Report of the Secretary-General: B. Maintenance of international peace and security

Troops from the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) on patrol in South Darfur, Sudan.

Troops from the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) on patrol in South Darfur, Sudan., by UN Photo/Albert González Farran

In the past year we faced increasingly complex, interconnected threats to international peace and security. Some were new. Others were long-standing threats that had intensified or taken on more virulent forms. Extremist groups captured large swathes of territory in the Middle East and West Africa and significant sources of revenue while terrorizing and abusing millions of people. Conflicts became increasingly transnational. Tensions between Member States rose in some regions. The Security Council’s agenda was dominated by concerns about terrorism and violent extremism. The 37 United Nations peace operations deployed around the world had to adapt to increasingly non-permissive environments, while the outbreak of Ebola virus disease raised serious concern about the potential security risks posed by health emergencies.

This evolving security environment resulted in severe risks for United Nations personnel and operations. Over the past year, there were several direct attacks involving the use of unconventional tactics, such as suicide bombings and the use of improvised explosive devices. In November 2014, a United Nations convoy was targeted by a suicide bomber driving an explosive-laden vehicle in Baghdad. In Somalia, on 20 April 2015, four UNICEF personnel were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a United Nations vehicle. From 1 September 2014 to 31 May 2015, 32 uniformed United Nations peacekeepers were killed in Mali, accounting for nearly half of the total of 73 fatalities of such personnel worldwide. One UNICEF staff member in Yemen was abducted and kept in captivity for 399 days before being released on 8 November 2014. The security situation has a disproportionate impact on the ability of our peace operations to implement their mandate, particularly in non-permissive environments.

Amid these changes in security conditions, the High-level Independent Panel I appointed to carry out a review of peace operations has provided many important recommendations to ensure that United Nations operations remain fit for purpose. This review was undertaken alongside other important exercises that involved extensive consultations with Member States — the peacebuilding architecture review, which will be considered through an intergovernmental process, and the global study on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), as well as the earlier Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in Peacekeeping, the report of which was released in February 2015. Drawing on them, my forthcoming report on United Nations peace operations will set out what I believe to be a critical agenda for reform in peace operations for the coming years and how we can effectively implement the key recommendations of the High-level Independent Panel.

While the United Nations grappled with these new realities, we strove to stay the course on longer-standing threats and conflicts, to continue our quiet preventive diplomacy across the globe and to remain vigilant to emerging threats.

Conflict prevention and mediation

In keeping with this sobering picture, our efforts in conflict prevention and mediation faced significant challenges. Following the descent of the Central African Republic into sectarian violence and the subsequent establishment of a peacekeeping force, the Organization — including through the good offices of my Special Representative for Central Africa and my Special Representative for the Central African Republic — has focused on facilitating a political process that includes the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, pursues peace and reconciliation, extends the reach of State authorities and culminates in free, fair and transparent elections. This process successfully culminated in the holding of local consultations and the Bangui Forum, where a pact for peace, national reconciliation and reconstruction and a preliminary agreement on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were agreed upon.

Over the past year, Libya has witnessed a significant political and security crisis alongside the most serious outbreak of armed conflict since the 2011 revolution. The political division and fighting have caused significant civilian casualties and displacement, as well as severe social and economic damage. The Organization has been at the forefront of international efforts to promote a negotiated political solution. My Special Representative facilitated a multi-track dialogue process, which enjoys wide support among the Libyan actors, the international community and key regional players. Although the situation remains delicate, the United Nations strongly believes that the formation of a Government of National Accord is the best way for Libya to solve the current crisis and confront the many critical issues facing the country, including terrorism.

The conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic remains a stain on our collective conscience as it enters its fifth year. It has now resulted in over 220,000 deaths, and over 12 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 5 million children. The Organization continues to promote a political solution based on the 2012 Geneva communiqué. In the Middle East, a third war in six years between Israel and armed militants in Gaza ended on 26 August 2014, during which more than 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed. I worked closely with all relevant stakeholders to halt violence and, in the aftermath, established a Board of Inquiry to review incidents in which death or injuries occurred at, or damage was done to, United Nations premises in Gaza, or in which the presence of weaponry was reported at those premises. In the absence of progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation and stronger ceasefire arrangements between Israelis and Palestinians, the situation in Gaza remains precarious. An effort at reconstruction, facilitated by a United Nations-brokered mechanism, did not receive sufficient funding. The peace process remains frozen, Israelis and Palestinians locked in a cycle of counterproductive actions and counteractions.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to devastate the country, posing a challenge to regional and even international peace and security. I continue to offer my full support towards a peaceful resolution. I also made my good offices available to support Myanmar to bring about lasting peace through an agreement on a nationwide ceasefire between the Government and major ethnic armed groups and political dialogue, after more than six decades of intermittent conflict. Meanwhile, in 2014, the United Nations provided support to Myanmar’s countrywide population and housing census, the first such exercise in 30 years. As Myanmar moves forward with its reform and democratization, the ongoing communal polarization, particularly in Rakhine State, places major responsibility on the country’s leaders. The United Nations has consistently pressed for the urgent and comprehensive resolution of the citizenship status of the Rohingyas. It has also been working continuously to combat incitement and hate speech, encourage preventive action and promote interfaith dialogue. As the country faces general elections late in 2015, we will continue to encourage a credible, inclusive and transparent electoral process.

