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History of the UN Peacebuilding Commission

Updated: May 27, 2021

by Yuting Xiao

History of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission Tracing the PBC’s Involvement in Civil War in Burundi, Sierra Leone, and Guinea

The Emergence of the UN

The United Nations emerged after the end of the Second World War, with one goal in mind - to prevent a conflict of this proportion from ever happening again.

The United Nations is mainly comprised of the six organs which include the General Assembly, International Court of Justice, and the Security Council. However, these six components of the United Nations cannot succeed without help from smaller advisory agencies. These agencies include famous ones such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and ones not as well-known such as the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). However, they all serve important functions to make the world a better and safer place. One of the advisory council members is the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). The purpose of the PBC and its mission objective has changed throughout the years. The purpose of this research paper is to find out how the PBC has evolved through the years and what its impact has been.

Peacebuilding Commission & Burundi Civil War

The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission was first commissioned in 2005 under the leadership of Kofi Annan. The point of this commission was to help countries that have come out of a recent civil war or major conflict and help them rebuild peace that will last. When the program first began, it concentrated on African countries such as Burundi and Sierra Leone. One of the first cases that the PBC handled was helping manage conflict in the East African country of Burundi. Burundi just came out of a Civil War that went from 1993 to 2005. Much like the Rwandan Genocide, where it involved violent conflict between the Tutsi and the Hutu, the the Burundi Civil War was also waged between the Tutsi and the Hutu.

In the conclusion of the 11 year long Civil War, the Burundi Government asked the newly formed United Nations Peacebuilding Commission to come in to ensure that a Civil War would never happen again in Burundi. As the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) was coming to a close, the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Burundi (BINUB) replaced it. This is due to the fact the objective of the mission changed as the Civil War was coming to an end. The BINUB mission is outlined in a document called Monitoring and Tracking Mechanism of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi authored by the PBC, with three main objectives.

  1. The Partners Coordination Group in Burundi

  2. The matrix and progress reports

  3. review meetings of the PBC itself

The PBC has shown consistent progress in Burundi throughout the last decade, including helping establish a stable government. However, during the 2015 presidential election, where President Pierre Nkurunziza controversially ran for a third term and won, the opposition boycotted.

This led to a period of turmoil which is still going on right now. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 390,000 refugees from Burundi who fled since April of 2015 due to government crackdown and resulted in hundreds of deaths[1]. However, the PDB has not been able to find a long term solution for the current Burundi Crisis, other than stressing the importance of fair elections. In addition, there has been a huge clash of conflict between the government of Burundi and the United Nations office in Burundi (BNUB). BNUB replaced BINUB after BINUB’s objective was accomplished. BNUB and Burundi wanted to go in different directions. In 2014, the Burundi government ordered BNUB out of the country and functions of the BNUB were transferred to the UN Country Team [2].

Sierra Leone Civil War

The clash between government and the UN is also a very difficult part of peacebuilding as people from different cultures want different things for their countries.

The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission is also heavily involved in the country of Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone was in a civil war between government forces and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). PBC had three main objectives when it came to Sierra Leone.

  1. Having more international attention focused to it

  2. Have a better way of implementing financial resources,

  3. Have a better relationship between different strategic partners.

The purpose of this is that the country has just come out of a long and brutal civil war, and is still very fragile. Strengthening these areas such as bringing attention and implementing financial resources can prevent Sierra Leone from falling back into turmoil and possibly another civil war. What that means is having more people learn about Sierra Leone, and showing people it is not just a war torn country.


When the civil war was happening, the United Nations established the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL). They worked in tandem with the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). However, as UNOMSIL was disarmed and rebel groups were overrunning the government and taking over Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, it forced UNOMSIL to evacuate.

UNOMSIL was then transitioned to United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). This transition was made so that the United Nations force can be used to help the country have their first real election. UNAMSIL was then transitioned, again, into the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) to promote peace and democracy. This was where peacebuilding really started in Sierra Leone. One of the main objectives of UNIPSIL was to train local military and police forces in peacekeeping. They want to ensure that the country is politically (democratically) and economically stable and has a secure defence. The Constitution of Sierra Leone was adopted in 1991 but several changes were made in 2008, with the help of UNASMIL. Progress for UNASMIL has been visible, especially during the 2007 Presidential election[2].


The Sierra Leone’s People’s Party (SLPP) whom had been ruling for over a decade was defeated by the All People’s Congress (APC), who took the presidency and the majority of the parliamentary seats.

The election was viewed as fair and legitimate according to international observers[3]. According to the BBC, “Sierra Leone is now a peaceful, democratic nation and the economy is growing fast- even if it remains one of the poorest nations in Africa…” This shows that UNIPSIL has been successful in transforming Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone military has also been improved dramatically over the past decade. Before United Nations intervention, the Sierra Leone military was severely disorganized and not an effective fighting force. In the late 20th century and the early 2000s, there were many rebels and dissidents in the Sierra Leone military. There were times when rebels simply walked into military bases and kidnapped civilians that the Sierra Leone military was trying to protect [4]. After UN intervention with heavy assistance from the British military, they were able to reorganize the Sierra Leone military into a functional military[5].

