Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council will hold a briefing on peacekeeping reform pursuant to resolution 2378 of 20 September 2017. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is the anticipated briefer.
Background and Key Recent Developments
Resolution 2378 requested the Secretary-General to provide a comprehensive briefing to the Security Council on reform of UN peacekeeping every 12 months, to be followed by a debate. In September 2021, Ireland convened the annual debate at the ministerial level, focusing on peacekeeping transitions. The outcome was resolution 2594 of 9 September 2021, which requested the Secretary-General to provide a report on the status of transitions across relevant UN peace operations before 30 June. This report was submitted to the Council on 29 June and provides, along with the status update, an analysis of trends that have emerged in transition processes. The report underscored “the need for improved planning for and adequate resourcing of transitions, as well as the need to consider implications for the post-mandate period, to ensure that the hard-won gains of peace operations mandates are safeguarded and that the countries hosting peace operations are placed on a sustainable footing towards durable peace and prosperity”.
Another larger UN mission, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), has been criticised by communities in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for failing to stabilise the situation in that region. In July, violent anti-MONUSCO protests led to the deaths of three peacekeepers and several demonstrators. These protests took place against the backdrop of ongoing fighting between the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23), a rebel group formerly active in the North Kivu province that has resumed its military activities in recent months. Following these protests, the Congolese government announced its intention to reassess MONUSCO’s transition plan and request an early exit of the mission. (The transition plan, developed in close consultation with the government and other relevant stakeholders, was endorsed by the Security Council through resolution 2612 of 20 December 2021). The Congolese government also expelled the MONUSCO spokesperson, allegedly for inappropriate statements that contributed to tensions between local communities and the mission.
Disinformation campaigns against UN peace operations have drawn increasing attention in the Council. The issue was discussed at a high-level debate on strategic communications in peacekeeping convened by Brazil on 12 July. The outcome of the meeting was a presidential statement that underscored the significance of strategic communications for UN peacekeeping operations to build trust and support with host governments and local communities, counter disinformation and misinformation, enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers, and strengthen their ability to implement their mandate.
The discussion on the financing of AU-led peace support operations from UN-assessed contributions has also been revived recently. On 27 July, Ghana convened an Arria-formula meeting on “Collective security through equitable burden sharing: strengthening regional arrangements for the maintenance of international peace and security”. One of the briefers was the AU High Representative for the AU Peace Fund, who provided an update on the steps being taken to make the fund fully operational.
On 8 August, China convened a Security Council open debate on capacity-building for sustaining peace, during which the financing issue was again raised. Following the meeting, China proposed a draft presidential statement, which was adopted on 31 August, Among other things, it requests the Secretary-General to provide the Security Council, by 30 April 2023, a report on progress made by the UN and the AU to fulfil the commitments set out in resolution 2320 of 8 November 2016 on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations and resolution 2378 of 20 September 2017 on peacekeeping reform. The report is also expected to include “recommendations…that reflect good practices and lessons-learned with the view to secure predictable, sustainable and flexible resources”.
Key Issues and Options
One of the key issues for Council members to consider is how UN peace operations can foster trust with host governments and communities. Some Council members may continue to stress the importance of listening to the views and concerns of host governments and communities in the design and implementation of peacekeeping mandates.
A related issue is how UN peace operations can enhance their efforts in responding to disinformation directed against them propagated through social media and other digital platforms. Council members may look forward to the outcome of the strategic review requested by the presidential statement of 12 July, which is expected to identify gaps and challenges in UN peacekeeping operations’ strategic communications and propose the way forward.
Another important issue is how to advance the discussion on the longstanding request for UN support to AU-led peace support operations through the use of assessed contributions. A likely option for Council members is to hold a discussion at the level of the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations to take stock of the progress on addressing outstanding issues based on resolutions 2320 of 18 November 2016 and 2378 of 20 September 2017 and on the 6 December 2018 joint declaration by the UN Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission. They may also want to discuss it during the annual consultation between the Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), which is expected to take place in October.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Negotiations on the mandate renewals of UN peace operations have become increasingly divisive, with some members abstaining on the votes because they insist on the need to consider the views and concerns of host countries. While this may be agreeable in principle to all Council members, the extent to which host countries should be accommodated in mandate renewal processes remains an issue. For instance, MINUSMA has a mandate for the protection and promotion of human rights, but when the Council renewed MINUSMA’s mandate in June, the Malian Permanent Representative stated that “Mali is not in a position to guarantee the freedom of movement for MINUSMA investigations [on allegations concerning human rights violations] without the prior agreement of the Government”.
Regarding the financing of AU-led peace support operations, some momentum seems to be building to advance the issue in the Security Council. The majority of Council members and the wider UN membership have been supportive of this issue. However, the US, during the Trump administration, opposed the draft resolution on the financing issue proposed by African members in December 2018 and threatened to use its veto to block it. South Africa tried to facilitate progress on this issue in 2019, but the AUPSC called on the African members to suspend their efforts until the AU had a common position on outstanding issues. Accordingly, a draft common position paper has been discussed by the AUPSC committee of experts and was expected to be endorsed by the AU policy organs. At the time of writing, the status of the draft document was unclear.
It seems the Biden administration, which announced its Africa strategy recently, is now keen to strengthen US relations with Africa. It has also announced its plans to host the US-Africa Summit in December. In this context, there seems to be a window of opportunity to make progress on the financing issue. Two African members, namely Gabon and Ghana, will take over the Council presidency in October and November, respectively and may highlight the UN-AU partnership, in general, and the issue of financing of AU-led peace support operations, in particular, as part of their consecutive presidencies.
UN DOCUMENTS ON PEACEKEEPING
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 September 2017S/RES/2378||This was a resolution on UN peacekeeping reform.|
|9 September 2021S/RES/2594||This unanimously adopted resolution addressed the crucial role peace operations play in the pursuit of sustainable political solutions and building peace and emphasised the need for peace operations to engage at the earliest possible stage in integrated planning and coordination on transitions with the host state and other national stakeholders.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|12 July 2022S/PRST/2022/5||This presidential statement was on strategic communications in peacekeeping.|