Un peacekeeping operations: overview, current situation and challenges Belgian Royal Military Academy Brussels, 29 May 2012 Speech by Mr. Marco Bianchini, Head of the United Nations Liaison Office for Peace and Security in Brussels

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UN peacekeeping operations: overview, current situation and challenges

Belgian Royal Military Academy

Brussels, 29 May 2012
Speech by Mr. Marco Bianchini,

Head of the United Nations Liaison Office for Peace and Security in Brussels
I would like to start by thanking Minister De Crem for his presence here today. It is a privilege to participate in this panel together with him on this international day of United Nations peacekeepers. I also wanted to express our appreciation to him and to the Government of Belgium for the many ways in which Belgium provides significant support to United Nations peacekeeping.
I will focus my brief intervention today on some of the main trends and evolving challenges for United Nations peacekeeping and on our peacekeeping partnership with the European Union and NATO.
Peacekeeping - trends and evolving challenges.

    • Since the late 1990s, United Nations peacekeeping has seen an exponential growth in both size and scope. The UN has at present 17 peacekeeping operations serving across the globe with around 120,000 personnel, of which around 98,000 are uniformed military and civilian personnel and around 22,000 are civilian staff. These numbers demonstrate the international community’s ongoing reliance on the United Nations as the central pillar for the provision of international peace and security, and as the cornerstone of the international community’s effort to confront crises and bring peace and reconciliation to war-torn countries around the world.

    • A defining feature of UN peacekeeping is the complexity and scope of its operations, which are deployed in politically challenging and operationally demanding environments. Over the years, the UN has established numerous multidimensional peacekeeping operations that carry out a broad spectrum of activities which go far beyond traditional peacekeeping. Today, UN peacekeeping operations are engaged in sectors as diverse as governance and civil administration, the protection of civilians, rule of law, electoral support, disarmament and reintegration of combatants, and post-conflict peacebuilding. As an example, MONUSCO, our operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has over 40 tasks mandated by the Security Council and exemplifies how wide-ranging the tasks of UN peacekeeping have become.

    • At the same time, as we have seen most recently in Syria, the UN can be still called upon to deploy a mission that is more traditional in nature - with unarmed military observers that have a relatively limited mandate to monitor and report on the situation on the ground. At the same time, as events are showing, such a mission operates in an extremely difficult security and humanitarian environment.

    • Internally, the UN has made progress in ensuring that it acts in an integrated manner where peacekeeping operations are deployed so as to bring together the entire UN system behind a single effort. The integration of the UN’s activities in a peacekeeping context needs to adapt to specific circumstances and the relationship between the UN’s peacekeeping operation and its humanitarian and development arms, as well as the relationship between the UN as a whole and external partners, requires careful planning, coordination and implementation on the ground. Ensuring that the UN acts in an integrated manner on behalf of the people we serve is a work in progress in all of our integrated operations, but we can say that overall we have seen positive results over the past few years.

    • There is also the crucial issue of how we transition out of a peacekeeping presence and, ultimately, close down an operation. Again, each situation will have its specificities and how missions are closed down depends on many variables. Some missions can be transformed into longer-term peacebuilding presences in a relatively smooth process, such as in Sierra Leone and Burundi; others can be reconfigured, without however closing down, so as facilitate the assumption of a greater role by a regional organization – such as UNMIK in Kosovo; still others can be closed down abruptly due to divisions in the Security Council – UNOMIG, the UN’s former observer mission in Georgia is one such example; and, as all of our operations operate on the basis of host government consent, there is also the possibility that an operation has to close down because there is no longer such consent – as we saw with UNMEE, our mission in Ethopia/Eritrea.

    • When and how a mission is able to phase out is, ultimately, a political decision that takes into account the reality on the ground, and depends on a host of factors and actors. Therefore, for us in the UN Secretariat, along with the focus on missions that are being deployed, there is the equally important task of developing viable and sustainable transition strategies for missions where conditions allow for a phasing out of the UN’s peacekeeping role in accordance with the Security Council’s decisions, and a transformation from peacekeeping to other forms of UN engagement and support - often with the significant and growing involvement of our external partners.

    • While we can predict that these will continue to be key trends for UN peacekeeping, there is also every reason to expect that our operations will continue to confront often unpredictable challenges, and that the UN will have to be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and diverse situations. I would like to touch briefly on some of our operations that typify these challenges.

    • UNMISS, our mission in South Sudan, exemplifies a multidimensional peacekeeping operation which combines a protection of civilians mandate and a mandate to investigate and report on human rights violations with an ambitious peacebuilding and statebuilding agenda and that is deployed in a demanding environment.

    • Some of our operations are entering a new phase. These include UNOCI in Cote d’Ivoire, where following the successful transfer of power the focus is on the stabilization of the security situation and on disarming and demobilizing ex combatants; and UNMIL in Liberia where following the re-election of President Johnson Sirleaf building national capacity in the security sector is a priority.

    • UNAMA in Afghanistan will focus its work on supporting Afghan-led processes through political outreach aimed at a broad-based and inclusive peace process and by helping to ensure a coherent international civilian engagement during the current transition period.

    • UNAMID, our largest operation, has seen a trend in the improvement of the overall security situation and is being reconfigured following a comprehensive review so as to focus on those areas in the Darfur region with the highest security threats. At the same time, progress has been mixed in terms of arriving at a comprehensive political solution, restoring a stable and secure environment, strengthening the rule of law and the protection of human rights, and stabilizing the humanitarian situation.

