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14 September 2020

Action for Peacekeeping Initiative Making Tangible Progress in Bolstering Peace Operations, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council

The United Nations flagship initiative to garner collective engagement on peacekeeping will soon shift to the second phase of implementation, to prepare missions for future challenges, the head of the Organization’s peace operations told the Security Council in a 14 September videoconference meeting.

“To have missions fit for purpose for the coming decades, we are examining responses to systemic issues, and have begun an internal reflection on the types of adaptations that will be required for UN peace operations to continue to make a difference in the future,” said Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

The Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative was launched in March 2018, with the aim of reigniting political commitment to peace operations.  So far, 154 Member States and four regional organizations have signed onto the initiative’s “Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations”.

Two years after its launch, tangible progress has been made in strengthening peacekeeping operations, he said, adding that the Secretariat has begun crafting overarching priorities for the next phase in 2021 and beyond, with a push to complete pending tasks from the first phase.

Outlining eight critical systemic, cross-cutting issues to be addressed during the second phase, he called for redoubling of efforts to ensure that all actions are coherent with, and contribute to, overarching political strategies that further a positive peace.  “Aiming for short-term stability is not enough,” he said. “Our missions should be vectors for inclusive, responsive and transformative futures for the people we serve.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully showed how widespread inequality is, and how social justice, development and peace go hand in hand, he said, emphasizing the need for more ongoing substantive and strategic integration with development and peacebuilding actors, not just during drawdown and transitions.

He also highlighted the need for missions to be more robust and agile, including by drawing upon new technologies and effective strategic communications, and shifting traditional approaches to outreach, camp management, engineering and logistics, as well as countering mis- and disinformation.

He said the world will likely undergo a transformation effected by potentially lethal and disruptive technologies, climate-related disruptions and a more urbanized population.  It is only through strengthened joint and collective international action and solidarity that progress can be made in the right direction.

On latest developments, he said the pandemic has imposed new challenges, but has engendered dynamic and innovative new approaches to the delivery of the initiative.

Missions continued to provide effective support to political processes and to the implementation of peace agreements, he continued.  The initialling of the peace agreement between the Transitional Government of Sudan and the Darfur armed movements two weeks ago was made possible with the technical, advisory and logistical support of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  This included the facilitation of virtual negotiations, to enable the conclusion of the agreement.

In Mali, the coup of 18 August required the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to engage in good offices to support consultations on the modalities of the transition.

Turning to the safety of mission personnel, he said fatalities in peacekeeping operations from acts of violence continued to decrease, from 59 in 2017 to 27 in 2018, 25 in 2019 and eight so far in 2020.

On the gender issue, he said most 2020 targets set out in the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy for military, police and justice and corrections personnel have been met or surpassed.  In June, women represented 22.6 per cent of military professional posts at Headquarters against a target of 17 per cent, and in the field, 18.3 per cent of staff observers and military observers against a target of 17 per cent.

In the ensuing discussion, South Africa’s representative, also speaking for Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said that more than 1 million peacekeepers have been deployed since the creation of the first mission in 1948, paying tribute to all men and women who served on the ground.  Stressing the vital role of the African Union in providing troops to joint peacekeeping operations, he said without the regional organization, more people would have been killed in conflicts on the continent.  Recalling the adoption of Council resolution 2538 (2020), he urged Member States to increase the participation of women at all levels of peacekeeping and implement the resolution.  The effectiveness of peacekeeping largely depends on realistic, achievable mandates, adequate resources, training and political will.  Noting the recent development of a performance assessment framework, he said the one-size-fits-all approach would impede such reviews.  Assessing performance should be based on a unique set of indicators for each mission.

Stressing the importance of community engagement and communicating with the local populations, he said the Action for Peacekeeping initiative has brought collective action to the forefront of peacekeeping and welcomed engagement of all stakeholders.  He stressed the importance of partnerships between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations.  Condemning sexual exploitation and abuse, he asked that troop-contributing countries are consulted immediately when allegations are reported so that these countries can quickly address the issues.  The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, known as C‑34, continues to discharge its mandate on peacekeeping.  There is a need to harmonize Committee decisions and those taken by the Security Council.

