Updated: Mar 3, 2022
By Francesca Feltrin (December, 2020)
Table of Contents
Definition of Sustaining Peace
Current Events in Sustaining Peace
The UN has been working tirelessly to achieve peace worldwide since its creation and the ending of World War II in 1945. Unfortunately, it has not been an easy task that can be completed fast and with permanent results; throughout decades and the implementation of different bodies to work in bringing peace in areas of conflict, there has been a mix of successful and failed events. In 2005 the UN admitted to flaws in their peace plans and the utilization of peacemaking and peacekeeping solutions and their ineffectiveness in bringing about long-term results. They were so focused on creating an easy and fast peace in those areas, but they realized that the root causes of the conflicts were still there, and they thus were igniting the same issues all over again. At this time, the UN created a new agency - the UN Peacebuilding Commission with the vision of helping countries that have ended violent conflict to then not relapse into new ones. The Commission helped implement successful peacebuilding strategies and utilizing their knowledge and what they have learned from peacemaking and peacekeeping to improve the final result. In 2015, the UN realized that there was still much work to do to make peacebuilding effective after the drafting of a progress report, which suggested a better collaboration between UN bodies and renewing the scope of building a durable peace and helping with social transformation.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hosts a dialogue on sustaining peace. New York, January 24, 2017 (Manuel Elias/United Nations Photos)
In 2016, they implemented a resolution that officially introduced sustaining peace, which then became the highest priority. This new term focused on building peace from the foundation to be long-lasting and to include everybody’s needs. In 2019, the United Nations Office for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UN DPPA) was created as a single agency that would bring all together all the other agencies working on peace and focus them together on preventing conflict and engaging in peacemaking, managing political crises, and violent conflicts, sustaining peace and enhancing partnerships. I will be explaining the definition of sustaining peace, the origin of the terms, and the foundation behind the idea by including important milestones and current examples of sustaining peace missions.
Definition of Sustaining Peace
The definition of sustaining peace as defined by the UN is focused on the prevention, resolution, and stopping the recurrence of violent conflict by the creation of a society that has a single vision and works towards the same goal. Sustaining peace is not only crucial in post-conflict areas but also in the area where consensus already exists. In the cases of post-conflict regions, we are not only looking to create peace, but the goal is to find the root causes of disagreement, and they need to be immediately addressed to build the foundation of a long-term peaceful society. On the other hand, in a peaceful country, the goal is to improve and reinforce the local and national institutions to prevent the rise of possible disruptions and wars. The achievement of sustaining peace is also not considered a one-person job done by the UN. Still, it is a national task undertaken by the local and state government and internal stakeholders including civil society. The presence of the UN is essentially only for guidance towards reconciliation, reconstruction, and development. Sustaining peace works on national resilience because it is necessary to create a strong foundation for the society to develop and grow. If a robust governmental infrastructure and social institutions are made with the sole purpose of serving the people and adapting to the different needs that arise, we are a step closer to reaching long-term peace.
The term sustaining peace is relatively new, the UN introduced it during the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 27 April 2016, and it was meant to be a better and upgraded version of peacebuilding. If we look back at similar definitions, we find the theoretical basis of sustaining peace in the works of Johan Galtung’s describing “Positive Peace.” Galtung describes “positive peace” as a deep change into different parties. They are all working together in symbiosis, thanks to equality and harmony(Galtung,2015). Society, government, and any other parties involved have the same goal and means. The concept of positive peace is not only talking about the absence of violence but the elimination of any root cause of conflicts and the necessity of building a society that supports everyone creating a harmonious environment.
Sustaining peace comes after the extensive works of peacebuilding of the UN that, unfortunately, were not always successful. The UN worked under a version of peacebuilding that was still based on peacekeeping actions; because of this, they were only able to prevent violence from arising after a short time, but when we looked at the long-term solution, they were failing to succeed . The former work was based on international bodies’ rebuilding and reshaping a country post-conflict, but this would also create unhappiness inside the national bodies because they were not in control of the decisions. On top of this, the lack of funding and expertise made progress even slower in achieving. These were a few reasons for the many relapses into conflict after implementation and the work of the UN in peacebuilding. So after many failures, they started working on a new meaning and position that was going to be more transparent and inclusive of the national institutions. The UN now is not in charge of decision-making but simply acts as an advisor, helping the country focus on finding the causes of conflict and bringing the society together to work towards a common goal. Sustaining peace combines the ideas of peace-keeping and peace-building in a new UN agency called the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPPA).
