London conference on UN peacekeeping sharpens focus on planning, pledges and performance

UN delegates from 80 nations gathered at Lancaster House in London for the annual UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial. Pictured left to right. UN Under Secretary General Herve Lasdous, Michael Fallon UK Secretary of State for Defence and Atul Khare UN Under Secretary General. Photo: UK MoD Crown Copyright 2016

8 September 2016 – Countries contributing to United Nations peacekeeping missions today adopted a communique that focuses ways to improve the planning of operations, implement the pledges of support made by countries, and enhance the performance of troops on the ground.

In the outcome document, which centred on the so-called “three Ps” of peacekeeping – planning, pledges and performance, the governments that signed on to the communique declared that they “must always strive to ensure that peacekeeping is as effective as possible, and evolves to meet today’s challenges, and the challenges of tomorrow.”

“Modern peacekeeping demands improved political and military planning throughout the mission lifecycle, with clear and sequenced mandates. It needs Members States to pledge well trained and equipped personnel that give missions the capability to deliver those mandates. And it needs high levels of performance from civilian and uniformed peacekeepers, underpinned by effective and accountable leadership,” the communique stated.

The outcome document was adopted at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial, which was hosted by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence in London and brought together defence ministers from 80 countries – those collectively responsible for the resources promised for UN peace operations.

The conference is a follow-up to the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping hosted last September by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States President Barack Obama on the margins of the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Some highlights of the outcome document are:

  • “We welcome the commitments of Member States at the London Ministerial to make their military and police units available for rapid deployment, and encourage others to come forward with similar units that are deployable within 30, 60 or 90 days.”
  • “We urge the Secretary General to prioritise the appointment of more women in senior UN leadership positions and to double the numbers of women in military and police contingents of UN peacekeeping operations by 2020.”
  • “We urge the [UN] Secretariat to consider a range of methods to adequately encourage troop- and police-contributing countries to maintain rapidly deployable stand-by units. We urge all troop- and police-contributing countries to streamline their deployment processes and call on the Secretariat to facilitate the process of pledges moving to higher states of readiness.”
  • “We call upon the Secretary-General to ensure that mission planning and assessment fully integrates the military, police and civilian parts of the mission, and takes into account other partners including the host government and regional actors, to accomplish the mandated tasks, and that mission planning and assessment considers from the outset how missions will complement the work of existing UN staff in-country.”
  • “All UN personnel deployed in UN peacekeeping operations must be committed to the highest standards of conduct. We underscore our commitment and support to the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) and commend and support the comprehensive initiatives in his enhanced programme of action to protect against sexual exploitation and abuse as set out in the report to the General Assembly A/69/779 and A/70/729 of February 2015 and 2016 and we are committed to taking serious and concerted action to combat SEA.”
Progress on deploying pledged resources

“None of us know when and where the next peacekeeping mission might be deployed. But it is probably quite safe to assume that it will not be a calm and easy deployment,” the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, said at the opening of the gathering today.

“We have to make sure we also prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead and are able to respond rapidly with the right set of capabilities, leadership and support, wherever we are mandated to go,” he added.

We have to make sure we also prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead and are able to respond rapidly

Mr. Ladsous highlighted the progress made on registering and deploying the pledged capabilities, noting it was more than many had expected.

“This rapid pace of follow up and implementation shows how sincere both your and our commitment is, and how determined we all are to turn pledges into better capabilities and real impact on the ground,” he said, stressing the need for a multi-year effort to sustain this level of commitment and determination over time.

The peacekeeping chief also emphasized the need to draw on political momentum and global partnership.

“The high level meetings and your pledges have been crucial in galvanizing and sustaining member state support and driving our reform efforts,” he said. “Only the UN can draw on such a wide range of countries and capabilities, and the legitimacy and strength of UN peacekeeping is greatly enhanced by the truly global partnership all of you represent.”

Mr. Ladsous pointed out that “we are still falling short, unfortunately by a large margin” in increasing the number of women in military and police components, welcoming the communique’s call for national action plans aimed at increasing the number of women in national armed forces and police institutions.

On the performance of UN peacekeepers, he said this was a collective responsibility of all, and when individual peacekeepers or units fail to perform their most fundamental duties, there must be consequences.

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of effective pre-deployment training in this context, including on the protection of civilians and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse,” he said.

The UN official said the UN needs better intelligence capacity to protect civilians and its own personnel, adding that the first-ever policy on intelligence in UN peacekeeping will be presented to all Member States later this year.

He also underlined the importance of partnerships and collective responsibility, citing new and innovative partnerships, such as the rotation system for C-130 transport aircraft in Mali established by a group of five European countries and spearheaded by Norway. The rotation system will deliver a predictable supply of this asset for years to come, he added, while also noting that the possibility of creating the same type of shared arrangement for helicopters was to be discussed on the sidelines of the gathering in London.

Concerns over ability to respond to conflicts

Addressing the closing session of today’s meeting, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare, said that “there is justified concern that changes in the types of conflicts we are seeing may be outpacing our ability respond to them.”

The spread of violent extremism, enduring local or regional conflicts and the growing impatience of populations for change, fuelled by technological advances, places ever greater pressure on governments and the international system, he said.

Yet, he noted, peacekeeping operations that are UN-led or logistically supported by the UN can help to preserve, restore and foster international peace and stability.

“They are part of a broader range of solutions that must be considered, employed and strengthened wherever appropriate,” he said, adding that the meeting had only strengthened these beliefs, he added.

According to the UN Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, head by Mr. Ladsous and Mr. Khare respectively, the UN leads or supports 36 peace operations on four continents in thirty countries, of which 17 are pure peacekeeping missions. Of the UN Secretariat’s $12 billion budget, peace operations account for over 75 per cent, and of $3 billion in annual UN procurement spending, 85 per cent is for such operations.

“We understand that the success of the UN and the success of peacekeeping is intertwined,” Mr. Khare said.

He asked the representatives of Member States to go back to their capitals and help the UN design cost-efficient budgets, provide quick funding, and invest in triangular partnerships with other nations.

He also asked them to work with the two UN departments on registering more units with the Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System. “International and regional peacekeeping operations that are UN-led or supported must be able to act rapidly, effectively, efficiently and responsibly,” he said.


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