Peacekeeping: Vote on a Draft Resolution
On Monday (30 March) the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution on capacity building and safety and security of peacekeepers. This was initially intended to be part of a signature event of China’s Council presidency for March, and to include an open debate (originally scheduled for 24 March). According to the concept note China disseminated to Council members on 6 March, the open debate was envisioned to address: ways member states could help build capacity through training and provision of equipment and other resources; how the Security Council, the Secretariat, TCCs and PCCs, financial contributors and host countries should respond to the challenges presented by complex situations and dangerous environments; how the UN can improve its training system; and what uniform deployment standards for peacekeepers should be established.
Since measures announced by the Secretary-General to address COVID-19 included a partial closure of UN headquarters that began on 16 March, and Council members were unable to meet in person, the open debate had to be cancelled. Some Council members felt that, given the inability to meet in person for an open debate and the evolving situation around COVID-19, a presidential statement might have been appropriate, but the Council decided to proceed with the resolution.
China’s interest in and prioritisation of this topic may reflect the fact that it is the 10th leading contributor of UN peacekeepers and the leading contributor of such personnel among permanent Council members. The resolution is amongst a tranche of four resolutions adopted using the procedures that were agreed on 27 March. In this regard, with members unable to agree on videoconferencing modalities for voting, the Council has decided to vote through written adoption procedures. Members are currently submitting their votes to the Security Council Affairs Division. It is expected that China will read out the results of the vote during the informal videoconference session on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, on Monday.
Council members had to negotiate the resolution virtually at the expert level throughout the process. After a broken silence period on 25 March (with comments by Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, the UK, and the US), the draft was put in blue on 26 March. However, given that adoption procedures had not yet been agreed, voting was initiated on 27 March with the circulation of a letter and the draft resolution by the Chinese presidency.
The draft in blue requests host states to facilitate access and freedom of movement for UN peacekeepers and their equipment consistent with the mandate, including for casualty and medical evacuation. Given that peacekeeping deployments are often in deteriorating and complex political and security environments, the resolution highlights that missions should remain agile and effective in implementing their mandates, to enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers, including through the provision of adequate medical facilities and critical capabilities.
The need to augment operational health support is also included in the resolution. This includes a call to establish well-defined and practical medical standards for peacekeeping operations, to accelerate the ongoing efforts to improve the system of medical support and casualty evacuation for injured peacekeepers, and to ensure that adequate medical facilities and qualified personnel are deployed to provide assistance.
The draft requests the Secretariat to instruct all peacekeeping missions to systematically document violations of status-of-forces agreements, while requesting that member states hosting peacekeeping operations investigate and prosecute those responsible for attacks on UN personnel.
The resolution addresses issues around situational awareness as a way of enhancing the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel. In this regard, it calls on the Secretary-General to continue to take measures to strengthen and improve information acquisition and analysis capacities, including surveillance and monitoring capacities, within the limits of the mandate and area of operation.
There is also language on the need to ensure safe, enabling and gender-sensitive working environments for women in peacekeeping operations and to address threats and violence against them.
Addressing the issue of partnerships between the UN and other relevant actors (for example, regional and sub-regional organisations and host governments) in relation to peacekeeper safety and security, the resolution encourages partnerships to support the AU’s efforts to continue to develop policy, guidance and training to ensure the safety and security of its peacekeepers. It further requests that peacekeeping operations enhance engagement and communications with host governments, local authorities and the population.
Issues around the need to review and ensure uniformity of UN standards on training and performance as a way to improve safety and security of peacekeepers is addressed in the resolution. In addition to calling upon member states to take action to help enhance training for UN peacekeepers in a number of areas, the resolution welcomes the initiatives undertaken by the Secretary-General to “standardize a culture of performance”. In this regard, it states that performance data related to the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations should be used to improve mission operations and include comprehensive and objective methodologies based on clear and well-defined performance benchmarks.
Finally, the resolution calls on the UN to further operationalise the Light Coordination Mechanism to facilitate and further coordinate improved training and capacity building activities among member states to include troop- and police-contributing countries, providers of training and capacity building, and the UN.
There is a high degree of unity within the Council concerning the need to improve the safety and security of peacekeepers and the key role of training and capacity building prior to and during their deployment. Views differ in the Council and among the wider membership over how to assess and improve peacekeeping performance. Some Council members have prioritised increased accountability for under-performance, while others, including some troop contributors, have argued for broadening the focus of these discussions, underlining that performance and security cannot be delinked from other factors related to mandate formulation.
It seems that several points of disagreement between Council members arose during the negotiations. Amongst them were issues surrounding intelligence gathering and situational awareness. Some members objected to language on intelligence gathering being included in the resolution’s preambular paragraphs and suggested that language that had been agreed by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34) be used. Members finally agreed that reference to intelligence collection could be replaced with a reference to enhancing the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel “by strengthening, where necessary, peacekeeping missions’ situational awareness through measures to improve their information acquisition and analysis capacities, including surveillance and monitoring capacities”.
The impact of climate change on the safety and security of peacekeepers, which had been mooted by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, was also a point of contention during negotiations. Two Council members objected to such a reference. Language referring to the “adverse effects of environmental deterioration” that “may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to the stability of some host states” was eventually agreed.
Finally, the issue of the current COVID-19 pandemic also arose during negotiations, with some Council members arguing that language should be included to refer to the pandemic, especially given that peacekeeper health is a key aspect of their safety and security and recognising the efforts the Secretariat and member states have made to prevent and address peacekeeper illnesses. Some members felt that there should be no specific reference to COVID-19; recognising that other threats, such as Ebola, have also had an impact on peacekeepers’ health, a more general reference to “infectious diseases” was agreed.