Peacekeeping Missions Stand as ‘Important Deterrent to an Even Grimmer Reality’, Senior United Nations Official Underlines in Briefing to Security Council
While peacekeeping is not a panacea for converging crises, it does support political processes and protect civilians, the United Nations senior peace operations official told the Security Council today, as members considered the factors necessary for the success of such operations amidst the drawdown of the UN’s presence in Mali and the questioning of its utility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, observed that a convergence of global phenomena — geopolitical tensions, climate change and transnational organized crime — “point to a future of overlapping crises”. “Peacekeeping is not a magic wand to help a country return to stability,” he said, but noted that — with the support of a unified international community — political processes and peace agreements have been implemented. Further, even where political solutions to conflicts seem distant, peacekeepers continue to protect the lives of civilians.
Calling on Member States to engage with host countries where needed to facilitate the effective, unimpeded implementation of Council peacekeeping mandates, he also urged them to intensify efforts to increase women’s participation in peacekeeping. Peacekeeping is — at its core — a political instrument, he emphasized, urging the Council to provide robust political support in this regard. He added that, for many populations on the front lines of conflict, “the presence of peacekeeping missions stands as an important deterrent to an even grimmer reality”.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members emphasized the organ’s responsibility to design appropriate, realistic mandates for peacekeeping operations. Many also spotlighted the need to counter misinformation and disinformation through strategic communication and to increase women’s participation in peacekeeping operations. Others called for enhanced partnerships with regional stakeholders such as the African Union. Another area of debate centred on takeaways from the drawdown of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the demanded withdrawal of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
On that, the representative of the United Kingdom urged the Council to implement lessons learned from past peacekeeping transitions. Particularly, he warned against time-based — rather than conditions-based — withdrawals of peacekeeping operations, which put lives and peace processes at risk. He also underscored that host States must allow the safe, effective implementation of mission mandates.
The representatives of China and the Russian Federation also urged the United Nations to draw lessons from the experiences of MINUSMA and MONUSCO, with the latter stating that host States became dissatisfied because of insufficient consideration of their wishes and incorrect prioritization of work. He added that the growth of disinformation requires a comprehensive approach, since critical assessments of UN missions are often signs of the host population’s disappointment with those operations.
The representative of France, meanwhile, underscored that host States must facilitate the implementation of peacekeeping mandates and not “give in to the temptation to make the UN a scapegoat or a distraction from the activities of mercenaries”, who violate human rights and plunder natural resources. Albania’s representative similarly warned: “Unhappy Governments must know that reverting to mercenaries should not be taken lightly, because it may prove wrong, treacherous, costly and even dangerous.”
The representative of Mozambique, offering his country’s experience, said that hosting a UN peacekeeping operation led to the successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of 91,690 armed individuals. It also laid the foundation for the creation of a new armed forces and created the conditions for the holding of the first free and democratic general elections in 1994. Reflecting on this success, he stressed that it was due to factors including the political will of the parties, clearly defined goals, the support of the people and regional actors, unity in the Council and larger international community and adequate financial resources.
UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, underscored the need for stronger, consistent and unified support from Member States to fulfil the goals of UN peacekeeping — “helping to establish and provide the space for durable peace”. Growing divisions among Member States — combined with the increased complexity of today’s conflicts — poses a formidable challenge to peacekeeping and the broader task of maintaining peace and security. “Peacekeeping is not a magic wand to help a country return to stability,” he pointed out, but noted that — with the support of a unified international community — political processes and peace agreements have been implemented. Further, even where political solutions to conflicts seem distant, peacekeepers continue to protect the lives of civilians in countries and regions in which they are deployed. Against that backdrop, he encouraged those present to “imagine how these situations would evolve if peacekeepers were not present to undertake these daily efforts”.
He went on to state that a convergence of global phenomena — geopolitical tensions, climate change and transnational organized crime — “point to a future of overlapping crises”. The international community, therefore, must continue to strengthen the efficacy of peacekeeping — one of the most-powerful multilateral tools to manage and help resolve conflict. On that, he spotlighted the importance of political strategies that have coherent, collective support from key actors. Further, even where peacekeeping mandates do not explicitly confer the task of supporting political processes, missions often play a pivotal role in enabling conditions conducive to the pursuit or resumption of negotiations. Effective peacekeeping also requires the right capabilities and mindsets, he said, but stressed that caveats — especially when undeclared by troop- and police-contributing countries — can significantly hamper missions’ effectiveness and lead to operational setbacks. He also appealed to Member States to fill existing capability gaps.
