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The capacity of UN agencies, funds and programmes to sustain peace: an independent review

Research report

Written by Sara Pantuliano, Victoria Metcalfe-Hough, Alastair McKechnie

Research report

The ‘sustaining peace’ agenda emerged in 2015 amidst increasing calls for a more effective and cost-efficient UN system that can meet the world's current challenges to global peace and security. The concept of ‘sustaining peace’ espouses a whole-of-system approach that builds on all three pillars of the UN system – human rights, peace and security, and development – in a mutually reinforcing way. But the UN has as yet little systematic evaluation of the extent to which its agencies, funds and programmes' (AFPs) objectives and operations do or could actually help in sustaining peace.

For some AFPs, including the UN Development Programme, UNESCO, the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration, the sustaining peace agenda lies at the heart of their existing mandates and areas of intervention. For others, particularly those with a greater humanitarian focus, understanding their role in sustaining peace is more challenging. The capacities of AFPs to deliver on the UN’s commitment to sustaining peace is also linked to the behaviour of member states – and specifically their granting of the political, financial and operational space AFPs need to get on with their work.

But these capacities are not currently being maximised, AFPs' comparative advantages as individual agencies are not being fully exploited, and their collective potential is undermined by competition over funding lack of authoritative leadership at country level and the absence of a shared understanding of and commitment to sustaining peace. Addressing this will require concerted efforts by individual AFPs across the spectrum. The review offers strategic goals, objectives and corresponding actions and principles to address the specific actions needed to enhance the capacities of AFPs to sustain peace.

It considers the capacities of AFPs with a view to recommending how they may be augmented in order to enhance the wider UN system’s efforts to sustain peace, with five case in Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia and the Philippines. Noting the many competing agendas and operational priorities currently facing AFPs, it argues that facilitating the transformational change that is required to reorient them towards sustaining peace will necessitate consistent and clear messaging and objective-setting, including operational and political direction and support from the secretary-general and his leadership team.

Sara Pantuliano, Victoria Metcalfe-Hough and Alastair McKechnie