Fourth Committee Turns Attention to UN Peacekeeping Operations with Speakers Urging Better Protection for Blue Helmets
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today began its general debate on United Nations peacekeeping operations, which mark their seventy-fifth anniversary this year, with senior UN officials and delegates alike calling for greater safety and security for blue helmets and a greater role for women in the 12 missions deployed worldwide.
Alexandre Zouev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peace Operations, speaking on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said that progress is being made through the Action Plan to Improve the Security of Peacekeepers in areas such as force protection and countering explosive devices. Few attackers have faced justice, but there has been some improvement in confirmed national investigations, he said. He also acknowledged advances in the women, peace, and security agenda, with women currently lead five UN police components.
Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, highlighted the Department of Operational Support’s efforts to enhance peacekeepers’ access to medical facilities and support in complex, high-risk environments. He noted improvements such as mental health services and a new casualty-evacuation policy, along with achievements in reducing the gender gap.
Aruna Thanabalasingam, Director of the Administrative Law Division in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, said the Secretariat remains committed to the meaningful participation of women in peace operations. In recent years, several initiatives that helped to increase women’s representation in peace operations from 29 per cent in 2019 to 33 per cent. Progress has been slow and uneven, however, as attracting women to traditionally male-dominated roles and hardship duty stations remains a challenge.
Morocco’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the safety and security of UN peacekeeping personnel should remain a primary concern, pointing in this regard to the growing disinformation campaigns against peacekeeping missions.
Indonesia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that the region has contributed 5,000 peacekeepers to various missions. Women peacekeepers have increased the effectiveness of many missions, playing key roles in community engagement and the protection of civilians, he added.
Djibouti’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, emphasized the role of multilingualism. Success in protecting civilians and building peace depends on the ability to interact with local people and authorities in their own language, he emphasized.
JJamaica’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), put a spotlight on the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, urging the international community to remain actively engaged in an effective partnership with the country’s Government and people.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 31 October, to continue its general debate on peacekeeping operations.
ATUL KHARE, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Operational Support, said that United Nations peacekeeping — which marks its seventy-fifth anniversary this year — remains “an extraordinary enterprise of multilateralism and international solidarity”. Highlighting the Action For Peace Plus (A4P+) implementation plan, he said that the Department of Operational Support remains committed to ensuring that the capabilities of deployed units match their mandated tasks. More than 14,000 uniformed personnel have gone through the Triangular Partnership Programme, which provides training in engineering, medical, communications, intelligence and surveillance, among other areas. Detailing the programme’s achievements, he said that there are plans to expand its scope to better support African Union peace support operations.
With peacekeeping operations taking place in complex and high-risk environments, the Department remains dedicated to enhancing the safety and security of peacekeepers, he said. Highlighting efforts to improve peacekeepers’ access to medical facilities and support, he pointed to the mental health services and a new casualty evacuation policy. Underscoring achievements in reducing the gender gap in working and living conditions, he said that over the past five years, 46 per cent of living accommodations and 40 per cent of recreational spaces in missions reflect gender-responsive design recommendations.
He went on to say that the Department has developed a way forward on an environmental strategy for the period ending in 2030 that is based on three themes: responsibility, ambition and legacy. On the topic of women in peacekeeping, he said that more should be done to increase women’s representation in the field, noting that 66 appointments have been made through the Senior Women Talent Pipeline since 2014. Ahead of the 2023 Peacekeeping Ministerial to be hosted by Ghana in December, he encouraged Member States to further their commitment to peacekeeping by pledging political and concrete support.
ALEXANDRE ZOUEV, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peace Operations, speaking on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, highlighted peacekeeping’s historic contribution in countries such as Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Côte d’Ivoire, as well as its more recent and sometimes less conspicuous achievements, such as the ceasefire preserved in Cyprus. Peacekeepers are also safeguarding the lives of countless civilians, as evidenced in missions such as United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Noting that the nature of conflict itself is undergoing a transformation, compounded by climate change, geopolitical tensions, and transnational crime, he said that the targeting of peacekeepers through improvised explosive devices, disinformation campaigns and direct assaults are signs of increasing volatility.