In Yemen, the conflict between the Government of President Hadi Mansour and the Houthis and their allies led to a significant deterioration of the situation, in spite of the best efforts by the United Nations to find a consensual power-sharing solution between them. Although a United Nations-brokered agreement had been signed in September, the Houthis continued to consolidate and expand their hold on power and territory. In January 2015, the President and the Prime Minister tendered their resignations. The President escaped to Aden in February 2015, rescinded his resignation, and subsequently fled to Saudi Arabia. At the President’s request, a coalition of 10 countries led by Saudi Arabia commenced air strikes on Houthi and Houthi-allied positions on 26 March. At the same time, fighting on the ground in Yemen escalated, triggering a humanitarian emergency. With a view to promoting a peaceful resolution of the conflict, my new Special Envoy for Yemen convened consultations between the Yemeni parties in Geneva from 15 to 19 June. No consensus on resolving the situation was reached, however. His efforts are continuing.

While the reporting period may have been dominated by the challenges in the international spotlight, there were many other situations where we made important progress or continued to carry out essential preventive work, both visible and quiet, by facilitating dialogue and helping to de-escalate tensions. In Burkina Faso, at the onset of the crisis and “popular uprising” that led to the departure of then President Blaise Compaoré, the rapid action taken by my Special Representative for West Africa, together with representatives of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, to support national stakeholders to engage in an inclusive national dialogue process resulted in an agreement on a transitional government. The Organization will continue to support Burkinabé stakeholders throughout the transition period.

In Lebanon, the International Support Group worked to help preserve the country’s stability and unity by mobilizing international assistance in a range of areas, including to the Lebanese Armed Forces and in support of Government efforts to deal with the exceptional refugee presence as a consequence of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. My Special Representative for Iraq continued his efforts to mediate between key Iraqi stakeholders, including by facilitating an important agreement on revenue-sharing and oil exports between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. He also facilitated discussions on the Government of Iraq’s request, at a time of financial strain, to defer its compensation payments to Kuwait. I continue to be personally committed to facilitating a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue, where fully-fledged negotiations, facilitated by my Special Adviser, resumed in May 2015. In Mauritania, the United Nations country team supported a national dialogue on social cohesion, slavery and land rights. I welcomed the convening of direct talks between the Government of Afghanistan and Taliban representatives, held in Pakistan in July 2015, as an encouraging development for a potential peace process.

Preventive efforts are also at the heart of my Human Rights up Front initiative, which aligns the actions of the United Nations system to ensure that we meet our most fundamental collective responsibilities to prevent serious human rights violations. Over the past year, efforts were made to improve the United Nations early warning and early action capabilities at both Headquarters and in the field as part of this initiative. Additional support was provided to several United Nations field presences to strengthen the Organization’s preparedness to meet its mandated obligations.

With each passing year, our partnerships with regional and subregional organizations grow and deepen. This past year was no exception, as demonstrated by the examples below, and indeed throughout this report. The European Union is an important partner of the United Nations on mediation, conflict prevention and rapid response, including in the Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia. In Ukraine, we supported the efforts of the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe, including its monitoring mission. In the Sudan and South Sudan, through my Special Envoy, we supported efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to mediate between the warring factions in South Sudan, as well as those of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel to hold an inclusive and credible national dialogue to address the root causes of the multiple conflicts in the Sudan and reach a cessation of hostilities in Darfur and in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States. Our regional office in Central Africa helped the Economic Community of Central African States to strengthen its mediation architecture and worked together with our West Africa office to support the efforts of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to address the regional impact of the crisis brought about by Boko Haram. In Madagascar, the United Nations worked closely with the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to support the full implementation of the road map and to foster national reconciliation and democracy. In the Great Lakes region, my Special Envoy continued to coordinate United Nations efforts with other “co-witnesses” — the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community — in support of the implementation, by the signatories, of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region.

Vulnerable populations continued to suffer from or face severe risks of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In order to strengthen early warning, the Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect produced a new Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes that identifies key risk factors and provides a methodology for assessing situations of concern. The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide also provided technical assistance and support for capacity-building to Member States and regional arrangements, including the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the national committees set up by its member States to prevent genocide and other atrocity crimes.

