While the obstacles to realising inclusivity in peacebuilding have been identified in a number of reports in recent years, a deeper and contextualised understanding of how meaningful inclusion is pursued in practice at the country level is still needed.
Inclusivity is particularly vital as the UN supports countries in mitigating and recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and follows through on interlinked reforms affecting its development and management systems, and its work on peace and security.
This raises an important but complex question: how does the UN, working at the country level, understand and act on international policy recognition of the importance of social, economic and political inclusion for sustainable peace and development?
This report explores how, and to what extent, the UN promotes and supports inclusivity in its policy, programming and stakeholder engagement processes in four country contexts: Colombia, the Gambia, Jordan and Sri Lanka.
The Foundation's ‘Realising Inclusivity’ Initiative acknowledges the concept of inclusivity as an established policy norm, affirming the idea that diverse groups should have a say in processes that affect them.Read more
Inclusivity in four international normative frameworks
While many policy frameworks emphasise the importance of inclusivity for promoting sustainable peace and development, this report discusses four specific international normative frameworks operationalised by the UN at the country level.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Adopted in 2015 by all UN Member States, the 2030 Agenda contains at its core a pledge ‘that no one will be left behind’.
The Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace Agenda
The twin 2016 resolutions on the UN's peacebuilding architecture stress the role of inclusivity in peacebuilding processes.
The Women, Peace and Security Agenda
The WPS Agenda addresses the pivotal role women play in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
The Youth, Peace and Security Agenda
The YPS Agenda recognises the contributions of young people in preventing and resolving conflicts and building peace.
Milestones in the four frameworks
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015 by all UN Member States with the intention of guiding all countries in their development, contains at its core a pledge ‘that no one will be left behind’. This section lists a number of important milestones in the development of the 2030 Agenda.
World leaders adopt the UN Millennium Declaration, a commitment to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty. The Declaration also sets out a series of targets – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – to be met by 2015.
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio 20+) results in a focused political outcome document, ‘The Future We Want’, which contains clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development. Member States decide to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to build on the MDGs and converge with the post-2015 development agenda.
For the first time, the theme of the UN Economic and Social Council’s Youth Forum takes the MDGs and SDGs into consideration.
The UN General Assembly adopts a landmark resolution, ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, presenting ‘a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity’. The resolution outlines a set of 17 development-related targets – the SDGs – to be met by 2030 and contains the pledge ‘that no one will be left behind’.
In September, Heads of State and Government gather at UN Headquarters in New York for the first SDG Summit–High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development to follow up and comprehensively review progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs.
In October, the UN General Assembly endorses a Political Declaration, ‘Gearing up for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development’. World leaders call for a ‘Decade of Action’ to deliver the SDGs by 2030 and announce actions they are taking to advance the 2030 Agenda. More than 100 acceleration actions have so far been announced.
End of the first cycle of 2030 Agenda implementation and review.
The Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace Agenda
The twin 2016 resolutions passed by the UN Security Council and General Assembly on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture (commonly referred to as the Sustaining Peace resolutions) emphasise inclusivity as ‘key to advancing national peacebuilding processes’. This section lists a number of important milestones in the development of the Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace Agenda.
The Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations (commonly known as the Brahimi report), underscoring the importance of the UN establishing more effective strategies for conflict prevention, is presented to the General Assembly and Security Council.
The General Assembly and Security Council adopt twin resolutions (A/RES/60/180 and S/RES/1645) establishing the UN’s peacebuilding architecture, including the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office. The resolutions also contain a request for the Secretary-General to establish a peacebuilding fund.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan establishes the Peacebuilding Fund, the UN’s financial instrument of first resort to sustain peace in countries or situations at risk or affected by violent conflict.
As part of a review of UN peacebuilding, ‘Challenge of sustaining peace: Report of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Review of the UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture‘ is presented to the General Assembly and Security Council. The concept of sustaining peace is introduced, recognising peacebuilding as a process that is needed before, during and after conflict.
The General Assembly and Security Council adopt twin resolutions (A/RES/70/262 and S/RES/2282) on the review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture. The resolutions endorse the concept of sustaining peace and underline the importance of inclusivity in advancing sustaining peace and in particular the role of civil society, women and youth in the prevention and resolution of conflict.
In January, the Secretary-General’s 2018 report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace calls for the UN to improve its engagement with civil society at the local level.
In April, the General Assembly and Security Council adopt twin resolutions (A/RES/72/276 and S/RES/2413), calling on the Secretary-General to submit an interim report on peacebuilding, including financing of peacebuilding, and a comprehensive report as part of the 2020 review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture.
