Peacekeeping Faces Unique Operational Challenges, Not Least Drawing Line between Imposing Peace, Risking Reprisal, Fourth Committee Told

31 October 2013
GA/SPD/543

Peacekeeping Faces Unique Operational Challenges, Not Least Drawing Line between Imposing Peace, Risking Reprisal, Fourth Committee Told

31 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/SPD/543
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

18th Meeting (AM)

Peacekeeping Faces Unique Operational Challenges, Not Least Drawing Line

Between Imposing Peace, Risking Reprisal, Fourth Committee Told

As Debate Concludes, Speaker Says Time to Abandon

‘Disintegrated Approach’ of Designing Each Mission ‘from Scratch’

As peacekeeping was one of the most “visible flags” of the United Nations, it was important to conserve its legitimacy and ensure that the missions — often operating in unfamiliar and unforgiving environments — were in strict compliance with the foundational principles of its work, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today as it concluded its comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations in all its aspects.

The validity of peacekeeping, said Ecuador’s representative, was “built from the inside”, through inclusive and transparent dialogue between all States and the Special Committee on Peacekeeping, which was the only United Nations body mandated to consider strategic concepts and policies tied to those operations. 

The representative of Guatemala said it was not useful to look at peacekeeping operations as “contracting enterprises” adopted by countries to carry out their peacebuilding work.  Similarly, Cuba’s delegate said the operations were a temporary measure that allowed for a long-term strategy for sustainable peace, and while peacekeeping mandates weathered continued complexity, they could easily “blur the line” between actual peace keeping and peace imposition, threatening the safety of peacekeepers and exposing civilians to retaliatory attacks.

Along those lines, the representative of Nigeria said peacekeeping could not replace the task of nation-building, as reflected in the peace-building mechanisms instituted in the countries emerging from war, especially in Africa.  She emphasized a new priority direction to take into account inclusiveness, institutional building and sustained international support to reverse any setbacks, such as in the Central African Republic or Guinea-Bissau. 

Furthermore, she said, the increased risk borne by peacekeepers underscored the nature of the insecurity in emerging conflicts.  For civilian protection mandates and risk management, training afforded peacekeepers the ability to take on challenges posed by the instabilities, while the improvement of medical facilities for peacekeepers and other personnel was also critical. 

In paying particular attention to the safety and security of troops on the ground, South Africa’s delegate added, the Secretariat should realize peacekeeping deployments — the critical first responders in conflict theatres — always had to do “more with less” in ensuring a transition to United Nations peacekeeping forces.  Narrowing the doctrinal gap between regional organizations and the United Nations required broader policy discussions and the requisite military support packages, as well as predictable, sustainable and flexible funding. 

Similarly, the representative of the Philippines said that honouring the peacekeepers who risked “life and limb” and fulfilling its duty to the millions who were owed alleviation from turmoil and violence meant working together to duly affirm the policy behind Peacekeeping Operations and the architecture of peacekeeping. “We cannot afford to fail,” he said.

In that, Nepal’s speaker worried that, even after 65 years, the international community was handling peacekeeping missions through “a disintegrated approach, each from scratch, dealing with each mission separately, each with a separate budget and each having to go through the same old hurdles every time”.  The Organization must rise to the level of complexity, magnitude and sensitivity that peacekeeping today demanded and utilize any room and opportunity to function more proactively with streamlined budgeting, operational flexibility between different missions and broadened planning horizons for existing and new ones.  Deploying peacekeeping and combat troops, possibly under the same command, should be examined to preserve the sanctity of United Nations peacekeeping.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Jordan, Cameroon, Jamaica, Mexico, Qatar, Eritrea, Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, Gabon, Serbia, Malawi and Morocco.  A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also participated in the debate.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 1 November, to begin its consideration of Assistance in Mine Action.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its general debate on the comprehensive review of peacekeeping in all its aspects.

MOHAMMED ABDO ABD ELKARIM TARAWNEH (Jordan) associating himself the with Non-Aligned Movement,, said his country was aware of the significant efforts of United Nations peacekeeping and had sent 3,000 troops to conflict zones in nine different countries.  In contributing to the Operations, Member States must look at the causes of the conflict and better align peacekeeping and peacebuilding.  Jordan insisted on the input of troop-contribution countries in the process of staffing and ensuring support for the missions.  He was disappointed at the inability of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping to have agreed on a report, and hoped to see greater political will in that regard.  Jordan welcomed the work of the Senior Advisory Group to look at troop costs and other areas of peacekeeping, to allow the Organization to adopt a new system of financial support in 2014.  Jordan was pleased with the new manual developed by that Group, which would improve the advocacy and effectiveness of mission staff, but felt that the United Nations still needed to address areas such as air and overall transportation assets, and communications, most notably as that concerned Arab speakers in peacekeeping and peacebuilding endeavours.

