We live in an increasingly complex world where global geopolitical scenarios are changing very rapidly. To add to this complexity, we have moved increasingly towards a multipolar world – shaped by a variety of different agents and forces. Against this backdrop and at the turn of its 75th anniversary, many have questioned the added value of the United Nations as a universal and multilateral international organization, created to broker world peace and security in the aftermath of World War II.

In recent years, the international political dynamics and divisions within the Security Council have often paralyzed the most important negotiating platform for peace and security. In this scenario, can the United Nations still make a difference in the current multipolar world? And if so, what kind of a difference can the UN make?

We believe the United Nations can play an important role in its capacity to monitor, collect, and provide independent analysis on some of the most volatile conflict and post-conflict settings. Furthermore, in an era of interconnectedness, and with the increased ability to analyze different sets of data, the United Nations is well positioned to improve sustaining peace efforts, and leverage the expertise of its different entities and partners, by using integrated analytical processes. These processes, would make use of a holistic approach to analysis and involve different United Nations entities and partners in order to develop practical, system-wide strategies for peacebuilding.

In spite of recent calls for a more integrated approach to analysis, the United Nations’ effort remains largely entity based –weakening the potential to make substantial gains in peacebuilding. There is a compelling need for United Nations entities to collaborate and combine analytical capacities.

But is the United Nations up to the challenge?

Bringing analysis to scale

The United Nations is often called to take decisions based on an informed analysis of harvested data and information from its entire system. Given the complexity and increasing number of global challenges, the amount of data and information available increases exponentially – at times making it difficult to take informed decisions. In spite of this, the United Nations has a history of conducting a number high-quality independent analyses that have informed interventions on some of the world’s most complex political issues. It stands to reason that the organization has the capacity to scale this process up, and combine its disparate insights into valuable information that can be used to strengthen its peace-building efforts. However, analysis remains largely entity based, with its insights often being used to meet the needs of specific entities. This approach to analysis does not represent the new multi-polar, complex and interconnected world that the United Nations operates in.

In our view, no single United Nations entity agency, fund, or programme should rely on its independent analysis. Curated and analyzed properly, the aggregate of the information collected by different entities could progressively inform strategic and targeted interventions for sustaining peace. There should therefore be a greater effort to pursue synergies and harmonization and make use of integrated approaches to analysis. A more coherent, system-wide process is likely to better aid the design of appropriate and effective peace interventions. It also has the potential to help identify opportunities for closer cooperation between different United Nations entities as well as Non-UN partners.

To get here the organization needs to reflect on its strong capacity to provide independent analysis, and explore means to integrate the large pool of disaggregated, entity-specific insights that are drawn from independent analysis.

The benefits of integrated analysis

The United Nations’ unique ability to analyze and disseminate information collected from a variety of sources such as  its different bodies (the Secretariat, agencies, funds and programmes)   the various entities it  interacts with (government, academia, regional organizations, civil society organizations, etc.) and field locations makes it  an essential international monitor, and advocate of the rights of the communities it is mandated to serve. This type of broad analysis from a number of sources has often allowed the organization to compare and evaluate varied data, and unlock its value to add depth and nuance to different independent analyses.

The United Nations’ expertise in drawing insights from varied sources is extremely valuable within the peace and security context. Successful interventions require an accurate analysis of all the factors that contribute to political processes. We believe a move towards integrated analysis will help us to think more strategically about the different sources of information that are available, as well as the reservoir of data that they present. These sources can be used for joint analysis and the development of astute responses to the challenges faced by the United Nations and its partners.

Analysis as the key to sustainable decision-making

The United Nations is the world’s largest international platform for decision-making. The implementation of its decisions (resolutions, action plans,) hinges on insights from sound analysis led by its different entities.  Analysis at the United Nations is often conducted for various audiences and purposes, in fact reports containing some sort of analysis are amongst the most common United Nations documents. This makes analysis essential for effective and efficient decision-making in development, sustaining peace and humanitarian actions within the global community. As the organization changes, we have seen an increasing number of calls, for the United Nations to develop an integrated strategic analysis that gives a common understanding of interdependence across the peace, humanitarian and development nexus.

We share this sentiment, and also advocate for integrated analysis in sustaining peace efforts. We believe integrated analysis, developed as a holistic approach involving all concerned UN and non-UN-entities, is an essential tool for providing information and developing forward-looking analysis and decision making  at  strategic and programmatic levels.

While the Secretary-General’s structural reform of the peace and security architecture supports changes in this direction, it is important that all concerned entities of the United Nations Secretariat, agencies, funds and programmes abandon siloed mentalities and work in unison with each other. Conducting joint analysis across United Nations entities and partners is fundamental to informing inclusive decision making and planning, with the view to  better reflect the realities on the ground. The United Nations, (unlike any other  organization, with its international presence and wide range of bodies) has a privileged position to make better use of opportunities to work  together, and  mainstream data and information for the purpose of supporting independent integrated analysis across the organization and contributing to sustaining peace efforts.

To contribute to the work of United Nations staff from the Secretariat, agency, funds and programmes UNSSC’s Peace and Security team has developed the “Integrated Analysis for Sustaining Peace Writing Course” which aims to equip participants with the tools they need to write compelling pieces of integrated analysis. The first edition just successfully concluded with over 60 participants from various UN entities and country offices exchanging experiences and ideas. We plan to continue offering this course in 2021. Visit our course page for the upcoming editions.

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.