Department of Economic and Social Affairs Public Institutions
Committee of Experts on Public Administration

conflict working group


Current work


Supporting conflict-affected countries: In support of the 2023 ECOSOC cycle of work and in preparation for its 22nd session (2023), the CEPA working group will continue to explore ways to build strong, inclusive and accountable institutions for sustainable development in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Emphasis will be on providing policy recommendations on how to respond to the effects of climate change on institution-building efforts in fragile countries and countries emerging from conflict.



Over the years, the Committee has been elaborating on how to build strong institutions for sustainable development in fragile and conflict-affected countries while promoting effective governance for sustainable development. The aim is to foster peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and provide access to justice for all. The Committee's discussions contribute to the work of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), an intergovernmental advisory body that supports peace efforts in conflict-affected countries .


At its 20th session (2021), the Committee observed that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely to exacerbate existing challenges in conflict-affected countries and increase pressure on already struggling institutions. The proactive leadership of governments was key to the recovery from the pandemic and should be free of political considerations. Clear, verified information backed up by evidence was essential to overcoming challenges related to fake news and mistrust of government. Local leaders and civil society organizations on the ground remained critical partners both in terms of peacebuilding and aiding vaccination programmes that rely on trust and legitimacy.


At its 21st session (2022), the Committee reviewed the case of State-building in Afghanistan. It stressed that progress in creating strong institutions for sustainable development in conflict-affected settings was often hampered by the emphasis on short-term security needs, political interests and external dependency. Sustaining peace depended on the long-term engagement of all stakeholders in institution-building that was consistent with local norms and political realities. That could include bottom-up approaches addressing the root causes of conflict, the strengthening of tax collection systems, increased risk assessment and conflict prevention measures.

Recent CEPA observations and insights


Public administration plays an important role in developing integrated approaches to long-term development objectives in countries emerging from conflict and in addressing critical security issues. Security interests should not be prioritized over development as a focus on developmental objectives is more likely to have broader support and produce more durable results in the long term. Political objectives could lead to mission creep, which contributes to tensions between political and developmental objectives, sometimes with profound effect, and should be guarded against. (CEPA 21st session, 2022) 


A major challenge in conflict-affected countries is insufficient attention to economic development, coupled with poor tax collection, corruption and the setting of unrealistic timelines. Loss of human capital, resulting from migration or interruptions in education and the long-term psychological impact of conflict on young people, further undermine future State-building efforts and reinforce inequalities. The long-term effects of conflict should be factored into development initiatives. Youth employment is a particular concern. (CEPA 21st session, 2022) 


External dependency could result in limited incentive for political leaders and officials to tackle urgent issues such as corruption, if they believed that foreign forces would attend to those tasks; that could potentially lead to national Governments struggling to support themselves after the departure of foreign forces. (CEPA 21st session, 2022) 


Interventions need to be contextually appropriate, acknowledging that each society is different, as are the root causes of conflict in each situation. They need to be focused on processes as well as institutions, so that functions are prioritized over form and the interventions are politically astute. That approach involves working with local norms and political realities and requires incremental change over longer timescales than those often applied in accordance with best practices. Understanding national and local political dynamics and using bottom-up approaches is crucial, including working with local actors that have legitimacy. That is especially important when government agencies are characterized by dysfunction, corruption, illegitimacy or poor representation. (CEPA 21st session, 2022


What action does ECOSOC recommend?


ECOSOC welcomes the continuing work of the Committee on building strong institutions for sustainable development in fragile and conflict-affected countries, notes that peacebuilding and sustaining peace depend on long-term engagement in institution-building involving all stakeholders that is consistent with local norms and political realities, and looks forward to the Committee’s further engagement in promoting effective governance for sustainable development in such situations and its contribution to the work of the Peacebuilding Commission (ECOSOC resolution 2022/9, para. 13).

Expert papers on this topic (2016-present)



Institutions and state-building in conflict-affected settings: the case of Afghanistan 
(E/C.16/2022/4, 24 January 2022

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Building strong institutions for sustainable development in conflict-affected countries (E/C.16/2021/6, 24 January 2022)

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Re-establishment of credible governance and public administration institutions and systems after conflict (E/C.16/2020/5, 7 January 2020)

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Building institutions to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and provide access to justice for all (E/C.16/2019/5, 24 January 2019)

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