MAMOUDOU MANA (Cameroon) associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, urged a spirit of consensus to prevail in the Special Committee, to allow the 2014 substantive session to move past the current quagmire.  When the first peacekeeping missions were deployed in 1948, it was difficult to imagine the complex and multidimensional operations that lay ahead.  The tasks assigned to peacekeeping no longer involved simply monitoring ceasefires, but also cementing peace processes, bringing States that had crumbled “back to their feet”, often following decades of conflict, as well as holding elections and reforming security and judicial institutions.  Cameroon reaffirmed the importance of the principles of limited use of force and clear, well-defined mandates.  His country had a long tradition of seeking peace in a spirit of compromise, and its President reaffirmed its will to contribute to peacekeeping.  Since the 1990s, it had provided troops, police and military observers to various operations.

JOAN THOMAS EDWARDS ( Jamaica) said that her country was aware of the hazardous environments emerging from violent conflict and stressed the importance of determining clear criteria for addressing security needs and evaluating the situation on the ground when deploying peacekeeping operations.  Sustainable peace and stability could only be achieved by addressing the root causes of conflict, often among them, poverty, the lack of and competition for scarce resources, unemployment, and the systemic violation of human rights.  Jamaica encouraged a holistic approach to conflict prevention, which included the use of social and developmental policy instruments, early warning and early response systems, and the actualization of agreements to enable developing and least-developed countries to meet their socio-economic goals.

She said that peacekeeping and peacebuilding were “two sides of the coin”.    United Nations resource allocation had failed to keep pace with mandate expansion and peacekeeping missions have been called upon to do “more with less”.  To that end, Jamaica fully supported the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and welcomed plans to encourage investments, which would play a critical role in Haiti’s social and economical development.  The country continued to experience a political, social and economic crisis, spurred by the remaining number of internally displaced persons and the ongoing cholera epidemic.  Jamaica was also concerned with the slow pace of dispersal of the funds pledged by the international community for Haiti’s reconstruction.  Although women were the most demonstrably affected by conflict, their voices remained in the background.  Female police units remained in short supply.  Also important was senior-level expertise at all stages of implementation of peacekeeping missions’ mandates.

RICARDO ALDAY GONZÁLEZ ( Mexico) said that peacekeeping helped the Organization to achieve its “two-faceted” goal of security and development.  Success required constant, constructive and frank exchange between the stakeholders.  The decisions and analysis that arose from the Special Committee impacted the mandates and their fulfilment, and his country, therefore, regretted the lack of agreement on its 2013 report.  The changing scenario in which peacekeeping operated was a reminder that substance was more important than form.  Mexico was committed to participating in the Group of Friends of the Chair to review that Committee’s working methods.  Peacekeeping required clear, objective, and realistic mandates as well as full national ownership, and the United Nations must remain faithful to the principles on which peacekeeping was founded.  Use of force mandates should not become a trend as that would compromise the process’ legitimacy.  Another matter of grave concern was security for the Blue Helmets.  Kidnappings, abductions and attacks against peacekeeping personnel were becoming commonplace, and ensuring their safety was the responsibility of the host country and the Organization.

ALYA AHMED SEIF AL-THANI (Qatar) associating herself the with Non-Aligned Movement, said that, as a Troop contributor, her country wanted to commend United Nations peacekeeping’s indispensible role and acknowledge the great risk its troops and supporting personnel endured.  There were several objectives the United Nations could address to ensure their greater safety.  First, the operations could observe more effectively their mandates and encourage collaboration with the countries receiving peacekeeping and peacebuilding support.  Secondly, the Secretariat must recognize that the operations were not a substitute for addressing crises in a country and that they must have the country’s consensus to operate there, especially in high-risk areas.  Finally, the United Nations should further implement Security Council resolution 2122 (2013) to enhance women’s participation and also take into consideration the roles and sensitivities coming of developing countries when deploying.

