by Rosalind Adams
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- A senior UN official has called for the strengthening of support for countries emerging from conflict, saying such support would help avoid recurrence of violence in those countries.
"It's a very challenging time," said Ejeviome Otobo, director of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO). "There are a number of countries either caught in conflict or just coming out of conflict."
"The international support for such countries becomes vital in making sure they don't relapse," he told Xinhua in a recent interview.
PBSO's mandate is to support the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), which on its agenda has six post-conflict countries -- Burundi, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The necessity of the PBSO's work is marked by the fact that "many of the countries coming out of conflict relapse repeatedly," said Otobo. The relapse rate of countries falling back into conflict within 10 years is around 40 percent, he said.
Despite this, it is evident that the work of the PBSO and the PBC is effective.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in her address to the UN General Assembly debate on Wednesday, said: "As Liberia moves toward its 10th year of sustained peace, we can state with conviction that our country has turned the corner. Liberia is no longer a place of conflict, war and deprivation."
Government ownership, or a government's ability to exercise control over its agenda and policy is the most important principle for a country to begin to rebuild after conflict, said Otobo.
The countries on the PBC agenda join on their own and then come on the agenda at their own requests, said Otobo.
This ensures there is "partnership between the government and the PBC," he said. "There are commitments that are made by both sides, and they have to account for them."
Though countries elect to join, many obstacles remain in building lasting peace. Otobo said that institution building is essential to this process.
"It is the institutions that ultimately are responsible for carrying forward and implementing the decisions of government," he said. "If the institutions are not robust, then the peace will not last."
Financing is also key, he said. "You cannot do peacebuilding on hope and prayers, you've got to put money behind the agreed priorities."
But one of the most promising aspects of peacebuilding is the opportunity it offers a country to re-shape societal relations, especially between men and women, he said, as women are often important players in post-conflict settings.
"A post-conflict situation provides an opportunity for society to revisit its contract with women," said Otobo, adding that the country has the opportunity to ask itself: "Are we being a just society? And how do we make this society fairer going forward?"
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at Tuesday's UN high-level meeting on peacebuilding, said: "Women and youth are crucial to helping societies emerging from conflict. When we help meet their needs and tap into their potential, we can establish secure and lasting peace, which can only endure if it is inclusive."
The meeting entitled, which took place on the sidelines of the General Assembly debate and passed a declaration to reconfirm commitment for the PBC's mandate.
The declaration emphasized "the need for a comprehensive, effective and coordinated response to the security, institution-building and socio-economic challenges facing states and societies as they recover from conflict and pursue their aspirations for sustainable peace and development."