“Accountability to UN peacekeepers remains a core priority,” he said, detailing progress in areas such as force protection, integrated base defence and countering improvised explosive devices. Further progress hinges on sustained support from Member States — especially in the form of specialized skills, equipment and expertise. Accountability of UN peacekeepers, meanwhile, aims for the highest level of performance by all personnel, which includes responsible action towards host countries and their populations — not only in conduct and discipline, but in missions’ environmental footprints. He also said that effective strategic communication helps to manage expectations among host Governments and populations, adding that robust action is being taken against all forms of misinformation and disinformation that interfere with missions’ work.
Turning to cooperation with host States, he underlined the importance of working to reduce violations of status-of-forces agreements across missions. Further, he called on those present to engage with host countries where needed to facilitate the effective, unimpeded implementation of Council mandates. Additionally, women’s participation in political processes is critical for efforts to achieve sustainable political solutions. Calling on Member States to intensify efforts to remove barriers at the national level and increase women’s participation in peacekeeping, he also emphasized that further investment in data capabilities among personnel is required to ensure that data can be effectively leveraged for effective decision-making. He observed that “at its core, peacekeeping is a political instrument” that requires robust political support from the Council, adding that — for many populations on the front lines of conflict — “the presence of peacekeeping missions stands as an important deterrent to an even grimmer reality”.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) emphasized the need for the Council to streamline mandates to ensure that they are realistic and set within what peacekeeping missions can deliver. In this regard, it is vital to support peacekeeping operations in harnessing relevant partnerships and closing gaps between local populations’ expectations and what missions can realistically deliver. Peacekeeping operations are an integral part of the broader processes for peace, not an activity in isolation. They may not have a capacity to fully address the underlying causes of conflict but can have a transformative impact. As well, it is essential to use the existing peace toolbox and centralize peacebuilding in breaking the cycles of underdevelopment, inequitable growth, flawed political systems and the militarization of political systems, before, during and after a peacekeeping mission. Ghana will host a Peacekeeping Ministerial Meeting in Accra on 5-6 December 2023 to further discussions. The Council and the wider UN membership should embrace African-led peace support operations funded from UN accessed contributions. His delegation looks forward to the adoption of a framework resolution on this matter, he said.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said his country trains thousands of UN peacekeepers each year, and as a top contributor of extrabudgetary funds, has donated more than $2.8 million in 2022. To advance the participation of women in peacekeeping and peace processes, it supports the Senior Women Talent Pipeline and the Elsie Initiative Fund, to which it has contributed $9 million to date. Noting that missions continue to suffer from restrictions on freedom of movement, and of violations of status-of-forces agreements, including in Mali, the Central African Republic, Lebanon and Western Sahara, he underscored that host States must allow the safe and effective implementation of mission mandates. With MINUSMA withdrawing from Mali, and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (MONUSCO) transition approaching, he said the Council must implement lessons learned from past peacekeeping transitions and be wary of time-based, rather than conditions-based, withdrawals of peacekeeping operations, which put lives and peace processes at risk.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) said that the Council must renew the mandates of peacekeeping operations “in a manner that responds to developments on the ground”. Peacekeeping missions must also be appropriately resourced and equipped to remain resilient to challenges and fully assume their responsibilities. Underlining the need to reach a common, clear understanding with host countries on the mandates of peacekeeping operations, she called for open, practical discussions with host Governments to “build the confidence needed for durable cooperation”. Further, the international community must continue developing its methods to confront hate speech, extremism and the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation, which impact the safety and security of peacekeepers and fuel conflicts and tensions between communities. In addition, she stressed the importance of increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping operations, spotlighting an initiative by her country to build the military and peacekeeping capacities of women from Asia and Africa.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), citing MINUSMA’s drawdown and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s demand to begin withdrawing UN presence there by the end of 2023, urged Council members to consider why these States that once agreed to the deployment of peacekeepers became dissatisfied. They did so because of insufficient consideration of the host States’ wishes, and the incorrectly prioritized work, with a focus shifting to such secondary issues as human rights, gender and climate change, he pointed out, adding that the “multidimensionality” of today’s peacekeeping operations often distracts them from key tasks and undermine internal coordination. The growth of “disinformation and false information” requires a comprehensive approach since critical assessments of UN missions are often signs of the host State population’s disappointment with those operations. The Central African Republic is a positive example of establishing interaction with the host State. Lastly, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations should remain the main platform for discussing the directions of such missions. The Secretariat has established the Academy of Intelligence without direct instruction from Member States. It is unacceptable to ignore or arbitrarily interpret the Committee’s conclusions when making administrative decisions.
