined this discussion. We strongly support closer cooperation between the UN and the World Bank in the field of peace-building.

We also welcome the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we are especially honored by the presence of the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, the Defense Minister of Sierra Leone, and the Justice Minister of Timor-Leste.  Excellencies, thank you for sharing your insights.  It is entirely fitting that the Security Council begin its debate by listening to those on whose shoulders the success of peace processes rests:  the national authorities and the peoples of conflict-affected countries themselves.

National authorities in post-conflict countries face some of the most difficult challenges on Earth. They need to govern in ways that win the confidence of not only their supporters but also often their former enemies.  They must protect their citizens and uphold the rule of law in situations emerging from violence where impunity and abuses have often been the norm.  They need to provide basic services and economic opportunities for their population while often relying on poorly equipped and inadequately paid staff.  

Like so many of our colleagues, we believe it is essential for peace-building agendas to be nationally led and nationally owned. Given the magnitude of the challenges that post-conflict governments so often face, when they seek assistance from the UN and other multilateral and bilateral actors, we need to respond more rapidly, more effectively, and more efficiently.  The Secretary-General’s June 2009 report presented an agenda for doing just that, and we look forward to receiving his progress report and further concrete proposals on how to move forward.  We look forward to his forthcoming report on the role of women in peace-building. The review of the Peacebuilding Commission further affords us an opportunity to reflect on the issues raised during this timely debate.

Mr. President, I would like to highlight three areas today: personnel, peacekeeping transitions, and the politics of peace-building.

First, we need to ensure that the international personnel we send into post-conflict environments, especially at senior levels, have the right qualifications, arrive when needed, and stay long enough to make a difference.  National authorities must be able to count on the good offices of a wise Special Representative and UN team to help keep a political transition on track and to provide advice on a comprehensive long-term peace-building strategy. They should be able to turn to development experts experienced in post-conflict situations to advise them on the best way to jump-start an economy ravaged by war.  They should be able to call in experts to get a district office, a police station, a local court, a prison, or a government payroll system up and running, to name just a few of the governance and early recovery challenges that require specific expertise. 

The UN has seasoned experts in many critically needed areas, but it doesn’t have enough of them. Recruitment systems are not nimble enough to tap the potential found both inside and outside of the UN system. Several member states, mine included, are developing national civilian response capabilities.  These respective efforts need to be harmonized and we are encouraged that the Secretary-General has convened a senior advisory group to review international civilian capacities for peace-building.  We look forward to the review’s results, which we hope will be fully synchronized with the ongoing discussions on the Global Field Support Strategy and continuing reform of the UN’s Human Resources Management system. 

Second, we need to focus on peace-building activities that pave the way for the responsible departure of international peacekeepers and related personnel.  Last week in Dili, post-conflict countries issued a declaration asking us to respect their unique paths to lasting peace and to work with them to build the national capacities to achieve just that. We often hear—as we did from our distinguished speakers today—that when national authorities seek external aid, they do so within the context of achieving self-sufficiency. In particular, post-conflict governments prefer to rebuild their own criminal justice sectors and security institutions as quickly as possible rather than rely on the indefinite presence of even warmly welcomed peacekeepers and outsiders. UN peace operations, UN agencies, international financial institutions, regional organizations, and bilateral donors all play an important role here.  But we must do more to learn the lessons of past successes and setbacks in our efforts together—in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Haiti, and elsewhere—and improve the coherence of our collective response.

And third, international peace-builders can better support national authorities when they understand the political context in which they operate, another theme we’ve heard from other’s today. Even in countries far removed from armed conflict, the adoption of a national budget, the financing of new roads and bridges, or the overhaul of the defense sector can be a complicated and contentious political exercise. It can be even more so in ones where disputes over national identity, wealth, and power may have recently triggered outright violence.  It is tempting to approach institutional reforms or resource allocation as just technical exercises, but in doing so one risks provoking conflict rather than reducing it. When national actors warn us of lurking dangers, we must listen.  Similarly, the international community must have the courage to share its own concerns with our partners about ways in which their actions could undermine a peace process or threaten regional stability.  To remain in a position to offer critical yet constructive advice, UN personnel, donors, and Council members must pay more attention to the political dimensions of peace-building.  

Again, thank you, Mr. President—and thank you to the Government of Japan for convening this important and timely debate.


PRN: 2010/062