Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council will receive its annual comprehensive briefing on UN peacekeeping reform as required by resolution 2378 of 20 September 2017. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief.
Key Recent Developments
In addition to requesting the Secretary-General to provide a comprehensive annual briefing to the Council on UN peacekeeping reform, resolution 2378 also called for the Council to receive updates, as part of this briefing, on the continuing efforts to fill the existing gaps in force generation and capabilities, and on other needs for peacekeeping to respond effectively and appropriately to peace and security challenges. The briefings have focussed on progress in advancing Secretary-General António Guterres’ “Action for Peacekeeping” (A4P) initiative. On 28 March 2018, the Secretary-General highlighted the urgent need for “a quantum leap in collective engagement” and announced the launch of A4P to renew the UN’s political commitment to peacekeeping operations. To date, 154 member states and four regional organisations have endorsed the A4P’s “Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations”, which contains 45 commitments across the following eight thematic areas:
- advancing lasting political solutions;
- implementing the women, peace and security agenda;
- strengthening the protection provided by peacekeeping operations;
- improving the safety and security of peacekeepers;
- supporting effective performance and accountability;
- strengthening the impact of peacekeeping on sustaining peace;
- improving peacekeeping partnerships; and
- strengthening the conduct of peacekeepers and peacekeeping operations.
During last year’s comprehensive briefing, Lacroix briefed on the efforts of UN peace operations to facilitate the pursuit of political solutions, the importance of prioritised and sequenced mandates, and initiatives to improve the safety and security of peacekeepers. Lacroix maintained that improved and context-specific training was important for enhancing the security of peacekeepers. He also noted that peace operations had “embarked on an ambitious programme of health reform to formally establish a chain of reliable and safe care from the point of injury to the hospital”. Since that briefing, the Council has held several meetings on issues covered by the Declaration of Shared Commitments, such as the annual briefing with the heads of UN police components on 6 November 2019 and a briefing on 30 January on cooperation between the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose members contribute some 5,000 troops to UN peacekeeping missions.
In a follow-up to the issue of improving the safety and security of peacekeepers, China, as president of the Council in March, had planned a debate on “UN peacekeeping operations: Better capacity building, more safety and security”. Originally scheduled for 24 March, the debate had to be cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns. According to the concept note China disseminated to Council members on 6 March, the open debate was envisioned to address ways member states could help build capacity through training and provision of equipment and other resources; how the Security Council, the Secretariat, troop– and police–contributing countries, financial contributors and host countries should respond to the challenges presented by complex situations and dangerous environments; how the UN could improve its training system; and what uniform deployment standards for peacekeepers should be established. Despite the cancellation of the open debate, the Council adopted resolution 2518 on 30 March, emphasising the importance of enhancing the safety and security of UN peacekeepers and calling on host states to facilitate access and freedom of movement for UN peacekeepers and their equipment consistent with a mission’s mandate, including for casualty and medical evacuation. It also requested the Secretariat to instruct all peacekeeping missions to systematically document violations of status-of-forces agreements.
On 7 July, under the German presidency, the Council held an open debate on the topic of peace operations and human rights. The aim of the open debate, according to the concept note prepared by Germany, was to discuss how peace operations can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights more effectively.
Most recently, on 28 August, then Council president Indonesia announced the result of the written voting procedure on a resolution on women in peacekeeping operations. Adopted unanimously, resolution 2538 called on member states, the Secretariat, and regional organisations “to strengthen their collective efforts to promote the full, effective, and meaningful participation of uniformed and civilian women in peacekeeping operations” and highlighted a series of measures that stakeholders could take to that end. It also requested the Secretary-General to report on the progress of the implementation of the resolution in his comprehensive annual briefing mandated by resolution 2378.
Issues and Options
Council members and the larger UN membership have differing views on several issues related to peacekeeping. While there is a degree of unity on issues such as the safety and security of peacekeepers and the key role of training and capacity-building prior to and during their deployment, negotiations on resolution 2518 most recently demonstrated that several contentious peacekeeping issues persist, including intelligence gathering and the impact of climate change on peacekeeping operations.
Other issues, such as funding modalities of AU-led peace support operations authorised by the Security Council, have also been divisive: indeed, such funding issues prevented the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34) from adopting its annual report in 2019. This past March, however, using a new report structure based on the “A4P” programme and, according to many of its members, working in a spirit of “give-and-take”, the C-34 reached consensus on its 2020 annual report.
The upcoming Council briefing will be an opportunity to assess progress on, and take stock of, the A4P’s Declaration of Shared Commitments. Building on the apparent positive momentum from the C-34 as well as the adoptions of resolution 2518 in March and resolution 2538 in August, Council members could identify the areas where more work needs to be done and aim to develop a plan to deliver on these commitments.
Council and Wider Dynamics
With almost universal endorsement of the Declaration of Shared Commitments on Peacekeeping Operations and buy-in at the highest levels by a large majority of member states, the Secretariat has tried to use the declaration as an impetus for reinvigorating fresh thinking on peacekeeping. Although all its members have endorsed the declaration bilaterally, the Council itself has not done so. A 7 May 2019 presidential statement welcomed “efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General to mobilize all partners and stakeholders in support of more effective United Nations peacekeeping through his initiative ‘Action for Peacekeeping’”. The statement specified that it recognised the added value brought by the declaration to training and capacity building.
UN DOCUMENTS ON PEACEKEEPING
|Security Council Resolutions|
|28 August 2020S/RES/2538||This was on the role of women in peacekeeping operations.|
|30 March 2020S/RES/2518||This was a resolution on improving the safety and security of peacekeepers.|
|21 September 2018S/RES/2436||This was a resolution on peacekeeping performance.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|7 May 2019S/PRST/2019/4||This Presidential Statement was on peacekeeping training and capacity-building.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|9 September 2019S/PV.8612||This was a debate on peacekeeping reform, which featured a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix. Lacroix spoke of the efforts of UN peace operations to help facilitate the pursuit of political solutions, the importance of prioritised and sequenced mandates, and initiatives to improve the safety of peacekeepers.|
|7 May 2019S/PV.8521||This is a meeting record from the open debate on “Investing in peace: improving safety and performance of United Nations peacekeepers”.|
|12 September 2018S/PV.8349||This was a Council debate on peacekeeping reform.|