NORBERTO MORETTI (Brazil) said that his country knows first-hand the importance of UN peace missions as more than 55,000 Brazilian military and police personnel have participated in such operations over the past 70 years. Noting recent worrisome events involving the missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cyprus, as well as the decision to withdraw MINUSMA, he said that deteriorating conditions have also affected the capacity of the UN peace mission in Sudan to discharge its mandate. Efficient peacekeeping must abide by the basic principles, namely consent of the parties, impartiality and non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate. It is the Council’s responsibility to design realistic and fit-for-purpose mandates. The 15-nation organ must systematically oversee their implementation and adjust them considering changing situations. Noting the need to strengthen peace operations and partnerships proposed in the New Agenda for Peace, he highlighted the importance of strategic communications to improve overall performance in countering disinformation and promoting engagement with local communities.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan), voicing support for the Action for Peacekeeping and Action for Peacekeeping Plus priorities, said that as the target period of the latter is the end of 2023, it is imperative to identify areas that particularly require renewed focus. Among them is the need for further enhanced partnerships, she said, highlighting that the African Union, among other regional organizations, can play an increasingly larger role, taking on more ownership, especially given the recent expansion in its institutional capacity. She also underscored the need for enhanced strategic and operational integration and called on the Council’s better utilization of the Peacebuilding Commission’s advisory role and ability to convene a wide range of stakeholders. The safety and security of peacekeepers must be improved, she said, noting that the Secretariat and Member States can support the troop- and police-contributing countries’ efforts to ensure that their personnel are well prepared to mitigate the wide-ranging risks to peacekeepers and missions.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States), citing the disturbing trend of violence against peacekeepers, stressed one of the largest threats was misinformation and disinformation campaigns. Such campaigns, including one targeting MINUSCA, hinders peacekeeping missions’ abilities to protect civilians, investigate human rights violations and facilitate political dialogue. It further breeds mistrust in local populations. Calling for peacekeeping missions to proactively shape public messaging with factual information about mandates in local languages on accessible media platforms, he further urged host Governments to also increase their efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation campaigns targeting peacekeepers. Increased reliance on renewable energy rather than on diesel can mean fewer supply convoys which expose peacekeepers to attacks and lessen the flow of funding to conflict actors who control supply chains. He noted that Council resolution 2436 (2016) shows that improving peacekeeping performance is a priority for the 15-nation organ, calling on Member States to continue to seek accountability for underperformance in missions.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) observed that, while conflict prevention and peacebuilding are useful levers, they are unsuitable once crises erupt. Therefore, a security presence on the ground remains vital in many cases and, where partnerships with host States are working, peacekeeping operations have continued to implement their mandates for the benefit of international peace and security. However, the success of such operations depends on the existence of the right dynamic. On that, he underscored that host States must facilitate the implementation of peacekeeping mandates, and not “give in to the temptation to make the UN a scapegoat or a distraction from the activities of mercenaries that are proliferating violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and plundering natural resources”. He added that, for its part, France allocated €4 million in voluntary contributions to peacekeeping in 2023, providing support in areas such as enabling digital transformation, countering misinformation and improvised explosive devices and bolstering linguistic skills.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) highlighted his country’s experience of having hosted a UN peacekeeping operation, which led to a successful completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process in which 67,042 government soldiers and 24,648 RENAMO armed men were demobilized. It laid foundations for the creation of the new Army — Mozambique Armed Defense Forces. The UN mission also paved a peaceful transition of the political process, creating the objective conditions for the holding of the first free and democratic general elections in 1994. The success of the Mozambican peacemaking and peacekeeping processes were largely due to a combination of multiple factors, including: the political will of the parties and the overwhelming support of the Mozambican people themselves; clearly defined goals; strong regional support and that of the UN Secretary-General, unity of the Security Council and the international community at large; and the financial resources made available. A peacekeeping operation cannot succeed when there is insufficient political will for peace among the main stakeholders, when the people are not involved and when the resources, including financial, are lacking.
