Force Commanders in Africa Outline Challenges Facing United Nations Peacekeeping Efforts During Briefing to Security Council

SC/13329
9 May 2018
8251st Meeting (PM)

Force Commanders in Africa Outline Challenges Facing United Nations Peacekeeping Efforts During Briefing to Security Council

Robust Mandates, Civilian Protection, Mission Exits among Main Topics of Discussion

On the seventieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping, the commanders of three of the Organization’s missions in Africa briefed the Security Council this afternoon on the increasingly complex challenges faced by Blue Helmets, emphasizing that their core role was to establish secure environments that would enable political solutions to take root.

Jean‑Paul Deconinck, Force Commander, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said the paradigm of peacekeeping was shifting, with the report on “Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers” (the Santos Cruz report) defining the actual environment in which missions now operated.  “We owe it to our peacekeepers, both civilian and military, to implement the action plan for peace, to change our mindsets and to adapt”, at all levels, to new challenges, he said.  In a contested security environment, where MINUSMA and civilians were targeted, he said the Force’s impartiality towards terrorist and insurgent groups was compromised.  Understanding the character of the conflict with those groups must determine MINUSMA’s response.  “We have to adapt to the circumstances that are defining the current challenges,” he said.

Frank Mushyo Kamanzi, Force Commander, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), speaking via videoconference from Juba, said civilian protection was his Mission’s top priority, alongside supporting humanitarian efforts.  Routinely working in “particularly demanding” climate conditions, the Mission also faced obstruction, access denials and Status of Forces Agreement violations by the Government.  Thus, patience, good communication with all parties and a robust posture were important, and Mission patrols had shown an unwillingness to be inhibited, even if they had to negotiate for hours.

Leonard Ngondi, Force Commander, African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), said that UNAMID’s mandate was fairly robust.  Its four pillars — protection of civilians, delivery of humanitarian aid, negotiating between the Government and non‑signatories to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, and assisting in community resolution mechanisms — were simple, understandable and implementable, so long as there was political will and commitment among all parties to the conflict.  On support from the Security Council, he said the Government of Sudan could be persuaded to adhere to the Status of Forces Agreement and allow UNAMID freedom of movement, while armed groups must be persuaded to embrace dialogue.

This afternoon’s meeting coincided with the annual Heads of Military Components Conference at Headquarters, and followed an open debate in the Council on 28 March during which the Secretary‑General unveiled his proposals for peacekeeping reform (see Press Release SC/13268).  It also took place alongside this year’s round of negotiations in the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on the 2018/19 peacekeeping budget.

Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, introducing the briefers, said the force commanders who had converged on Headquarters this week were being briefed on the Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, and considering efforts to improve the conduct, discipline, security, training and performance of Blue Helmets.  In recent months, there had been some encouraging developments in the field, but while there remained a long way to go, with strong Council support and force commander engagement, it would be possible to make a difference.

In the discussion that followed, Council members posed a variety of questions, including the achievability of mandates, cooperation with regional and subregional organizations, pre‑deployment training for Blue Helmets, new technology, intelligence gathering, the need for more women peacekeepers, and efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, where the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was drawn down in June 2017, said new challenges such as non‑State actors called for long‑term multidimensional responses as well as support for political processes, which remained the cornerstone of peacekeeping operations.  He went on to emphasize the provision of adequate human, financial and material support, as well as the recommendations of the independent report on improving the security of United Nations peacekeepers, prepared by Lieutenant General (Retired) Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz (Brazil).

The representative of China, a major troop‑contributing country among permanent Council members, described a mismatch between the increasing number of mandates and limited resources, underscoring the need for the proactive settling of regional hotspot issues.  When mandates were being designed and adjusted, troop‑contributing countries must be given more input, while the Secretariat should enhance support for peacekeeping operations, focusing on safety, he said.

“Peacekeepers cannot and should not remain indifferent in the face of significant threats to themselves as well as to innocent civilians,” Ethiopia’s delegate said.  Peacekeepers required a robust mandate with a clear concept of operation and rules of engagement based on a thorough situational analysis, threat assessment and planning.

