Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expected to hold an open debate on new trends in peacekeeping, such as the establishment of more robust mandates, the use of new technology, inter-mission cooperation and multidimensional mandates. At press time it was not decided who would brief from the Secretariat.
Regarding the use of force, the debate seems aimed at reflecting on the establishment of robust peacekeeping operations with a mandate to stabilise situations where security is minimal. This will be an opportunity for member states, including troop- and police-contributing countries (TCC-PCCs), to participate in a more general discussion about the impact of these developments on UN peacekeeping.
On 28 March 2013, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2098, establishing an intervention brigade based in Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for an initial period of one year and consisting of three infantry battalions and auxiliary forces under the command of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). Its key task, renewed in resolution 2147, is to carry out offensive operations to neutralise armed groups that threaten state authority and civilian security. Less than a month later, on 25 April 2013, the Council adopted resolution 2100, establishing the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The mission is authorised to use all necessary measures to stabilise “the key population centres, especially in the north of Mali and, in this context, to deter threats and take active steps to prevent the return of armed elements to those areas”.
Two key issues were raised by China, Russia and some elected troop-contributing Council members after the adoption of resolution 2098: involvement in peace enforcement could compromise the impartiality of UN peacekeeping operations and the safety and security of peacekeepers. Russia, the only Council member that explained its vote on resolution 2100, expressed its concern about the growing shift towards the military aspects of peacekeeping and highlighted that “what was once the exception now threatens to become unacknowledged standard practice”.
Caveats were inserted in both resolutions, underscoring in the case of resolution 2098 its exceptional nature and, in resolution 2100, reaffirming the agreed principles of peacekeeping—“including consent of the parties, impartiality and non-use of force, except in self-defence and defence of the mandate”—but the impact of these decisions on the safety and security of peacekeepers remains unclear. The legal protection for UN peacekeepers, historically connected to their impartiality, might be challenged if those missions are considered a party to an armed conflict, with implications under international humanitarian law, namely being considered combatants and legitimate targets.
One of the topics addressed in the 26 June 2013 annual Council briefing by UN Force Commanders was the use of advanced technology in peacekeeping, as MONUSCO prepared for the arrival of the first unarmed aerial vehicles (UAVs). The UAVs, which started deploying in the DRC on 1 December 2013, are used to identify armed movements, monitor camps for internally displaced persons and provide timely reconnaissance over vast and sensitive areas. Although they are unarmed, they may deter hostile actions by providing accurate information to trigger the use of rapid reaction forces if needed. During that briefing, Russia raised the need for a careful analysis of the use of UAVs and emphasised that this was not a carte blanche for similar steps in other missions. When Council members had taken note in January 2013 of the Secretariat’s intention to use UAVs in MONUSCO on a trial basis, they stressed that this was to enhance situational awareness, was on a case-by-case basis and would not prejudice the ongoing consideration by relevant UN bodies of legal, financial and technical implications of the use of UAVs. Other issues raised regarding the deployment of UAVs have to do with access to the information gathered by these systems (operated by commercial contractors) and concerns about sovereignty whenever they fly over border zones. In the briefing, the MONUSCO Force Commander acknowledged that the use of surveillance devices could be regarded as over-intrusive by host nations if not adequately controlled, including how the information that is generated is used
The June debate could be a good opportunity to assess the performance and utility of UAVs in MONUSCO as there has been talk about the potential use of such systems in other missions, including MINUSMA and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire. South Sudan did not accept their deployment in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Inter-mission cooperation was another topic raised in the 26 June 2013 briefing as a manner of effectively responding to unforeseen events in peacekeeping operation. It can help provide key assets through pooling or temporary redeployment of equipment and personnel. However, like the sluggish reinforcement of UNMISS approved on 24 December 2013 shows, inter-mission cooperation faces legal, political and logistical challenges for the shifting of assets requiring the approval of TCC-PCCs.
Another topic that might be raised in the debate is the increasing adoption of complex multidimensional mandates whose many objectives compete for limited operational and financial resources and make prioritisation and coordination of tasks by UN missions difficult.
Although at press time no outcome was planned following the debate, the Council could:
- revive the now-discontinued quarterly briefings on peacekeeping by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support as per a 5 August 2009 presidential statement (S/PRST/2009/24);
- ensure that regular and substantive meetings of the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, currently chaired by Rwanda, are held to discuss key issues for peacekeeping;
- ensure that mission-specific consultations with TCC-PCCs are more interactive and instructive;
- debate the (un)feasibility of authorising more holistic mandates in light of the short-term horizons for most missions and the (un)availability of additional resources;
- debate the changing nature of violence—particularly by hybrid threats that may combine criminality, insurgency and terrorism alongside state fragility—and its implications for UN peacekeeping; and
- invite regular participation of Force Commanders in briefings on country-specific issues in addition to the annual Council briefing by Force Commanders, which this year will take place in October.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Africa has played a key role in calling for peace-enforcement mandates. The DRC, the International Conference on the Great Lakes region and the Southern African Development Community called for the deployment of the MONUSCO intervention brigade, and the AU Peace and Security Council asked that MINUSMA be given a mandate to “actively sustain efforts aimed at dismantling the terrorist and criminal networks operating in the north of the country”. Although Council members that are not among the largest TCC-PCCs seem more prone to support increasingly robust mandates, key TCC-PCCs on the Council in 2013 did not actively oppose such developments.
On the use of UAVs, several Council members, notably France, the UK and the US, appear receptive to the use of this technology, believing that it may be an effective, cost-efficient way to provide surveillance of the activities of armed groups.
UN Documents on Peacekeeping
|Security Council Resolutions|
|25 April 2013 S/RES/2100||This resolution established the mandate for MINUSMA.|
|28 March 2013 S/RES/2098||This resolution renewed MONUSCO’s mandate—including an intervention brigade to neutralise rebel groups in eastern DRC—until 31 March 2014.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|5 August 2009 S/PRST/2009/24||This was a presidential statement regarding integration of peacebuilding in peacekeeping missions. It highlighted the Council’s efforts to improve its dialogue with the Secretariat and TCCs/PCCs as well as requested the Secretary-General to provide in his reports on specific missions an indication of progress towards achieving a coordinated UN approach in-country, and in particular on critical gaps to achieving peacebuilding objectives alongside the mission.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|26 June 2013 S/PV.6987||This was a briefing on UN peacekeeping operations, focusing on advanced military technology, the need for in-mission assessments of pre-deployment training and inter-mission cooperation.|
|Security Council Letters|
|15 March 2013 S/2013/163||This was a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Council, transmitting the 7 March letter from the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security which requested the new UN operation in Mali to have a peace enforcement mandate.|
|22 January 2013 S/2013/44||This was the Council’s response to the Secretary-General’s letter on the use of modern technologies.|
|27 December 2012 S/2013/43||This was the Secretary-General’s letter on the use of modern technologies.|