NEBIL SAID IDRIS (Eritrea) associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the success of United Nations peacekeeping depended on clear and achievable mandates, adequate financing and capabilities, wide political support, and clear exit strategies.  It was vital to remember the sacrosanct principles of neutrality and international cooperation.  Many peacekeeping operations today were entrusted with the protection of civilians.  Eritrea underscored that national Governments had the primary responsibility in that regard, and every caution must be taken to ensure that civilian protection mandates were not abused or used as pretext for external intervention.  Further, most operations had been deployed for decades now, and it was important to remember that they were neither meant to manage crises or serve as alternatives to addressing their root causes.  More attention must be paid to exit strategies and to addressing the economic, social, and political roots of conflicts.

GABRIEL ORELLANA ZABALZA ( Guatemala) associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the discussion required an exhaustive and systemic analysis to improve peace operations.  He reiterated the United Nations’ central role in the development of an “architecture of peace and security” in the operations’ deployment.  The Special Committee was the “single forum” of substantive evaluation of those matters, and Guatemala hoped the open-ended group would meet its mandate to ensure that all peacekeeping operations had a clear, fact-based and verifiable mandate adapted to the situation on the ground.  Furthermore, there was a great need for a triangular alignment between the Security Council, the Secretariat and the troop- contributing countries to address gaps in resources and training, taking into account, among others, the matter of reimbursement of troop costs and equipment.  He added that the remuneration process must be streamlined.  

He said that the recent attacks against the Blue Helmets in Mali, Sudan and South Sudan illustrated that hosting States held the responsibility of ensuring the security of the troops.  Guatemala was not satisfied with the slow pace of the investigation of those crimes, which should be thoroughly examined by the respective judicial systems.  Finally, it was not useful to look at peacekeeping operations as “contracting enterprises” adopted by countries to solve and carry out their peacebuilding work. 

JOSÉ EDUARDO PROAŃO ( Ecuador), associating himself with Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the increase in the complexity of peacekeeping mandates and the deployment of missions to risky situations warranted a thorough debate.  Peacekeeping was one of the most visible “flags” of the United Nations.  Hence, it was important to conserve its legitimacy.  It was the duty of Member States to ensure that operations were in strict compliance with consent of the parties, impartiality and non-use of force, with the exception of self-defence and defence of the mandate.  The validity of the peacekeeping was “built from the inside” through inclusive and transparent dialogue between all States and the Special Committee, which was the only United Nations body mandated to consider strategic concepts and policies tied to those operations.  Ecuador, therefore, regretted the absence of a report for 2013. Legitimacy in peacekeeping also demanded the egalitarian participation of women in the operations, including at decision-making levels.  Ecuador’s primary contribution to peacekeeping was to MINUSTAH, set in a sister country.  The consolidation plan for MINUSTAH must be implemented in step with capacity-building in that country and with the consent of the Haitian Government.

OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), said the creation of new multidimensional peacekeeping missions without the full participation of troop-contributing countries in the design of mandates was of great concern.  Critical shortfalls in planning and equipment, such as helicopters, night-vision goggles and the personnel overseeing the command, further put the forces in danger and also needed to be addressed.  The use of new technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, should come under legal oversight to secure State sovereignty.  Despite the complexity of peacekeeping mandates, the expansion of the use of force could also easily blur the line between peacekeeping and the “imposition” of peace and increase the ability of retaliation attacks against civilians.  Peacekeeping operations were a temporary measure that allowed a long-term strategy for sustainable peace.  The planning of their early phases must take into account national experience and national ownership.

KIM TAEDONG ( Republic of Korea) said that currently nine out of 15 field missions specifically contained civilian protection mandates.  Those elements were increasingly becoming an integral part of United Nations peacekeeping.  Recently, the Departments of Peacekeeping and Field Support had finalized and distributed tactical-level training modules with scenario-based exercises.  That material would help troop- and police-contributing countries to enhance peacekeepers’ preparedness for protection of civilians.  The Republic of Korea also supported the “capability-driven approach” as a core ingredient for successful peacekeeping. As part of that, more active introduction of advanced technology was needed.  His country welcomed the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles as a new system for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) to enhance the intelligence of the mission and the security of its peacekeepers.

