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Open Debate on Peacekeeping Operations and Sustaining Peace

On 29 August, the Security Council will hold an open debate on “Peacekeeping Operations: Potential to the Overarching Goal of Sustaining Peace”. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed will brief, as will Yousef Mahmoud, Senior Adviser at the International Peace Institute and former member of the High Level Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), and Gert Rosenthal, former chair of the Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) for the 2015 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture (PBA).

According to a concept note prepared by Egypt, the objective is to “highlight the potential contribution of peacekeeping mandates to the overarching goal of sustaining peace” (S/2017/692). The session is meant, in part, to build on the Council’s 10 January open debate on conflict prevention and sustaining peace and its 6 April debate on peacekeeping operations.

‘Sustaining peace’ is a term that emerged from the 2015 PBA review. The AGE proposed using the expression to refer to the broader understanding that it said was needed of peacebuilding. It contended that peacebuilding should be recognised as taking place not only in post-conflict situations but also to prevent conflict in the first place, during peacemaking and in peacekeeping (S/2015/490). The Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on the review (S/RES/2282; A/70/262) defined sustaining peace “as a goal and a process to build a common vision of a society…which encompasses activities aimed at preventing, the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict”. The definition further captured other critical aspects for sustaining peace as outlined by the AGE: the importance of addressing root causes, promoting inclusivity by accounting for the needs of all segments of society, and basing interventions on all three pillars of the UN’s work in security, human rights and development.

The HIPPO, which conducted a review in 2015 of UN peace operations, had a number of findings convergent with the AGE on sustaining peace. (S/2015/446). In its report, the HIPPO said that central to sustaining peace and avoiding relapse into conflict is the need to maintain and strengthen political momentum, addressing the underlying causes of the conflict, deepening and broadening peace processes, and advancing reconciliation. According to the HIPPO, “the challenge for peace operations is to help sustain peace while a long-term, often generational effort to strengthen State institutions gets under way”. Among its recommendations, the HIPPO said that mission budgets should be provided programmatic resources necessary for mandated tasks to support the sustaining of peace.

Concept Note and Open Debate
The concept note for tomorrow’s open debate suggests that it necessary for the Council, in examining the effectiveness of peacekeeping mandates, to consider whether and how they contribute to sustaining peace. It highlights that peacekeeping mandates should, in addition to their security objectives, be: a) adaptable to changing political and operational challenges through the various stages of UN missions’ engagement; b) designed around a range of integrated political, programmatic and operational tasks that prioritise support for building inclusive and effective national institutions and strengthening national capacities; c) measured against clearly defined political and governance benchmarks; d) guided by the broader regional and cross-border context and dynamics; and e) envisaged with a clear exit strategy that seeks to empower national, regional, bilateral and UN actors.

As Egypt has suggested that member states focus on mandates of current peacekeeping operations or those in their exit phase, a number of members are expected to focus on specific operations and practical ideas for these missions. They may also reflect upon opportunities to improve the Peacebuilding Commission’s advisory function to the Council.

The concept note further provides questions for member states to consider. These include what type of analytical framework is required for the Council to adapt UN peacekeeping mandates to realities on the ground and to contribute to the broader political and development foundations necessary for sustaining peace; how can peacekeeping mandates best complement national, regional and international efforts for advancing dialogue and national reconciliation; and how can mandates be devised to ensure regular and structured engagement with local communities, including youth, religious and local authorities, to establish social cohesion.

Members are also asked to address questions related to the management of transitions or exits of operations: how can the Council ensure that mission mandates are aligned with and support national priorities during their drawdown, and how should the structure and integrated components of peacekeeping missions be adapted over time and during drawdown in order to complement efforts to strengthen national capacities and institutions for sustaining peace.

Members may raise the point that in developing mandates the Council will benefit from analysis by the Secretariat that contains more focus on the conditions required for long- term peace in the specific country where a mission is being deployed. The HIPPO called for more joint analysis with national stakeholders, regional partners, international financial institutions and the UN country team. In this regard, the idea of two-stage sequenced mandates when the Council first establishes peacekeeping operations, as recommended by the HIPPO, might better enable this type of analysis. Member states may further consider how peacekeeping operations can work more closely with the UN country team, and which functions could be more appropriately performed by UN agencies.

In speaking about transitions, members might highlight the importance of developing peacebuilding plans, as was recently requested by the Council for Liberia, in all cases where a multi-dimensional peacekeeping operation is withdrawing. Transitions from peacekeeping operations might also be facilitated through the establishment of new smaller missions or special political missions. This was recently done in Haiti and was previously the case in Sierra Leone, which saw an iteration of special political missions following the departure of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone, and has now managed to maintain peace for 11 years after the UN peacekeeping operation left.

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