In May, the UN and the World Bank publish a joint study, Pathways for Peace, arguing that the key to preventing crises is investment in inclusive and sustainable development and that inclusive decision making is fundamental to sustainable peace.
The 2019 report of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding and sustaining peace notes that ‘strategic partnerships with regional and sub-regional partners on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace remain a priority for the UN’.
In August, the Peacebuilding Support Office, with support of a joint UN–civil society working group, publishes the UN Community Engagement Guidelines. The guidelines aim to support UN field presences in developing country-specific community engagement strategies on peacebuilding and sustaining peace; and provide operational guidance to UN field presences on how to more effectively engage with civil society actors at the local level in peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
In December, the General Assembly and Security Council adopt twin resolutions (A/RES/75/201 and S/RES/2558) completing the 2020 review, noting that the lack of adequate financing remains a critical challenge to sustainable peace and calling for a comprehensive review of UN peacebuilding in 2025.
The Women, Peace and Security Agenda
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) recognises the important role of women in promoting peace. This section lists a number of important milestones in the development of the WPS Agenda.
The United Nations approves the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), guaranteeing women equality in public, private, economic and social life.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including language on women, peace and security, is unanimously adopted by 189 countries at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
The UN Security Council adopts landmark Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), addressing the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and the pivotal role women should and do play in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
UN Security Council Resolution 1889 calls for the development of indicators to measure implementation of Resolution 1325.
The UN Peacebuilding Commission adopts a declaration, entitled ‘Women’s economic empowerment for peacebuilding’, acknowledging the need for women’s direct participation and economic empowerment for sustainable peace.
UN Security Council Resolution 2122 affirms an ‘integrated approach’ to sustainable peace, setting out concrete methods for increasing women’s participation and recognising the need to address root causes of armed conflict and security risks faced by women.
A Global Study on the Implementation of Resolution 1325, commissioned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as part of a review of UN peace and security, highlights good practices, gaps, challenges, emerging trends and priorities for action on the WPS Agenda.
UN Security Council Resolution 2242 highlights the importance of collaboration with civil society and calls for increased funding for gender-responsive training, analysis and programmes.
The Peacebuilding Commission adopts a Gender Strategy to ensure a more structural and systematic integration of gender perspectives across its work, including in its country and region-specific engagements, thematic discussions and dialogues with other intergovernmental organisations.
The Youth, Peace and Security Agenda
UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) underscores the need to acknowledge and engage young people as active agents of change. This section lists a number of important milestones in the development of the YPS Agenda.
In August, young people at the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security in Amman, Jordan, adopt the Amman Youth Declaration (PDF), highlighting what is needed to partner with youth in preventing conflict and building a lasting peace.
In December, the UN Security Council adopts Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, which recognises the contributions of young people in preventing and resolving conflicts and building peace.
In March, The Missing Peace, an independent report commissioned by UN Secretary-General António Guterres (and as requested by Resolution 2250) calls on governments and the multilateral system to invest in young people’s capacities, address the structural barriers that limit youth participation in peace and security, and prioritise partnerships and collaborative action with young people themselves.
In June, the UN Security Council adopts S/RES/2419, underscoring the meaningful participation of young people as critical to sustainable peace and advancing the 2030 Agenda and urging stakeholders to facilitate young people’s equal and full participation in peace and decision-making processes at all levels.
In September, the Secretary-General launches Youth 2030: The UN Youth Strategy in an effort to strengthen the UN’s capacity to engage young people.
The UN Security Council adopts S/RES/2535, calling on the protection of young people, the engagement of youth of diverse backgrounds and regular reporting on youth, peace and security.
The case studies
The report synthesises the experiences and perspectives of civil society, UN representatives and government, gathered through country case studies conducted in 2019–20 in Colombia, the Gambia, Jordan and Sri Lanka.
The UN has maintained a presence in Colombia since 1954. The UN Country Team (Naciones Unidas Colombia) currently encompasses 26 agencies, funds and programmes.
Since the official end of the armed conflict between the Colombian Government and FARC-EP, the UN has aimed to play a fundamental role in ensuring the inclusion of youth, women and victims of the conflict in the peace process.
However, this has required the UN to change the way it frames inclusion in its relations with the government, for example by emphasising the SDGs rather than sustaining peace.
The UN has been present in the Gambia since 1975. The UN Country Team consists of 23 agencies, funds and programmes, including 11 non-resident UN entities with regional offices.
The Gambia’s recent transition from dictatorship to democracy is seen by many in the UN as an opportunity to enhance cooperation with the government in strengthening inclusion.
However, high staff rotation has affected institutional capacities. This, among other issues, makes it more difficult for the UN and other actors to develop sustainable relationships with the government, at times delaying project implementation.