The representative of the Dominican Republic voiced his country’s commitment to the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, the Declaration of Shared Commitments and resolution 2378 (2017), while advocating for quarterly performance consultations for peacekeeping operations.  “Collective action is vital to support missions, precisely when they face great challenges in the midst of a pandemic,” he said, stressing that challenges will only deepen if mandates are not matched by proper funding.  He underlined the importance of cooperation with regional and subregional organizations and drew a link between capacity-building and the security and protection of peacekeepers, noting that the latter are deployed in complex environments and often face asymmetric threats.  In addition, he spotlighted the crucial importance of women’s meaningful participation at all levels of peacekeeping, called for a strengthened “zero tolerance” policy for acts of sexual and gender-based violence committed by peacekeepers and called on missions to develop and implement youth, peace and security strategies adapted to their particular contexts.

Viet Nam’s representative pointed out that peace operations are facing increasingly difficult challenges that require further reform.  The Secretary-General’s report has repeatedly warned about the hinderance of peacekeeping operations.  They might not receive support from the host Governments to approach certain areas or face obstruction by non-governmental forces and armed terrorist groups, he said, strongly condemning all types of attacks against peacekeepers.  More than half of the 13 ongoing missions have been active for over 20 years, including those that have been in operation for 70 years.  In this regard, his delegation welcomed the finalization of the paper on the sequencing and prioritization of the Security Council mandates but still sees the need to have a well-rounded assessment on the missions’ mandates, with an emphasis on building peacekeeping capacity in the host countries and autonomous transition.  For the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the total budget for peacekeeping operations is $6.6 billion, lower than 0.5 per cent of the world’s military expenditure.  Paying tribute to more than 5,000 peacekeepers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member States in various peacekeeping missions, he stressed the need to strengthen ASEAN-United Nations cooperation.

Germany’s representative paid tribute to peacekeepers for staying the course despite the challenging conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the United Nations Secretariat staff for navigating the uncharted water under the leadership of Mr. Lacroix.  Stressing the importance of human rights and the security sector reform in peacekeeping mandates, he said tangible progress on peacekeeping performance is possible, as shown in the Under-Secretary-General’s briefing.  However, he encouraged the Secretary-General to report also on obstacles and challenges, which Germany believes is equally important.  Advocating for the data-driven approach, he urged all stakeholders, including troop- and police-contributing countries to fully share relevant data.  He also urged some Member States to fulfil their financial obligations for United Nations peacekeeping.  His country is a staunch supporter of the Action for Peacekeeping initiative and provides support in the areas of training and capacity-building, he said, explaining that its mobile training teams support police and civilian personnel.  Germany is also following up on Council action taken during the German presidency regarding the women, peace and security agenda.

China’s representative said that the Action for Peacekeeping initiative has entered a critical stage of full implementation and Member States should stand in solidarity to avoid the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on peacekeeping operations and the initiative.  It is vital to prioritize mandates for peacekeeping operations, and the scope of mandates should be adjusted to the situation on the ground, considering the need to advance peace processes, rather than wielding external forces, so that the host country can eventually achieve self-reliance.  Improving the performance of peacekeepers is a common goal of all stakeholders.  Situations differ in every mission and each troop-contributing country.  Cutting funds without due consideration of these circumstances is not fair and will impede their ability to fulfil mandates.  Resources for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) should not be cut without careful consideration.  On security challenges, he said China helped other countries in the training of peacekeepers.  Stressing the importance of partnerships, he advocated for strengthening ties between the United Nations and regional organizations, such as the African Union.  China is committed to peace and security in Africa.

Indonesia’s representative emphasized that his country continues to advocate for stronger partnerships to improve training and capacity-building, in line with the presidential statement on that matter adopted during its Council presidency in May 2019.  Its Peacekeeping Training Center in Bogor has been active in training its own personnel and international participants.  Even during the pandemic, the Center continues to train and prepare its personnel.  Earlier in September, Indonesia deployed 210 peacekeepers to join its formed police units and engineering company in UNAMID and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on a rotational basis.  All personnel undertook the mandatory predeployment training.  During the pandemic, community engagement has become even more important for peacekeeping to win the hearts and minds of the local population.  Community engagement is an essential part of predeployment training to its peacekeepers.  His country also takes pride in deploying more than 570 women peacekeepers since 1999.  Currently, 158 Indonesian women peacekeepers serve in seven peacekeeping missions.

