Field Support Chief Cites Efforts to Prevent, Rectify Peacekeeper Misconduct
New coalitions of support were needed to address collective security challenges in today’s multipolar world, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today, emphasizing that future peace operations would require expert deployment, effective use of technology and adaptability to situations on the ground.
As the Committee began its annual review of peacekeeping operations, it heard briefings by Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support. Following their briefings, delegations had an opportunity to engage with the two officials on the most pressing questions during a closed interactive session.
Mr. Ladsous said that, amid continuing repercussions on peacekeeping arising from the global economic crisis and the “Arab Spring”, Member States had demanded that the United Nations “do more with less”, while expecting the same level of performance. In the meantime, terrorism and asymmetric warfare had become part of various peacekeeping theatres, and the situation in Libya had exposed fundamental disagreements within the Security Council, having generated “knock-on effects” on peacekeeping mandates and the protection of civilians.
“I endeavoured to take a pragmatic, field-focused and performance-oriented approach to the management and reform of peacekeeping,” he said, emphasizing the need to transform operations into a modernized, more professional enterprise. Where civilians were deliberately targeted by parties to conflict, it was critical to meet the expectations of people whose last hope for security rested with the United Nations. In view of that, efforts must focus on maximizing political leverage and comparative advantage, he said, noting that throughout his tenure he had sought to improve partnerships with the African Union and the European Union.
Transforming that approach into reality had involved close engagement with Member States in support of a progressive vision of peacekeeping, he continued, pointing out that the 2014 and 2015 Leaders Summits’ on Peacekeeping had secured new contributions of uniformed units to peacekeeping missions. In addition, the Peacekeeping Capabilities Readiness System had been established to match capabilities with needs in the field. At the same time, training was being revised and improved, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had modernized its tools by introducing innovative technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles.
“Operationally, the past five years have been intense,” he said, adding that throughout that period, the Department had managed multiple planning, deployment and drawdown processes, including overseeing the start-up of three missions — in Syria, Mali and the Central African Republic — as well as the reconfiguration of missions in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Each of these very distinct experiences has demonstrated the agility of peacekeeping operations and their capacity to adapt to changing environments,” he said.
Presenting current challenges, he said the Department had witnessed acute tensions between peacekeeping operations and their host authorities, emphasizing that where there was a fundamentally different understanding between stakeholders, it was crucial to acknowledge and proactively address that divergence. “Consent is a two-way street and must be constantly nurtured,” he said, stressing that while peacekeepers should not be seen as intruders, they must acknowledge the sovereignty of the consenting State. National ownership of peacebuilding processes was the ultimate goal of peacekeeping operations, yet the Security Council must act in defence of peacekeepers when they were prevented from carrying out their duties. Other challenges included sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers and asymmetric environments that required addressing underlying causes, equipping and training uniformed personnel with the right tools, and engaging with local communities.
Mr. Khare, describing his Department’s activities, said it supported 17 peacekeeping operations, comprising more than 142,000 authorized uniformed personnel from 123 countries. In 2016, it had focused on aligning priorities, performance frameworks and management with client and stakeholder expectations in order to strengthen mechanisms for continuous improvement. In order to better understand gaps and challenges, the Department would introduce a set of common core support performance indicators across peacekeeping operations in 2017 and 2018.
Through extra-budgetary support from Japan, his Department had established a triangular partnership project to strengthen military engineering units across peacekeeping missions in Africa, he continued, noting that it would enhance the capacities of troop-contributing countries. Such partnerships also provided opportunities for financial contributors to support enabling capacity in a flexible manner, while enlarging the pool of units with the skills needed to facilitate more rapid deployment.
He went on to emphasize that fundamental contractual arrangements could not be neglected in the desire to deploy quickly. Approximately 50 units still lacked a signed memorandum of understanding regulating rights and responsibilities, he said, noting that the situation had resulted in reimbursement delays, complications in addressing misconduct, and greater accountability gaps. Among other things, the Department had also intensified its focus on preventing, pursuing and rectifying misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse. In the area of prevention, the Department vetted all personnel, including members of contingents and formed police units, for a history of prior misconduct.
Also speaking today, during the general debate, were representatives of Morocco (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), New Zealand (on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand), and the European Union.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 21 October, to continue its general debate on the review of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.