Five years into the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, the Declaration of Shared Commitments continues to signal a collective ambition to strengthen peacekeeping, while A4P+, launched in 2021, focuses on catalysts essential for fulfilling A4P’s aims. Peacekeeping is most effective when used as a political tool to advance sustainable peace, as demonstrated by MINUSCA’s approach in the Central African Republic where it is advancing its efforts based a new political strategy to advance the peace process and deter armed groups in strategically important areas. Effective peacekeeping demands both the right capabilities and mindsets, he said, adding that the upcoming Peacekeeping Ministerial on 6 December in Accra is an ideal occasion for renewed commitments. The Action Plan to Improve the Security of Peacekeepers has fostered progress in force protection, integrated base defence and countering explosive devices. While very few of those responsible for attacks against peacekeepers have been brought to justice, there has been some progress since 2019 with an increase in the percentage of cases with confirmed national investigations.
Addressing misconduct and ending impunity among peacekeepers remains paramount, he continued, also underscoring the need for effective communications and proactive media engagement to counter misinformation and disinformation. Noting the advances made in the women, peace and security agenda, he pointed to MONUSCO’s support for women’s inclusion in the Nairobi Process and called for more Member State contributions to enable the preparation of the first global report on gender equality and the status of women in the defence sector. The Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy has resulted in increasing the percentage of women serving in missions, and in fostering gender-responsive working and living conditions. Women currently lead five UN police components. Bolstering the Organization’s ability to mount tailored, integrated operational responses to crises and conflicts depends on peacekeeping effectiveness, he said, adding that mandates for missions must be clear and prioritized, rooted in political resolutions and backed unfailingly by the Security Council.
Peacekeeping has doctrinal and operational limitations as a tool that relies on strategic consent and the support of critical parties, he added, highlighting the New Agenda for Peace’s recommendation that in cases where peace enforcement is required, the Security Council should endorse a multinational force or action by regional or subregional bodies. Underscoring that regional organizations such as the African Union may in some cases be best placed to deal with pressing security challenges, he called for predictable, flexible and adequate funding and a continued investment in capacity-building. There is not always a stark choice between peacekeeping and peace enforcement; instead, the deployed operation should align with situational demands. Regardless of form, a mission must be anchored by a clear and realistic mandate rooted in a political strategy and receive appropriate resources. Calling for “networked multilateralism,” he emphasized the need for robust collaboration at regional levels with a diversity of partners, including regional organizations, the wider United Nations system, international financial institutions and the private sector. Such interconnectivity is what the peacekeeping missions of today and tomorrow will need to succeed, he said.
ARUNA THANABALASINGAM, Director of the Administrative Law Division in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, speaking on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, said that the Secretariat remains committed to ending sexual exploitation and abuse. All such acts create victims, usually among the most vulnerable, and that is particularly true for children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse whose rights and needs often go unmet. To attain the just resolution of paternity and child support claims, the Under-Secretary-General has established a high-level interdepartmental task force to strengthen partnerships with Member States and to identify tangible actions to resolve these claims. Noting that the UN and troop- and police-contributing countries are obligated to facilitate resolution of such claims, she emphasized that the Department counts on Member States’ engagement and support in this effort. She also reported that the Department continues to administer a trust fund to support victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
That trust fund supported the implementation of five ongoing projects and three new ones in 2022, she continued. A funding appeal to Member States aims to raise $3 million by March 2024, she said, encouraging Member States to contribute to ensure that assistance to victims can be sustained and grow. Turning to financial management, she said that the Department continues to support missions in developing responsible budget proposals. It is also working closely with missions to ensure that all elements of results-based budgeting frameworks are aligned with mission mandates and clearly linked to the level of resources requested. She spotlighted the Department’s support to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which involves presenting its withdrawal and liquidation budgets to relevant legislative bodies and providing expert advice on closure or transfer of projects to the UN country team.