The Russian Federation’s representative expressed her country’s support for the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire that guarantees adequate conditions to carry out peacekeeping activities.  Stressing the importance of constructive cooperation with the host country, she said it is vital to consider the opinions of the host Government when extending peacekeeping mandates.  In the case of UNIFIL, substantive additions were made to the mandate in a sensitive issue around the use of modern technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, and observation activities, which might infringe on the sovereignty of the host country.  Some Council members expect UNIFIL to do more with less, calling for a reduction in financing and the number of peacekeepers.  However, moves to optimize peacekeeping should be accompanied by cuts in secondary, non-core mandates related to human rights and social and gender issues.  During the most recent session of the Special Committee, it was agreed that further promotion of the Action for Peacekeeping initiative should be carried out by the recommendation of Member States.  Therefore, the structure of the Committee report has been brought in line with the thematic areas of the initiative.

Estonia’s representative welcomed the Secretary-General’s reform initiatives, including Action for Peacekeeping, which guided the adoption of several Council resolutions and helped establish mechanisms on planning and performance assessment.  “One cannot overlook the impact of COVID-19 on peacekeeping,” he said, noting that missions’ risks and responsibilities have multiplied in recent months.  To that end, he underlined the importance of policies aimed at verifying and enhancing peace operations’ performance, especially regarding the protection of civilians and the promotion of human rights.  Regarding the soon-to-be-finalized peacekeeping performance and accountability framework, he pointed to the example of MINUSMA, where the need for more mobile, flexible and robust troop postures and stronger early warning systems has been identified.  Deployed troops must also have adequate training and equipment, he said, adding that Estonia plans to achieve gender parity in its troop contributions by the end of 2020.

The representative of the United States said improving peacekeeping performance is an integral part of the Action for Peacekeeping agenda, a priority for the Security Council and a focus area of the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping.  Her country remains the largest financial contributor to United Nations peacekeeping and the largest capacity-building contributor.  It delivers its support through partnerships with politically willing, operationally capable troop and police contributors who want to improve their national peacekeeping training and capacity and directly invests in the Secretariat’s capacity to develop and implement performance evaluation frameworks and standards for uniformed forces.  Peacekeepers must adhere to the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.  And those who do not meet such standards should be held accountable.  The United States fully endorses data-driven approaches, such as the Comprehensive Performance and Assessment System, which is helping the Secretariat gather, analyse, and integrate data on mission performance to drive more efficient and effective planning and decision-making.  It expects to see these tools more widely and consistently used.

Belgium’s representative said his delegation continues to promote the multilingualism of missions by translating staff training manuals into French.  Peacekeeping has moved closer to local populations in recent years in Bunia, Mopti and Malakal.  Welcoming this, he said community engagement allows for the effective identification of risks for the populations and the peacekeepers.  Missions must be equipped with the tools of this engagement, and their personnel must have clear instructions.  The recently distributed guidelines on information acquisition are one such tool.  Belgium advocates that mission teams in charge of protection should be strengthened.  Stressing the importance of rule of law support functions in the mandates, he said post-conflict reconstruction must be based on a democratic police force that respects human rights, a reliable justice system and humane prison institutions.  The solidity of these institutions lays the necessary foundations for lasting peace.  The Council mandated some United Nations missions to provide support for transitional justice measures.  With South Africa, his delegation continues to work towards the adoption of a resolution on this important subject.

France’s representative said his country will remain mobilized to help countries train French-speaking troops with an emphasis on international humanitarian law.  Being able to adapt to the situation on the ground requires the development of rapidly deploying battalions, as was done to decrease tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Intelligence sharing and innovative protection technologies must also be developed.  Performance rests also on the posture and state of mind of the contingents as well as their leadership.  The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that peacekeeping operations are agile to adapt to changing circumstances.  As 2020 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the women, peace and security agenda, it is necessary to strengthen the participation of women in order to achieve greater impact on the ground.  France is among the more than 150 States that have signed the Declaration of Shared Commitments and will remain committed to supporting peace operations that are in the United Nations DNA.

The United Kingdom’s representative said improving peacekeeping performance must remain a priority.  When missions and personnel perform to the high standards, they are better able to deliver their mandates and ensure their own safety and security.  His delegation is encouraged by the progress made in developing a rigorous performance and accountability framework and has continued efforts to streamline mandates on which it holds the pen, aiming to ensure that they are clear, focused, realistic and achievable.  In 2020, it worked with Germany to secure Council agreement to respond to the Government of Sudan’s request to help with their political transition.  As one of the largest and most consistent extra-budgetary contributors to the Department of Peace Operations, his country continues to fund key reform projects, totalling almost $4 million in 2020 alone.  And as a troop-contributing country, it will deploy a 250-strong long-range reconnaissance task force to MINUSMA.

For information media. Not an official record.