United Nations Peacekeeping Not Always as Fast, Effective as Required in Responding to Conflict, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

SC/12130
20 November 2015
7564th Meeting (AM)

United Nations Peacekeeping Not Always as Fast, Effective as Required in Responding to Conflict, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Members Call for Greater Engagement with Host States, as Others Caution against Use of ‘Blue Helmets’ to Combat Extremism, Terrorism

Concerned over the intensity of modern-day conflicts — marked by mounting human, political and financial costs — United Nations Secretary‑General Ban Ki‑moon told the Security Council today that the Organization did not always respond with the speed and effectiveness required.

Briefing Council members this morning on his report “The Future of United Nations Peace Operations:  implementation of the recommendations of the High-level Panel on Peace Operations” (document S/2015/846), Secretary‑General Ban said the demands of conflict were placing enormous burdens on peace and security tools.  The High-level Panel on Peace Operations had offered a number of recommendations covering three broad areas:  political engagement, design and implementation of peace operations, and reinvigorated partnerships.

Describing peace operations as political tools, he emphasized that the Council’s political engagement even before authorizing a peace operation was critical and remained essential throughout the mission’s life.  Prevention was the most effective means of tackling the escalating costs of conflict and the best way to support national and regional partners.  Committed efforts among Council members to unite around a shared political strategy to de-escalate tensions could have a powerful effect.  The use of sanctions could change the incentives of key parties and play a role in reducing the flows of arms and money.  The Council’s engagement with host Governments was also critical.

He went on to say that the Council could strengthen peace operations through improved design and implementation of mandates, endorsing the High-level Panel’s recommendation on sequenced mandates (under that model, the Council would confirm a mandate only once the Secretariat assured it that the capabilities required had been made available).  Where peace operations were mandated to protect civilians, they must use all available tools, including force, he said.  When there was a failure to act in the face of threats to civilians, the Council should engage, politically and operationally, to help redress such situations, and engage also on issues of misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse.  A strong dialogue with partners was crucial for devising more tailored mandates, he said, emphasizing that deeper engagement with regional partners was “a must”.

Underscoring the fundamental importance of the relationship between the Council and troop and police contributors to effective peace operations, he said there was a need for engagement — well before a peace operation was mandated — on what was required and what was available.  The Council’s landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security had been fully mainstreamed, he pointed out, adding that consideration should also be given to strengthening collaboration between the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  “Taken together, these efforts can enable us to renew the instruments of the United Nations to address conflict, protect people and help countries find durable paths of peace,” he said in conclusion.

Council members then took the floor, emphasizing the need for the 15-nation organ to use its “collective political leverage” in pursuit of political settlement of conflicts, complemented by mediation.  Mandates should be geared towards specific situations on the ground, and peacekeepers should be equipped with the necessary assets to fulfil their mandates.  The representative of the United States said in that regard that when advanced technologies were needed for a peace operation, the Council should support such requests and not play politics with them.

Several participants in the discussion stressed the need for better protection of peacekeepers.  Expressing condolences to the families of the victims of yesterday’s attack in Mali, and condemning that terrorist action, they noted that it underlined the dangers under which peacekeepers had to operate.  “Countries won’t make soldiers and police available if they feel their people may be exposed to unacceptable risk,” New Zealand’s representative said.  The Council should receive situational awareness briefings, led by the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre, to ensure that mandates matched real-world contexts.

The United Kingdom’s representative, Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, saying the Council must play a significant role in empowering peace operations by improving the manner in which it mandated missions, and changing the way in which it discussed the work of the United Nations in fragile and conflict-affected countries.  It must robustly respond to all allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.  Further, the Council must get its political messaging right by making use of all tools to speak out against violations of status-of-forces agreements.  Meanwhile, the Council required more and better feedback, especially in relation to whether a mission’s configuration was sufficient, a task that required early planning.

The Russian Federation’s representative cautioned against an excessive focus on human rights and gender issues.  Instead, the mandates of various Secretariat departments must be respected, and the practice of “stealing other people’s bed covers” curbed because that led to “no one taking responsibility for anything” and increased costs.  The range of issues — including preventive measures, structural changes in the Secretariat and redistribution of staff and resources — must be a priority, first and foremost in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, he emphasized.