The UN has had a presence in Jordan since 1976. A total of 24 UN agencies, funds and programmes are currently active in Jordan, including three non-resident agencies.
The UN in Jordan has promoted inclusion both directly and indirectly in its programming. For instance, in collaboration with the government, it has worked to advance inclusion through evidence-based policy development and data management.
However, contextual factors have created a challenging environment in which to promote inclusivity and implement international normative frameworks.
The United Nations first established a presence in Sri Lanka in 1952. Today, the UN Country Team is composed of 22 UN agencies, funds, programmes and offices.
International technical expertise provided by the UN has supported key peacebuilding mechanisms in Sri Lanka that impact the lives of marginalised and war-affected communities.
However, the changing and often volatile political and security context in Sri Lanka has created a challenging environment for promoting inclusivity in the country.
UN Country Teams and inclusivity
The case studies show that in all four country contexts the UN incorporates the inclusion of women, youth and other vulnerable groups in its strategies and programming, either directly or indirectly responding to the four international frameworks.
The UN at the country level also makes efforts to engage with civil society, although to varying degrees. At the same time, greater efforts are needed to ensure that meaningful inclusion of marginalised groups – beyond tokenistic engagement – is systematically prioritised across all areas of the UN’s work.
Drawing from the analysis in the country studies, the UN’s diverse efforts to promote inclusivity can be grouped under five main approaches.
Five approaches to advancing inclusion
Programming with marginalised groups as primary beneficiaries
Consultations and engagement as input to the UN’s work
Supporting broad engagement in national processes
Providing technical assistance to national policy development
Providing funding for civil society initiatives
Common obstacles to realising inclusivity
The report identifies seven recurring obstacles to realising inclusivity:
- Domestic political and cultural barriers to inclusion.
- The use of technical language and jargon.
- A lack of awareness of policy frameworks.
- Unclear links between the frameworks themselves.
- Tokenistic engagement with civil society.
- A lack of adequate and flexible funding.
- Insufficient coordination between UN agencies.
The Foundation hopes that this report can serve as a discussion starter and inform continued dialogue between civil society, UN Country Teams, UN Headquarters and governments on what is needed to strengthen inclusivity and in particular the role of the UN in these processes.
The UN’s new Community Engagement Guidelines are a step in the right direction in thinking about how it can better support local peacebuilders. Only time will tell the extent to which the guidelines are implemented and UN Country Teams find them useful in their work supporting inclusive peacebuilding.
With ongoing reform processes at the UN and a new generation of UN Country Teams taking shape, all stages of UN programming – from analysis to prioritisation and operationalisation of strategies, as well as monitoring and evaluation – must consider the inclusion of marginalised groups to ensure no one is left behind.
Moving forward: steps to realise inclusivity
Building on the findings presented in the report, the Foundation is organising a series of seminars and roundtables to foster continued dialogue between United Nations staff, civil society, government officials and multilateral institutions on what is needed to realise inclusivity at the country level.
With a focus on what the UN can do to promote and support inclusivity in its programmatic and advocacy work, this section collects a wide range of views, ideas and experiences gathered as part of the seminars and roundtables on engaging with the UN at the country level; good practices for the UN in supporting inclusion at the country level; and what is needed enhance efforts by the UN to promote inclusion. It will be updated over time to capture key reflections and takeaways from the discussions on what action is needed to move forward and make inclusivity a reality.
Realising Inclusivity: The UN, a Champion for Youth?
24 March 2021
This roundtable with young peacebuilders focused on the work of the UN at the country level to strengthen youth participation and operationalise the YPS agenda and how these efforts could be further enhanced.
- Many young people feel that the UN is not accessible to them and their needs. Some do not understand what the UN really does or how it could be a resource to them in their work. Meaningful communication channels between the UN and youth should be created to allow young people to more easily access UN staff at the country level and provide input to project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
- Innovative solutions that reach out to youth in their own spaces, including outreach through schools and camps, should be prioritised. Young people should be engaged in designing outreach strategies, as they know how to communicate with youth through their own channels, including those who are most marginalised.
- The UN has a role to play in raising awareness on YPS (and breaking it down into its five pillars) at the national level, particularly among national policymakers. There is also a need to shift traditional power structures by facilitating equal and meaningful conversations between youth, governments and national stakeholders, in which youth voices are at the centre, and connecting informal with formal processes.
Realising Inclusivity: Operationalising global normative frameworks at the country level
30 March 2021
This interactive roundtable brought together representatives from international civil society organisations, working primarily at the global policy level, to share their reflections on efforts by the UN in supporting inclusivity. Discussions also explored entry points for collectively advocating at the global policy level for greater inclusion in UN peace and development efforts.