The Russian Federation’s representative, however, said robust mandates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali had not been convincing so far.  There must be an objective assessment how strengthened mandates would make a difference, he said, stressing that missions should not be burdened with tasks better done by specialized United Nations entities.

The representative of the United States, the biggest contributor to the peacekeeping budget, said that with the rate of peacekeeper fatalities on the rise, it was important to assess whether peacekeeping was “the right tool at the right time” to tackle security challenges.  The United States supported the United Nations in raising the bar on performance, starting with development of comprehensive policy identifying performance standards and measures to hold underperformers accountable.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Peru, France, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Sweden, Bolivia and Poland.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 6:13 p.m.

Introductory Remarks

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, said today’s meeting was about hearing the voices of force commanders deployed in the field, of whom many were participating in this weeks’ Heads of Military Components Conference at Headquarters.  They were the ones best placed to say how Security Council mandates were being implemented and the challenges they faced.  During the week, force commanders in New York were being briefed on the Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, announced on 28 March, as well as efforts to improve the conduct, discipline, security, training and performance of Blue Helmets.  He thanked force commanders for their dedication and strong engagement not only in implementing the mandates of their respective missions, but also in helping to implement the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, which aimed to reduce peacekeeping fatalities and improve performance.  In recent months, there had been some encouraging developments in the field, but while there remained a long way to go, with strong Council support and force commander engagement, it would be possible to make a difference.

Briefings

LEONARD NGONDI, Force Commander of the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), summarized the aspects which shaped the environment in which UNAMID operated.  They included the Government of Sudan’s robust exercise of its sovereign authority, which kept armed groups in check but often restricted the Mission’s freedom of movement and inflow of resources; the existence of armed groups, whose leaders must be persuaded to embrace dialogue; and intercommunal conflicts, mainly between herders and farming communities over natural resources, reflecting the fact that land owners remained at the heart of the Darfur conflict.  Other aspects included banditry and criminality due to poverty, underdevelopment and the absence or the inadequacy of law enforcement capacity, and the proliferation of weapons.  On the last point, he said an ongoing arms collection campaign had brought down banditry and criminal activities, but it was perceived to be discriminatory.

Addressing specific concerns raised in the concept note for today’s meeting, he said that UNAMID’s mandate was fairly robust.  The Mission had all relevant components and it used an integrated approach in conducting its operations.  The four pillars of its mandate — protection of civilians, delivery of humanitarian aid, negotiating between the Government and non-signatories to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, and assisting in community resolution mechanisms — were simple, understandable and implementable, so long as there was political will and commitment among all parties to the conflict.  On support from the Security Council, he recommended that a transition strategy be imbedded in UNAMID’S mandate when it came up for renewal.  He added that the Government of Sudan could be persuaded to adhere to the Status of Forces Agreement and allow UNAMID freedom of movement, including unhindered flights in its area of operations.  Lastly, armed groups must be persuaded to embrace dialogue, he said.

JEAN-PAUL DECONINCK, Force Commander of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said the paradigm of peacekeeping was shifting, with the report on “Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers” (the Santos Cruz report) defining the actual environment in which missions now operated.  “We owe it to our peacekeepers, both civilian and military, to implement the action plan for peace, to change our mindsets and to adapt”, at all levels, to new challenges, he said.  In Mali, from 2015 onwards, terrorist groups had re‑established themselves in Kona and across the central region, notably since the founding of the Jama’at Nusrat al‑Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) group in 2017.  “I perceive this as an example of a changing security and operational environment,” he said, drawing attention to the region’s significance in relation to the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, which was at the heart of the Mission’s mandate.

