What's In Blue

Posted Fri 11 Sep 2020

Peacekeeping: Open Debate via VTC

On Monday (14 September), the Security Council will hold its annual open debate on peacekeeping in accordance with resolution 2378, which requests the Secretary-General to provide a comprehensive annual briefing on “reform of United Nations peacekeeping” every twelve months and to update the Council on the “continuous efforts made in filling the existing gaps in terms of force generation and capabilities”. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief.

Over the past two years, the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) has used the open debate format to present to Council members progress in advancing the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative. The A4P initiative, which was launched by the Secretary-General on 28 March 2018, highlights the urgent need for collective engagement on peacekeeping and aims to renew political commitment to peacekeeping operations. To date, 154 member states and four regional organisations have endorsed the A4P’s “Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations”, which contains 45 commitments across eight thematic areas.

It is likely that Under-Secretary-General Lacroix will brief the Council on the thematic areas covered by the A4P Declaration on Shared Commitments, especially advancing lasting political solutions; implementing the women, peace and security agenda; improving the safety and security of peacekeepers; and supporting effective performance and accountability. He is likely to outline the progress achieved in each of these areas, underscoring where further progress is needed and reminding member states of steps they can take to help advance the A4P initiative. For example, Lacroix may mention DPO’s work in advancing peace efforts in Darfur and Mali, and concrete actions to, amongst other things, strengthen the evaluation of peacekeeping performance in several missions through the development of the Peacekeeping Performance Accountability Framework.

On issues surrounding the women, peace and security agenda, Lacroix is likely to welcome resolution 2538, which the Council adopted on 28 August and which calls on the UN, member states and regional organizations to improve efforts towards “women’s full, effective and meaningful participation at all peacekeeping levels and positions”. In this regard, Lacroix may remind member states that bringing about such participation and enhancing gender parity requires continual engagement between troop contributing countries and the Secretariat. He may similarly encourage member states to maintain and increase their targets of female peacekeepers and police personnel.

Regarding the safety and security of peacekeepers, Lacroix is likely to highlight the adoption of resolution 2518 in March. Resolution 2518 emphasised the importance of enhancing the safety and security of UN peacekeepers and called on host states to facilitate access and freedom of movement for UN peacekeepers and their equipment consistent with a mission’s mandate, including for casualty and medical evacuation. It also requested the Secretariat to instruct all peacekeeping missions to document violations of status-of-forces agreements systematically. Lacroix may highlight steps that have been taken in the context of A4P to improve medical support to operations and to roll out improvised explosive device (IED) threat mitigation.

Lacroix’s briefing will also focus on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on peacekeeping. While Lacroix briefed the Council extensively on the impact of COVID-19 on peacekeeping during an open briefing on resolution 2532 on 9 September, during Monday’s meeting he is expected to emphasise in particular how the pandemic has affected implementation of the A4P agenda. On 22 May, the Secretariat published a document, entitled “Action for Peacekeeping in the Time of Covid-19”, which recognised the need to “channel capacity and resources to the UN’s response to COVID-19” and highlighted a number of key areas of focus for A4P implementation in the context of COVID-19 for the period from May through October.

 While Lacroix’s statement and Council members’ interventions will be broadcast live, non-Council member states will have the opportunity to submit their statements in writing, to be circulated subsequently in a Council document. Given the wide-ranging nature of the open debate, Council members are likely to highlight a number of relevant issues, including their own activities to, for example, improve the role of women in peacekeeping and to enhance peacekeeper safety, security and capacity-building. Some Council members may also identify areas where more work needs to be done and encourage the Secretariat and other member states to develop a plan to deliver on their A4P commitments.

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