Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council will hold a debate on peacekeeping reform. As requested in resolution 2378, Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to deliver the first comprehensive annual briefing on the reform of UN peacekeeping.
Key Recent Developments
The briefing will take place against the backdrop of the recent push to strengthen UN peace operations, marked by the 2015 report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) and by the Secretary-General’s reform initiatives regarding the UN’s peace and security architecture.
Since 2017, the US, which is the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping assessed budget, has become more assertive in its efforts to reduce the cost of UN peace operations. During its presidency in April 2017, the US organised a briefing on reviewing peacekeeping operations with Guterres as the main speaker. During the meeting, US Ambassador Nikki Haley laid out four principles for the review of peacekeeping operations with the stated aim of modifying mission mandates to be more achievable while also reducing their cost:
- missions must support political solutions;
- host countries must cooperate;
- peacekeeping mandates must be realistic and achievable; and
- there needs to be a clear exit strategy.
Since then, several Council members—including China, Egypt, France, Italy, Poland and the UK—have organised thematic briefings and open debates on specific aspects of peacekeeping, illustrating the renewed interest in this issue.
On 20 September 2017 the Council held a high-level open debate organised by Ethiopia titled “Reform of UN peacekeeping: implementation and follow-up”. Guterres and Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, briefed the Council, along with José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and chair of the HIPPO. Many participants spoke at the head of state or head of government level. At the meeting, the Council adopted resolution 2378, which was drafted by Ethiopia. The resolution stressed that the primacy of politics should be the hallmark of the UN’s approach to resolving conflict and reaffirmed the Council’s determination to articulate clearer priorities when evaluating, mandating and reviewing peacekeeping operations. The resolution also 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. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to provide an annual comprehensive briefing to the Council on the reform of UN peacekeeping.
The Netherlands organised an open debate focusing on “Collective action to improve UN peacekeeping operations” on 28 March. The prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, chaired the meeting, and the Council was briefed by Guterres, Mahamat, and Fatimata Touré, the director of a Malian NGO. At the meeting, Guterres highlighted the urgent need for “a quantum leap in collective engagement” and announced the launch of “Action for Peacekeeping” (A4P), an initiative aimed at renewing political commitment to peacekeeping operations.
A 14 May presidential statement, drafted by the Netherlands as a follow-up to the open debate held during the country’s presidency in March, welcomed and supported the Secretary-General’s commitment to continue to take steps to improve UN peacekeeping. In particular, the presidential statement noted the intention of the Secretary-General, in consultation with all stakeholders, to develop a set of mutually agreed commitments to adapt peacekeeping operations to today’s complex and high-risk environments.
As part of this exercise, in May the Secretariat asked ten member states to lead broad consultations on five priority areas for the A4P agenda: politics (Côte d’Ivoire and the UK), partnerships (Ethiopia and France), performance (the Netherlands and Rwanda), people (Bangladesh and Uruguay) and peacebuilding (Brazil and Indonesia). Once consultations were concluded, the Secretariat engaged member states to draw up a Declaration of Shared Commitments that their leaders could endorse during the upcoming high-level debate of the General Assembly. The Council meeting on peacekeeping is expected to be an opportunity for Guterres to take stock of what has been achieved in the process so far and present ideas for following up the commitments expressed in the declaration.
One of the issues likely to be a focus of the briefing is the performance of those involved in peacekeeping operations. Discussions about performance have been a source of contention in the Council and among the wider membership. Some Council members have prioritised increased accountability for under-performance while some troop- and police-contributing countries (TCCs and PCCs) have argued for broadening the focus of performance discussions beyond uniformed personnel. They have underlined that performance cannot be delinked from other factors related to mandate implementation including the roles of the Security Council and the UN Secretariat, as well as the role of mission leadership. The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34) and the Council have expressed support for the development of a comprehensive and integrated performance policy framework that promotes full and effective mandate implementation and identifies clear performance standards for evaluating all UN civilian and uniformed personnel working in and supporting peacekeeping operations. The 14 May presidential statement recognised that effective mandate implementation is contingent upon several critical factors, including well-defined, realistic and achievable mandates; political will, leadership, performance and accountability at all levels; adequate resources; policy, planning and operational guidelines; and training and availability of equipment.