In a contested security environment, where MINUSMA and civilians were targeted, he said the Force’s impartiality towards terrorist and insurgent groups was compromised.  Understanding the character of the conflict with those groups must determine MINUSMA’s response.  “We have to adapt to the circumstances that are defining the current challenges,” he said. In the north — the heartland of the Malian Tuareg population — the Force was implementing the peace agreement and enabling disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts.  The north was the seat of JNIM terrorist and subordinate groups seeking to undermine that work.  In the central region — the ethnic fault‑line where nomadic and pastoral tribes competed for water and grazing areas — JNIM had waged a clinical and calculated insurgency against the State, exploiting tensions among local communities.  Robust peacekeeping was required.  The Force required commanders with the right knowledge, skills and experience.  Intelligence analysts must support commanders, and efforts must be made to guard more effectively against intelligence collected on force commanders.  Investments in peacekeeper training before and during their missions were needed, as were universal standards of first line medical equipment, alongside mandatory combat casualty care courses, he said, calling procedures for medical evacuation “too restrictive” and requiring review.

FRANK MUSHYO KAMANZI, Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), speaking via videoconference from Juba, attributed the conflict, begun in December 2013, to a split of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the formation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement‑in Opposition (SPLM‑IO), with fighting mainly in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity States.  The 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan collapsed in July 2016 and fighting spread to the Equatorias, a critical food growing area where numerous new actors were now involved.  Long‑standing communal conflicts, fuelled by competition for land and water, had grown more violent, due to the widespread availability of automatic weapons.  The conflict had evolved from one involving only two parties to one where the Transitional Government of National Unity had the upper hand but faced political and military opposition from multiple actors.  While the Government controlled the central states and Juba, opposition groups operated in the north, east and south near international borders where they enjoyed support.

Civilian protection was the Mission’s priority, he said.  Its efforts covered 209,000 internally displaced persons and United Nations agencies working within the five Protection of Civilian sites.  In Bunj, UNMISS supported 15 humanitarian agencies that assisted 13,000 refugees, and 11 such agencies working with 54,000 refugees at the Jam Jam refugee site in Upper Nile and Unity State respectively.  While this population was a small fraction of the estimated 1.69 million people displaced within South Sudan, those activities required more than 40 per cent of the Force.  The Mission was working to free more forces for mobile and outreach operations through the introduction of surveillance systems.  Routinely working in “particularly demanding” climate conditions, the Mission also faced obstruction, access denials and Status of Forces Agreement violations by the Government.  Thus, patience, good communication with all parties and a robust posture were important, and Mission patrols had shown an unwillingness to be inhibited, even if they had to negotiate for hours.  A review of each operating base and civilian protection site had been completed, while a review of CASEVAC procedures was ongoing.  A force protection advisory team also had been established.

Statements

ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire), paying tribute to peacekeepers who had lost their lives in the service of the United Nations, said peacekeeping operations were not meant to supplant host State authorities, but to support them against the backdrop of a political process and an exit strategy.  Recalling the United Nations peacekeeping experience in Liberia, Sierra Leone and his own country, he said good relations between Special Representatives, force commanders and local actors were essential for strong national ownership of United Nations action.   New challenges such as non‑State actors called for long‑term multidimensional responses as well as support for political processes, which remained the cornerstone of peacekeeping operations.  Emphasizing the need for clear mandates and achievable objectives, he recalled that the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) focused first on security, then later on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, an approach that allowed for better planning of UNOCI’s drawdown.  He went on to emphasize the provision of adequate human, financial and material support, as well as the recommendations of the independent report on improving the security of United Nations peacekeepers, prepared by Lieutenant General (Retired) Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz (Brazil).

