What's In Blue

Posted Thu 25 Mar 2021

Arria-formula Meeting on the Threat of Improvised Explosive Devices against Peace Operations

Tomorrow (26 March), an Arria-formula meeting will be held on: “Protecting the Peacekeeper: Suppressing the Deployment of Improvised Explosive Devices against Peace Operations”. The meeting is being co-hosted by Kenya, China, Estonia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Viet Nam. In addition, Belgium, Ecuador, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal are co-sponsoring the meeting.

The meeting will be chaired by Ambassador Martin Kimani of Kenya. Briefers will be: Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix; Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre, the Force Commander of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Brigadier General Charles L Mwazighe of the International Peace Support Training Centre (IPSTC); and Ilene Cohn, the Deputy Director and Officer-in-Charge of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

Security Council members will have the opportunity to make interventions, as will other UN member states, if time is available. All UN member states, permanent observer missions and non-governmental organisations are invited to attend the virtual meeting. Kenya intends to produce a compilation document to reflect the views of the briefers and other speakers. The meeting will be held via VTC and live-streamed on the UN website (WebTV) from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

The concept note that Kenya produced in advance of the meeting indicates that the discussion is likely to focus on how armed groups and terrorist organisations use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as a relatively easy way to inflict harm on civilians, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers. The note blames the increasing use of IEDs for the rise in injuries and fatalities of peacekeepers in a number of countries where there are peace operations, including Somalia, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Given that IEDs are often used to target vehicles travelling in convoys, their use can impede peacekeepers’ movements, and have a “cascading effect on the greater UN family to implement their mandate or deliver humanitarian and development programmes”, according to the concept note. Peace operations, the concept note further maintains, must adapt to this evolving threat through an integrated response that addresses situational awareness, the use of technology, pre-deployment and in-mission training, and medical evacuations.

The concept note offers five questions to guide the discussion:

  1. What must be done to enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers from the IED threat in terms of training, information, capacity, equipment and technology?
  2. How can regional and international organisations support affected states with technical, financial and material assistance to strengthen national capacities to counter the IED threat?
  3. How can the networks producing and setting up IEDs for terrorist groups and terrorist affiliated armed groups be targeted or hampered?
  4. How can national regulations reinforce the control and traceability of explosive precursors and the accountability of supply chains?
  5. How can intelligence and surveillance capabilities help to mitigate IED threats?

The Council regularly addresses issues related to the threat posed by IEDs—often alongside mine action—in specific peace operation mandates. It has less frequently considered IEDs and mine action at the thematic level, although these issues have gained some traction in recent years.

On 13 June 2017, at the initiative of Bolivia, the Security Council held a briefing on “Comprehensive Approach to Mine Action and Explosive Hazard Threat Mitigation” under the agenda item “Maintenance of international peace and security”. During the meeting, the Bolivian representative highlighted the dangers that IEDs pose to peacekeepers, noting that in 2015 alone, there were 38 direct attacks using IEDs against civilian humanitarian staff and UN peacekeepers. He concluded that humanitarian staff and UN peacekeepers are “not only exposed to this threat but also prevented from being deployed effectively so that they can discharge their mandate”.

On 30 June 2017, as a follow up to the briefing, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2365, the first thematic resolution on mine action and IEDs. The resolution stressed the importance of both: “ensuring, where appropriate, that peacekeeping operations are equipped, informed, and trained to reduce the threat posed by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices”; and “considering mine action during the earliest stages of planning and programming in peacekeeping operations”. In his 21 June 2018 report, submitted pursuant to resolution 2365, the Secretary-General noted that “the use of small arms, improvised explosive devices, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and landmines resulted in the majority of fatalities among peacekeepers”.

Soon afterwards, on 2 August 2017, the Council adopted resolution 2370, which aims at preventing the flow of small arms and light weapons to terrorists and the obligations of member states in this regard. Noting the increasing and frequent global use of IEDs in terrorist attacks, it calls on member states to: “raise awareness to the threats of IEDs, and enhance the institutional capabilities and resources for preventing and countering such threats, including by collaborating with the private sector”; and to “share information, establish partnerships, and develop national strategies and capabilities to counter IEDs”.

In April 2021, during the presidency of Viet Nam, the Council will convene a ministerial-level open debate on mine action with a resolution as a possible outcome. That meeting may serve as a platform to discuss new threats and challenges posed by both landmines and IEDs.

The General Assembly has also played an important role in addressing the threat posed by IEDs. On 7 December 2015, it adopted resolution 70/46, expressing concern over the devastation caused by the increasing use of such devices by illegal armed groups and terrorists. It noted that attacks with IEDs have caused serious harm to UN staff and peacekeepers and to humanitarian workers. The resolution also encouraged states “to respond to the needs of today’s peacekeepers to operate in new threat environments involving improvised explosive devices”, including by providing the appropriate training, capabilities and financial resources. Following up on resolution 70/46, the General Assembly adopted similar resolutions on countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices in 2016, 2017 and 2018. On 25 July 2016, the Secretary-General issued a report pursuant to resolution 70/46 with recommendations for ways forward on the issue. Amongst his findings, he noted that the use of IEDs was increasing and that “coordination and information sharing among member states” needed to be strengthened to counter this trend.

According to the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, between 2011 and 2018, over 150,000 casualties from IEDs were reported globally, with civilians making up approximately 80 percent of the victims.