Speakers welcomed the High-level Panel’s recommendations on sequenced mandates.  Venezuela’s representative said they should be established in three stages:  determining whether ground conditions favoured deployment; deploying peacekeepers with a mandate limited to the political, protection and security spheres; and broadening the mandate.  Noting concerns about deployment to situations where there was no peace to preserve, he stressed that peacekeeping had not been established to participate in anti-terrorism or related operations.

There was a broad consensus on the need to intensify cooperation between the Council and regional and subregional organizations.  Noting that the Organizations on its own could not meet all challenges to peace, especially in Africa, Chad’s representative stressed the crucial importance of a strategic partnership with the African Union, explaining that regional organizations had the advantage of geographical proximity, better awareness of the causes of conflict and the ability to act swiftly.  He emphasized that regional and sub-regional organizations must receive the necessary support from the Council.

Many speakers asked for more sustained interaction by the Council with troop- and police-contributing countries.

Other speakers today were representatives of Chile, France, Spain, Nigeria, China, Jordan, Malaysia, Angola and Lithuania.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:56 a.m.

Briefing

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, briefed on his report “The Future of United Nations Peace Operations:  implementation of the recommendations of the High-level Panel on Peace Operations”, saying today marked the first time the Council would reconsider his own and the High-level Panel’s recommendations.  He explained that he had launched the initiative out of concern over the intensity of today’s conflicts, which were marked by mounting political, human and financial costs.  Political failures had resulted in deprivation for millions of people, he said, noting that peacekeeping and special political missions were deployed in more countries than ever before.

He said the demands of conflict were placing enormous burdens on peace and security tools, particularly United Nations peace operations, adding that the Organization did not always respond with the speed and effectiveness required.  “We find it harder to end conflicts and to sustain peace.”  The Panel had offered a number of recommendations, he said, adding that he had put forward concrete proposals for their implementation.  The recommendations covered three broad areas:  political engagement, design and implementation of peace operation, and reinvigorated partnerships.

Describing peace operations as political tools, he emphasized that the Council’s political engagement even before authorizing a peace operation was critical and remained essential throughout the life of a mission.  Prevention was the most effective means of tackling the escalating costs of conflict and the best way to support national and regional partners.  Committed efforts among Council members to unite around a shared political strategy to de-escalate tensions could have a powerful effect, including through public statements and private messaging to parties in conflict and engagement with regional and other stakeholders.  The use of sanctions could change the incentives of key parties and play a role in reducing the flows of arms and money.

The Council’s engagement with host Governments was also critical, he continued.  Time and again, missions had been prevented from performing their mandated tasks by an array of administrative obstacles and other restrictions.  Where missions were deployed, there was a need for greater attention to the political strategies that they supported, he stressed.  “We will be more forthright on the role that the Council itself can and should play.”  That could include engaging Council representatives in host countries, where they could project the Council’s collective determination in their engagement with all parties.

He went on to say that the Council could strengthen peace operations through improved design and implementation of mandates.  Good progress was being made towards prioritize mandates, he said, endorsing the High-level Panel’s recommendation on sequenced mandates, which could reinforce efforts to focus on urgent protection and political tasks.  Sequenced and prioritized mandates would depend on better and more regular assessments by the Secretariat, he said, adding that he was putting measures in place to strengthen analysis and planning at Headquarters.

Underlining the Council’s responsibility to ensure that peacekeepers were equipped to carry out their tasks, he said high operational readiness, standby arrangements, agile field support and high quality care were essential.  Troop and police contributors needed support in generating critical enablers, and United Nations administrative practices must be streamlined and adapted.  Where peace operations had a mandate to protect civilians, they must use all tools, including force, he said.  However, that did not replace the search for political settlements.

He said that when there was a failure to act in the face of threats to civilians, he would inform the Council.  The Council should engage, politically and operationally, to help redress such situations, and engage also on issues of misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse.  “If the Security Council demonstrates that it will remain engaged in the conduct of a mission and actions by its personnel, that can be a powerful performance incentive,” he added.  A strong dialogue with partners was crucial for devising more tailored mandates, and deeper engagement with regional partners was “a must”.

Underscoring that the relationship between the Council and troop and police contributors was also fundamental to effective peace operations, he said there was a need for engagement — well before a peace operation was mandated — on what was required and what was available.  The Council’s landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security had been fully mainstreamed throughout the peace operations initiative, he pointed out, adding that consideration should also be given to strengthening collaboration between the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  “Taken together, these efforts can enable us to renew the instruments of the United Nations to address conflict, protect people and help countries find durable paths of peace,” he said in conclusion.