JOY OGWU (Nigeria), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, commended the quest of the United Nations Secretary-General to ensure a steady partnership between the United Nations and various regional and subregional associations to strengthen peacekeeping.  However, peacekeeping could not replace nation-building, as reflected in the peacebuilding mechanisms instituted in the countries emerging from war, especially in Africa.  Nigeria emphasized new priority direction to take into account inclusiveness, institutional-building and sustained international support to reverse any setbacks, namely, in the Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau.  Furthermore, the increased risk borne by peacekeepers underscored the nature of the insecurity in emerging conflicts.  For civilian protection mandates and risk management, training afforded peacekeepers the ability to take on challenges posed by the instabilities, while the improvement of medical facilities for peacekeepers and other personnel was also critical.  Finally, death and disability claims should remain a priority in view of the risks taken by peacekeepers; the claims for deceased peacekeepers with pre-existing health conditions and those killed due to severe weather conditions and high-level threats should also be honoured.

Mr. MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh) said modern peacekeeping went beyond the traditional role of truce supervision and nowadays addressed both inter- and intra-State conflicts.  Their missions had become diversified - engaging military, police and civilian personnel, and they provided, among others, critical support for the safety and security of civilians, as well as support for political and electoral processes.  They also assisted host Governments in rendering many vital services.  As their mandates expanded, so did their needs and requirements.  Force and resource requirements need to be commensurate with stipulated mandates.  Recalling the Declaration adopted at the High-Level Peacebuilding Meeting, organized by Bangladesh with the support of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said that the experiences and views of troop contributing countries’ must be given due importance in determining mission needs.  For the missions’ continued success, there must be, among others, fair representation of troop-contributing countries in the Secretariat’s decision-making process and mission implementation.  Also, compensation in case of death or disability must be cleared without delay.

NELSON MESSONE (Gabon), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the situation in which Blue Helmets was operating had become “complex, dangerous, and unpredictable”, sometimes calling for the use of force.  The issue of security of peacekeepers had become increasingly worrisome, and the international community must work harder to improve the human, material and technical capacities of the operations.  Current budget reforms should provide operations with the necessary means based on their needs on the ground.  Gabon was pleased with the Peacekeeping Department’s efforts to strike a balance between means and needs.  Further, multilingualism contributed to a mission’s effectiveness by improving communication with host countries, and thus, the linguistic factor should be taken into account in recruitment, as well as in the choice of command and creation of training manuals.  Gabon thanked the troop-contributing countries without which the various operations would not be impossible.

RADIŠA GRUJIĆ ( Serbia), associating himself with the European Union, said that peacekeeping operations were more complex than ever.  Given the increasingly difficult operational environment and the scale and complexity of demands, strengthen peacekeeping capacity and optimizing available resources were essential to the effective functioning of the field operations.  Stressing that successful peacekeeping was a shared responsibility, he said partnership between the Security Council, General Assembly, the Secretariat, host country, troop- and police-contributing countries, among others, must be enhanced.  As well, the contributing countries’ expertise and field experience must be incorporated in the planning and policy-making processes.  Improved training of the military, police and civilian personnel was also critical.  Expressing deep concern about the increasing attacks on United Nations personnel, he said their safety and security must be prioritized.  Emphasizing the importance of integrating the gender perspective and promoting women’s participation in peacekeeping operations, he commended the recent adoption of Security Council resolution 2106 (2013) on conflict-related sexual violence and its resolution 2122 (2013) on ensuring and strengthening women’s engagement in peace and security processes.

MLUNGISI MBALATI, (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said in order for the “valiant efforts” of peacekeepers troops to not be in vain, clear and decisive steps were required by the United Nations to address the “obvious impunity” and disregard combatants displayed for the Blue Helmets.  The United Nations, therefore, must review the Memorandum of Understanding with the host nation, paying particular attention to the safety and security of troops.  Though United Nations presence was not intended to replace the armed forces or policing community of the host nations, African peacekeeping deployments – the critical first responders in conflict theatres had always had to do “more with less” in altering the ground realities to make a transition to United Nations peacekeeping forces.  Narrowing the doctrinal gap between the African Union and the United Nations required broader policy discussions and recognition of the need for requisite military support packages, as well as predictable, sustainable and flexible funding.  Finally, South Africa reiterated its support for the Secretary-General’s policy of zero tolerance against sexual exploitation and abuse committed under the auspices of United Nations peacekeeping and called for the perpetrators of those crimes to be brought before respective disciplinary bodies.

