Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations

Note: Full coverage of today's meetings of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations will be available after their conclusion.

Opening Remarks

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), underscoring the need for a stronger focus on conflict prevention in peace operations, declared: “The United Nations was created to save people from the horrors of war, not to react once those horrors are in motion.”  However, more conflict prevention did not necessarily mean less peacekeeping.  While in some cases it could avoid the deployment of military actions, in others it could mean sending “Blue Helmets” into less hostile environments.  Conflict prevention and peacekeeping did not have to be distinct or separate entities, as peacekeepers played a critical role in prevention activities across the United Nations system, working closely with national actors and flagging early warning signs of conflict.

Prevention was already a part of the Organization’s peacekeeping efforts, he said, citing the United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) work in the runup to that country’s elections in 2017.  UNMIL had helped to calm tensions and prevent an upsurge in violence, while also assisting in Liberia’s peaceful power transition.  Pointing to work in the Abyei region on the border of Sudan and South Sudan — where peacekeepers had worked in innovative ways to retain stability and avoid conflict — as another successful example, he urged a stronger focus on prevention in all missions.  In addition, a more inclusive approach was needed to peacekeeping in general, including by bolstering the use of gender advisors and the deployment of women.  Despite recent strides in that regard, “when it comes to gender, peacekeeping is in a bad state”. 

Calling for frank discussions on that issue, as well as “proactive steps towards a new reality”, he said more inclusiveness would also mean ensuring more participation and more partnerships with actors outside United Nations missions.  Those included regular liaisons with country teams, region and subregional organizations — especially in Africa — and deeper engagement with civil society, local communities and young people.  Those relationships would help peacekeepers build trust among the people they were sent to protect, he said.  Turning to the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse, he stressed that “we will not eradicate the problem merely by talking about it”.  Protectors must protect, never rape, abuse or exploit; if they did, they must not get away with it.  While some steps had been taken, more should be done by both the United Nations and national Governments.  Zero tolerance must be reflected in actions, not words.

Turning finally to the risk faced by peacekeepers themselves, he said United Nations troops were increasingly threatened by the bombs and bullets of non-State and terrorist groups, with over 300 peacekeepers having died in the last five years from such deliberate attacks.  The technical issues managed by those gathered in the room today — ranging from intelligence to ordinance disposal to command and control — were not only crucial to the effectiveness of United Nations missions, but could also mean the difference between life and death for their personnel.

DAVID HAERI, Director, Division of Policy, Evaluation and Training, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, delivering a statement on behalf of Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said the Secretary-General’s vision for peacekeeping reform would reshape the Organization’s structures and working culture in order to better meet today’s complex threats to peace and security.  “It is time for a frank conversation, one that addresses the fact that peacekeeping is coming under considerable pressure,” he said, explaining that the Secretary-General wanted to renew a dialogue that would enable the Secretariat, uniformed contributors, host States, regional partners and legislative bodies to speak — candidly and in real terms — about what peacekeeping was, what it did and what it meant for those who benefited from the protection it offered.

Peacekeeping was a shared responsibility that required clear and actionable mandates, consistent political engagement, sufficient resources, strong human capital and durable consent from parties to a conflict, he said.  Member States must help in that regard, he said, adding that the Secretariat must also commit to quality of leadership, better performance, clear-sighted analysis, candid reporting, streamlined bureaucracy, concrete accountability and better support to uniformed contributors.  The Special Committee would this year be addressing those concerns, which went to the heart of the Secretary-General’s agenda, including strengthening operational capacities, protection of civilians, and safety and security.

RICK MARTIN, speaking on behalf of Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare, said reform of the peace and security architecture continued, while the Secretary-General’s management and development reforms were also making considerable headway.  Support to the field must be more rapid and responsible, with less fragmented management structures and more transparency and accountability.  Even while the overarching reform process continued, the Department of Field Support remained committed to meeting the daily needs of peacekeepers.  Central to that was ensuring strengthened cooperation with Member States.

Among the top priorities was the safety and security of peacekeepers, he said, in order for them to better secure and protect the populations they served.  Greater effectiveness was the best way to honour the sacrifices made by the 110,000 peacekeepers working in dangerous environments in 15 missions.  Too many had already paid the ultimate price, including 12 peacekeepers thus far in 2018.  He urged the United Nations to work with Member States to better address sexual exploitation and abuse.

Statements

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said an important process to strengthen the security of peacekeepers was currently ongoing.  He took note of the “Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers: We need to change the way we are doing business” report and the subsequent plan of action presented to the Special Committee on 22 January.  Recent developments were to be discussed in the coming weeks in a constructive manner.  A more active role of the Non-Aligned Movement was necessary and legitimate.  He noted that the establishment of any peacekeeping operation should observe the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and the precepts of sovereign equality and territorial integrity should be respected.  The Security Council should draft achievable mandates for troop-contributing countries, based on assessment, and not rush to adopt mandates that were not feasible.

The Peacebuilding Commission and its country-specific configurations had a significant role in better integrating peacekeeping and peacebuilding with capacity-building based on national ownership.  Peacekeeping operations should not be an alternative to dealing with the root causes of conflict or for managing the conflict itself.  Development tools should achieve a smooth transition to lasting peace.  An exit strategy must be agreed upon at the early stages of mission planning.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the United Nations needed to change the way it did business in order to improve the safety and security of peacekeepers.  Enhancing mission capability and support was essential.  ASEAN encouraged early engagement and inclusive consultations between the Security Council, the Secretariat, troop- and police-contributing countries and regional actors in drafting, reviewing and adjusting mandates.  The credibility and impartiality of Blue Helmets must not be compromised, she said, adding that ASEAN agreed with the Secretary-General’s view that peacekeeping operations should not engage in counter-terrorism.