Meeting this afternoon to begin its consideration of the “comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects”, the Committee had before it a report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (document A/70/19).
HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that upon taking over at the Department’s helm in 2011, he had found the global security landscape undergoing unprecedented changes. Amid the continuing repercussions on peacekeeping arising from the global economic crisis and the “Arab Spring”, Member States had demanded that the United Nations do more with less, while expecting the same level of performance. Meanwhile, terrorism and asymmetric warfare had become part of peacekeeping theatres, and the situation in Libya had exposed fundamental disagreements within the Security Council, which had had knock-on effects on peacekeeping mandates and the protection of civilians. The continued polarization troop- and police-contributing States on the one hand and financial contributors to peacekeeping on the other, as well as between mandate creators and implementers, had produced strains, he said, noting that the role of regional organizations had gone unexplored, while the capability to respond to threats against civilians had not matched the current and emerging operating environments.
“I endeavoured to take a pragmatic, field-focused and performance-oriented approach to the management and reform of peacekeeping,” he continued, emphasizing the paramount importance of transforming peacekeeping operations into a modernized, more professional enterprise. The use of force and the pursuit of political solutions were mutually reinforcing endeavours, he said. In fact, if used judiciously and in a professional manner, force lent credibility to the political track and became its best ally. Where civilians were deliberately targeted by parties to conflict, it was critical to meet the expectations of people whose last hope for security rested with the United Nations. Stressing that today’s conflicts could not be resolved by the Organization alone, he said it was essential to maximize the inherent political leverage and comparative advantage of regional players and to work with them in support of shared peace and security objectives. He said that was why he had sought to improve partnerships with the African Union and the European Union throughout his tenure.
He went on to emphasize that transforming that approach into reality had involved close engagement with Member States in support of a progressive vision of peacekeeping. Recalling that the 2014 and 2015 Leaders Summits’ on Peacekeeping had gathered Heads of State and Government to pledge new contributions of uniformed units, he said that with their support, the United Nations had convened its first ever meetings of defence and police chiefs, as well as the largest meeting of defence ministers in London last month. In addition, the Peacekeeping Capabilities Readiness System had been established to match capabilities with needs in the field. Having established standards and performance-management tools in consultation with Member States, the Department was taking deliberate steps to increase the number of uniformed women in peacekeeping, he said. Training was being revised and improved, and the Department had modernized peacekeeping tools by introducing innovative technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles.
“Operationally, the past five years have been intense,” he said, adding that throughout that period, the Department had managed multiple planning, deployment and drawdown processes, including overseeing the start-up of three missions — in Syria, Mali and the Central African Republic. Major reconfigurations of missions in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had also taken place, and the Department had faced an unprecedented situation in Haiti’s mix of natural disasters, security challenges and political difficulties. However, Timor-Leste’s trajectory to peace had been achieved and stabilization continued in Mali and the Central African Republic, despite very fragile political processes and the persistence of deep-rooted drivers of conflict. In the Middle East, meanwhile, peacekeeping missions had maintained and adjusted their presence, he said. “Each of these very distinct experiences have demonstrated the agility of peacekeeping operations and their capacity to adapt to changing environments,” he added, emphasizing that along the way, the Department had supported multiple field initiatives around the world, in partnership with the Department of Field Support.
Turning to challenges, he said the Department had witnessed acute tensions between peacekeeping operations and host authorities, while crises of consent had dominated much of its engagement. “It is inevitable for partners to sometimes disagree,” he said, stressing that when there was a fundamentally different understanding between stakeholders, it was crucial to acknowledge and proactively address that divergence. “Consent is a two-way street and must be constantly nurtured,” he said, underlining that peacekeepers deployed under Security Council authority should not be seen as intruders and must acknowledge the sovereignty of the consenting State. National ownership of the peacebuilding process was the ultimate goal of peacekeeping operations, he added, underscoring the need for the Council to act robustly in defence of peacekeeping mandates when peacekeepers were prevented from carrying out their tasks.
