Speakers threw a spotlight on the need for clear mandates, adequate training and resources, and a culture of performance whenever and wherever the United Nations deploys Blue Helmets in conflict zones, as the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations concluded its annual general debate today.
Many delegates took the floor to reassert their Government’s support for the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping reform initiative, launched in March 2018, and to stress the value of cooperation with regional and subregional organizations, particularly the African Union.
“Since the mandate of a mission is the logical basis for setting key performance indicators, the mandate can no longer be a Christmas tree,” the representative of Indonesia said, adding that clear, focused, realistic, achievable mandates must be backed up by required resources. One way to accomplish this, he said, is by making better recommendations in the Secretary‑General’s report for each mission and whenever the Security Council discusses opening a new operation. The requisite capabilities must be deployed so peacekeepers can protect both themselves and the local population.
Ethiopia’s representative said the Special Committee must reach an understanding on improving security and identifying practical, implementable and effective recommendations to reduce Blue Helmet fatalities. Noting the recent helicopter crash in Abyei in which three Ethiopian peacekeepers died, he said the Secretariat should implement appropriate steps for sharing the pain and burden faced by police- and troop‑contributing countries when lives are lost.
The representative of Lebanon, giving the perspective of a Member State that hosts a long‑running mission, warned against “open-ended peacekeeping”, adding that the vital role of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in defusing tensions cannot substitute for an end to the occupation of Lebanese territory and full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).
The representative of Israel said that too many peacekeeping missions are plagued by sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. “This is an epidemic and we need a remedy,” she said, adding that, with misconduct so widespread, it is no surprise that women make up less than 5 per cent of all uniformed peacekeepers. “To grow the percentage of female peacekeepers, it is our job to foster a safe work environment for women on the ground and to promote inclusion,” she said.
Bhutan’s representative, drawing attention to the environmental impact of peacekeeping missions, said that his country, in supporting the “do no harm” principle, is committed to reducing its carbon footprint wherever its contingents are deployed under the United Nations flag.
The representative of the Russian Federation, like others, endorsed the Secretary-General’s reform efforts, emphasizing, however, that respect for the basic principles of peacekeeping is crucial. There is no alternative to political solutions to conflicts, she said, adding that cooperation between missions and host nations should be a top priority. Neither civil society nor non-governmental organizations can replace a host Government, she stated.
The representative of the International Organization of La Francophonie said that efforts going forward should aim at improving the participation of French‑speaking countries in peace operations. Highlighting recent training programmes and the forthcoming launch of a French guidebook on peacekeeping missions, she said that La Francophonie advocates greater participation of French‑speaking police officers and improved recruitment efforts in that regard.
Also speaking today were representatives of Myanmar, Tunisia, Honduras, Nigeria, Zambia, Senegal, Georgia, Venezuela and Italy.
The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 8 March to conclude its 2019 session.
AMUL MUDALLALI (Lebanon), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noting her country’s strategic partnership with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), warned against “open-ended peacekeeping”. The interim must not become permanent, as that would lead to protracted conflicts that are not conducive to solutions. Missions should therefore be complemented by various methods cited in Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter to resolve disputes peacefully. She highlighted the importance of deploying more women in peacekeeping operations, noting that nearly 5 per cent of UNIFIL’s 10,500 “Blue Helmets” are women. Emphasizing the need for good relations between host countries and peacekeeping missions, she said UNIFIL’s vital role in defusing tensions cannot substitute for an end to the occupation of Lebanese territory and full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).
