Remarks by Ambassador Frederick Barton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Economic and Social Council, at the Third and Final Informal Consultation on the 2010 Review of the Peacebuilding Commission

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative on the Economic and Social Council 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
July 9, 2010


We want to thank the co-facilitators for their intensive work on this review so far and for the opportunity to discuss their emerging recommendations.

Through every level of this consultation, USUN has been focused on making the PBC more relevant and effective. We believe that the PBC has a vital role to play, and see it as a crucial forum for addressing Southern countries’ perceived need for a more prominent voice in their own post-conflict recovery.

We believe in giving the PBC an honest chance to prove itself over the coming years. We want to build a UN resource that the world will seek to align itself with in conflict situations. We support the PBC taking on more ambitious country cases where their targeted intervention can make a clear difference—one example is Liberia, which is host to a large UN Peacekeeping Operation and has requested engagement, in the hopes that efforts can be expedited to create the conditions for UNMIL’s responsible drawdown.

We need to be realistic about when and how the PBC can add value across the conflict spectrum, reflecting carefully on the conditions required for constructive PBC engagement, and adding judiciously and realistically to its current case load. We encourage the PBC to focus on countries where political will is high and the enabling environment for intervention looks promising.

Going forward, we see the PBC’s role as a catalyst for specific opportunities that can place countries more firmly on the path towards longer-term security and development. Overall we believe the PBC should adopt a customized, flexible approach driven by facts on the ground, where form follows function.

Comments on Emerging Recommendations

On the issue of Multi-tiered Engagement:

  • We believe there should be a flexible menu of options for potential PBC engagement, ranging from more intensive to more tailored engagement. We are open to PBC intervention anywhere along the conflict spectrum from prevention to late stage post-conflict recovery, in small or large countries, comprehensively or piecemeal, based on what a country wants and needs and a realistic assessment of PBC ability to perform. 
  • We support the idea of ‘light footprint” country engagements. The most important thing is that the PBC’s engagement becomes more user-friendly and is able to respond more expeditiously and with greater agility to country requests.

On the issue of Strengthening the Organizational Committee:
  • We would encourage the PBC to focus on one to two thematic issues per year related to recurrent peacebuilding gaps and challenges, such as support to criminal justice or security sectors, or youth unemployment, as examples of issues which are repeatedly cited as requiring deeper and sustained international attention.
  • We are agnostic on the Working Group on Lessons Learned question. We believe the key is that all relevant actors—PBC, PBSO, and PBF—are identifying and taking on lessons learned, and that we are following an evidence-based model for refining the PBC’s methods going forward. We want the whole organization to be a learning organization.

On the issue of Strengthening the CSCs: 
  • We are open to the idea of CSC chairs being expanded to include not only PRs in New York, but potentially also qualified senior capital-based figures or another representative from member governments. Our key concern is that these individuals possess the requisite time, talent and dynamism to get the job done.
On the issue of Entry and Exit Criteria:
  • On criteria for entry, we believe that identifying a country’s “ripeness” for engagement is crucial. There should be clear political will to engage, as well as promising areas where the PBC can expect to be effective in catalyzing new opportunities to reach longer term peacebuilding goals. We believe that response time is crucial—speed is a virtue unto itself in places on the verge of instability.
  • On exit criteria, if we think of the PBC’s role as a more limited catalytic agent, building a bridge to a more stable future, it may be easier to identify benchmarks here that are responsive to each country’s unique political context. We believe it is crucial that we find ways to measure PBC performance, drawing upon abundant existing knowledge on peacebuilding impact assessment. These measures should include a mix of qualitative methods such as public surveys and focus groups, as well as quantitative methods where feasible.

On the issue of Conflict Prevention:
  • We believe the current PBC mandate language, which allows it to establish its agenda based on “requests for advice from Member States in exceptional circumstances on the verge of lapsing or relapsing into conflict and which are not on the agenda of the security council” leaves sufficient flexibility for the PBC to potentially broaden its engagement on conflict prevention where it makes sense. 
  • It is useful to keep in mind that given limited amounts of time, resources and human capital, post-conflict cases are not always as promising as prevention.

Finally, on the issue of the PBC’s Relationship to the Broader Peacebuilding Architecture:
  • We believe that the PBSO should have a solid core staff, supplemented by consultants and outside advisors. We believe it needs to remain flexible and agile to do its work and avoid building a bureaucracy. We also believe it doesn’t hurt to prove yourself first in a few cases and then make arguments for additional staff. 
  • In the case of the PBF, we believe that the current ad hoc preferential access for PBC is fine and no further formalization is necessary.


PRN: 2010/140