“The Secretariat remains committed to the meaningful participation of women in peace operations,” she said. To promote the Organization’s gender-parity objectives, the Department has implemented several initiatives that have contributed to an increase in women’s representation in peace operations from 29 per cent in 2019 to 33 per cent. However, issues persist and progress has been slow and uneven, as attracting women to traditionally male-dominated roles and hardship duty stations remains a challenge. Against that backdrop, the Department’s efforts focus on improving working and living conditions in the field. The provision of technological solutions to address current and emerging peacekeeping challenges remains a priority, she added, noting that the Secretary-General’s proposed information and communications technology strategy outlines technology priorities to enhance mandate delivery. “Peacekeeping will benefit greatly from its implementation,” she said.
MOUNA OUAZZANI CHAHDI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Member States must ensure that peacekeeping operations remain “fit for purpose”. Underscoring the need to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping, she urged greater triangular cooperation between troop- and police-contributing countries, the Secretariat and the Security Council, including meaningful dialogue well ahead of mandate renewals. She emphasized the importance for the Council to draft clear, focused, realistic and achievable mandates, in consultation with host States as well as troop- and police-contributing countries. The basic principle guiding peacekeeping operations should be the consent of the parties, impartiality and the non-use of force except in self-defense. In this regard, she said that the establishment of new peacekeeping operations or the extension of existing mandates should be guided by the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-intervention in matters of domestic jurisdiction.
Mandates should be based on national ownership and supported by a comprehensive peace process, she said, underscoring the importance of investing in local political solutions as well as social and development tools. To ensure adequate resources for peacekeeping missions, Member States should fulfill their financial contributions in full, on time and without conditions. As the biggest troop contributor, the Non-Aligned Movement underscores that safety and security of UN peacekeeping personnel should remain a primary concern, she said, noting with concern growing disinformation campaigns against peacekeeping missions. She also called on the United Nations to intensify its support for African Union peacekeeping operations through predictable and sustainable funding.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligning himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, commended the dedication of peacekeepers around the world. Peacekeeping is one of the main elements of ASEAN’s political and security cooperation, he said, noting that 5,000 peacekeepers from the region are serving in various missions. Expressing support for making peacekeeping nimbler and more adapted to current challenges, he welcomed the upcoming Ministerial conference in Accra. Noting the importance of training and capacity abuilding and joint exercises, he said these underpin ASEAN’s participation in missions.
Underscoring the importance of effective mandates, he said that the Organization must enhance its efforts in strategic communications and the safety of peacekeepers. Better capacity-building, training and equipment provision corelates to better performance. Also noting the significance of cooperation between the United Nations, regional and subregional organizations and host States, he expressed commitment to the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations (2021-2025). He went on to say that women peacekeepers have increased the overall effectiveness of many missions. They are key to community engagement and protection of civilians, he said, underscoring the importance Security Council resolution 2538 (2020), which called for greater action to bolster the role of women — both uniformed and civilian — in all levels of peacekeeping.
JAMES MARTIN LARSEN (Australia), speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said that wherever UN peacekeepers are deployed, “civilians are safer, peacebuilding outcomes are stronger and the prospects for durable peace improve”. During the past year, however, peacekeeping operations have faced mounting challenges and difficult dynamics, including in Mali where the international community witnessed a complete breakdown of host-country consent. As the Organization considers how to shape peacekeeping for the future, it should prioritize diverse partnerships and consider a range of tools to break down silos in this regard. Looking forward to the development of a Security Council framework resolution for African Union peace operations, he emphasized the importance of upholding oversight, standards and compliance measures that are consistent with UN peacekeeping missions.
Recalling Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, he said that the mandate and convening power of UN peace operations supports women’s leadership in peace and political processes, protects against reprisals and strengthens accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. However, progress towards gender parity has been slow. “This is not the time to lose momentum,” he said, spotlighting the Elsie Initiative Fund, which supports troop- and police-contributing countries in identifying and overcoming barriers to the recruitment and deployment of women. He went on to say that peacekeeping operations must have adequate resources to implement their civilian protection mandates, particularly as they relate to children, and called on all Member States to implement the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.
