UNITAR NYO and International IDEA Host Workshop on Democracy and Building Resilient Communities.

16 May 2013, New York, USA. Thirty delegates gathered at the United Nations Headquarters to participate in the joint UNITAR New York Office/International Institute for Democracy Education and Assistance (IDEA) workshop on Democracy and Building Resilient Communities.

Ms. Yvonne Lodico introduced the workshop and topic, explaining that resilience incorporates notions of sustainability and adaptation. H.E. Ms. Signe Burgstaller, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations, explained Sweden’s long held commitment to supporting societies in transition, democracies and notions of resilience, including conflict prevention. Dr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the United Nations who explained that Democracy and Building Resilient Communities is a very complex and yet increasingly popular topic, and further discussed the links to the post 2015 sustainable development agenda.

Dr. Timothy Sisk, Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Program on Fragile States, at University of Denver, gave an overview of the link between Democracy and Resilient Communities, focusing on resilience and conflict prevention. He provided an in-depth discussion on the role of elections, explaining the paradox of elections serving as the culmination of a peace process, but also potentially being a catalyst for violence.  In this regard, other components of democracy especially civil society and a viable media are integral to a resilient democratic society. Dr. Sisk also discussed the role of the rule of law, and access to justice as essential elements for sustainability..

The next session focused on experience sharing. With Dr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer for International IDEA, served as the moderator, the panel was about national perspectives. Mr. Joseph Mutaboba, Mediator in Residence, UN DPA Policy and Mediation Division gave an overview of the Rwanda’s historical influences that distorted the possibility for a vibrant democratic state. Therefore, in understanding and planning for resilient communities, the historical external and internal influences is essential.

Mr. Ejeviome Eloho Otobo, Director and Deputy Head, Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and discussed the link of peacebuilding and resilience. Irrespective of the support of the international community, national ownership must take place. Dr. Necla Tschirgi, Professor of Practice in Human Security and Peacebuilding, University of San Diego gave an overview of the evolution of the  UN’s role from the early 1990’s to present, from notions of statebuilding, nation building, peacebuilding and now resilience..According to Dr. Tschirgi, explained that Peacebuilding and resilence involve more stakeholders, especially national stakeholders. This lies in contrast to the former, in which only the singular state is considered

Dr. Roland Rich, Executive Director, UN Democracy Fund, focused on the role of civil society for ensuring resilience. Then, Mr. Mansour Sadeghi, DPA, Electoral Assistance Division, gave an overview of the UN’s role in elections, explaining that sustainability and building capacity are also essential factors. The last speaker of the day was Mr. Andrew Carpenter, Chief, Strategic Policy and Development Section, Police Division, Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, DPKO who gave an account of the extensive and expanding role of UN police in transition environments.  Police whether under the UN umbrella or national service, are vital for a community’s sense of security and calm.