- International NGOs and civil society are often too reliant on the UN infrastructure, engaging with the UN using the organisation’s own jargon and tokenistic language – and speaking with one voice rather than in nuanced dialogue representative of the diverse experiences and perspectives of civil society. In engaging with the UN, international NGOs and civil society should reflect on their own role in contributing to exclusion and ensure that they practice meaningful inclusion, for example by using more inclusive language in engaging with the UN. There needs to be more focus on accessing innovative inclusion practices at the country level and finding ways to make them influence policy.
- Greater clarity is needed on the purpose of a given normative framework – who it’s for (the UN or more broadly?) and what it’s meant to accomplish – and how the UN at the country level should integrate said framework in programming.
- Beyond the normative – where inclusion is shaped by compliance – there is a need to shift attitudes towards an understanding that inclusion strengthens the UN’s work. There is also a need to prioritise inclusion concretely, including through funding.
- It is important to identify intersectional levels of exclusion and develop strategies and programming that take these intersections into account in a meaningful way (beyond listing out different groups).
- Creative mixed method approaches to monitoring and evaluating how the UN works to support inclusion should be encouraged. Quantitative data can for example be used to expand the discussion on participation and deepen inclusion – including in defining the progress or success of initiatives.
Realising inclusivity: Coordinating approaches at the country level
20 May 2021
This interactive roundtable brought together representatives from Resident Coordinator Offices (RCOs), with a focus on the role of the RCO in coordinating efforts at the country level to strengthen inclusivity, as well as how UN Headquarters can better support RCOs in this work. Through the exchange of best practices and ongoing challenges, the discussions sought to identify ways forward in making inclusive peace and development a reality in their country contexts.
- Opportunities for RCOs within and across regions to discuss, learn about and coordinate different regional efforts to strengthen inclusivity are few and far between.
- A plethora of guidance notes from UN Headquarters often leads to confusion among RCOs and UN agencies at the country level on how to promote the international normative frameworks identified in the report. The needs of local communities as well as the needs of UN agencies at the country level need to be taken into account when issuing these guidance notes.
- Adequate, sustained and flexible funding can serve as a catalyst for meaningfully promoting inclusivity throughout the UN’s work at the country level. In particular, engagement with International Financial Institutions (IFIs); local and global pooled funding mechanisms, such as the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF); and Multi-Partner Trust Funds are some best practices for ensuring continued and joint programming to operationalise normative frameworks. Inclusivity markers should be used as criteria for funding allocation.
- RCOs should ensure that inclusivity and the principle of leaving no one behind form the foundation of their work, and the work of all UN agencies, funds and programmes at the country level. In Indonesia, for example, the RC invited experts from OHCHR to educate the RCO on leaving no one behind, and ensured that the principle was mainstreamed in all Terms of Reference documentation within the RCO.
- RCOs should prioritise the involvement of young people, important partners in advancing the work of the UN at the country level. However, the UN must develop innovative solutions to engage with young people on all issues that affect their lives – not just on perceived ‘youth issues’.
- Strengthening contextual analyses and the collection of data, as well as the sharing of this analysis across agencies, are key in ensuring that the UN strategically and systematically reaches those communities left furthest behind. In lieu of this, the UN should utilise experts to ensure that UN colleagues working at the country level are provided with the knowledge necessary to meaningfully engage those communities most marginalised.
UN Talks: The Role of the UN in Realising Inclusivity
27 May 2021
This webinar, jointly organised by UNDP Sweden and the Foundation, explored how the UN pursues meaningful inclusion in practice, with examples from provided from Colombia and Malawi, and what is needed to further strengthen this work.
- The UN has an important convening role to play at the country level: facilitating dialogue between civil society and governments; ensuring that civil society voices are raised with governments and that their demands are translated into concrete action.
- The UN should explore how to engage with different actors, including universities and traditional authorities and religious leaders, to advance inclusion.
- Flexible and accessible funding to local civil society is critical to promoting inclusivity at the country level. This requires donors to find ways around requirements that organisations are registered and hold bank accounts. International NGOs can also play an important role in supporting local civil society organisations to access funds and identify ways to ensure that funding reaches marginalised communities. Donor governments should also require that all project proposals take into account inclusion dimensions.
- Inclusivity should be mainstreamed throughout the UN’s work, including by ensuring that structural barriers to engagement (access to roads, accessibility ramps, language, etc.) are taken into consideration when conducting trainings, consultations, etc. International NGOs and civil society engaging with the UN also have a responsibility to ensure that their own events are accessible to allow include diverse perspectives in discussions on how to strengthen the work of the UN.