Violations against children, especially by extremist groups, continued and increased, including an alarming new trend of mass abductions of children, such as the abduction of the Chibok girls. My Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict led the establishment of a key monitoring and reporting mechanism in Nigeria which will document these violations and increase the accountability of perpetrators.

The efforts of my Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict resulted in mobilizing political will to address conflict-related sexual violence, for example through structured frameworks including specific commitments, with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition, and regional entities like the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea all made major strides in addressing sexual violence crimes.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) also supported the meaningful participation or consultation of women in peace processes in Colombia, Mali, Myanmar, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Ukraine. In Colombia, those efforts resulted in women counting for approximately one third of the delegates on each side of the peace table and at least half of the participants in all public consultations.

Another welcome trend in our peacemaking and mediation efforts, no matter how different and challenging those processes may be, is our progress towards enhanced inclusivity. In all processes where the United Nations was in a leading or co-leading role over the past year, we ensured regular consultation with civil society, including women’s groups.

Democratic transitions and elections

Inclusivity was also a key goal in our efforts to support democracy around the world, where we advised many Governments on ways to increase political participation, for instance by removing barriers to the participation of women as voters, candidates and election officials. In cases where the United Nations actively supported government and State formation processes, as in Iraq and Somalia, we advocated particularly strongly the inclusion of women, youth and minority groups, as well as for the formation of an inclusive government which would represent the interests of all components in society.

The United Nations assisted a wide variety of countries with constitutional reform in the reporting period. In Somalia, my Special Representative worked closely with the Federal Government, regional stakeholders and international partners to maintain momentum on the country’s Vision 2016 agenda.

Countries seeking to consolidate gains in their democratic transitions often face continuing instability due to weak institutional frameworks. There were instances of efforts to change presidential term limits or to interpret constitutional provisions in a way that would be favourable to the office holder. While constitutions are live documents and political systems evolve, a removal of term limits can be seen as self-serving and lead to conflict if it is not based on an inclusive and broad national consensus. In Burundi, despite a ruling of the Constitutional Court, the candidacy of the incumbent President has been highly divisive, polarizing the people of Burundi. Violent confrontations between the police and opponents to the incumbent’s third term bid, as well as an attempted coup d’état on 13 May, have increased the prospects of large-scale human rights violations with far-reaching consequences for Burundi and the Great Lakes region. The United Nations worked closely with Burundian stakeholders, regional leaders and the international community to defuse tensions and facilitate a dialogue process to help to create the conditions for the holding of peaceful, credible and inclusive elections.

Many Member States turned to the United Nations for technical assistance in conducting credible elections. During the reporting period, such assistance was provided to over 65 countries at their request, some on the basis of current and new Security Council mandates. In Tunisia, the Organization provided support to national authorities for the conduct of the 2014 presidential and legislative elections and a constitutional referendum, and extended support to civil society organizations for public outreach activities and support to women candidates. In the Central African Republic, the United Nations has been providing assistance in preparation for presidential and legislative elections in 2015, while also helping to create a secure environment for the elections and the protection of the long-suffering civilian population.

My Special Representative for West Africa worked with the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union to support the holding of peaceful and credible elections in Benin, Nigeria and Togo in 2015, and the Organization has worked with the Southern African Development Community to support the holding of elections in Lesotho and Zambia in 2014.

The United Nations has also continued to support national efforts to prevent election-related instability and violence. Where this is appropriate and requested, the Organization has sought to link technical assistance and preventive diplomacy efforts in order to strengthen public confidence in electoral processes and their outcomes.

Peacekeeping

The reporting period was a challenging one for peacekeeping. The ultimate goal of peacekeeping — to support a political process and help a country to make the transition from conflict to lasting peace — remains the same. However, the context in which mandated tasks are implemented continues to evolve and the mismatch between the resources assigned to our missions and the complex security environments in which they operate has become increasingly glaring. Several peacekeeping operations had to adapt to these increasingly non-permissive security environments, with ongoing violence and no prospect of political resolution in sight. Examples include Mali and Darfur, where the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) face deadly attacks and asymmetric threats, including from improvised explosive devices, armed groups and criminal organizations.

In other cases, missions were deployed to active conflict zones where there is no peace to keep and no peace agreement to support. In these instances, our operations have to first bring about a cessation of hostilities, while also providing protection to civilians, before they can focus on long-term, sustainable peace. This has been the case, for example, in the Central African Republic, where there was no political road map for a period of time and where the transnational nature of the conflict, difficulties in identifying the parties to the conflict, and blurry distinctions between combatants and civilians make the roles of peacekeepers and the good offices of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General more difficult than ever. The Organization is developing a regular and open exchange with the Security Council to ensure that peacekeeping mandates are realistic, feasible and accompanied by the appropriate level of political support and resources.