This was proven when they joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in 2012. Nearly 1,000 Somalian soldiers trained with soldiers from the United States African Command to prepare for AMISOM.

The objective of AMISOM is to push the terrorist group Al-Shabaab out of Somalia[6].

Much has changed in a decade, from a military force being in tatters, entrenched in corruption to a capable fighting force being sent on peacekeeping missions to other countries. A large part of their success is due to the United Nations Peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone.

Peacebuilding Guinea Bissau

The success in both Burundi and Sierra Leone has shown that peacebuilding is possible. It is not the 1980’s anymore. Peace through strength does not have to be the way forward. We can have peace through constructive talks and elections. The PBC’s role has been extended to many other countries including the African country of Guinea Bissau. Guinea Bissau requested help from the PBC after PBC proved its effectiveness in Burundi and Sierra Leone. The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund gave over 20 million dollars in an effort to help the country back in 2007 [7]. Under the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission plan for Guinea Bissau, they wanted to strengthen their military and police force, make it a more prosperous nation, reform the private sector, and have sustainable development [8]. The PBC Mission in Guinea Bissau (UNIOGBIS) was established in 2009 under the auspice of the Security Council. It was initially a six month program in coordination with different UN agencies, donors, and the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) [9].

However, after a six month period, the Security Council decided to extend UNIOGBIS. It has been renewed many times, with the current extension period being 2019. Programs established by the UNIOGBIS include a police task force to fight both organized crimes and drug traffickers. UNIOGBIS also helps assist with drafting bills and writing laws when it comes to combating crimes[10]. In addition to crime, UNIOGBIS has strived for governmental reform. UNIOGBIS is currently trying to transform the governmental process in the Guinea Bissau.

Results are clearly being shown with the appointment of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes. He announced that on November 18th of 2018, there are going to be legislative elections held [11]. This shows that since the UNIOGBIS was commissioned, a lot has transformed, such as with parliamentary elections and a renewed will to fight organized crime and drug traffickers.

PBC Objectives

Throughout the United Nation’s Peacebuilding Commission history, their objectives have changed quite a few times. In the beginning, in 2015, the Peacebuilding Commission mainly focused on giving economic support. In addition to the Peacebuilding Fund, money needs to be generated for a country to be sustainable. This includes generating revenue through domestic means and making the country more independent and not reliant on foreign powers. However, as of now, the PBC has changed a lot of its objectives. One of the main changes the PBC has made is to allow civil societies to help ensure that these countries do not become failed states. Civil societies can attend PBC meetings and conferences. PBC is also focusing on the utilization of private donors to help out with peacebuilding investments [12].

Overall, the PBC, like many other UN bodies, helped facilitate changes to help transform these countries and their citizens. The PBC is still in its nascent stages, but as shown just by these few case studies, the PBC has huge potential. It has the potential to help a country change from one being in constant violent conflict to one peacefully electing its leaders as per democratic principles. The PBC’s mission embodies what the UN stands for, which is mainly to help spread peace and security everywhere. With more awareness and funding, the future is bright for the PBC.


[1]United Nation High Commission of Refugees . "Burundi Situation ." Accessed July 31, 2018.

[2]DE CARVALHO A, Gustavo, and LIEZELLE KUMALO. "Tension between Burundi and the UN are indicative of greater challenges within the UN's peacebuilding architecture." The Institute for Security Studies. Accessed August 16, 2018.

[3]BBC News . "Sierra Leone: Ernest Bai Koroma wins presidential poll." Accessed June 13, 2018.

[4]Human Rights Watch . "Sierra Leone Events in 2007." Accessed July 21, 2018.

[5]Ucko, David H. "WHEN INTERVENTION WORKS: THE INSTRUCTIVE CASE OF SIERRA LEONE." War on the Rocks . Accessed July 13, 2018.

[6]Bartell, Rich. "Sierra Leone Troops Complete Deployment Training." United States Africa Command . Accessed August 13, 2018.

[7] United Nations Peacebuilding Fund . "Guinea-Bissau." Accessed August 13, 2018.

[8]Relief Web. "Peacebuilding Commission adopts strategic framework for Guinea-Bissau, paving way for generating wealth, reforming security sector, strengthening law enforcement." Accessed August 16, 2018.

[9] United Nations . "Security Council Authorizes Six-Month Extension of United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau, Requests Successor Integrated Operation." Accessed August 16, 2018.


[11]Ledy, Nephthali M. "Guinea Bissau: Aristides Gomes appointed prime minister." Financial Afrik. Accessed August 16, 2018.

[12]Peacebuilding Commision. "Partnerships for Financing for Peace." Accessed August 15, 2018.

1 Comment

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