Another challenge was the protection of civilians, he said, pointing out that numerous crises illustrated the gap between expectations and the Department’s ability to deliver. In order to address underlying systemic challenges, it was crucial, but not enough, to equip and train uniformed personnel with the right tools. It was also critical to have a better understanding of where threats to civilians lay, he said, adding that a proactive approach in developing close engagement with local communities was a step in the right direction. It was essential to act with unity of purpose, while troops and police must demonstrate leadership and the will to protect. “Failure to follow orders, hidden caveats, the sudden withdrawal of personnel when they are most needed — these all undermine the Organization and the nations we represent,” he pointed out. Protecting civilians was an immediate goal, but resolving conflict was the only durable solution to violence, he said, adding that the two should not be pursued in parallel, but rather together.
The third challenge was when peacekeepers themselves became a threat to the people they were mandated to protect, he continued, declaring: “Peacekeeping has been shamed by abhorrent acts of sexual abuse, exploitation and violence.” Such actions were now linked to peacekeepers in the public conscience. Another challenge related to asymmetric environments, he said, noting that new measures to protect peacekeeping personnel against threats including improvised explosive devices had reduced fatalities in proportion to incidents over the past 12 months. The deployment of combat convoys would also help peacekeeping operations to sustain supply lines and maintain their presence. The use of new technologies in that regard was an essential component of modern peacekeeping. That was a work in progress, but cumulatively, all such steps enabled operations to stay and deliver in environments where they were most needed. Moving forward called for a frank conversation about the scope of peacekeeping action in counter-terrorism settings, he said, while stressing: “Peacekeeping cannot and should not be used as a military counter-terrorism tool.”
He continued: “In the multipolar world that we live in today, we must build new coalitions of support to address collective security challenges.” Calling upon the Security Council to find ways to reassert its authority and bring more collective pressure to bear on parties to conflict, he said that, at the same time, it was crucial to adapt and acknowledge that the Council was not the sole centre of political gravity and leverage, which implied stronger and more strategic and operational relationships with regional actors. A performance-oriented approach must continue if peacekeeping was to prove its worth in today’s conflicts, but it was also of key importance to go beyond uniformed capabilities. Civilian and whole-of-mission performance must be integrated into a broad overarching framework for evaluating impact and building capacity, he emphasized. The future of peace operations should involve the ability to deploy the requisite expertise rapidly, make effective use of modern technology and intelligence, and the ability to adapt and shift posture as the situation on the ground evolved.
ATUL KHARE, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, said that his Department supported 17 peacekeeping operations comprising more than 142,000 authorized uniformed personnel from 123 countries, which accounted for almost 75 per cent of the Secretariat’s budget. In 2016, the Department had focused on aligning priorities, performance frameworks and management with client and stakeholder expectations in order to strengthen mechanisms for continuous improvement. It had restructured performance management to better measure progress, instituting quarterly reviews on the implementation of priority initiatives. The Department had also established a client advisory board to gather feedback from senior military, police and civilian clients and recalibrate its performance and priorities according to the situation on the ground. In order to further improve accountability, foster transparency and increase dialogue with staff, clients and stakeholders, it would introduce a set of common core support performance indicators across peacekeeping operations in 2017 and 2018, which would allow the Department to better understand gaps and challenges.
Turning to the report of the High-Level Panel on Peacekeeping Operations, he said the Department was working to implement reforms arising from the Secretary-General’s recommendations. There was a particular need to align responsibility for results with the authority to make decisions in order to ensure greater transparency and accountability. That vision had driven the Department’s creation but despite progress, it was still not fully realized. The Department was working with the Department of Management in reviewing key processes with a view to making them more supportive of field operations, he said. Implementing any changes would require political support for organizational reform on the part of Member States so that responsibilities, decision-making authority and resources could be properly aligned. The full development and implementation of supply chain management, environmental protection and technological innovation called for a long-term approach, which in turn required long-term commitment on the Department’s part and support from its stakeholders.
He went on to report that, through extra-budgetary support from Japan, the Department had established a triangular partnership project to strengthen military engineering units across peacekeeping missions in Africa. The project would enhance the capacities of African troop-contributing countries with rapidly deployable engineering capabilities. Such trilateral partnerships provided unique opportunities for troop contributors to build long-term capacity and for financial contributors to support enabling capacity in a flexible manner, while enlarging the pool of units with the skills needed to enable more rapid deployment. He called for more partnerships, urging States to work together to leverage knowledge, resources and expertise in engineering, medical support, technology, environmental protection, force protection as well as conduct and discipline. The Department’s work required collective responsibility, including solid, enduring support from troop- and police-contributing countries, financial contributors and host countries.
