What's In Blue

Posted Fri 31 May 2013

Peacekeeping Working Group Meeting on Safety and Security of Peacekeepers

On Monday afternoon (3 June), the Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations will hold a meeting to discuss the issue of safety and security of UN peacekeeping missions. This will be the second meeting of the Working Group under the chairmanship of Pakistan. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous, the head of the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) Kevin Kennedy, and the UN Deputy Military Adviser for peacekeeping operations Lieutenant General Abhijit Guha are scheduled to brief. All the members and observers of the Special Committee of the General Assembly for Peacekeeping Operations (C-34) have been invited to take part in the meeting.

The meeting takes place at a moment when, in recent months, several missions have suffered kidnappings, tragic losses or injuries of peacekeepers that have put missions and troop- or police-contributing countries (TCCs and PCCs) under great strain. The recent establishment of an intervention brigade mandated to “carry out offensive operations” to neutralise armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the deployment of peacekeepers in Mali, where they may confront asymmetric threats, have raised many questions about the safety and security of peacekeepers. The security of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in its areas of operations in the Golan Heights has become an increasingly serious problem with Syrian opposition fighters detaining and later releasing UNDOF personnel in three separate incidents on 6 March and 7 and 15 May. (Japan and Croatia withdrew their UNDOF personnel in late 2012 and early 2013, citing the violence in Syria.) Additionally, peacekeeping in the three missions in Sudan and South Sudan – the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur, UN Mission in South Sudan and UN Interim Security Force in Abyei- has become increasingly dangerous, with increasing numbers of peacekeepers losing their lives in recent months.

Pakistan has prepared a concept paper for Monday’s meeting. In the paper, it states that at the meeting the Secretariat will provide an update on measures taken to enhance the security of peacekeeping missions, while C-34 members and TCCs/PCCs will have a chance to apprise Council members of challenges relating to safety and security in peacekeeping missions.

In the paper, Pakistan also highlights several factors that it believes affect the safety and security of peacekeepers. These include:

  • the deployment of UN peacekeepers in challenging security environments in which they face asymmetric threats (eg: terrorist and/or transnational organised crime groups);
  • the potential implications for peacekeeping personnel of Council authorisation of “enforcement tasks”;
  • the fragility of the political or peace processes where peacekeeping missions are deployed;
  • the concept of operations, command and control structures, and the rules of engagement of peacekeeping missions;
  • the ongoing effect of the global financial crisis on UN peacekeeping;
  • the role of host countries in ensuring the safety and security of peacekeepers;
  • the operational gaps and challenges in managing and mitigating risks, given limited resources; and
  • the impact that shortcomings in pre-deployment training and operational preparedness of a peacekeeping contingent can have on the security of the overall mission.

The paper also recalls resolution 2086, in which the Council called upon the Secretary- General “to take all measures deemed necessary to strengthen United Nations field security arrangements and improve the safety and security of all military contingents, police officers, military observers and, especially, unarmed personnel”. Resolution 2086, adopted under Pakistan’s presidency on 21 January, was the first resolution on peacekeeping as a thematic issue adopted by the Council since resolution 1353 (2001).
In the negotiations for both resolution 2098, authorising the intervention brigade in the DRC, and resolution 2100, establishing the robust mandate for the mission in Mali, a number of Council members, including Russia and TCCs such as Guatemala and Pakistan expressed concern about the implications for UN peacekeeping. These members highlighted that these developments could signal a potential shift away from traditional peacekeeping principles possibly jeopardising the safety and security of peacekeepers. Reflecting these concerns, language underscoring the desire to preserve the traditional tenets of peacekeeping was incorporated into these two resolutions. For example, resolution 2098 indicated that the establishment of the intervention brigade was being done on an “extraordinary basis” and resolution 2100 reaffirmed in a preambular paragraph “the basic principles of peacekeeping, including consent of the parties, impartiality, and non-use of force, except in self-defence and defence of the mandate”.

In the present context in which fundamental questions regarding the philosophical and operational underpinnings of peacekeeping are being raised, one option might be to revive the practice in the Council of quarterly peacekeeping consultations with key Secretariat officials that took place throughout 2010 but have greatly diminished in frequency since early 2011. (Following the 5 August 2009 presidential statement on peacekeeping ([S/PRST/2009/24]), which encouraged regular discussions on peacekeeping with the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, the Council began holding a series of quarterly consultations on peacekeeping. These covered important issues such as the nexus between peacekeeping and peacebuilding; how to write better mandates; and the need for balance between resources and mandates.)

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