October 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2017
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Peacekeeping Operations: Strategic Force Generation

Expected Council Action

In October, the Security Council is expected to hold a debate at the initiative of France and the UK on strategic force generation in peacekeeping operations. Expected briefers will include Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and a representative from a major troop-contributing country. No outcome is anticipated. 

Background and Key Recent Developments

Strategic force generation for UN peacekeeping operations has been a longstanding challenge. The 2015 report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) observed that the UN’s “force generation approach has struggled to get sufficient forces on the ground quickly enough and relies on under-resourced uniformed capabilities with little or no interoperability and weak command and control”. It further noted the difficulties of mobilising specialised capabilities—for example, engineers, medical personnel, and aerial capacities—prior to the deployment of infantry units. The report offered specific recommendations to the Council on this matter, urging members to support “actively and through all diplomatic channels” the Secretary-General’s efforts to generate troops and police. It further encouraged members of the Council who possess the requisite resources, including the permanent members, to offer troops in order to enhance mission capacities.

Institutional reforms in the UN Secretariat were launched in mid-2015 in an effort to address capability gaps, with the establishment of the “UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System” (PCRS) and the “Strategic Force Generation and Capability Planning Cell” in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The PCRS was created with the goal of generating more predictable and collaborative engagement between the Secretariat and troop/police contributors through a clear process for pledging and preparing for deployment. The Strategic Force Generation and Capability Planning Cell was established to engage actively with member states to address key capability gaps and increase female participation; to ensure that deployments occur more quickly; to widen the base of troop/police contributors; and to improve the performance of peacekeepers.

Since 2015, pledges of troops and equipment have been made in different peacekeeping conferences to address force-generation gaps. Notable in this regard have been the Leaders’ Summit at UN headquarters in New York on 28 September 2015 and the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in London on 7-8 September 2016. Pledges are also anticipated at the 2017 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference, scheduled to take place in Vancouver 14-15 November.

With regard to Mali in particular, where the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali has faced considerable shortfalls in troops and enablers, a force generation conference took place in New York on 22-23 May that resulted in commitments from some troop- and police- contributing countries to address gaps.

On 20 September, the Council held a high-level open debate on reform of UN peacekeeping that included briefings by Secretary-General António Guterres; Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the AU Commission; and José Ramos-Horta, who chaired the HIPPO. During the meeting, the Council adopted resolution 2378, which underscored the need to enhance the overall effectiveness and efficiency of UN peacekeeping by improving mission planning, increasing the number of relevant capabilities, and reinforcing peacekeeping performance through training and the fulfilment of outstanding pledges of personnel. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to provide comprehensive annual briefings to the Council on peacekeeping reform, including updates on efforts to fill gaps in force generation, capabilities and other areas to enable more effective response to peace and security challenges. The resolution further requested the Secretary-General to provide the Council with recommendations within 90 days for filling these gaps, including through more effective and efficient training and capacity-building.

Key Issues and Options

One key issue is whether the Council can play a more proactive role in strategic force generation. Several current Council members are significant troop contributors, and some have conducted important peacekeeping conferences related to capacity-building. A possible option moving forward is to use the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations or an informal meeting format to discuss how members can work in a complementary and coordinated way to generate more peacekeepers and enablers and to enhance their capacities. 

Another important matter is ensuring that missions are given realistic mandates, that they are supported by the necessary resources, and that the gap between expectations and resources is bridged. These have been key elements in the discussions related to peace operations reform since at least 2000. And yet, by and large, they have been given short shrift. As recommended by the HIPPO report, sequenced and prioritised mandates could be given greater consideration, where appropriate, when evaluating existing UN peace operations or establishing new ones and would help to fill the divide that often exists between resources and needs.

Council Dynamics

Although political, financial and bureaucratic impediments at times generate obstacles to strategic force generation, many Council members frequently express concern about ensuring that peacekeeping operations have the requisite capacities to achieve their mandates, an issue that was raised in the 20 September open debate by a number of members. Senegalese President Macky Sall emphasised the importance of well-staffed and equipped missions, especially in “peace enforcement” environments. UK Prime Minister Theresa May referred to the upcoming Council debate on strategic force generation, underscoring that not only is it important to secure more peacekeepers and equipment but also to ensure that the peacekeepers who are deployed have the right skills for the job at hand. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian emphasised that peacekeeping missions must be accorded the necessary resources to respond to crises.

UN Documents on Peacekeeping Operations

Security Council Resolution
20 September 2017 S/RES/2378 This was a resolution on UN peacekeeping reform.
Security Council Presidential Statement
25 November 2015 S/PRST/2015/22 The Council took note of the recommendations of the HIPPO report and the Secretary-General’s implementation report.
Secretary-General’s Report
2 September 2015 S/2015/682 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations’ recommendations.
Security Council Meeting Record
20 September 2017 S/PV.8051 This was a high-level open debate entitled “Reform of UN peacekeeping: implementation and follow-up”.