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), asking the three Force Commanders to “please be candid” and speak truth to the Council, and noting that 2018 marked the seventieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping, said the Council should take a longer‑term view of conflict, better coordinate peacekeeping with other activities and improve peacekeeping performance.  He asked the Force Commanders how the Secretary‑General’s action plan was being implemented in their respective missions, what improvements were being made in the use of peacekeeping intelligence, and their suggestions for incentivizing better performance in missions.  To the UNAMID Force Commander, he asked what the next step should be in that Mission’s reconfiguration.  To the MINUSMA Force Commander, he asked about collaboration with the G‑5 Sahel force and with development and humanitarian actors.  To the UNMISS Force Commander, he asked for examples of best practices that might help other missions address sexual exploitation and abuse.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the security of peacekeeping contingents was an extremely important issue.  They had to deal with terrorist attacks, organized crime, and the illegal trade in weapons and narcotics.  It was often proposed, even today, that missions be given more robust mandates to collect intelligence and use force.  However, peacekeeping operations must be very cautious, as mistakes could lead to tragic consequences and undermine the work of the Organization.  There must be objective assessment of how strengthened mandates would make a difference.  To be frank, robust mandates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali had not been convincing so far, raising a number of questions that were best examined in an intergovernmental format with the direct participation of troop‑contributing countries.  The inability to find a workable response to the root causes of conflict and the threat of terrorism should not automatically lead to strengthening mandates, he said, adding that missions should not be burdened with tasks better done by specialized United Nations entities.  Stating that there could not be robust mandates without the conditions for implementation, he said intelligence gathered by peacekeeping missions could only take place within a framework agreed by Member States and with the consent of the host Government.  Regarding the Cruz report, he said it had been discussed by Member States, but not approved, and that some of its provisions were questionable.  There were no grounds to use its recommendations as a basis for implementation, he said.  He went on to question attempts to promote initiatives agreed by some States outside the framework of the United Nations, such as the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians, the implementation of which could turn Blue Helmets into a party to conflict.

WU HAITAO (China) described a mismatch between the increasing number of mandates and limited resources, underscoring the need for the proactive settling of regional hotspot issues, which led to deteriorating security and often impacted peacekeepers in the same region.  He emphasized the need to design clear, feasible and focused peacekeeping mandates, focus on the central task of peacekeeping and abide by its three principles, taking into account the ground situation, existing resources and capacities of troop‑contributing countries.  Further, priority tasks must be dynamically adjusted when ground conditions changed, and feasible exit strategies formed.  When mandates were being designed and adjusted, troop‑contributing countries must be given more input.  The Secretariat should enhance support for peacekeeping operations, focusing on safety, developing rules for safety and sharing information about security threats.  Noting that China was the second‑largest contributor to the peacekeeping budget, with 2,500 peacekeepers currently on active duty, he asked about the main factors affecting a mission’s ability to respond to threats.

AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) asked the UNAMID Force Commander about challenges the Mission faced in carrying out its mandate and what the Council should do to ensure full compliance.  For MINUSMA, she asked what was required for the Mission to correctly carry out its work, and more broadly, about what must be improved on the ground and in terms of equipment used.  She asked the UNMISS Force Commander about what must change or “be done away with” to ensure that tasks were properly implemented and on whom the success of a mission depended.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said the Council was obliged to provide Missions with the proper mandate and capacities to handle conflicts, noting that the sheer number of internal and external actors often complicated the viability of any political process.  Cooperation by the host country and support by regional and subregional organizations was vital for creating mandates, he said, asking about additional measures that could be taken to foster support by national and regional actors.  It was important that mandates adapted to changing conditions, and he asked about ways to close the gap between the difficulties missions confronted and the capacities they had.  It was also important to establish exit strategies, and he asked about the possibilities for establishing relations with United Nations country teams, and about synergies to be shared in transitioning to a post‑conflict situation, voicing support for the Secretary‑General’s priority focus on peacekeeper safety.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said it was incumbent on the Council to give peacekeeping missions the means to carry out their mandates.  Troops must be fully operational and effective, he said, noting that France was training 30,000 francophone African soldiers every year for peacekeeping.  With Blue Helmets all too often being targeted by armed groups, he asked the Force Commanders how the Council could best help them with regard to anticipating threats and the provision of early warning and force protection technology.  He also underscored the value of cooperation with regional and subregional organizations.

KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), citing that since 2010 the number of major violent conflicts had tripled and become more complex, said that force commanders of today’s missions faced myriad security challenges and threats.  While he expressed support for a shift in mindset towards meeting those new and emerging challenges, including the Secretary‑General’s Action Plan, he stressed that there was no time to relax.  There was more work to be done.  Mission performance reviews played an important role in providing the basis for much‑needed adjustments.  “When we review a mission, we must not shy away from the operational needs on the ground,” he said, emphasizing that proper force generation remained essential.  Challenges flagged by the force commanders in today’s dialogue must be addressed through a truly integrated approach between the military, civil and police pillars.  Actionable, peacekeeping intelligence remained instrumental to succeeding in the complex environment missions operated in.  “Peacekeeping intelligence saves lives,” he stressed.  Turning to questions, he asked the Force Commanders to state the top impediment to their work and what the Council could do to better assist them.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that the recent spate of attacks on peacekeepers in Mali, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a clear indication that threats were growing in scale, frequency and complexity.  Devising the right political strategies and operational approaches had never been more critical.  He underscored the need for pragmatic and flexible interpretation of the basic principles of United Nations peacekeeping.  The traditional peacekeeping versus peace enforcement debate must be examined in a more nuanced manner.  “Peacekeepers cannot and should not remain indifferent in the face of significant threats to themselves as well as to innocent civilians,” he said.  Peacekeepers required a robust mandate with a clear concept of operation and rules of engagement based on a thorough situational analysis, threat assessment and planning.

Peacekeepers also required the capability to deter spoilers who threaten their mission’s mandate, he said.  The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) exemplified the need for greater partnership, as its peacekeepers faced asymmetrical attacks almost daily and yet they remained underfunded and in a dire logistical predicament.  The United Nations should be ready to share the burden with the African Union‑led peace operations.  He also asked the MINUSMA Force Commander what measures and strategies his Mission intended to adopt to prevent attacks in the future.  He also asked what kind of support the Mission needed from the Security Council, Secretariat and Member States.

KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) stressed the need to foster cooperation between Governments, the United Nations, African Union, and other actors, as well as to facilitate arms collection campaigns and the resettlement of large numbers of displaced persons.  The successful process of reconfiguration of UNAMID must serve as an example for other missions.  Challenges remained in accelerating peacebuilding mandates, including in the areas of capacity‑building, governance strengthening and community stabilization.  He commended all missions for implementing their mandates under very difficult circumstances.  Posing several questions to the high‑level officials, he first asked how mandates could be modified to resume capacity‑building and training of the armed forces through long‑term security sector reform programmes.  What could be done to stop the violence perpetrated by armed groups and militia?  He also inquired about the best way to initiate comprehensive strategies in economic development in line with the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action.  What was the best way for intercommunal reconciliation and confidence‑building to take hold among local populations?  He also asked the Force Commanders to suggest the best way to address capacity gaps.

AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States) said that with the rate of peacekeeper fatalities on the rise, it was important to assess whether peacekeeping was “the right tool at the right time” to tackle security challenges.  The United States supported the United Nations in raising the bar on performance, starting with development of comprehensive policy identifying performance standards and measures to hold underperformers accountable.  Missions must support the attainment of political solutions, while exit strategies must be clearly articulated and mandates both realistic and achievable.  The Council must otherwise consider if a mandate made sense, whether it could be adjusted or if there were more appropriate tools for settling a conflict.  She asked whether the mandate of MINUSMA was achievable, and if not, which tasks were not so.  She asked whether UNMISS peacekeepers were operationally prepared to meet their requirements, especially for protection of civilians, and what they would need to achieve operational readiness.  She also asked whether the security situation in Darfur required a strong military force presence or if police could take on a more robust role.

TALAL S. S. S. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said the military components of peacekeeping operations should receive more support from the Council in the form of realistic and achievable mandates.  He welcomed cooperation between peacekeeping operations and the Secretariat in developing performance criteria that both related to the budget and contained measurable indices.  A zero‑tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse was of paramount importance, while exit strategies must ensure a smooth transition to post‑conflict conditions.  He underscored the need for a flexible and gradual transition from military functions to stabilizing and peacebuilding tasks, citing UNAMID in that context.  The military component was a pillar in achieving agreement among the parties contributing to peacekeeping.  Host countries were the first such partner, followed by troop‑contributing countries, and regional and subregional organizations.  Consistent coordination among those parties was needed, he said, noting that the annual report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations covered questions on the military component, and the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was currently discussing financial aspects of peacekeeping.

IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) said that Council members must play their part in devising realistic mission mandates, providing adequate resources and putting political pressure on all key actors.  Listening to the three Force Commanders made it clear that immense challenges remained and that the peacekeeping environment today was more complex and high‑risk than ever before.  Experience with MINUSMA had demonstrated the vital importance of peacekeeping intelligence for informed planning.  It was also essential to have a thorough selection process for senior mission leadership and military and police commanders.  “The evaluation of leaders needs to improve,” she added.  Uniformed units must have the right training, skills and equipment in order to protect civilians, themselves and deliver on mandates, she continued, expressing support to efforts to combat sexual abuse.  Posing questions to the commanders, she asked about what could be done at the Secretariat and the missions to enhance the percentage of female personnel.  What was the biggest challenge in protecting civilians and delivering on mandates?  She also asked for elaboration on the role of peacekeeping intelligence and the kind of resources a mission like MINUSMA needed in that area.  Furthermore, she inquired about the pros and cons with more flexible and robust units.

CARLA CECILIA CARDONA MOSCOSO (Bolivia), stating that peacekeeping missions must undergo structural changes to adapt to new threats such as terrorism and transnational organized crime, asked the MINUSMA Force Commander what measures could be implemented in his region in that regard.  Constant attacks had demonstrated the need to strengthen key areas of peacekeeping missions, especially logistical and force protection capacity.  Improved technology would make missions more effective, she said, emphasizing that equipping and training Blue Helmets was the responsibility of the entire Organization, not just troop‑contributing countries.  Underscoring also the need to improve institutional agility, she asked the three Force Commanders how recommendations contained in the Santos Cruz report could be implemented in their respective missions.  She also asked what additional measures the Council could take to avoid situations in which inaction would endanger the lives of Blue Helmets.  Concluding, she said peacekeeping must never be a pretext for intervention.  Unity among all actors was essential for strengthening every aspect of each mission in strict compliance with the United Nations Charter and with the wholehearted support of host countries.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said the international community was alarmed by the security situation of mission personnel and subsequently the people they were tasked to protect.  The security of peacekeepers was of paramount importance to all stakeholders involved in United Nations Blue Helmet operations.  He said that he would focus his questions on the situation on the ground, asking the Force Commanders for their point of view regarding whether current mandates allowed the missions to act “actively and proactively” to fulfil their duties.  He also asked the Force Commanders to prioritize and name key challenges, limitations and gaps hampering their Missions’ effectiveness.  He further requested the Commanders to highlight areas the Council should focus on to ensure full support for their work and the safety of troops on the ground.

Mr. LACROIX, responding to questions, reiterated the importance of the Council’s engagement in efforts to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping.  The Department was determined to implement the Plan of Action, which was based on the Santos Cruz report.  The Plan was not an overall strategy for peacekeeping; it was a set of practical recommendations to enable peacekeeping to address current challenges.  Among its key priorities was to implement rules of procedure and to carry out training.  Performance was being assessed through a new methodology which his Office was mainstreaming throughout the missions, he said, stressing that the peacekeeping principles were the cornerstone of United Nations action, along with impartiality.

At the same time, “the reality is that, in many of our situations, we are facing forces that are opposing the advancement of political solutions and going after peacekeepers,” he said.  The Department would continue carrying out strategic reviews, but it was likely too early to assess their impact on missions.  He agreed that there were critical capacity shortfalls in a number of areas, and that creative solutions must be found, notably through “smart pledges”.  Where peacekeeping was not an adequate response to situations, it was important to enable regional and subregional organizations to do so.

Mr. NGONDI, responding to questions, suggested borrowing from military planning and decision‑making to address gaps in the formulation of mandates, notably by pulling in expertise.  There was a need for a strategy implementation mechanism.  “If our mandates are arrived at through that process, I don’t think we will be having problems,” he said.