GENG SHUANG (China), stressing that peacekeeping operations should stay politically oriented, said the United Nations should draw lessons from experiences such as those of MINUSMA and MONUSCO and continue to improve its peacekeeping efforts. Peacekeeping operations should leverage the full range of capacities and expertise across the UN system and its partners. Also needed is enhanced coordination between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, between peacekeeping operations and UN resident agencies, and between the UN and regional organizations. Noting that force should be used in a cautious manner, he said greater efforts must be made to avoid scenarios where a mission’s rules of engagements are too broad or imprudent use of force triggers conflicts. Under highly extraordinary circumstances, the Council could authorize peace enforcement operations or give peacekeeping operations an advanced mandate, but it can only as a last resort, after all other options are exhausted. Exit strategies must be defined clearly therein, together with a robust accountability mechanism, he said.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) stated that peacekeeping mandates must be clear, prioritized and achievable, with the Council ensuring that they are not unrealistic. They must further be accompanied by sufficient resources, with support for regional and subregional organizations — especially in Africa, where the proliferation of non-State armed groups represents a threat. Technology can improve early warning and action capacities; the security of camps and convoys, with stable Internet connections; and monitoring and analysis of conflicts, promoting energy efficiency and reducing pollution. However, he emphasized, new technologies have also brought emerging new forms of harassment, and every effort should be made to ensure not only the physical security of peacekeepers, but also their protection from online surveillance, privacy violations and online threats. Strategic communication must help manage expectations among local communities, counter disinformation and misinformation and build trust between peace operations and the areas they serve.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) called on the Council to ensure that the primacy of politics guides peacekeeping operations. It is also imperative to rethink partnerships with regional organizations in general, and the African Union in particular, to develop modular and flexible mission models. She recognized that predictable, sustainable and flexible funding for African Union-led peace support operations could be an important instrument for the Council. On the protection of civilians, she stressed that all missions have an obligation to respect the Charter of the United Nations, international humanitarian law and refugee law. The UN human rights due diligence policy is particularly relevant now, for example in the context of MONUSCO, where the question of support to non-UN forces has arisen. Emphasizing that effectiveness is a first line of defence against disinformation, and a moral responsibility towards the populations affected, she pointed to Switzerland’s provision of an expert in this field to the Department of Peace Operations.
FRANCESCA MARIA GATT (Malta) stressed that having clear, credible, and realistic mandates is a prerequisite for the success of peacekeeping missions. It must also be rooted in a broader political strategy that gives priority to child protection, women, peace and security and climate action. While the primary responsibility for protection of civilians and human rights lies with the host State, she affirmed that close cooperation with all local, regional and multilateral stakeholders should be supported. She also cited the importance of ensuring the integration of the women, peace, and security agenda across Action for Peacekeeping Plus priorities. Its catalytic impact on the operational effectiveness of peacekeeping operations has strengthened early warning and has increased the protection of women and girls through gender responsive patrols and community engagement. In addition, it is critical to comprehensively address the environmental impact of peacekeeping operations, in close coordination with the relevant parties involved, and to ensure that peacekeeping missions have adequate and predictable funding.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) observed that, in several African countries and other regions of the world, peacekeeping operations have made significant contributions to supporting peaceful political transitions, reducing hostilities, promoting reconciliation processes and helping to establish the rule of law. However, the complexity of new threats — such as terrorism, violent extremism, cybercrime, resource predation and climate change — have hindered the performance of such operations and made plain the limits of their mandates, which are often out of step with realities on the ground. On that, he emphasized that the hasty departure of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the questioning of MONUSCO’s presence and violence against peacekeepers are “warning signs” that require lessons to be learned and solutions to be created. He therefore called for developing innovative mandates adapted to specific theatres of operations; listening to countries concerned; and defining a more-effective partnership between the UN and the African Union.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, stressing that throughout history, UN peacekeeping missions have been pivotal in promoting human rights, supporting accountability initiatives and advancing governance, security and justice sector reforms, including in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Lebanon and Mali. Noting that conflicts have grown increasingly complex, influenced by domestic, geopolitical and transnational factors, he acknowledged that matching mandates with operational realities has become extremely challenging. This has led to increased and sometimes unrealistic expectations and when they are not met, are followed with grown criticism and in some cases even hostile attitudes, he said, underscoring the importance of building rapport with host States. “When the trust is broken, it is the implementation of the mandate and ultimately peace and protection of civilians that will pay the price,” he said, expressing his worries that peace and stability may worsen after the UN withdraws its peacekeeping missions from Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Unhappy Governments must know that reverting to mercenaries should not be taken lightly, because it may prove wrong, treacherous, costly and even dangerous,” he warned.