8521st Security Council Meeting: United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Part 1

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07-May-2019 03:41:18
Security Council issues presidential statement underscoring key role of peacekeeping in promoting, maintaining international peace at 8521st meeting.

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The Security Council underscored the importance of peacekeeping as one of the most effective tools available to the United Nations in the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security.

Taking up United Nations peacekeeping operations under the theme “Investing in Peace: Improving Safety and Performance of UN Peacekeepers”, the Council issued a presidential statement read out by Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, whose country holds the Council presidency for May.

According to presidential statement S/PRST/2019/4, the Council recognized the vital role played by peacekeepers, and reaffirmed the basic principles of peacekeeping, including consent of the parties, impartiality and non-use of force except in self-defence or defence of the mandate.

Further by the statement, the Council welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to mobilize all partners and stakeholders in support of more effective United Nations peacekeeping through his Action for Peacekeeping initiative and recognizes the added value that the Declaration of Shared Commitments on Peacekeeping Operations has in relation to training and capacity-building. The Council also welcomed the United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial, the United Nations Chiefs of Defence Conference and the United Nations Chiefs of Police Summit to strengthen support for peacekeeping operations.

During the ensuing day-long open debate, more than 60 delegates highlighted a range of developments, including a trend towards cutting peacekeeping budgets to the detriment of desired performance, emerging threats such as improvised explosive devices and targeted attacks against peacekeepers, and how best to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.

“Improving performance is at the heart of our collective effort,” Secretary-General António Guterres said, outlining how the Organization is rolling out training exercises to advance the Action Plan to Improve the Security of United Nations Peacekeepers. Among its goals are preventing sexual exploitation, strengthening medical and engineering training and increasing the number of women in peacekeeping operations, including by developing a talent pipeline for senior female military officers.

To enhance these efforts, he said, it is essential that Member States provide support through funding, training programmes, mobile training teams and the translation of training materials into the six official United Nations languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Citing training gaps in such critical areas as weapons handling, first aid, human rights and protection, he urged Member States to consider providing increased funding and trainers, as well as contributing in-kind equipment so as to ensure the long-term sustainability of partnerships and initiatives.

He also highlighted programmes already making an impact in five high-risk missions: the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

Lieutenant General Elias Rodrigues Martins Filho, Force Commander of MONUSCO, elaborated on some of those activities, highlighting the Mission’s complex mandate and the innovative ways in which it has matured and adapted since inception in handling the changing situation on the ground. Emphasizing that the focus of MONUSCO’s analysis, planning and operations since 2018 has entailed a comprehensive approach incorporating the views, priorities and expertise of all concerned personnel, he said the main priority remains changing the mindset of all peacekeepers, civilians, military and police, who must comprehend the environment and evolving challenges, with civilian protection as the core mandate.

Mission-specific and in-mission training remains essential to fostering further performance improvements, he continued, citing the deployment of “jungle warfare experts” in the Beni territory, the stress testing of various contingency situations, enhancing female engagement and strengthening command-and-control arrangements through regular field visits. Challenges persist, however, he said, noting that evacuation initiatives remain a challenge due to infrastructure limitations. In addition, communication with locals and the international community must be improved, he stressed, noting that MONUSCO achievements are not widely known, including its rescue of 6,000 children from armed groups.

Björn Holmberg, Director of the Challenges Forum International Secretariat, urged cooperation between the United Nations and Member States to develop an interactive archive of different complex and challenging scenarios confronted by peacekeepers in the field, for use in regular and generic training exercises. The United Nations Secretariat and field missions can also identify and share examples of peacekeepers performing exceptionally in the field, for use in training exercises, he added.

He underlined the importance of the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations in deploying women to such operational and outward-facing roles as female engagement and female investigative teams, as well as in combat roles to broaden the spectrum of deployment. Police- and troop-contributing countries should be encouraged to increase the deployment of women in the field, he said, adding that in all these considerations, it is crucial that all parties “keep walking the talk, convert words into action, and turn Action for Peacekeeping commitments into real results on the ground”.

With the debate open, many delegates expressed grave concern, with Germany’s representative emphasizing the need to prioritize the safety and security of the 100,000 peacekeepers in the field. Delegates also called attention to targeted attacks against peacekeepers, armed children and the need for peacekeepers to communicate in local languages.

Many speakers agreed that adequate training in these and other key areas, including gender issues and how to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, is essential for missions to succeed in fully discharging their mandates. Some stressed that pre-deployment and in-mission training must give all peacekeeping personnel effective tools to handle emerging and evolving challenges effectively.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative emphasized that his delegation cannot support the linking of human rights issues with the protection of civilians since human rights cannot be monitored through the use of force. The effectiveness and security of missions do not depend only on training, but also on how the Council formulates its peacekeeping mandates, he said. Tasks must be commensurate with capacity, he added, cautioning that the right to use force increases the danger to the “blue helmets”, whereas their task is to reduce risk, not increase it.

Raising a different concern, the Dominican Republic’s representative said that providing humanitarian assistance in safe spaces depends largely on effective partnerships with aid actors and peacekeeping operations, which requires increasing the skills of military personnel in terms of delivering aid.

The need to foster strong partnerships was a recurring theme, with Equatorial Guinea’s representative saying that the Action for Peacekeeping initiative strengthens international peacekeeping missions because of its focus on collective efforts. Further actions are needed, however, in accordance with the Declaration of Shared Commitments. For instance, the African Union must be endowed with the necessary resources to fulfil its responsibility under Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, he said. As such, troops undertaking African Union missions must be provided with adequate training and equipment, with a view to fully silencing the guns in Africa by 2020.

China’s representative said the international community must enhance the African Union’s role in peacekeeping on the continent. As a major troop-contributing country with 2,500 peacekeepers deployed in eight task areas – including demining, transportation and security – China’s personnel are well trained, well equipped and disciplined, he said, adding that his country’s Government has provided more than $100 million in resources to the African Union. Since 2016, China has established a fund supporting more than 10 African projects intended to build peacekeeping capacity, he added.

Also delivering statements today were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait, United Kingdom, Poland, South Africa, Peru, Belgium, France, United States, Ukraine, Uruguay, Canada, Italy, India, Brazil, Japan, Pakistan, Estonia, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Israel, Fiji, Argentina, El Salvador, Slovakia, Jordan, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Guatemala, Morocco, Venezuela, Romania, Thailand (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Portugal, Djibouti, Egypt, Ireland, Netherlands, Ethiopia, Viet Nam, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Cambodia, Australia, Bangladesh, Senegal and the Philippines.

Others delivering statements included the Head of the European Union delegation and the Permanent Observer for the African Union.

Beginning at 10:08 a.m., the meeting ended at 4:31 p.m.

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