UN Peacekeeping Reform Open Debate and Resolution
Tomorrow (20 September), the Security Council will hold a high-level open debate entitled “Reform of UN peacekeeping: implementation and follow-up”. Secretary-General António Guterres and Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, are expected to brief the Council, along with José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Laureate and former Chair of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO). The open debate will be chaired by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, and most Council members are expected to be represented by heads of state or government.
Background and Open Debate
The open debate is being held against the backdrop of the recent push to strengthen the UN’s peace operations, marked by the 2015 HIPPO report and by Secretary-General Guterres’ reform initiatives regarding the UN’s peace and security architecture. The context also includes an effort by the US, which is the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping assessed budget, to reduce the cost of UN peace operations. It also takes place amidst continuing expressions of concern that decision-making often fails to incorporate the perspectives of stakeholders who do not sit in the Council; the open debate format provides an opportunity for non-Council member states to publicly express their views.
The concept note circulated to member states ahead of the open debate highlights the momentum gathered by discussions on UN peacekeeping reform, particularly since the release of the HIPPO report and the follow-on report of the Secretary-General in 2015. The note underscores specific issues to guide the discussion, including:
• How UN peacekeeping reform has been implemented in the past two years and what impact this has had on the performance of missions;
• How the Council can strengthen its role in implementation and follow up;
• How the Council can help the Secretary-General’s effort to reform the UN’s peace and security architecture;
• What is the status of member state commitments to force generation and the deployment of key capacities and what gaps remain;
• How the Council can support the new UN-AU strategic partnership; and
• Which options proposed by the Secretary-General are acceptable and feasible to provide the necessary support to AU-led peace support operations.
Guterres is expected to brief Council members on the measures taken by the Secretariat to implement the four shifts identified by the HIPPO report—the “primacy of politics” in peace operations; a “spectrum of peace operations” tailored to the specific context; “stronger partnerships”; and “field-focused and people-centered” approaches— particularly the reform initiatives he has undertaken aimed at bringing them about. Mahamat will most likely address the recent development of the AU-UN relationship, including the joint AU-UN framework for enhanced partnership in peace and security agreed to in April and the efforts to operationalise the AU Peace Fund. Ramos-Horta will most likely assess what has been achieved since the HIPPO report was issued and what structural impediments continue to exist that prevent the better performance of peace operations, while highlighting the changes the report advocated to address them.
Negotiations on the Draft Resolution
A draft resolution, prepared by Ethiopia and negotiated over the last month, is expected to be adopted at the meeting. The draft stresses that the primacy of politics should be the hallmark of the UN’s approach to the resolution of conflict and reaffirms the Council’s determination to pursue more prioritisation when evaluating, mandating and reviewing peacekeeping operations. The draft also underscores the need to enhance the overall effectiveness and efficiency of UN peacekeeping by improving mission planning, increasing the number of relevant capabilities, and reinforcing peacekeeping performance through training and the fulfilment of outstanding pledges.
Despite significant convergence among Council members when it comes to mandating particular peace operations, the negotiations on the draft resolution displayed the different perspectives among them on this issue when addressed thematically. In particular, some Council members were reluctant to use the HIPPO report’s term “peace operations”—reinforced by the latest proposal by the Secretary-General to reform the peace and security architecture—preferring to focus more narrowly on “peacekeeping operations”.
Another contentious issue in the negotiations had to do with the language on protection of civilians and on sexual exploitation and abuse, with some Council members arguing to include language previously used by the Council and others wanting to bring in language from the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34) and the General Assembly. Even though Council members agreed to language on the principles of peacekeeping in the November 2015 presidential statement after bilateral negotiations between the US and China, several Council members pushed for revising the agreed language in a way that would reaffirm these principles more clearly, as has been done in the draft in blue.
While the draft welcomes the intention of the Secretary-General to introduce peacekeeping reform within the Secretariat, as well as on the ground, some Council members raised the need to continue to engage and seek the support of member states in this process. The Council takes note of the Secretary-General’s initiatives to reinforce the peace and security architecture, while encouraging him to continue to engage with the Council and the General Assembly and relevant Committees on these initiatives.
Financing of AU peace support operations is another issue addressed in the draft resolution. The HIPPO report recommended the use of UN assessed contributions on a case-by-case basis to support AU peace operations authorised by the Council, including the costs associated with deployed uniformed personnel, to complement funding from the AU and/or African member states. Progress on this issue, which was a factor in Ethiopia’s decision to hold this open debate, continues to be hampered by divergent Council views. The opposition of the US to the use of assessed contributions to partly finance AU peace support operations, which was last raised at the joint consultations between the Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa earlier this month, featured prominently in the negotiations. The draft expresses the Council’s intention to give further consideration to practical steps that can be taken, and the conditions necessary, to establish such mechanism, on a case-by-case basis, “in compliance with relevant agreed standards and mechanisms to ensure strategic and financial oversight and accountability”. The draft falls short of welcoming or adopting a proposal, presented in a 26 May report of the Secretary-General, for a process of joint planning and consultative decision-making and oversight, but the Council does note “the need to further develop this work, in consultation with the African Union”. The draft further includes a request to the Secretary-General, in coordination with the AU, to present a “reporting framework which would establish clear, consistent and predictable reporting channels, including fiduciary and mandate delivery, between the Secretariat, the Commission and the two Councils, as well as standardised reporting requirements”.
In terms of follow-up, the draft requests the Secretary-General to provide a comprehensive briefing to the Council on the reform of UN peacekeeping every twelve months, to be followed by a debate. It also requests the Secretary-General to provide recommendations to the Council within 90 days on a mechanism to fill the existing gaps in terms of force generation and capabilities, as well as other relevant aspects necessary for peacekeeping, including through more effective and efficient training and capacity building. The draft further requests the Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations to review reform initiatives in close cooperation with other member states, including troop- and police-contributing countries and host states.