Peacebuilding Commission: Challenges and Expectations

3/25/2008 // "We have come a long way since last year last year when negotiations on the Peacebuilding Commission were taking place," MP Finn Martin Vallersnes said at the 2006 Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations. 

The following statement was given at the two days meeting Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding: Reinforcing The Key Role of the United Nations.

Mr Chairman,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We have come a long way since last year last year when negotiations on the Peace Building Commission were taking place. 

A month ago, the Commission had its two first country specific meetings on Burundi and Sierra Leone and the United Nations Peace Building Fund was launched. 

 We now have a brand new and innovative set-up at our disposal.  We must make good use of it.  It must make a difference where it is needed, in post-conflict countries.

I am pleased to hear that the first country specific meetings of the Commission were satisfactory.  I dare not use the word successful, because success will only prove itself when we see concrete results.  I applaud the fact that the meetings were open, with representatives of civil society present.  However, the Commission and the Fund can facilitate, but not build peace. 

This can only be achieved by domestic actors.  It is the governments, the parliaments, and civil society that make peace work together. They must make use of the Commission as an arena for dialogue and for cooperation between their country and the international society.

It takes time to build peace in a war torn society. Lately peace keepers had to return to Haiti and to Timor Leste. The first years after a peace agreement are crucial to the future of the country involved. The sources of the initial conflict often remain unsolved, tensions persist.  In his report to the General Assembly; the Secretary General makes a valid point in this regard:  once new violence breaks out, it becomes even more difficult to build trust in the possibility of a peaceful future together. This must be avoided at all costs.

The challenges facing the Commission are obvious. But we must make it work! What is needed is transformation of words and advice into concrete policies. This requires a serious commitment from all involved, actors at the national level and the international community. It also requires funding. My country Norway has so far contributed about 30 million USD to the Fund.  I hope that many other countries will join us and support the Fund at the best of their capacity

Parliament is the central institution of democracy and absolutely necessary for the transition from conflict to peace.  As I said last year, I am convinced that national parliaments not only play a crucial role, but an indispensable role in peace building.  I don't think that this role of national parliaments has been sufficiently understood. 

I think we must give parliaments more support in post-conflict situations. I am therefore very pleased that the International Parliamentary Union was invited to participate at the recent round table on Burundi, and I am pleased that the IPU in its activity plan for 2007 stresses support to parliaments in post-conflict countries. 

Lasting peace is only possible within a democratic society where the founding principles and values are freedom, participation, human rights and the rule of law.  There is little chance of building a democratic future if the peace building process itself is not democratic. Such a process must therefore include different political forces, as well as civil society, not only the views and interests represented  in government.

The tasks of parliaments in a post-conflict situation are daunting.  Parliaments ensure that decision-making processes are inclusive and representative of all interests in society. They protect the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups. Parliament should be the guardian of human rights and must contribute to national dialogue and reconciliation at all levels.  A democratically elected parliament is in other words at the very centre of democracy-building and peace building in any society.

The support to or creation of well-functioning, representative national assemblies should be a top priority for any country, not least those in a post-conflict situation.  We expect the Peace Building Commission both to encourage and to support these processes.

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