Statements

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said his delegation supported use of the term “peace operations”, as recommended by the High-level Panel, which noted the range of United Nations instruments, including flexible ones such as expert panels and peace and security advisers.  The Council should use its “collective political leverage” in pursuit of political settlements, since it was obliged to detect conflict at an early stage.  The Council’s political role must be complemented by mediation, and peace operations must be part of a broad strategy supporting political processes.  Expressing support for a sequential approach to mandate-building, he called for enhanced communication with troop and police contributors, whose views must be considered when establishing mandates, adding that gender advisers must be considered when planning peace missions.

HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) said mandates should be sequential and specific to ground conditions.  They should have three stages:  determining whether ground conditions favoured deployment; deploying peacekeepers with a mandate limited to the political, protection and security spheres; and broadening the mandate.  In the first stage, the Secretariat must analyse the conflict and stakeholders’ intentions so as to determine military and police requirements.  Noting concerns about deployment to situations where there was no peace to preserve, he emphasized that peacekeeping had not been established to participate in anti-terrorism or related operations, citing situations in which operations had been deployed without analysis of the relevant political situation or the required physical and material requirements.  In the second stage, the Council could consider an initial time-bound mandate emphasizing the political, security and protection spheres.  The Council could then consider expansion into such areas as human rights, gender and trafficking in small arms and light weapons.  Venezuela supported greater use of non-coercive instruments, such as press statements or presidential declarations, he said, expressing concern over the Council’s preference for coercive or military solutions.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) emphasized the need to make political and mediation efforts a priority.  The involvement of the United Nations must be carefully balanced against each situation, and the needs of each affected people considered through dialogue with Governments and communities.  The United Nations presence must offer assistance based on host country priorities.  Emphasizing that peacekeepers must not be used to combat terrorism and violent extremism, he said he was pleased that the recommendations included ideas about basic peacekeeping principles.  The Russian Federation did not agree with flexible interpretations, he said, stressing that civilian protection was not an ultimate aim, and responsibility for that rested with the State.  Peacekeeping aimed to “lend a hand” to the host country when it was unable to help itself, he said, stressing that such assistance which must be impartial, based on consent of the host country and mutual understanding.  However, it was a temporary measure.

He went on to caution against an excessive focus on human rights aspects, including the Rights Up Front initiative and gender issues.  Instead, a rational approach must be taken and the mandates of various Secretariat departments must be respected.  The practice of “stealing other people’s bed covers” and mandates must be curbed because that led to “no one taking responsibility for anything” and increased costs.  United Nations mechanisms must be trimmed, but additional measures should not be set up to trim them.  Regarding troop contributing-countries, he said the Secretariat must not have too wide a remit in staff policies.  The United Nations must cooperate with regional and subregional organizations on different tracks, including information exchange.  The range of issues — including preventive measures, structural changes in the Secretariat and redistribution of staff and resources — must be a priority, first in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said his delegation supported the framework proposed by the Secretary-General on the basis of the High-level Panel’s recommendations.  It was the Secretary-General’s prerogative to see to it that the United Nations was more efficient and responsive on the ground by reorganizing and reforming processes.  Competences and capacities must be more decentralized from Headquarters to the ground, he said, noting, for example, that the rules for the recruitment of civilians were too difficult.  The protection of “Blue Helmets” should be addressed because peacekeepers were often seen as targets.  New technologies should be used to improve surveillance and anticipation.  There was also need to improve logistics.  Calling also for improved medical care, he noted that United Nations staff were often exposed to unacceptable risks.  France supported proposals to strengthen consultations with regional partners, as well as regular consultations with troop- and police-contributing countries.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) supported calls for stronger investment by the Council and the wider United Nations membership in conflict prevention and improved harnessing of “collective political leverage” in pursuit of political settlements.  Urging greater use of timely missions, including “mini-missions”, he said they should work with regional organizations and have standing funding arrangements.  New Zealand agreed that the Council should use “two-stage” mandates for missions being established or reconfigured, and allow for operations to be built and drawn down according to clear priorities and ground situations.  In addition, the Council must have more consistent, meaningful engagement with troop and police contributors and affected States, while the United Nations must better ensure personnel safety.  “Countries won’t make soldiers and police available if they feel their people may be exposed to unacceptable risk,” he said, emphasizing that the Council should receive situational awareness briefings, led by the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre, to ensure that mandates matched real-world contexts.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) expressed support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations, including on mainstreaming the women, peace and security agenda and the Council’s relationship with the Peacebuilding Commission.  Spain also supported the political element in peace operations and the recommendation to strengthen mediation.  As the Council had acknowledged, there was a need to improve the incorporation of women into the work of all United Nations bodies, he said, emphasizing also that the protection of civilians must remain the focus of concerns.  There was a need to improve the training of peacekeepers and to make mandates clearer.  Sequential mandates must have the objective of better adapting peace operations to situations on the ground, but sequencing musts not sacrifice the priorities of protecting human rights and protecting civilians.  The ultimate objective must be the implementation of inclusive political solutions with a focus on people.  Prioritizing was a useful exercise and should be used increasingly in reviewing mandates, which was the responsibility of penholders.  However, it was important to make the process of selecting penholders more transparent.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States), noting today’s events in Mali, said that an attack in an area where the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was active, underlined the dangers to which the Mission was exposed.  Noting that peacekeeping missions were carrying out robust mandates to protect people in areas where terrorists operated freely, or where armed groups terrorized civilians, he said United Nations peacekeepers must therefore have the right equipment and training.  Active engagement on the part of the Council was important, he said, pointing out that while the Secretary-General’s implementation proposals were important, the Council’s response was even more critical, and should not entail merely repeating the Secretary General’s words.  There was a need to engage, to raise resources and to reform.