SARAH CHEMLA (Israel) said that Member States have a duty to ensure the full protection of peacekeepers who are today facing unprecedented challenges that include terrorism and misconduct. Stressing the value of training and technology, and noting her country’s sharing of medical knowledge, she said that too many missions are plagued by sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as sexual harassment. “This is an epidemic and we need a remedy,” she said, adding that, with misconduct so widespread, it is no surprise that women make up less than 5 per cent of all uniformed peacekeepers. No man or woman can be expected to work in an environment in which colleagues, who should be a source of support, are perpetrators of sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment. “To grow the percentage of female peacekeepers, it is our job to foster a safe work environment for women on the ground and to promote inclusion,” she said.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), noting that her country supports, with some reservations, the Secretary-General’s reforms, said respect for the basic principles of peacekeeping is crucial. There is no alternative to political solutions to conflicts, she said, adding that host countries bear primary responsibility for protecting of civilians, establishing political processes and addressing root causes, with the international community assisting States in difficult situations. Top priority should be given to cooperation between peacekeeping missions and host countries, she said, emphasizing that neither civil society nor non-governmental organizations can replace a host Government. The Russian Federation deems dangerous attempts to equate the protection of civilians with human rights, she said, adding that robust peacekeeping is not a panacea and that a strong-armed approach risks undermining the neutral status of Blue Helmets.
Stressing that peacekeeping reform should be a transparent process, she underscored the role of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, whose decision should guide the work of the Secretariat and missions on the ground. Attempts to bypass the Special Committee in order to establish narrow specialized initiatives, including through the Security Council, will be counterproductive. Intelligence-gathering and analysis by peacekeeping missions should be used only to secure the safety of peacekeepers and civilians, with the consent of host countries. On the work of the Special Committee, she said it must ensure that everything in its report is agreed upon. The Russian Federation does not support the desire of some Member States to have narrow national priorities included in the report. She went on to reject the statement delivered on 11 February by the representative of Ukraine, stating that the work of the Special Committee must not be politicized. Ukraine regularly politicizes its statements with references to a United Nations mission in Donbas, but discussion about that situation should only be carried out in the Security Council. She also cited her country’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping in such areas as aviation and mine clearance.
KINLEY NAMDA (Bhutan), summarizing his country’s contributions and efforts, said his Government signed the rapid deployment level agreement in 2017 and pledged to send a formed police unit. Recognizing women as important actors in the maintenance of peace and security, Bhutan has achieved the United Nations target of increasing the number of female staff officers by 15 per cent. Training is the cornerstone of nimble, effective peacekeeping and increased partnerships would help to ensure that deployed personnel have the required preparedness and skills. Supporting the “do no harm” principle, Bhutan pledged to reduce its carbon footprint and impact on the local environment and natural resources in places of deployment. Lending support to the strategy to address sexual exploitation and abuse, he also welcomed the Secretary-General’s reform efforts and the launch of the Action for Peacekeeping initiative.
HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar) said that, given new threats and security challenges, the role of the United Nations in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding must be constantly strengthened, with the Special Committee providing policy and strategic direction. Contemporary challenges call for innovative responses, she said, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative. Civilian protection remains vital and requires tailored approaches or strategies. Commending all departments for their support in improving mission preparedness, she said training, capacity-building and better planning are essential to boost performance. Increasing women’s involvement is also key to improving missions’ effectiveness, she said, welcoming the new policy on gender-responsive United Nations peacekeeping operations. Providing the requisite financial and logistical support, as well as advanced security measures, are vital to ensure mandates are implemented successfully. Despite its own financial constraints, Myanmar has always fulfilled its minimal obligations regarding peacekeeping. Sharing the Secretary-General’s recommendations on enhancing partnerships and cooperation with humanitarian and development actors, she anticipated that these will be implemented in the near future.
MOEZZ LAOUANI (Tunisia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, since that last Special Committee session, his country has endorsed both the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers and the Declaration of Shared Commitments on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. Reaffirming its support to all such initiatives, he said Tunisia began deploying an aviation unit to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in addition to police and military officers serving in six missions and has pledged a rapid deployment-level infantry battalion. Tunisia also fully adheres to the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and is committed to preventing and addressing such acts in peacekeeping operations.
