What's In Blue

Posted Thu 22 Jan 2015

Arria-Formula Meeting on Human Rights in UN Peace Operations

Tomorrow morning (23 January), Lithuania is hosting an Arria-formula meeting with heads of human rights components of UN peace operations. The meeting, which is open to Council members and invited UN staff only, is expected to focus on the impact of Council resolutions on how human rights work is carried out in peace operations.

After introductory remarks by Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania), three heads of human rights components are expected to brief Council members: Claudio Cordone (UN Support Mission in Libya, UNSMIL), Georgette Gagnon (UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA) and Guillaume Ngefa (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA). The session is expected to be interactive, with time allotted for the panelists to respond to questions or comments arising during the discussion. Giuseppe Calandruccio (UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti) and Scott Campbell (former head of the Joint UN Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) will also be available to answer questions. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović will provide concluding remarks.

A concept note circulated by Lithuania in preparation for the meeting highlights how “all modern multidimensional UN peace operations now have a human rights component” and how the work of human rights components is directly linked to the mandate given by the Security Council. The stated aim of the meeting is to allow Council members to better understand “challenges and opportunities in the implementation of human rights mandates on the ground and how human rights work effectively advances the overall mandate and objectives of the peace operations.”

Cordone may outline the challenges of fulfilling UNSMIL’s human rights mandate in a particularly difficult security situation in Libya, while being based in Tunisia. Council members might also be interested in hearing about the particular impact that the joint reports publicly released by UNSMIL and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have had in naming and shaming alleged perpetrators of human rights violations and in providing evidence that could potentially be used against them. Furthermore, Council members might inquire about the engagement of the human rights component of the mission with militias and other armed groups, as well as its interaction with the ICC in Libya. (The Council referred the situation in Libya since 15 February 2011 to the Court in resolution 1970.)

Gagnon may highlight the protection of civilians, the rights of women and the need to combat impunity as key challenges facing Afghanistan that are relevant to the mandate of UNAMA. She is expected to underline how human rights and political agendas of the mission are mutually reinforcing. Last year was particularly devastating for civilians in the country, with UNAMA reporting that Afghanistan had experienced a 19 per cent increase in civilian casualties from 1 January thru 30 November 2014 in comparison with the same period in 2013. (From 1 January to 30 November 2014, UNAMA reported that 3,188 civilians had died as a result of the conflict, while 6,429 had been wounded). Of interest to Council members might be how the mission compiles its data on civilian casualties, as well as UNAMA’s level of engagement with insurgent groups, which are responsible for the majority of civilian casualties in the country. Gagnon may also discuss efforts by the mission to uphold and build upon the advancements in women’s rights in recent years in Afghanistan, as well as the mission’s recent interactions with the new government, led by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, on these matters. Another broad issue that Gagnon may focus on is the human rights division’s efforts to coordinate with the Afghan government and other international and local actors to protect human rights.

Ngefa may share his experience leading the human rights component of MINUSMA, a peacekeeping operation with a robust mandate operating in a volatile security environment. He is expected to address how the mission overcomes the difficulties to operate in the north of Mali in order to fulfil its human rights mandate. Given that the fifth round of peace talks between the government and armed groups is expected to start in February, Council members might be interested in getting more information about how human rights considerations on issues such as transitional justice are being promoted by the MINUSMA team supporting the Algerian mediation. Another issue that may be raised is the implications of the 2 January letter by the Secretary-General about the re-hatting process in Mali (and the Central African Republic), which acknowledges that concerns about the human rights record of some contingents that were re-hatted into blue helmets were only “partially addressed” (S/2015/3).

Tomorrow’s discussion will be the first Arria-formula meeting of 2015 and the second time Lithuania is hosting a meeting in this format during its tenure on the Council. Seven Arria-formula meetings were held in 2014.

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