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UN Creates Commission to Help Countries Emerge from Conflict

The United Nations has established a special commission to help countries emerging from conflict to avoid falling back into war.

The Security Council and General Assembly both passed consensus resolutions Tuesday creating a new United Nations body. The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) is the first significant outcome dictated by the summit of world leaders at U.N headquarters in September.

General Assembly President Jan Eliasson called the occasion "truly historic." He said establishment of the commission marks the first time the world body will focus not just on ending conflicts, but helping societies to recover from the ravages of war.

"It would be our best chance to reverse the trend which, in recent years, has seen around half the countries emerging from conflict lapsing back into it again within five years," said Mr. Eliasson. "It would help bring an end to the pattern of conflicts erupting again, simply because support for the healing process was not there when it was needed."

The Security Council separately approved a resolution effectively giving itself control of the new commission.

The resolution establishes a 31-member organizational committee that will include seven Council members, including all five permanent members.

Washington's U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, welcomed the commission's establishment, but underlined that its main function will be furthering Security Council objectives.

"The PBC's main purpose will be to provide advice at the Council's request," he said. "The authority of the Security Council to decide whether and when the PBC should be asked to address such matters is important to ensure that the Council may effectively exercise its primary responsibility under the Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security."

The Peacebuilding Commission was among reforms recommended by a high-level panel on ways of modernizing the world body for the 21st century.

But it is to be a lean organization, in keeping with the mandate for budget reform. The U.N. budget committee insisted that the commission be funded within currently available money.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan had initially asked for 21 positions to staff the commission's bureaucracy. The budget committee cut that number nearly in half in the final hours before approval. Still, Mr. Annan welcomed the new body, calling it a "turning point in efforts to help states and societies manage the transition from war to peace."