The future of peace operations: a comprehensive review?
18 June, 2014
Our conference on Promoting effective international peace operations in increasingly complex environments closed yesterday. The conference followed the announcement on 11 June 2014 by the UN Secretary General that he has “asked the Secretariat to initiate work on a review of United Nations peacekeeping”.
Promoting effective international peace operations in increasingly complex environments
Sunday 15 – Tuesday 17 June 2014 (WP1336)
A report of discussions will be published; some key issues arising were:
- There is a real need for change; though the status quo may be simplest, there was no support for peace operations just “muddling through”. A strategic shift is needed.
- The importance of mandates: peacekeepers are being mandated to operate more and more in complex environments with asymmetric and unconventional threats, often where there is no peace to keep. Mandates need to be broad, to include both military and civilian tasks. At the same time, they need to be realistic, flexible and to manage expectations. Implementation is key, and this should be approached sequentially.
- The importance of planning: starting with political analysis, bringing in external expertise, including non-governmental organisations, running scenarios, engaging national actors, in particular the government, but also marginalised groups, and looking to coordinating contributions from international financial institutions, regional organisations and others. There is a need to plan for what can be delivered with the resources available and for flexibility to change in response to developments. Peace support operations need to be needs driven.
- Peace operations are to support effective political processes. Peacekeeping operations and special political missions should all come under the rubric of ‘peace operations’, and there is a need to address the boundaries in the UN Secretariat.
- There is no common view on how concepts like robust peacekeeping and protection of civilians should be implemented. Impartiality in a volatile conflict zone is extremely complex when there are direct threats to civilians and attacks on UN personnel are rampant. There are even suggestions that in situations such as in DRC, where MONUSCO has deployed the Force Intervention Brigade to confront and neutralise armed groups destabilising the country, this more proactive enactment of the mandate has caused some UN mandated troops to become more restrained.
- Tensions remain in partnerships between some regional organisations and the UN, in particular with the African Union (AU). Different multilateral organisations have evolved their own approaches to peace operations. In areas with strategic mission partners controlling separate aspects such as resources, mandates and troop deployment, this can create strains.
- Speed of deployment, mobility and adaptability are key capabilities peacekeeping operations will need to meet the challenges ahead.
- The review into peacekeeping operations is very timely. The changing nature of challenges faced required a large scale strategic approach to such a review, encompassing the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Department of Field Services (DFS) and the Department of Political Affairs (DPA). An external, independent, expert authority was seen as the best choice to conduct the review, as it would give the necessary profile and momentum to the process, as well as political weight; importantly it would enable continuity in the final product beyond the short term. Given the issues to consider, the review should not be hurried.
- The importance of conflict prevention. Is there the political will among governments to enable the UN to act early to prevent conflict? Conflict prevention requires addressing root causes and substantial investment. It is seriously under-resourced in the UN.
The conference was opened by Hans Brattskar, State Secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other speakers included Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Ameerah Haq, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support; Martin Kobler, SRSG and Head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO); Karin Landgren, SRSG and coordinator of UN operations in Liberia (UNMIL); Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, Force Commander of MONUSCO; Hilde Johnson, SRSG for South Sudan (UNMISS); and Nick Kay, SRSG for Somalia (UNSOM).
Senior military officials and representatives of ministries of foreign affairs along with other experts came from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uruguay. Other experts included Richard Gowan, Research Director at the Center on International Cooperation; Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Director of the Center for International Conflict Resolution and former USG for Peacekeeping Operations; Ian Martin, former Special Representative of the Secretary General for Libya, Nepal and Timor-Leste, and Patrick Cammaert, Former Commander of the Eastern Division, United Nations Mission in the Republic of Congo (MONUC).
The conference was convened in partnership with the Center on International Cooperation, New York University, and was generously supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Ministry of Defence.