What's In Blue

Posted Fri 4 Nov 2016

Open Debate on Peace Operations

On Monday (7 November), the Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on “Peace operations—facing asymmetric threats”. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Secretary-General of the International Organization of La Francophonie MichaĆ«lle Jean, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate Jean-Paul Laborde, and Director of the International Peace Institute’s Brian Urquhart Center for Peace Operations Arthur Boutellis are expected to brief. The meeting will be chaired by the Foreign Minister of Senegal, Mankeur Ndiaye. After the debate, Senegal is expected to prepare a chair’s summary of the main ideas discussed at the meeting.

The debate is expected to provide an opportunity for the wider membership to discuss one of the key challenges of peace operations. So far in 2016, more than 30 peacekeepers have been killed in action worldwide as a result of “malicious acts”—more than 75% of them while deployed with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). A concept note circulated ahead of the open debate underlines how these attacks constitute a major challenge not only for the safety and security of UN personnel, but also for the proper implementation of mandates, particularly with regard to the protection of civilians.

The Secretary-General’s report on the recommendations of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) observed that UN peace operations are not “designed or equipped to impose political solutions through sustained use of force”, and concurred with the HIPPO’s recognition that UN peace operations “are not the appropriate tool for military counter-terrorism operations”. However, peace operations are increasingly deployed in violent and asymmetric threat environments and must be capable of operating effectively and as safely as possible therein. Along these lines, the purpose of the open debate, according to the concept note, is not to discuss the engagement of peace operations in counter-terrorism activities, but to consider adapting the missions to these environments, including by providing them with the necessary capabilities to ensure that they can operate effectively.

The open debate is expected to highlight the challenges of delivering on Council mandates in these contexts, as well as addressing how agile field support, deployment of force enablers (such as helicopters and hospitals), intelligence capabilities and the use of new technologies can improve the safety and security of peacekeepers facing asymmetric threats. The challenges faced by special political missions deployed in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are also expected to feature in the debate, including the obstacles to engaging with communities and to maintaining the political space for UN good offices and mediation tasks in non-permissive environments.

A key element of the concept note is the potential for complementarity between counter-terrorism bodies and peace operations. Following up on a 24 June meeting of the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations (chaired by Senegal) on that same issue, Monday’s meeting is expected to consider the potential synergies between peace operations and other tools within the Council’s purview, such as the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate. Monday’s debate will further provide an opportunity to examine how peace operations can play a key role in building the capacity of host states in areas such as rule of law and security sector reform, to support counter-terrorism and efforts to counter and prevent violent extremism.

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