Conflict and Fragility

Reports and papers

Challenges and opportunities to peacebuilding

18 Jul 2013 - 14:18

The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) was established in October 2006, with the intention to support interventions of direct and immediate relevance to peacebuilding processes and to contribute towards addressing critical gaps in such processes. The UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) has now commissioned a global review of the Fund in order to assess the PBF’s effectiveness in fulfilling these objectives. This CRU report provides input for that global review by presenting an overview of the key strategic issues that have affected the Fund’s performance in the past, as identified by country-specific PBF evaluations conducted in 2010-2012.

The country-specific evaluations provide a mixed picture of the relevance and effectiveness of PBF funded activities; all portfolios contain successful and less successful projects. Given that the Fund is supposed to kick-start and consolidate peacebuilding processes in complex and politically sensitive (immediate) post-conflict situations, addressing critical (funding) gaps in those processes, the Fund is required to be innovative and risk-taking, which in itself explains why not all projects are successful. Since the Fund’s mechanisms also rely heavily on the commitment and capacities of in-country stakeholders – like the partner government, UN agencies and (local) implementing organisations – and that these actors often require sensitisation and training in peacebuilding programming skills (vis-à-vis ‘traditional’ development programming), a mixed success rate is understandable. Overall, most of the evaluations find that the PBF in one way or another has made a positive contribution to peacebuilding in country.

Notwithstanding these positive contributions, the country-specific evaluations also all underline the need to strengthen the strategic focus of PBF interventions in a country, in order to enhance the peacebuilding impact of the Fund. The evaluations exemplify the difficulties of identifying what does and what does not constitute peacebuilding. Although one can question the usefulness of entering into a definitional debate, it is important to acknowledge that the potential impact of a relatively small fund like the PBF is hindered when virtually anything can be defined as peacebuilding; more strategic focus is needed as the Fund can be literally spread too thin over a wide variety of post-conflict recovery needs.

This analysis identifies a number of strategic issues related to the PBF’s business model and its strategic positioning that require further analysis in the PBF global review 2013.