What's In Blue

Posted Thu 3 Nov 2022

Statement by Karin Landgren, Executive Director, Security Council Report, at the Security Council Open Debate on Peacekeeping

Madame President, Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for inviting me to brief this Council open debate today.

Peace operations fit for contemporary times need to devise new approaches that include responsiveness to underlying causes and drivers of conflict.  That is the ambitious framing of our discussion today because, as Ghana’s concept note states, evidence suggests that unaddressed structural factors can contribute to conflict resurging during or after peace support missions. The Security Council’s achievements in taking up such issues is where I will focus my remarks.

This Council has moved towards greater acknowledgment of these unaddressed structural factors —including non-traditional threats—in its discussions and also in its mandating.

In Haiti, the Council has increasingly voiced concern about the deleterious effects of gang violence and other criminal activities, and recently established a sanctions regime, while also stressing in this connection that addressing the root causes of instability in Haiti requires political solutions.

Many past Council resolutions have referred to organized crime, and the Council has repeatedly referenced corruption: in Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Iraq, among other situations.  Renewing the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, for example, the Council noted “the importance of the Government of Iraq urgently delivering meaningful reforms aimed at meeting the Iraqi people’s legitimate demands to address corruption”.

The Council has frequently supported transitional justice initiatives, including in mandating peace operations in the Central African Republic and Colombia, and has associated this area of work with addressing root causes of conflict.

In its concept note for an October 2021 Council meeting on diversity and state-building, Kenya pointed out that most situations on the Council’s agenda stem from domestic conflicts over identity: ethnic, racial, religious, partisan, or socioeconomic. It noted that marginalisation and exclusion of groups from political processes and from economic resources have led to violence and the formation of separatist movements.

Liberia is one example of Council resolutions that cite social exclusion.

When I served there, Liberia was a study in contrasts between the vast wealth derived from exploitation of its natural resources and the acute deprivation of most of its population, a financial structure that had remained unchanged for a very long time.  Peace Building Commission members and Council members would tell me that this was a “development” issue.  But every peace operation needs to consider the factors that could trigger or re-trigger conflict.  The social and economic exclusion I observed in Liberia was also about power, inequality, and mistrust of government.

The Council’s language in this case helped provide an additional opening to discuss social exclusion, and this was valuable.  Matters such as a state’s financial structure and management, the impact of parallel informal power networks, the role of organized crime, and accountability issues such as corruption can be hard to raise and to acknowledge at the national level. They are very difficult issues for governments to own and to address.

Ideally, the Council will approach these issues with hope and vision.  Not every structural problem will lead to conflict.  But it would be wrong to dismiss the Council’s consideration of these issues as “securitizing development”: rather, it is part and parcel of bringing resilience-building to the forefront of peace operations.

Madame President,

The first Secretary General’s report on transitions in UN peace operations, issued in late June, emphasized the efforts that are needed to safeguard peace operations’ “hard-fought achievements” and “to ensure that the follow-on presence can succeed”.

Past peace operations’ achievements have often been won at a cost of a decade or more of engagement; expenditure of billions of dollars; and many peacekeeper lives lost. These investments in peace deserve to be protected.  This may be an area where the Council could consider additional steps.

Signaling your strong interest in sustained peace, and in tandem with the work of the PBC, Council members might check back in with the country concerned from time to time.  The Security Council could invite that country, with the Secretariat and members of the UN country team, to present on progress in areas of the former mandate at, say, the one-year, three-year and five-year marks after mission closure.  Council members could consider paying a visit to see for themselves:  for example, why not a Security Council visiting mission to Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia, countries whose UN peace operations closed in 2014, 2017 and 2018 respectively?

Madame President,

The basis of integrating structural and societal factors into the work of peace operations is understanding. Understanding not just of the history, politics and conflict of the country, but of its economy and of the levers of informal power within the society—including those elements that benefit from continued conflict or from the continued weakness of state institutions.

The recommendations of the 2015 High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations remain highly relevant to devising better approaches to peace operations.  The HIPPO report observed that “more often than not”, peace operations did not address “root causes and conflict drivers” effectively.  It recommended that the UN Secretariat embrace “a more nuanced analysis of the complex drivers of the conflict”.

Today’s topic amplifies the continued importance of this HIPPO recommendation. While no peace operation is expected to address every last issue, we should still—with all humility as outsiders–reflect and speak to the full, intricate context in which these operations intervene.

Thank you.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails