The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations concluded its 2019 session today with the approval of a report containing a technical summary of its work, even as members were unable to reach consensus on the report’s substantive elements.
Members of the Special Committee — tasked with reviewing and providing recommendations to the General Assembly on United Nations peacekeeping issues — approved a document outlining the proceedings of its meetings and the election of officers, as well as its agenda and organization of work, which were introduced and orally revised by Rapporteur Tarek Mahfouz (Egypt). However, many speakers took the floor to express regret that, due to persistent disagreement over such substantive issues as improvements in peacekeeping operations in Africa, consensus ultimately remained elusive.
“While I am aware that this is not the outcome that many in this room might have wished, myself included, it is also not the first time that our Committee has reached this point,” said Tijjani Muhammad Bande (Nigeria), Chair of the Special Committee. Recalling that some of the body’s previous sessions have resulted in a procedural report — like the one approved today — he noted that some sessions have resulted in no outcome at all.
Richard Arbeiter (Canada), Chair of the Special Committee’s Working Group of the Whole, provided a summary of the latter’s work over the course of the session. Outlining its various field visits, technical and substantive briefings — as well as its organizational process — he noted that the Group also reached a point at which a suspension of its work was necessary. Regional coordinators were summoned to try to identify a way forward and many attempts were made by delegations, but no agreement could be reached. “There is no indication that additional time will result in a different result,” he said, instead proposing to convene delegations during the intersessional period to review the Committee’s working methods and identify best practices prior to its next substantive session.
As members took the floor, several speakers, including those of Norway, Japan, Brazil, France and Thailand, expressed regret over the Committee’s inability to reach agreement on the substantive part of its work.
Morocco’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted that the group represents 80 per cent of troop‑contributing countries. Emphasizing that it engaged in good faith efforts on many issues including language addressing personnel missing in action, he said members could not be more flexible in view of some delegations’ unwillingness to compromise. Indeed, the Non‑Aligned Movement members’ efforts were not reciprocated, he said, voicing strong support for a review of the Special Committee’s working methods.
The representatives of Indonesia, Egypt and several other delegations associated themselves with that statement.
Argentina’s delegate, noting that the Working Group faced a lengthy, arduous negotiation process, expressed hope that it had not established a negative precedent. In that regard, he looked forward to crucial contributions by the Committee in the future, including the deployment of more efficient and flexible peacekeeping missions based on clear mandates.
The representative of Guatemala echoed concerns over the setting of negative precedent, as well as expressions of regret that the Special Committee was unable to reach consensus on the section of the draft report titled, “Improving African Peacekeeping Initiatives”. Noting that the body enjoys a singular mandate related to peacekeeping within the United Nations system, he described it as an important complement to the Security Council’s work and a critical player to triangular cooperation with troop- and police‑contributing countries.
China’s representative expressed hope that transparent, inclusive consultations will continue in areas where the Special Committee was unable to reach agreement. Emphasizing that the view of troop‑contributing countries must be fully respected, she also underlined the importance of multilateralism.
The representative of the United States noted agreement had been reached on some issues and tentatively so on others, illustrating a good faith effort. She welcomed African ownership of peacekeeping issues on the continent. However, funding issues constitute a “red line” for her delegation, which has deep concerns over a lack of transparency on funding. She expressed regret that late in the negotiations, her delegation was informed that consensus would require a substantive reference to the African Union Peace Fund. Her delegation made unsuccessful efforts to bridge the gap on the issue, she said.
Several delegates, including the representatives of Uruguay, Republic of Korea, Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand) and the European Union, drew attention to positive momentum generated throughout the session despite the Special Committee’s inability to reach consensus. The latter delegate, stressing that positions “that once seemed too far apart were brought closer together”, cited expanding alignment on such critical issues as gender and support for the Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative. “We must collectively learn from this missed opportunity and adapt accordingly,” he said, welcoming the decision to convene an informal group of friends aimed at improving the Committee’s working methods during the intersessional period.
The representative of the United Kingdom, associating herself with the European Union, warned members not to lose sight of those enormous efforts. “Our recommendations […] would have supported real improvements in policy and practice,” she said, voicing regret that such progress was lost. Calling for changes to the Special Committee’s working methods to make the negotiation process more manageable, she agreed with other speakers that a review of those methods is needed prior to the body’s session.
The Russian Federation’s delegate, meanwhile, underscored the need to take all Member States’ opinions into account in discussions such as the one that emerged on Ethiopia’s proposal regarding African Union‑led peace operations.