ROBERT ERIC ALABADO BORJE (Philippines), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that the international community needed to work together to ensure that the entire policy, structural and operations architecture of peacekeeping was duly supported.  “This we owe to ourselves as stakeholders of international peace and security.”  That was also what the international community owed to the thousands of peacekeepers who faced risk to limb and life to implement the mandate imposed in them.  That was also what was owed to the millions who faced turmoil and violence and who deserved a life of dignity.  “We cannot afford to fail,” He said.

However, he said, developments within the Special Committee had given the international community pause for concern.  The inability to come up with a report was troubling, he said, adding that all stakeholders must meet “in earnest, in candour, and in confidence.”  Further, capacity building, before, during, and after deployment, was a key area that must be sustained.  It was also necessary to fully support peacekeeping efforts through the provision of adequate resources and concrete and clear mandates.  Events in Golan Heights this year had shown the vulnerability of peacekeepers.  Philippine troops were kidnapped on two separate occasions, which underscored the need to further increase peacekeepers’ self-defence capabilities.  As for coordination, there was a need for an institutionalized mechanism of dialogue between troop- and police-contributing countries, the Security Council and the Secretariat.  He reiterated the call for transparent, active, open and regular dialogue between the three stakeholders.

CHARLES P. MSOSA ( Malawi), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country had been participating in peacekeeping missions since 1994.  Recently, it had deployed a battalion to be part of the Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, following the adoption of Security Council resolution 2098 earlier this year.  There could be no meaningful development without peace.  However, peacekeepers were often subjected to targeted attacks and killings by enemies of peace.  Such atrocities demoralized peacekeeping efforts and should not continue unabated.  Malawi was also disheartened by reports of sexual violence and abuse against women and girls in conflict zones.  Such barbaric acts flew in the face of the goal of protecting civilians, and he urged the Governments and the international community to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice.

DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while the process of peacekeeping had always been evolving as a learning experience since the United Nations started it decades ago, “it was time to ponder whether the pace of evolution could have been faster and lessons utilized better”. Even after 65 years, the international community was handling peacekeeping missions through “a disintegrated approach, each from scratch, dealing with each mission separately, each with a separate budget and each having to go through the same old hurdles every time”.  The Organization must rise to the level of complexity, magnitude and sensitivity that peacekeeping today demanded.  It was also time to utilize “any room and opportunity” to function more proactively with streamlined anticipatory budgeting, operational flexibility between different missions and broadened planning horizons for existing and new ones.  At the same time, concepts such as deploying peacekeeping and combat troops, possibly together and under the same command, should be examined thoroughly to preserve the sanctity of the peacekeeping role of the United Nations.

REDOUANE HOUSSAINI ( Morocco) said that peacekeeping remained a “precious and flexible tool” as well as a source of hope for those lost in conflict.  The deployment of peacekeeping operations was guided by mutually reinforcing principles such as consent of the parties and impartiality and non-use of force, except in case of legitimate defence or defence of mandates.  Impartiality, however, should not be confused with neutrality or inaction.  Further, the current political context for peacekeeping operations today was very different from that of first-generations operations.  Peacekeeping was by nature dynamic, and that meant constant assessments.  Those who mandated peacekeeping operations must be in contact with those who were contributing to activities on the ground.  A crucial element was triangular coordination between troop-contributing countries, the Secretariat, and Security Council.  Council resolution 1353 (2001) had called for bolder steps to improve that coordination.  Though there had been progress, much remained to be done.  Morocco played an important role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, especially in Africa, as its foreign policy sought to make it a “player of peace”.

MAURICIO ERNESTO GRANILLO of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that the Missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali had shown that the so-called robust mandates given to peacekeeping missions increased the likelihood that United Nations peacekeepers would become involved in the use of force.  As a result, the questions of when and how international humanitarian law would apply to their actions had become all the more relevant.  Its applicability to United Nations forces, just as to any others, was determined solely by the circumstances on the ground and by specific legal conditions stemming from the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law, regardless of the Security Council-assigned mandate.

He said that, increasingly, missions were given a mandate to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in their area of operations.  That was a “vitally important but immensely difficult” task.  The ICRC was aware of the challenges facing United Nations forces, especially when resources allocated to attaining that objective were insufficient.  The measures taken by missions to ensure that the parties to a conflict complied with international humanitarian law might also play an essential role in improving the plight of the civilians.  The ICRC welcomed the existing strategies to protect civilians affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence, whose implementation required in-depth dialogue between humanitarian organizations involved in protection work.  Further, international humanitarian law must be properly integrated into the doctrine, education, training and practices of United Nations military and police forces.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.