Speakers: Gareth Evans, Member of the HLP and President, International Crisis Group; Carlos Pascual, Coordinator, Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization, United States Department of State; General William Nash, (USA, ret.), Director, Center for Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations; Moderated by David Birenbaum, Senior Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN for UN Management and Reform.

The recent release of the "Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change" (High-level Panel Report) comes at a time of great uncertainty regarding the future of the United Nations. This Report will help inform discussion on the reform of the UN, particularly the composition of the Security Council, UN management, oversight, and mission. This meeting, the first in a four-part series, addressed peacebuilding efforts, how to respond, and who should manage post-conflict situations.

The High Level Panel (HLP) Report proffers 101 recommendations, with a handful of those referring to peacebuilding and peacekeeping, Evans said. He referred to this handful of recommendations as "the most important," because they relate to a recurring theme throughout the Report—namely the "phenomenon of failed, fragile, and failing states." It is primarily from these types of states that the six threats delineated in the Panel's Report emerge and grow: threats from poverty, disease and environmental breakdown; threats from conflict between states; threats from violence and massive human rights violations; threats from terrorism; threats from organized crime; and threats from proliferation of weapons.

In his comments, Evans differentiated between the recommendations for peacekeeping and peacebuilding. He pointed out that the recommendations call for more robust peacekeeping mandates, a certain number of troops per mission, and a recommendation that the UN develop its own peacekeeping corps.

The second set of recommendations for peacebuilding operations specifies how the UN can better achieve disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR). Evans said that these recommendations "recognize the centrality of DDR in peacekeeping tasks." The Report proposes that DDR be facilitated through the creation of a $250 million start-up fund, through the insistence on better coordination during operations, and through recognition that reintegration and rehabilitation are of paramount importance in any peacebuilding exercise.

To better respond to crises within states under stress and more specifically to post-conflict countries, the High Level Panel recommends the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission. Evans explained that this body would be a subsidiary of the UN Security Council under Article 29 of the Charter. Its composition would be reflective of key players whose involvement in addressing the crisis is crucial and would be based on country assessments, adapting itself to specific requirements and situations on the ground.

General William Nash, although supportive of the idea of the Peacebuilding Commission, cautioned that it might not remedy the situation on the ground. His extensive field experience has shown him that organization and coordination present the largest problems on the ground. Lines of authority are often blurred, and coordination among interested parties can be minimal; "more organizations in New York do not translate into better operations in the field," he said.

Because of this lack of organization on the ground, Nash pinpointed personnel as the priority for reform within the UN. Personnel on the ground should be competent, maintain standards, and understand the lines of authority. However, he also stressed that the United States must look within itself to have success in peacekeeping operations. "We have met the UN, and it is us," he said.

The Report, however, serves a greater purpose than simply offering a long list of recommendations. According to Ambassador Pascual, the Report also provides foreign governments with a new urgency, forcing countries in Europe and North America to form domestic joint-operation peacekeeping offices to work with the UN.

In furthering discussion about the Peacebuilding Commission, Ambassador Pascual attempted to put forth an organizational structure for the Commission, which he analogized to that of the National Security Council. He suggested that the Commission be headed by a Deputy Secretary General and be comprised of six offices that each deal with a specific aspect of post-conflict reconstruction. These offices should draw from UN agencies and be staffed with experts in those topical areas. This structure, he believes, will enable more effective coordination and integration. However, ultimately, he agreed with General Nash in stating that the difference between success and failure depends on what happens on the ground.

The Conflict Prevention Project's four-part meeting series on the High-level Panel Report is funded through the generosity of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Campaign.

Drafted by Anton Ghosh