Mr Lehtonen was the last speaker on the first day of our Study Tour and his topic was anticipated by many of us, especially because it was so topical. Mr Lehtonen gave us a briefing on the work of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) before going on to discuss the Peacebuilding Support Office, where he works. The Peacebuilding Commission, an intergovernmental advisory body in the United Nations (UN) system, supports countries that have suffered from conflict and assists them in building and/or rebuilding structures that will nurture sustainable peace. Its main aim is to bring together all relevant actors in the field (combining security and development aspects) and thereby optimise peacebuilding efforts. Moreover, since adequate funding is the key to successful peacebuilding, one of the Commission’s tasks is to marshal resources. Additionally, there is a voluntary Peacebuilding Fund, where donors may contribute additional resources that can be made available quickly when necessary.
As Mr Lehtonen told us, the UN’s new peacebuilding architecture was established after the World Summit in 2005 and it has sought to find innovative and more efficient ways to support the successful rebuilding of peaceful societal structures. The PBC and the Peacebuilding Support Office is only about to gain more experience by dealing with the current cases of Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and the Central African Republic. Yet despite the challenges and difficulties of the task, Mr Lehtonen told us that he considers his work rather innovative.
The Commission was established by both Security Council (Resolution S/RES/1645 (2005)) and General Assembly resolutions and consists of 31 Members. Seven of them come from the Security Council, including its Permanent Members. The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council are each allowed to elect another seven Members. Five more Members come from the biggest financial contributors to the UN budget so that they know where their contributions are being spent. The last five Members are sent by the biggest contributors to the UN Blue Helmets so that they have a say when it comes to where to send their forces. By splitting up the Commission’s Members into representatives from different countries and different backgrounds, the UN pays tribute to its many diverse Member States and their aims.
Mr Lehtonen briefly outlined the structure of the UN peacebuilding architecture. The first pillar is the Peacebuilding Commission itself. The second pillar consists of the Peacebuilding Fund, which was established to raise additional funds for Peacebuilding with an initial funding target of US$ 250 million. At present, more than 45 donors have contributed over US$ 300 million to the fund in order to assist countries in their efforts to recover from conflict and create peaceful structures. The Fund can provide catalytic assistance at a time when other funding mechanisms may not be available for pressing peacebuilding needs.
The last pillar is the Peacebuilding Support Office, where Mr Lehtonen himself is dedicated to improving the strategic frameworks of today’s peacebuilding. This of course includes analyzing the lessons learned in the UN system and wider as well as country-specific data and developing peacebuilding strategies that address the particular needs in each unique situation. Mr Lehtonen often mentioned the projects in Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic where he has been personally involved in work related to peacebuilding strategies adopted by the PBC. He has been working in this field for the last year and likes to remember the words of Kofi Annan during the opening session of the PBC in 2006: ‘The Commission represents a symbol of both hope and perseverance: hope for the many millions of people throughout the world who are striving to keep their societies on the fragile road to peace; and perseverance, because you have overcome considerable difficulties to get this new and vital endeavour up and running.’ (UN Press Release PBC/1 of 23 June 2006)
At the end, Mr Lehtonen was happy to answer all our questions and we were very grateful for the interesting insight he was willing to give us in the course of our UN Study Tour as well as for the vivid discussion.