TAYE ATSKE SELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia) said peacekeeping missions are facing unparalleled challenges today and realities that need urgent attention and action. The Special Committee must reach an understanding on improving security of peacekeeping and on identifying practical, implementable and effective recommendations to reduce Blue Helmet fatalities. The Special Committee’s observations on the independent report on improving security and the Secretariat’s action plan are particularly important. The Secretariat should implement any appropriate measures possible to share the pain and burden that police- and troop‑contributing countries face over the loss of lives, he said, noting with regret the recent military helicopter crash in Abyei which resulted in the death of three Ethiopian peacekeepers. Ethiopia is one of the United Nations peacekeeping’s strongest partners and a leading contributor of female officers to missions, but it remains absent from participation in senior and middle-level leadership of operations. Still, Ethiopia continues to provide training through its international centre established in 2011. Supporting the High-level Panel on Peace Operation’s recent recommendations, he expressed appreciation for the steps taken to reduce bureaucratic barriers. However, the challenges to peace and security today cannot be handled by the United Nations alone, he said, underlining the importance of enhancing strategic partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, particularly the African Union.
MARY ELIZABETH FLORES (Honduras), endorsing the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, stressed the importance of giving missions the resources they need to carry out their mandates. Monitoring and assessment tools must be used to ensure that peacekeeping goals are met. Noting her country’s contribution to United Nations peacekeeping since the early 1990s, she emphasized the need to promptly resolve conflicts and to ensure the human rights of displaced populations. Nobody should be criminalized for fleeing conflict areas. She stressed the importance of implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security and encouraged the Secretariat to deploy more women peacekeepers. She went on to underscore the link between security and development, stating that the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieve when conflict and instability persist.
IBRAHIM MODIBBO UMAR (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed efforts to strengthen partnerships — particularly between troop- and police‑contributing countries, host countries and regional organizations — through the lifespan of a peacekeeping mission. Key to such partnership are clear and achievable mandates from the Security Council, with Member States providing well-trained and well-equipped forces. Commending efforts to strengthen the strategic partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, he welcomed the operationalization of the latter’s Peace Fund and the “tremendous increase” in contributions to that mechanism. He noted that women, without a doubt, have brought critical skillsets to peacekeeping, particularly in addressing gender-based issues. Nigeria will keep lending strong support to efforts to end sexual exploitation and abuse, he said, noting his country’s contribution to the trust fund to support victims of such misconduct.
ERICK MWEWA (Zambia) underlined the important role the Special Committee plays, as peacekeeping is a way to create conditions of sustainable peace. Noting that 8 of the 14 current missions operate in Africa, he wondered how this trend could be reversed. Member States should go beyond looking over the horizon and focus on best practices to move from peacekeeping in perpetuity to peacebuilding. In this vein, Member States should abide by instruments such as the Arms Trade Treaty to control the in-flow of firearms to negative forces, which subsequently fuels conflict in war-torn countries. Taking note of recommendations in the report by Lieutenant General (Retired) Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz (Brazil), he said the Department of Operational Support must move a step further to ensure that police- and troop-contributing countries deploying staff meet requirements and fully undertake their tasks comprehensively. Summarizing Zambia’s contributions, he said his country has, among other things, met the 15 per cent requirement for female participation, deployed battalions to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and pledged a helicopter unit to United Nations peace operations.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, and noting his country’s participation in MINUSMA, stressed the need for realistic peacekeeping mandates that include clear objectives and reflect operation environments. He underscored the importance of the political involvement of various stakeholders before, as well as during mission deployments. Financing missions is equally critical, especially in the context of budget cuts within the United Nations. Hailing progress in the strategic partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, he reiterated the need for a financing mechanism for African Union-led peace operations that is predictable, flexible and sustainable. While welcoming the African Union’s determination to play a full role in finding political solutions to conflicts in Africa, Senegal hopes the Security Council will demonstrate political will to advance its relationship with that organization.
