More than a year has passed since the new peace and security architecture was put into place across the United Nations system. The objective of the reform is to improve the capacity of the United Nations to support countries during all stages of the conflict cycle: from prevention to conflict resolution, peace operations to peacebuilding. Complementing this, the recent reform of the UN development system has been geared towards improving the capacity of Resident Coordinators and UN country teams to address prevention challenges, by aligning the political, development and humanitarian work of the United Nations.

While reforms are still in early phases of roll out, new approaches are arising with the potential to increase the impact and synergies of the United Nations system for more effective responses in the future. The response in Burkina Faso is a case in point illustrating how the UN system implemented its New Way of Working, putting prevention at the forefront.

The new-generation response to conflict in Burkina Faso 

As Adam Day and Jessica Caus recount in Conflict Prevention in the Sahel: Emerging Practice Across the UN, the United Nations reacted with a coordinated response in Burkina Faso following a  spiral of violence that affected the country at the beginning of 2019 – the consequence of discontent amongst internal northern communities feeling politically and economically marginalized, and a series of political crises in 2014 and 2015, resulting in a significantly weakened state with no resolution on the underlying grievances.

During its response, the United Nations experimented in the New Way of Working – whereby UN offices in the field were tasked to develop “collective outcomes” jointly with the government, while a Joint Steering Committee to advance Humanitarian and Development Collaboration (JSC) was established under the Deputy Secretary-General to review progress towards these outcomes. Through this approach, the UN was able to develop a common vision with the government about the risks facing Burkina Faso, and set clear objectives for conflict prevention.

Learning as a mobilizer for the new way of working

The example of Burkina Faso shows that now more than ever, it is imperative for the United Nations to translate structural changes into cultural ones — translating internal knowledge, analytical frameworks and planning processes of different Secretariat entities, funds and programmes into the “New Way of Working” together across the humanitarian, development and peace nexus. This will allow for innovative ways of operating in complex contexts, as well as in settings where the focus is more squarely on development. From these new approaches, practical needs have emerged requiring innovative system-wide learning enhancing conflict analysis and programmatic skills. In particular, there is an increased need for localized risk analysis and response, in addition to the ability to conduct cross-border programming and engage with regional offices.

A comprehensive curriculum for the UN system

In virtue of its experience and mandate as an interagency organization, the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) can play a pivotal role by shifting traditional working methods and working procedures from all United Nations entities and establishing common methodologies across the UN Secretariat and UN agencies, funds and programmes. To this end, the Peace and Security Programme (P&S) of UNSSC is working on a comprehensive learning curriculum that will address the above-mentioned needs for analysis and programming by offering:

-  Conflict analysis courses aimed at strengthening the capacity of United Nations entities across the system and regional partners to conduct national and regional conflict analysis. Conflict analysis is a critical element of a joined up response that puts prevention at the core of our work. By analysing causes, actors, dynamics and potential triggers, we are able to identify and understand short-term and long-term collective responses by leveraging system-wide comparative advantages.

-  Conflict-sensitive programming courses aimed at enhancing the skills of United Nations staff and partners to undertake strategic programming by adopting conflict-sensitive methodologies and tools across all stages of a conflict life cycle.

To ensure that the United Nations continues to play its critical role towards building a more peaceful and sustainable world, significant structural change is required across all domains of the work of the organization leveraging all functional areas – building bridges across the different political, humanitarian and development components. The goal of our offerings is to translate structural changes of the peace and security architecture into tangible results for sustaining peace, by equipping United Nations staff with the required analytical and programmatic skills to face today’s global challenges.

Photo: WFP/Marwa Awad

The opinions expressed in our blog posts are solely those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of UNSSC, the United Nations or its members.