Some of the most critical milestones documenting the UN’s progress from peacebuilding to sustaining peace are the following.
This critical report from the Secretary-General mentions the importance of looking at the sources of conflicts. To help countries in those difficult situations, it is important to make them remember and educate them on the importance of human rights, freedoms, having a sustainable economy, and social development. This report came after many countries went through profound changes caused by decolonization. wars, racism, economic and social problems were creating instability and generating 17 million refugees and 20 million displaced persons. Thus the United Nations hoped to:
Be able to identify early stages of instability or sources of danger before the situations escalate into significant conflicts;
Engage in peace-making to solve the problem at the root and always address those issues so a good peace foundation can be built for the future;
Incorporate peace-keeping and secure peace in areas post-conflict;
Be ready to help in peacebuilding and rebuild a peaceful society.
The report also repeatedly mentions the importance of peacebuilding and how it is essential to support institutions and infrastructures to avoid a relapse into conflict.
In this report, the Secretary-General is discussing how the UN has failed in an attempt to bring peace in the zone of conflict. There have been many relapses, and they are suggesting the creation of separate bodies to fill the gaps in the United Nations:
Peacebuilding Commission has a more of an administrative role in supporting and helping the creation of different strategies for peacebuilding, it does also have other functions like:
Be the primary source for information and help develop the institution necessary for the recovery after a conflict.
Help manage finance and how to use at best the funding available.
Making sure throughout the recovery progress that everything is working smoothly by planning meetings every couple of months to discuss progress and possible problems that were encountered.
Provide and ensure that recovering countries have enough funding, and they are not forgotten.
Countries with recently experienced conflict have access to the commission, but the goal is to prevent war. In this case, the commission helps avoid conflict before it happens by offering help and suggestions on how the government can act.
All parties are involved: government, military, NGO, and UN.
Coordinate financing and funds to ensure they are used to reach the goal.
Peacebuilding Support Office:
Prepare the inputs for the Peacebuilding commission meetings like financial and activities analysis of the members of the Peacebuilding Commission.
Provide analysis and information during the planning process for peacebuilding
Standing Fund for Peace building:
The Standing Fund is really important in sustaining and supporting peacebuilding activities and providing support for new authorities.
It also works in searching and finding new sources of funding.
"Sustaining Peace" is being reaffirmed as the primary goal to help build a society with a shared vision, address the root cause of conflict, prevention of conflict, assisting and help towards recovery to countries who have been affected by war and violence. Respect for human rights is vital, and it is essential to create peace. This document also restated the importance of the government's participation, all the national stakeholders including civil society to build sustainable peace, and guided and advised by the United Nations to reach their final goal.
In this report by the Secretary-General, we have a description of actions that have been taken to improve the work of the Peacebuilding Commission and the establishment of sustaining peace in different areas of the world. The main goal is still the prevention of crises. Since January 2019, the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Support Office, Standing Fund and the Department of Political Affairs have been fused into the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPPA). The fusion of those departments has created tremendous opportunities to improve the organization's work in the field. This new development focuses on integrating different strategic plans that include "humanitarian assistance, disaster risk reduction, and peacebuilding efforts." Two essential points of focus to reach sustaining peace are the inclusion and the safeguard of women and children. Countries receive help from the Peacebuilding Fund, UNDP, UNICEF, World Bank, and UN Women to include everybody to reach the final goal of sustaining peace.
Current Events in Sustaining Peace
Women and Youth
Sustaining peace is also focusing on the importance of the role of women and youth in helping to reach the final goal. Women in areas of conflict are more often subject to abuse, aggression, and violation of their human rights, so it is essential that during the discussion and efforts towards peace, that their voices and opinion are included. How women are treated in a country is a great predictor to see if a country will be prosperous in maintaining and sustaining peace. Research has shown that where the inclusion of the civilian population and, in particular, women has occurred, then there is 50% more success in keeping peace accords.