He went on to say that Force Commanders had debated the issue of “robustness”, determining that each situation had unique security and operational challenges.  “Robust does not necessarily mean use of force,” he said, but rather, use of vigour in pursuit of an objective with “what you have”.  It also meant capable of performing without failures.  Its exercise was not confined to the field; it cut across the board, from the Council to the ground and vice versa, inclusive of Member States.  UNAMID was indeed robust enough.  To the query about the next step after its reconfiguration, he said it was an open secret that UNAMID was “on its way out”, having accomplished its aims.  An elaborate transition plan was needed guaranteeing that gains made did not go to waste but were instead passed to the United Nations country team or civil society groups that provided basic services.

To a question about whether a military presence was required in Darfur, he said the military was necessary in areas where there was potential for fighting between the Government and other parties to the conflict.  On how reconfiguration affected the protection of civilians, he said that with UNAMID downsizing, those benefitting from its services would decrease.  Priorities must be determined based on the intensity of the danger and availability of capabilities.  Regarding whether the UNAMID mandate was implementable, he agreed that it was, as it contained simple and understandable components, alongside peacekeepers’ will and capacity “to obey instructions we have been given”.

Mr. DECONINCK said, in reply to the representative of the United States, that his task as MINUSMA Force Commander was to support implementation of the peace agreement in Mali, to create a safe and secure environment to enable the redeployment of Malian security forces and civilian authorities, and the protection of United Nations personnel.  That involved bringing peace and security in an asymmetric environment and, sometimes, in combat conditions.  The mandate was perhaps achievable, or perhaps not.  He added that MINUSMA was still operating with a capacity gap, with a lack of personnel, equipment, training and mindset among soldiers.  On the Santos Cruz report, he said he had started to implement its recommendations “because I have to do it”.  Increasing MINUSMA’s effectiveness involved, among other things, reducing tasks which had no added value, such as guarding small compounds.  On intelligence, he said there was a crucial need for current and actionable information that would improve situational awareness and prevent attacks.  In response to France’s delegate, he said MINUSMA’s technological requirements included more early warning radars — “we need one in every compound” — and more short- and medium‑range drones.  On his Mission’s performance, he said its officers were constantly evaluating units with a view to correcting problems.  He went on to emphasize the need for a sound security sector reform plan for Mali’s defence and security forces, which were part of MINUSMA’s exit strategy as well as a component for implementing the peace plan.  He added that it was up to troop‑contributing countries to commit more women to peacekeeping missions, and that it was not his job, but rather that of the Malian security forces, to protect civilian hospitals in the first instance.

Mr. KAMANZI said, on the issue of achieving mandates, that a mission comprised several components, all of which must contribute.  For the most part, the military component was responsible for protecting civilians and making it possible for other components — such as human rights and political affairs — to carry out their work.  UNMISS also had responsibility for ensuring humanitarian access and supporting the peace process, including the ceasefire in South Sudan and the monitoring mechanism for transitional security arrangements.  If Council members were asking if UNMISS had an understandable and implementable mandate, and if its military component was ready to make its contribution, then the answer was yes.  But for that to happen, there were some challenges to address, including the fact that troop numbers had not reached the ceiling set by the Council.  The Regional Protection Force, for instance, was supposed to have 4,000 troops, but slightly over 50 per cent of that number had been deployed since 2016, while critical assets such as tactical helicopters were not yet available.  On intelligence, he said it was critical for proper planning and for setting out priorities.

Turning to the United Kingdom’s delegate’s question on sexual exploitation and abuse, he said UNMISS was committed to the Secretary‑General’s zero‑tolerance policy.  It was both a critical responsibility for commanders as well as a protection issue, as peacekeepers could not be allowed to abuse or disrespect those they were tasked to protect.  Besides carrying out risk assessments, UNMISS sought to create an environment in which information was easily transmitted, and when allegations did emerge, swift action was taken.  On increasing the number of female peacekeepers, he said that was a responsibility for troop‑contributing countries.  UNMISS could only deploy personnel that had been made available to it, he said, adding that he could not over‑emphasize the contribution made by female contingent members.  Responding to the question from Equatorial Guinea, he said it was everybody’s responsibility — including the Council, regional actors and, most importantly, the parties to conflict — to achieve peacekeeping mandates, particularly given the primacy assigned to political solutions.

For information media. Not an official record.