ANTONIO GAETANO COPPOLA, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the European Union member states cover one quarter of the United Nations’ peacekeeping budget and deploy nearly 5,000 uniformed personnel to peacekeeping operations worldwide. Pointing to the challenges faced by peacekeepers, including a lack of resources and adequate equipment, he emphasized the need for revitalized political processes to ensure the success of peacekeeping missions, noting in this regard the Secretary General’s policy brief “A New Agenda for Peace”. He also stressed the importance of protecting peacekeepers from increasing threats from, and direct attacks by, non-State actors and ensuring accountability for crimes against them.
Member States must fulfil financial obligations in a timely manner both for the regular and peacekeeping budgets, he said, highlighting in this regard European Union’s pledges of extra-budgetary contributions. Stressing the need for greater integration of women, peace and security agenda in the peacekeeping operations, he emphasized the importance of maintaining gender-responsive work environments and enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse. He also urged to use renewable energy systems to enhance the operational resilience of peacekeeping operations and encouraged stronger human rights components within peacekeeping missions, noting their role in documenting human rights violations and protecting victims.
Mr. ABDILLAHI (Djibouti), speaking on behalf of the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, said that peacekeeping needs to be reviewed in light of new challenges in new theatres of operation. Underscoring the role of regional organizations, he said that the “New Agenda for Peace” would benefit from stressing the importance of multilingualism in the revitalization of multilateralism. For truly effective international action on the ground, the Organization must consider the local context, with peacekeepers having linguistic and intercultural competences in the places where they are deployed. The Department of Peace Operations and the Department of Operational Support must commit to the full integration of multilingualism into peacekeeping efforts, he said.
As peacekeeping mandates are increasingly multidimensional, tasks such as the protection of civilians and peacebuilding depend on the ability to interact in the language of the local authorities and populations, he added. Multilingualism enhances trust and facilitates a better understanding of local realities. This is even more critical when it comes to the participation of francophone women in military and police components, he said, adding that the using the correct language — and knowing the culture that drives a given language — are also key when it comes to effective exit strategies. Using the language of a host country also helps to bolster the security of all deployed personnel. Given the current context of increased acts of violence as well as disinformation campaigns, the deployment of personnel that speaks the local language is crucial, he said.
CRAIG BARRINGTON DOUGLAS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, underlined the importance of measuring and improving both the performance of uniformed personnel and accountability in peacekeeping operations. “The success of peacekeeping operations weighs heavily on the buy-in of all stakeholders.” He also expressed support for women’s active participation in peacekeeping, peacebuilding and all efforts to promote peace and security within and among nations. He welcomed progress to mainstream gender perspectives throughout all offices of the Department of Peace Operations and invited the Department to continue strengthening efforts to increase the number of female officers in peacekeeping missions.
“CARICOM is fully aware of the destabilizing effects that social and political unrest can engender in any country,” he continued, welcoming the 16 October report of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). To fast-track progress in Haiti and maintain an environment conducive to sustained development, the international community must increase its support and remain actively engaged in effective partnership with the Government and people of Haiti. For its part, CARICOM remains committed to assisting and advocating for Haiti along the path towards sustainable peace, stability and development. Emphasizing that peace demands collective willingness to find meaningful solutions to the world’s conflicts, he said that CARICOM values the Organization’s work — especially in peacekeeping — to bring together relevant stakeholders in conflict situations.
THARARUT HANLUMYUANG (Thailand), aligning herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that Member States must do more to improve safety and security of peacekeepers. Pointing to the high-risk environments in which peacekeepers operate, including dangers posed by new technologies and political polarization, she said that effective peacekeeping requires clear and implementable mandates, sufficient resources and capabilities that match the needs on the ground, as well as proper training. She also called for greater engagement between the Security Council, host countries and troop- and police-contributing countries, noting that effective peacekeeping relies on greater support among partners, including in the face of hate speech, misinformation and disinformation. “Peacekeeping must be viewed in the full spectrum of the peace continuum,” she said, noting that peacekeepers can be essential to building conditions conducive for peace to take root.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), aligning himself with Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country has contributed more than 230,000 personnel to 47 peacekeeping missions over the years, in addition to hosting one of the first such operations — the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Noting the dangers of improvised explosive devices as well as information and disinformation campaigns, he called for accountability for attacks against peacekeepers. The United Nations must meet its financial obligations towards troop- and police-contributing countries, he added, concurring with the Secretary-General’s call for a serious reflection on the future of peacekeeping and the need to move towards nimble missions with forward-looking exit strategies. A peacekeeping mission must be part of an overall political strategy that takes into account development deficits and the presence of terrorist elements, among other factors. Mandates must be responsive to the circumstances being addressed, in addition to being realistic and achievable, he added.