(Photos via Joint Peace Fund)
A strong representation of youth in peacebuilding is equally crucial because they are the future of society. Participation and the education of the youth can help to maintain peace and make sure that everyone is included and heard. An important factor that is emphasized in the sustaining peace definition is youth employment. The employment of the youth can give the opportunity to grow and sustain the economy, help rebuild the country, and keep them away from involvement in violent events. The education of the youth on the struggle of maintaining peace may inspire them to help contribute to the successful efforts to achieve sustainable peace because it may affect their near future.
Sustaining Peace in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)
In 2012 after decades of instability, there was a rise of attacks from a Muslim Séléka group in the Central African Republic, which killed thousands and brought disruption nationwide. People were left in starvation, and there was a high need for humanitarian aid. The UN thus established MINUSCA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic). One of their main goals was to protect civilians from armed groups. But they are also working to sustain the current government and advise it in creating the best conditions for peace to prosper, including helping the entire population in decision-making, including women, youth, victims of sexual assault, etc. The work being implemented in CAR (Central African Republic) is based on sustaining peace and trying to help this country overcome conflict and bring everybody together through peace agreements and involving the citizens directly in the decision-making processes. In the Secretary-General’s report of 12 October 2020, he described the unstable situations caused by the upcoming elections and the disruptions since the beginning of this year caused by COVID-19. Representatives of the Central Africa Republic and MINUSCA are working together in a political dialogue to guarantee a full transparent political dialogue. There are still many reports of violation of the political agreement and illegal military activities affecting civilians and humanitarian organizations. Unfortunately, because of the situations with COVID-19 many actions from national stakeholders, the UN, civil society, and the government are slowed down, and few steps back have been made in the work of sustaining peace. The Secretary-General states that a lot of work needs to be done to reach sustaining peace, and hopefully, after the election, national institutions and civil society will work together towards peace.
COVID-19 and The Risk to Regions Destabilized Economically and Politically
In this case, we do not have a country with an ongoing conflict, but with the continuing pandemic and the extensive damage that the economy has taken in 2020, and thus many regions possibly become at risk for rising violent conflict. Their economies are disrupted, and there is a high level of unemployment. Not only the health care system has been compromised, but there are also worsening violent conflicts. The work for sustaining peace has to be stronger than ever. The escalation of conflict in high-risk zones increases arises, and we are worrying about violence and famine subsequently developing, along withrising infection of COVID-19. Radical groups might take advantage of those demanding situations to stir up violence and conflict and utilize the resulting general chaos in their favor to obtain favors from the people.
With the support of MINUSCA, some Central African painters contribute through a series of wall frescoes in the 8 districts of the capital.
In conclusion, the UN’s work towards a good plan for implementing sustainable peace is still not easy and remains very complicated. It is vital to note that the UN stepped up when they realized that their peacebuilding work was not as successful as they had hoped. They immediately tackled the problem and came up with a new solution and created a new agency that integrates all the aspects that should be necessary to reach sustaining peace. Sustaining peace is not an easy goal, but it is the optimum goal for peace in conflict zones. It is essential to involve the government, national stakeholders, civil society and the UN to work towards the final destination. Even in moments of uncertainty like this year that have been characterized by many tragedies and the work for sustaining peace must never stop, and now more than ever, post-conflict zones need us.
1- Almqvist, 2014, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265229361_A_Peacebuilding_Commission_for_the_United_Nations
2- Kirshbaum, 2018
4-UN DPPA, https://dppa.un.org/en/what-we-do
5-UN General Assembly A/69/968 - S/2015/490
8- IPI International Peace Institute (2017)
9-Peace Johan Galtung, TRANSCEND Peace University
11- United Nation. 2001. “PEACE-BUILDING CAN BE POWERFUL DETERRENT TO CONFLICT, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD.”
22- UN General Assembly A/69/968 - S/2015/490
24- Nilsson (2012),
25-UN General Assembly A/69/968 - S/2015/490
26- MINUSCA, https://minusca.unmissions.org/en/about
27- MINUSCA, https://minusca.unmissions.org/en/mandate
28-(Security Council UN 2020, S/2020/994)
29-(Security Council 2020, SC/14275)
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