Another issue likely to feature in the meeting is the prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. This has been a priority for Guterres, who at the beginning of his term established a high-level task force to develop a system-wide response that prioritises prevention, the protection of the rights of the victims, and the promotion of accountability. Despite the widespread condemnation among member states of incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse, some TCCs and PCCs have challenged the focus on this issue as unfairly targeting those member states that contribute troops and police. The Secretary-General has proposed a voluntary compact for all member states that support UN operations to demonstrate joint commitment and mutual responsibility to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse, secure accountability and provide meaningful support to victims. By 23 July, 96 member states had signed the voluntary compact or were processing it for signature.
Finally, the meeting may also discuss the recent round of reviews of peacekeeping operations. Some of these were requested by the Council, often at the initiative of the US; the Secretariat subsequently began conducting strategic reviews ahead of mandate renewals and giving clearer indications of how mandates can be prioritised. The recent renewal of the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in Mali, however, showed that the Secretariat continues to experience pressure from member states regarding the outcome of these reviews.
Issues and Options
In the context of peace operations, the Council’s own decision-making processes could be tweaked to bring out collective thinking that is more strategic. Among other possibilities, the Council could start any mandating process by seeking greater clarity around the political objectives before they negotiate draft language; by reviewing and modifying mandates when needs on the ground shift, rather than in strict conformity with mandate cycles; by encouraging the emergence of groups of friends on particular situations on its agenda; and by agreeing to compacts with host governments. The Council could use its Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations to draw lessons on mandate design and monitoring of mission implementation, and agreement on strategic objectives. The working group could submit recommendations for the Council’s consideration after engaging with a broad range of actors, including Secretariat officials, TCCs and PCCs.
Council and Wider Dynamics
A recurrent element in the discussions about peace operations is the gap between those who determine the mandates of peace operations and carry their financial burden, and those who deploy troops and police to implement them. Pressure from the US and others to reduce the peacekeeping budget has featured prominently in mandate renewal discussions over the last year, as it has in the recent negotiations in the Fifth Committee. One of the mechanisms available to bridge this gap—triangular consultations between the Council, the Secretariat and TCCs and PCCs—has been criticised for not serving this purpose.
During negotiations on the 14 May presidential statement, some Council members pushed back against language that they considered too prescriptive regarding peacekeeping reform, displaying the tensions between the Council and the C34. The consultation process regarding the Declaration of Shared Commitments has similarly illustrated the challenges of finding a common denominator of acceptable commitments for the UN membership regarding peacekeeping operations.
UN DOCUMENTS ON PEACEKEEPING
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 September 2017 S/RES/2378||This was a resolution on UN peacekeeping reform.|
|11 March 2016 S/RES/2272||This was a resolution addressing sexual exploitation and abuse in peace operations, with Egypt abstaining.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|14 May 2018 S/PRST/2018/10||This was a presidential statement on peacekeeping operations.|
|21 December 2017 S/PRST/2017/27||This was a presidential statement that laid out the elements related to peacebuilding and sustaining peace to be considered when reviewing the mandates and configuration of peacekeeping missions.|
|Security Council Letter|
|17 June 2015 S/2015/446||This was the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|9 May 2018 S/PV.8251||This was a briefing by the heads of three military components (MINUSMA, UNAMID and UNMISS).|
|28 March 2018 S/PV.8218||The Council held an open debate on peacekeeping, chaired by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte.|
|6 November 2017 S/PV.8086||This was a briefing on the role of UN policing in peacekeeping operations. The Council was briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and the police commissioners from MINUSMA in Mali, MINUJUSTH in Haiti, and UNAMID in Darfur.|
|5 October 2017 S/PV.8064||This was a briefing on UN peacekeeping operations focusing on strategic force generation.|
|20 September 2017 S/PV.8051||This was a high-level open debate entitled “Reform of UN peacekeeping: implementation and follow-up”.|
|29 August 2017 S/PV.8033||The Security Council held an open debate on “UN Peacekeeping Operations: Their Potential Contribution to the Overarching Goal of Sustaining Peace”.|
|19 July 2017 S/PV.8006||This was an open debate on “Enhancing African capacities in the areas of peace and security”. The Council was briefed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui.|
|6 April 2017 S/PV.7918||This was a meeting on peacekeeping operations.|