EDEM KODZOVI MEDZINYUIE (Togo), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, said that with several African regions facing crises, armed conflict and terrorism, it is no surprise that seven out of the 12 current peacekeeping operations are taking place in Africa. Welcoming the UN’s “constant interest” in the sociopolitical situations of African countries, as well as its commitment to a peaceful Africa, he underlined the need to conduct peacekeeping missions in full cooperation with host countries. Togo — among the 20 largest troop contributors — thanks institutional and State partners that support the training of “blue helmets” in Lomé. He also urged more rapid implementation of initiatives aimed at making peace missions more effective, legitimate and safe. Additionally, the UN should engage more with regional and subregional organizations, as regional-level peacekeeping operations cannot be perceived as measures which are being imposed from abroad.
WAEL MAHMOUD ABDELAZIZ ELDAHSHAN (Egypt), aligning himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern over the increasing number of attacks against peacekeepers. In this regard, he stressed the importance of moving from mere condolences and condemnation to concrete actions. Achieving this goal requires a holistic approach, adequate resources and use of technology, and addressing propaganda and mistrust between missions and host countries. Recognizing the importance of national leadership in peacekeeping operations, he said that while peacekeeping can help countries get on the right path, national ownership of reforms is essential for lasting peace. He also underlined the significance of strengthening partnerships between the United Nations and the African Union as well as importance of enhancing women’s participation in peacekeeping.
JOSÉ DE JESÚS CISNEROS CHÁVEZ (Mexico), noting that his country is preparing for the deployment of its first peacekeeping contingent, said that the international community must recognize that peacekeeping operations, especially multidimensional ones, are going through a crisis, with growing questions about their legitimacy. There are examples of local populations getting frustrated because of lack of progress even years after the deployment of peacekeeping missions. Disinformation campaigns further undermine peacekeeping, he said, adding that missions often face changing contexts which require them to adapt faster and better. Faced with challenges from non-State actors and radical groups, the Security Council’s response has been to grant more ambitious mandates. However, the doctrinal and operational aspects of peacekeeping have not kept pace; therefore, it is crucial to focus on achievable and realistic goals that are supported by the States affected by the conflicts, he said.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said that peacekeeping missions require clear, actionable mandates, consistent political engagement, sufficient resources and durable consent from all parties to a conflict. Detailing his country’s contributions to UN peacekeeping efforts over the last 60 years, he said that Sri Lanka plays a vital role in resolving conflicts peacefully, facilitating referendums and bolstering endeavours aimed at securing enduring solutions. In so doing, it has made a significant contribution to the promotion of peace, stability and overall development. Peacekeeping missions face formidable challenges in regions marred by persistent conflict and heightened violence, but Sri Lanka is committed to shouldering its responsibility as a troop-contributing country in the interests of global peace and security. Sustained engagement in peacekeeping missions has enabled Sri Lankan personnel to build long-lasting relationships with local communities and become a stable, reliable presence that can adapt to evolving circumstances, he added.
JORGE SAIN SÁNCHEZ FUENTES (Cuba), aligning himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the growing complexity of peacekeeping mandates, with some operations becoming multidimensional and occasionally conflicting with core peacekeeping principles. Using peacekeeping operations to combat terrorism, extremism and organized crime could lead to more threats and attacks against peacekeepers. Establishing new and more complex operations cannot substitute for addressing the root causes of conflict. He urged Member States to create a framework for security that focuses on long-term economic and sustainable development, which is the only way to overcome the vicious circle of new conflicts and new operations that come at a high human and material cost. On the use of new technologies in peacekeeping, he voiced concerns about the use of drones, stating that their deployment should be subject to careful analysis.