He went on to say that improved analysis and planning were needed and must be guided by the protection of human rights and by countering threats to civilians.  When advanced technologies were needed for a peace operation, the Council should support such requests and not play politics with them.  Since there were growing numbers of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse every week, a swift response from the United Nations was needed, and the Council must do more to ensure implementation of the zero-tolerance policy while including those issues in the Council’s agenda.  With success and failure hinging on the qualifications of an operation’s senior leader, the selection of senior leadership must be enhanced, he emphasized.  Deeper relations were needed between the United Nations and regional organizations, and the Organization’s partnership with the African Union was especially critical.

ANTHONY BOSAH (Nigeria) welcomed the action plan for implementing the High-level Panel’s recommendations, saying it outlined ways for peacekeeping to become faster and more accountable.  He emphasized the importance of strengthening the Council’s cooperation with the Secretariat and personnel-contributing countries, as well as between the United Nations and the African Union, describing partnership as the cornerstone of Africa’s efforts to maintain peace and security.  The United Nations assumed responsibility for African Union-led operations initiated as bridging measures, in acknowledgement that resolving conflict required complex responses, including infrastructure that the regional body might not be able to make available.  It should be seen as a vital element in the partnership for peace security.  Nigeria looked forward to the final United Nations-African Union framework for enhanced partnership in peace and security, he said, adding that his delegation supported the tailoring and sequencing of mandates.

LIU JIEYI (China) said peace operations musts adhere to the United Nations Charter, as well as to peacekeeping principles and others outlining the imperative of respect for sovereignty and assistance based on host country needs.  The Council should strengthen its micromanagement of peace operations to ensure that mandates had clear goals and priorities, notably by adjusting mandates and scale according to ground conditions.  The United Nations must also enhance the efficiency and speed of force deployment, optimize logistics and resources, and reinforce discipline among peacekeepers.  Further, it must strengthen coordination with regional organizations, notably the African Union, in order to enhance the continent’s capacity to settle African problems in African ways.  China was a major troop contributor and donor to United Nations peacekeeping, and it would join the Capability Readiness system and set up a permanent police squad, he said, pointing out that his country had provided $100 million in military assistance to the African Union, and would deploy the first helicopter squad to United Nations peacekeeping in Africa.

DINA KAWAR (Jordan), noting that mediation, prevention and support for political processes were of utmost priority, emphasized the Council’s use of political leverage and support for political processes.  The Council could establish a mediation panel comprising experts who had relationships with parties in conflict.  It should consider sequenced mandates in both current and future operations, while ground conditions should inform such decisions.  Sequenced mandates would save time and energy, especially in dealing with violent extremism and terrorism, or diseases such as Ebola.  Their second phase should include the development of exit strategies to ensure that host countries were not left in a security vacuum, she said.  Peacekeepers must be trained to deal with cross-border conflicts and the Council should work with the Secretariat to determine steps in that regard, including by relying on specialized consultants who could make recommendations for future mandates.  Pressing the Council to widen its cooperation with the League of Arab States, she also urged accountability for human rights violations resulting from sexual violence and exploitation.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said United Nations peacekeeping operations, including special political missions, must prioritize the quest for solutions to conflict, and the Council must use its collective responsibility to implement those solutions, while considering the needs of the host State.  Political solutions should not exclude the use of force because non-State actors sometimes undermined peace efforts.  Chad welcomed the actions of the rapid reaction brigade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.  Emphasizing that regional and subregional organization must receive the necessary support from the Council, he said his delegation welcomed better defined sequenced mandates, and the Council must consult in that regard with the host country and regional organizations.  Noting that the Organizations on its own could not meet all challenges to peace, especially in Africa, he stressed the crucial importance of a strategic partnership with the African Union, explaining that regional organizations had the advantage of geographical proximity, better awareness of the causes of conflict and the ability to act swiftly.

SITI HAJJAR ADNI (Malaysia) said the scope, role and functions of peacekeepers had evolved over the years and gone beyond the Charter.  Especially in “frozen conflict” situations, such as Lebanon, Sudan and Western Sahara, the Council could do more to capitalize on its political leverage and improve relations with the parties concerned, she said.  While it was encouraging that an increasing number of conflict settlements were reached outside the Council, she said the capacity of regional organizations should be reinforced.  It was important for the full Council to be involved in conflict settlement, not just some of its members, she said, adding that it needed a shift in its approach, away from conflict management towards conflict resolution.  Engagement between the Council and troop-contributing countries should be institutionalized.  While not opposed to sequencing of mandates, she said that prerequisites must be met.  Mandate design should be focused on the situation on the ground and troops must be deployed with sufficient assets.  More clarity was needed on how caveats could help or hamper success.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) agreed with the recommendation on early involvement of the Council in the prevention and mediation of conflicts.  A range of available tools could create faster and more effective actions, including good offices, support for United Nations country teams and mediation.  Recalling that a political settlement used to be seen as a prerequisite for the deployment of a mission, since there was a peace to keep, he noted that nowadays, however, more peacekeeping operations were deployed in environments where conflict was raging and huge human rights violations occurred.  The use of force was not at the core of peace operations, and must be used only when civilians were subjected to violence and abuse.  Since most peace operations took place in Africa, the African Union must be a key partner of the United Nations, he said.  That would require predictable and flexible mechanisms in support of African Union operations.  He said the Council should pursue a more critical prioritization in designing mandates, and pursue sequenced mandates.

DOVYDAS ŠPOKAUSKAS (Lithuania) stated that despite the constant refrain in the Council’s discussions about the need to refocus United Nations efforts in conflict prevention, the gap between declarations and actions remained wide.  While proactive engagement might not be enough to stop a conflict from erupting, as evidenced by the tragedy in Yemen, the risk of failure should not be an excuse for not trying.  The Secretary-General’s Rights Up Front initiative should also be further developed and applied systematically as an early-warning tool, he said.  Furthermore, the United Nations should be able to deliver more “right fit” missions rather than “template” missions.  While prioritizing and sequencing mandated tasks might be a suitable approach in situations where every day of inaction meant more death and displacement, it was crucial to observe the impact of sequencing, he emphasized.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, expressing shock at the hostage crisis in Bamako and offering condolences to the victims.  He said the Council would remain closely engaged in stabilizing Mali through MINUSMA.  More broadly, the Council must play a significant role in empowering peace operations by improving the manner in which it mandated missions and changing the way in which it discussed the work of the United Nations in fragile and conflict-affected countries.  It must robustly respond to all allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, he said, adding that his delegation also supported sequenced mandates, with greater prioritization of tasks, as had been done in the Central African Republic.

The Council must set a clear direction for the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), guided by a technical assessment from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, he said, adding that it must also consider how best to expand the Mission’s work.  Further, the Council must get its political messaging right by making use of all tools to speak out against violations of status-of-forces agreements.  It should consider how such messaging could prevent conflict, by using press statements and Council visits to various regions, while imposing sanctions where appropriate.  Meanwhile, the Council required more and better feedback, especially in relation to whether a mission’s configuration was sufficient, which required early planning.  The United Kingdom supported the Secretariat’s early engagement with the Council in that context.

For information media. Not an official record.