MIRIAN POPKHADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, said there needs to be more coordinated work among United Nations agencies and Member States to find the best ways to overcome dire security and humanitarian challenges. Georgia supports a holistic approach to international security that reflects the close link between peace and security, human rights and development. Despite facing its own serious security challenges, Georgia actively contributes to global peace and security, including in Afghanistan through its participation in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Recalling the termination of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) due to the veto of a permanent member of the Security Council, he said that, 10 years on, there remains no adequate replacement, as the European Union Monitoring Mission is denied access to occupied Georgian regions. Georgia’s tireless efforts for an independent, neutral and efficient international peacekeeping presence have so far been unsuccessful, he noted.
VICTOR HASUDUNGAN SIMATUPANG (Indonesia) said improvements in peacekeeping depend on the willingness to improve mandates. “Since the mandate of a mission is the logical basis for setting key performance indicators, the mandate can no longer be a Christmas tree,” he said, adding that clear, focused, realistic achievable mandates must be backed up by required resources. One of the ways to do this is by making better recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report for each mission and whenever the Security Council discusses opening a new operation. In addition, necessary capabilities must be deployed so peacekeepers can protect themselves and the local population. As such, training is a very important way to improve their safety and security and is a shared responsibility of the Security Council, Member States and the Secretariat, he said, adding that further discussion on such activities is both pertinent and necessary. Citing training activities in Indonesia’s Peacekeeping Centre in Sentul, he said it will host 59 events in 2019. Thanking the Secretary-General for his commitment to develop an integrated performance policy framework, he said that the “culture of performance” will be impossible without improving the mandate process.
SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), emphasizing the core principles of peacekeeping, cautioned against missions exceeding their mandates, adding that the Security Council, troop- and police-contributing countries and host States must consistently act in a concerted fashion at all stages. He stressed the obligation of peacekeeping operations to respect national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of host countries and to avoid de facto interpretations of their mandates. He called for more robust relations with regional and subregional organizations, as well as clear standards, including rules on the use of intelligence-gathering technologies. Peacekeeping operations should not substitute the role of the State in protecting civilians nor should they be used to impose peace. He condemned abuse of any kind on peacekeepers, deplored armed attacks on them, welcomed the Action for Peacekeeping initiative and reaffirmed support for the Special Committee as an exclusive space to draw up peacekeeping‑related policies.
STEFANO STEFANILE (Italy) said the pursuit of sustainable peace and civilian protection should guide the Special Committee’s efforts and always be the ultimate goal. Therefore, peacekeeping operations should have well-defined and realistic mandates alongside a clear political strategy and the means to fulfil tasks. Predeployment and in-mission training are also essential, as they provide peacekeepers with up-to-date knowledge, ethical standards and common operating procedures. Efforts must also focus on increasing the number of women in the field and more closely considering missions’ environmental impact. In 2018, Italy, together with Bangladesh, launched the Group of Friends for leading on environmental management in the field, a strategy that clearly illustrates how such activities can strengthen operational effectiveness and efficiency. The success of implementing it requires collaboration among multiple actors and sustained support from the membership, he said, adding that the Special Committee can now play a key role in advancing the strategy’s implementation and may promote a substantial increase in the number of clients contributing to it. Advancing its implementation is a win-win agenda, where the interests of all relevant parties — host, police- and troop‑contributing countries — can converge.
NARJES SAIDANE, Permanent Observer for the International Organization of La Francophonie, said her delegation had formed a partnership with the United Nations in its peacekeeping efforts. As an example, the Secretary‑General of her organization recently attended a meeting with key actors, she said, commending the commitments made there regarding improving French-speaking capacities and increasing women’s involvement. The Special Committee’s report would also benefit from recognizing the involvement of international organizations, like hers, in discussing salient issues. As such, the International Organization of La Francophonie recently hosted a meeting with key peacekeeping actors to exchange views. Going forward, efforts should aim at improving the participation of French-speaking countries in peace operations, she said, highlighting recent training programmes and the forthcoming launch of a French guidebook on peacekeeping missions. Her organization advocates greater participation of French-speaking police officers and improvements in recruitment efforts in this regard. She shared the Security Council and Secretariat’s determination to increase the number of women, as their role in peace processes is essential. Meanwhile, attention is needed to reinforce multilingualism and the use of French in peacekeeping operations.