    • Finally, MONUSCO in the DRC will continue to face a challenging situation on the ground following general elections that recently took place and as we look forward to provincial and local elections. Addressing these challenges will require close cooperation with the Congolese authorities, including in the area of protection of civilians, and a concerted effort to ensure the Congolese military, police and other institutions have the capacity and ability to confront security challenges.

    • At the level of policy, the UN has also been doing work in developing our approach in three areas that are of increasing importance across our missions : protection of civilians, the role of peacekeepers in carrying out early peacebuilding tasks in the immediate aftermath of conflict, and defining how peacekeeping can be more effective in response to threats.

  • On the issue of protection of civilians, we have developed an operational framework that is applied to our 8 operations with mandates to protect civilians. This framework sets out three levels of protection in our peacekeeping operations – first protection guaranteed through inclusive political processes (mediation, good offices, political outreach); second protection from physical violence (non-violent deterrent, forceful response) and third through the promotion of a protective governance and rule of law environment through capacity building.

  • Clarifying the role and possible early peacebuilding tasks of peacekeepers in the broader peacebuilding effort is another important area of work. The approach is to recognize the nexus between peacekeeping and peacebuilding. A strategy on the early peacebuilding tasks of peacekeepers has been developed which provides guidance in terms of prioritizing, sequencing and planning critical tasks [advancing the peace process or political objectives of a mission; ensuring basic security and extending state authority (PoC, DDR, mine action; strengthening the policing and justice sectors); laying the foundation for longer-term institution building].

  • We are also bringing forward efforts to build a consensus on the requirements for an effective and robust response to threats – in other words making peacekeeping more effective. Progress in terms of agreeing on a common conceptual approach has been more difficult. The term “robust peacekeeping” has raised concerns among a number of Member States, in particular troop- and police-contributing countries.

  • [We are now working to reframe the debate and to work with Member States to clarify the capabilities, operational readiness, and evaluation requirements associated with effective mandate implementation and threat deterrence. [3 regional conferences have been held; a steering group has been established to take this debate forward]

  • Ensuring that peacekeeping delivers in a cost-effective manner, particularly against the background of the economic and financial crisis in many countries, is another central plank in our overall process to reform and modernize UN peacekeeping.

  • We have been making good progress towards implementing the UN’s Global Field Support Strategy, which aims to improve the efficiency and speed of support to operations and cut costs by servicing our operations from global and regional service centers and by improving our management of the budget process and human resources.

  • However, improving efficiency of service is only one part of the solution. Broadening the participation in UN peacekeeping of Member States that provide specific enabling assets and specialized capabilities, remains an uphill challenge. These resources have become increasingly critical as mandates have grown in complexity and our operations are deployed in environments that are vast and dangerous. For these assets, we also look to our European partners, which have sophisticated and modern militaries with resources difficult to find elsewhere.

    • Indeed, expanding the peacekeeping partnership is one of the key objectives of the peacekeeping reform agenda. It is by partnering with others that we are better able to meet the needs on the ground.

    • The UN partners increasingly with regional organizations – most notably the EU, the AU and NATO – in addressing crises. These partnerships have grown more diverse and wide-ranging in response to the increasing complexity of the crises that have erupted. And other regional organizations – most notably the Arab League and ASEAN – have shown an increasing willingness and ability to take on a more prominent role in addressing peace and security challenges in their respective regions. For the UN, ensuring that regional organizations provide political backing and concrete support for its peacekeeping operations is as important today as it has ever been.

    • In many of the theatres where UN peacekeeping operations are deployed, the EU has a CSDP operation. And everywhere the UN has a peacekeeping operation, the EU also has a presence on the ground through a combination of its political/diplomatic, humanitarian, development and other instruments. Indeed, the UN sees the EU’s comprehensive approach to crisis management and its ability to draw on a wide range of instruments as a critical asset in our collective effort to address crises.

    • It is in this vein that here in Brussels we are working very closely with our counterparts in the External Action Service in contributing to their development of proposals on how the EU can further enhance its support to UN peacekeeping following the endorsement by the EU’s Political and Security Committee in November of a paper on actions to Enhance EU CSDP Support to UN Peacekeeping. We very much welcome this initiative and see this as a very important opportunity to explore ways in which our two organizations can improve, expand and deepen their cooperation in crisis management.

    • With NATO as well, over the years the UN has developed close cooperative arrangements on the ground – notably in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Somalia. This relationship has also been strengthened through enhanced dialogue and liaison arrangements between our headquarters, particularly after the joint declaration on cooperation of 2008.

  • We of course fully recognize the constraints faced by EU and NATO Member States, given the current economic climate and in light of the deployments in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Kosovo and elsewhere. But we believe that with both the EU and NATO, there is significant potential to build on the many existing modalities of our partnership.

  • Clearly, the growing complexity of crises places increasing demands on UN peacekeeping. And just as clearly, the UN can not go it alone. We rely on our partnership with regional organizations to ensure that the international community as a whole responds as best it can.

  • Peacekeeping is a global partnership, and the EU and NATO have shown, over the years, their willingness and capacity to work closely with the UN. We will continue to look to both organizations to support UN peacekeeping as it continues to face new challenges.

Thank you.

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