Emphasizing that fundamental contractual arrangements could not be neglected in the desire to deploy quickly, he said approximately 50 units still lacked a signed memorandum of understanding regulating their respective rights and responsibilities. That situation had resulted in reimbursement delays, further complications in addressing misconduct, and greater accountability gaps. It should not continue, he stressed. The Department had intensified its focus on preventing, pursuing and rectifying misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse. Its efforts remained focused, first and foremost, on protection and support for victims. In the area of prevention, the Department was now vetting all personnel, including members of contingents and formed police units, for a history of prior misconduct. It had enhanced training, established “immediate response teams” in most peacekeeping missions and also a Trust Fund in Support of Victims of for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, he said.
ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, called for a more careful and cautious approach to changes in United Nations peacekeeping. While new policies were being planned or even implemented, Member States had not always been consulted, he noted, reiterating that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations was the only United Nations forum mandated to carry out a comprehensive review of all aspects of the whole question of peacekeeping. Calling upon the Secretariat to refrain from implementing policies that had not been agreed through an intergovernmental process, he requested that the Secretary-General provide Member States with a detailed report on the implementation status of recommendations from three reviews conducted over the previous year.
The Non-Aligned Movement emphasized the need for troop- and police-contributing countries to participate in decision-making and the formulation of policy, he said, stressing the need for effective triangular cooperation between those countries, the Secretariat and the Security Council. Providing all necessary support to peacekeeping missions, including financial and human resources, was essential to helping them fulfil their tasks. The Movement had welcomed the last increase in reimbursement rates for troop costs, and requested that information be provided on preparations for the next increase, scheduled for 2017. Peacekeeping operations should not be used either as an alternative to addressing the root causes of conflicts, nor for managing the conflicts themselves, he said, stressing that exit strategies must always be agreed in the early stages of mission planning and undergo periodic review. The Non-Aligned Movement called for intensified United Nations support for African Union peacekeeping operations by ensuring predictable and sustainable funding for operations led by that bloc and authorized by the Council, he said.
KAMAPRADIPTA ISNOMO (Indonesia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, emphasized that peacekeeping missions must uphold the principles of impartiality, consent of all parties and non-use of force except in self-defence or defence of the mandate. ASEAN supported the proposed shift towards placing political solutions at the centre of peacekeeping design and deployment decisions — a shift emphasized by the High-level Panel on Peace Operations. Welcoming the consensual adoption of the draft resolution on strengthening the role of mediation, he said it was unfortunate that elements intended to strengthen mediation and peacekeeping were weakened in the final text, he noted.
Noting that operational peacekeeping environments had become increasingly dangerous, he urged collective, comprehensive and coordinated efforts to address that challenge. It was important to prioritize enhanced situational awareness and peacekeeper-response capabilities through effective pre-deployment training and adequate protection equipment. Pointing out that peacekeeping was one of the main elements of ASEAN’s political and security cooperation, he said approximately 4,800 police, military advisers and troops from its member countries were currently contributing to 12 United Nations missions. It supported the United Nations Capability Readiness System, he noted while, emphasizing that the mechanism should help troop-contributing countries realize their commitments.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations should consider giving incentives to those countries already at Level 3 or 4 in the System but which had not yet deployed, he suggested. Considering South-East Asia’s collective contribution to United Nations peacekeeping, the Peacekeeping and Field Support departments should have more seconded staff from ASEAN countries, he said, calling also for the appointment of more nationals of those countries to mission leadership positions since they were currently underrepresented both at Headquarters and in the field.
Speaking in his national capacity, he went on to say that Security Council dialogue on enforcement mandates should be further strengthened, and extreme caution must be exercised in using any peacekeeping operation for enforcement tasks. Currently, 2,867 Indonesian peacekeepers were serving in 10 United Nations peacekeeping operations, he noted, adding that his country would contribute a total of 4,000 peacekeepers to United Nations operations by 2019. Indonesia hoped it could be more adequately represented in key senior leadership posts at Headquarters and in peacekeeping missions, he said.
COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was hosted by a member State of that regional bloc, and that its efforts to recover from disaster and carry out reconstruction were hampered by uncertainty over the timetable for presidential elections. Concerns remained as to how the damage to roads and schools that served as polling stations would affect the political process. CARICOM welcomed the Security Council’s six–month extension of MINUSTAH’s mandate because that would provide the support necessary to secure overall stability in Haiti and for the political process. On the zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual abuse and exploitation on the part of peacekeeping personnel, CARICOM supported the three-pronged strategy of prevention, enforcement and remedial measures.
He said that, in the face of heightened risks associated with peacekeeping in increasingly dangerous environments, the Community welcomed technological advances, including the provision of e-learning courses. One such course, “E-Learning for Peacekeepers from Latin America and the Caribbean”, supplemented traditional training methods and provided access to standardized training materials for military, police and civilian peacekeepers. Any peacekeeping mission’s effectiveness depended on strong political support as well as adequate human and financial resources. CARICOM, therefore, emphasized the importance of full participation by troop- and police-contributing countries in formulating policy in order to achieve the level of partnership and effectiveness required for peacekeeping missions.
FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said peacekeeping operations must respect the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of States. To achieve successful outcomes, peace operations must be provided with sufficient human and financial resources, as well as well-defined mandates. Equally important was designing clear drawdown strategies, with greater flexibility. More than an end goal, peacekeeping operations were temporary measures, he emphasized, adding that countries must be supported in their efforts to achieve political stability.
He went on to stress that reimbursement to troop- and police-contributing countries must be carried out in a timely manner. Drawing attention to the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, he called for greater coordination among stakeholders, including the Secretariat, Security Council, the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and Member States. While ensuring the protection of civilians, it was critical to maintain impartiality. While noting the important role that women could play in enhancing making progress in peacekeeping efforts, he underlined the primary responsibility of host countries in that regard and called upon peacekeeping missions to act within their mandates. He acknowledged the use of modern technology, saying it made important contributions to the protection of both civilians and peacekeepers.
PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Canada and Australia, said there was a role for all stakeholders to play, from troop- and police- contributing countries to the Secretariat. Recognizing that inclusive political solutions and processes were central to conflict prevention and sustainable peace, he said that peacekeeping operations helped to expand political momentum and support consensus among national and international counterparts. In order for peacekeepers to be effective, United Nations safety and security plans must be closely tailored to the prevailing security situation and include contingency plans, well-equipped quick-reaction forces as well as new technologies. He further encouraged the Secretariat to focus on integrated planning mechanisms.
It was also necessary to establish a medical performance framework for peacekeeping operations, and to create tailored communications strategies, he continued, going on to voice support for renewed efforts to address capability and performance requirements, including through strategic force generation and capability development. The Secretariat must continue to improve contingent training and performance, and to ensure that peacekeepers met United Nations standards, he emphasized. Regarding multidimensional mandates, he stressed that clear and proactive preventative strategies must be in place. In addition, police had a central role to play in peacekeeping operations, he said, while welcoming the findings outlined in the External Review of the Functions, Structure and Capacity of the Organization’s Police Division. He underscored the need for mainstreaming gender into peacekeeping operations, which required boosting women’s participation.
JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union, said peacekeeping was in continuous evolution and increasingly involved a larger number of non-State stakeholders. Noting that the report of the High-Level Panel on Peacekeeping Operations called for shifts to allow the United Nations to position its peacekeeping operations for better responses to current and future challenges, she said that such shifts should include ensuring the primacy of politics, flexible use of the full spectrum of peace operations, stronger partnerships as well as a field-focused Secretariat and people-centred peace operations. Emphasizing that even the most successful peace operations could not substitute for the political process, she said the consolidation of peacebuilding efforts must be on the agenda and fully synchronized with peacekeeping efforts.
Peace operations must be equipped with clear, coherent and achievable mandates, including a strong human rights component, she said, adding that transition arrangements and exit strategies should be explored early in the process. Noting that adequate force generation remained a challenge, she said that Member States, including those belonging to the European Union, must match political intent and operational might in order for peacekeeping operations to succeed. The 2015 Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping and the London Ministerial Conference had made an encouraging impact in that regard. It was necessary to ensure adequate resources for peace operations so that they could deliver on their mandated tasks, she said, adding that missions must make the most efficient use of human, political and financial resources. The European Union not only supported peacekeeping operations, but also deployed its own missions within the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy, she said. Those missions allowed burden-sharing and support for the United Nations, notably in Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia and the Balkans.