Our peacekeeping partnership with the African Union was also refined and consolidated during the reporting period. Both Organizations have learned lessons from the transitions from African Union to United Nations missions which were effected in Mali in 2013 and in the Central African Republic in September 2014.

We worked to consolidate security and governance gains in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti and Liberia, with the eventual aim of drawing the missions to a close. While mission drawdown plans in Liberia suffered a setback as a result of the Ebola crisis, significant progress was made in 2015 towards enhancing the Government’s capacity to manage its own security and deliver public services. In Haiti, the mission continues to engage with the Government on preparations for national elections, but risks remain for the full adherence to the electoral calendar, which will require sustained political engagement from the international community. The Organization will work to establish a clear framework for a smooth transfer of tasks to partner organizations and host Governments.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations worked closely with the Government to ramp up the second phase of the International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy which, it is hoped, will consolidate political and security gains and extend State presence and authority to new areas of the east. At the same time, in March, the Organization launched a strategic dialogue with the Government on key issues including continued support of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to the operations of the national Armed Forces in accordance with the human rights due diligence policy and a road map for the end state of MONUSCO in the country.

In a sign of how the world is changing, we leveraged our experience in deploying support and humanitarian missions in highly innovative ways during the reporting period to help Member States to cope with unanticipated global challenges. In response to a request from the Presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for the United Nations to lead coordination of the international response to the unprecedented Ebola outbreak, the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response was designed, authorized and deployed in a span of 10 days — a record pace for the Organization — to harness the capabilities and competencies of all relevant United Nations actors under a singular operational crisis management system to reinforce unity of purpose, effective ground-level leadership and operational direction to ensure a rapid, effective, efficient and coherent response to the Ebola crisis. It was the first-ever United Nations emergency health mission. This flexibility and vision was similarly exercised with the deployment of the United Nations partnership with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which led to the dismantling and destruction of 98.8 per cent of the officially declared chemical weapons stock of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Throughout the reporting period, we continued to place the highest priority on rapidity, efficiency, effectiveness, credibility, accountability and conduct and discipline in all our peace operations. While the cost of peacekeeping today exceeds $8.5 billion, the per capita cost of peacekeeping today is 17 per cent less than it was in 2008-2009 when adjusted for inflation. With respect to conduct and discipline, I have proposed a strengthened programme of action against sexual exploitation and abuse for the consideration of the General Assembly in my report (A/69/779). In recent months, allegations have surfaced of sexual abuse and other serious crimes by non-United Nations international troops deployed to the Central African Republic under a Security Council mandate. Further incidents were later also alleged to have been committed by peacekeepers in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. The Mission, the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights are working closely together to follow up on all of those allegations, both through internal mechanisms with regard to misconduct of United Nations troops and also through engagement with concerned Member States and the African Union. I have also appointed an independent external review panel to examine the Organization’s handling of such allegations, assess the adequacy of the procedures in place and make recommendations on how the United Nations should respond to similar allegations in the future.

Peacebuilding

The Peacebuilding Commission, Fund and Support Office celebrate their tenth anniversary in 2015. As foreseen, the Security Council and the General Assembly jointly sought a review of their role and position, as well as that of the operational entities of the United Nations system, with respect to peacebuilding. On 29 June, the Advisory Group of Experts on the Review of the Peacebuilding Architecture, which the two bodies asked me to appoint, submitted its report (see A/69/968-S/2015/490) providing a set of interrelated recommendations on how to improve performance in “sustaining peace” and preventing lapse and relapse into conflict. I look forward to the outcomes of the second, intergovernmental phase of the review. In my recent report on peacebuilding in the aftermath of conflict (A/69/399-S/2014/694), I identified a number of lessons that are highly relevant for the review. The Peacebuilding Commission also held some pertinent deliberations during the reporting, for example on how conflict-affected countries can generate domestic resources and fight against illicit financial flows. I applaud this move by the Commission towards more practical means of performing its core function of resource mobilization beyond traditional fundraising and towards global policy development. Meanwhile, the Peacebuilding Fund achieved its target through the allocation of $99.3 million to 16 countries emerging from conflict or political crisis, continuing the upward trend from previous years. A total of 9.3 per cent of allocations went to projects promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality as their principal objective. This was up from 7.4 per cent in 2013, but still below my target of 15 per cent, which is particularly disappointing as we approach the anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the review of its implementation. We must intensify these and other efforts to undertake gender-responsive peacebuilding. Overall, the Fund was active in just over 20 countries. During the same period, total contributions to the Fund in the amount of $78.2 million were made by 21 Member States. Two new countries were declared eligible for funding from the Fund — Madagascar and Mali. On the basis of a programming target of $100 million and forecasted contributions of approximately $60 million in 2015, the Peacebuilding Fund is seeking support from Member States to cover a funding gap and sustain Fund activities of at least $40 million.