ASEAN supported the deployment of more women peacekeepers, which among other things would help better address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse, she said.  Further mechanisms to improve the capabilities of peacekeepers should be promoted.  She drew attention to collaboration between ASEAN and the United Nations in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, including pre-deployment training facilities in ASEAN countries, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus Expert Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, and the participation of 4,500 police personnel, military advisers and troops from ASEAN countries in 12 United Nations peacekeeping missions.

RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said all peacekeeping operations should strictly observe the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.  From the outset, they should have political support, sufficient resources, and clearly defined and viable mandates.  Expressing grave concern over the highly fragile political and security environments in which peacekeeping missions operated, he said peacekeeping operations should always be accompanied by a parallel and inclusive peace process, supported by the parties concerned.  There must also be clear exit strategies, he said, reiterating CELAC’s support to the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).

He emphasized the importance of strengthening coordination between peacekeeping operations, the Peacebuilding Commission and the United Nations development system, as well as the indispensable role of women and youth.  The legitimate need to protect civilians should not be used to override State sovereignty.  All actors involved in the establishment and implementation of peacekeeping mandates must agree on those mandates and rules of engagement.  He expressed concern about the Secretariat’s implementation of different policies in specific missions without the prior agreement of the Special Committee, and requested that the Security Council improve consultations with troop- and police-contributing countries.  He stressed the need to timely and efficiently reimburse those countries and to take into account the principle of equitable geographic distribution in staffing, in particular at the expert and senior leadership levels.

CRAIG JOHN HAWKE (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, said that while it was primarily the responsibility of host Governments to protect their civilians, when States were unable or unwilling to do so, and where a civilian protection mandate existed, peacekeepers were obligated to protect the most vulnerable.  He welcomed the progress made by the Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries to strengthen the implementation of protection of civilian mandates through improved pre-deployment training and the better equipping of peacekeepers.  Those mandates were a whole-of-mission responsibility, and as such he would like to see further action taken to improve standards and introduce clear benchmarks with regard to training, leadership and performance across all Mission areas.

He supported the findings and recommendations on the improving peacekeeper safety report, and applauded the Secretariat for openly and transparently releasing it in full, as well as for proactively developing an action plan with an aggressive timeline to implement the recommendations.  There were no startling surprises in the report.  The days of peacekeeping operations being conducted by unarmed observers monitoring a peace agreement were largely over.  The mindset, basic military skills and leadership must evolve as the operating environment of peacekeeping changed.  To implement the report, make a practical difference and save the lives of peacekeepers would take determination, energy and courage.

JOANNE ADAMSON, speaking on behalf of the European Union, drew attention to the demanding conditions in which peacekeepers carried out their work and voiced support for measures aimed at improving their safety.  Welcoming the report on improving peacekeeper security, as well as the DPKO/Department of Field Support Action Plan, he said peacekeeping was evolving to become more proactive and multidimensional.  The recent United Nations peacekeeping reviews had considered the changing nature of conflict, as well as the increased agility demanded of peacekeepers.  While supporting such far-reaching proposals, she expressed hope that the Committee would come together in supporting the Secretariat to ensure better crisis management, enhanced working methods, and stronger leadership, accountability and transparency. 

Underlining the importance of political solutions, prevention and efforts to address the causes and drivers of conflict, she said the latter was a central plank of the European Union Global Strategy for Common Security and Defence Policy.  Prevention and mediation must also be the priority in United Nations peacekeeping, she stressed, supporting the Secretary-General’s own emphasis on those critical elements.  “The protection of civilians and the prevention of atrocities must be the common denominator of any peacekeeping operation’s mandate,” she said, describing the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians as a useful orientation in that context.  There, too, local ownership would be critical, as would strategic reviews of protection mandates.  In addition, she voiced support for initiatives to advance the women, peace and security agenda; strengthen police, justice and corrections institutions; better tailor operations to ground conditions; achieve adequate force generation and rapid deployment; protect children; ensure the deployment of pledged capabilities; and explore innovative funding solutions.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with CELAC, said that the C34 was an essential and unique venue for discussions on peacekeeping.  He wished to see its capacity to formulate policy reinforced and reaffirmed.  He appreciated the transparency that had marked discussion of the report on improving the security of United Nations peacekeepers.  It was crucial that the report’s recommendations were discussed and translated into a concrete action plan in order to reduce peacekeeper fatalities.  The needs of the missions should be looked at and the issue of casualties could not be seen in isolation, but rather was related to the political situations of each mission.  He welcomed the report’s focus on the need to provide adequate resources and training to peacekeepers, in particular specialized training for specific threats.

WU HAITAO (China) said that the deployment environment of peacekeeping operations was increasingly complex and the peacekeeping system needed to develop with the times.  He welcomed the report as well as the Secretary-General’s reviews of peacekeeping missions.  China was ready to work with other Member States to actively consider the issues and further promote the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations through reform.  Sovereignty should be respected, and concerned countries should be helped to realize peace and stability.  Political solutions for hotspot issues should be actively promoted, as the aim of peacekeeping operations was to create sustainable peaceful environments.  As a troop- contributing country, China had also dispatched its first ever helicopter squad to a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Africa.

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