Tomorrow (12 September), the Security Council will hold a debate on peacekeeping reform. The Council will be briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Sarah Blakemore, Chief Executive of the NGO Keeping Children Safe. Although no outcome will be adopted at the debate, the discussion is expected to feed into the negotiations on a draft resolution that the US circulated to Council members late last week focusing on performance of UN peacekeepers.
Resolution 2378, which was adopted on 20 September 2017, requested the Secretary-General to deliver a comprehensive annual briefing on the reform of UN peacekeeping to begin within one year of the adoption of the resolution, followed by a debate. Lacroix’s briefing provides an opportunity to discuss some of the reform efforts undertaken in the past year by the Secretary-General, including on management and the peace and security architecture, as well as an initial assessment of several independent reviews of peacekeeping operations carried out at the initiative of the Council or the Secretariat.
According to a concept note circulated by the US ahead of the meeting, its objective is to consider how the Security Council, the Secretariat and member states can enhance cooperation to reform UN peacekeeping by improving peacekeeper performance. The note stresses that performance encompasses many aspects necessary for peacekeepers to fulfil their mandates, especially the will to intervene, strong command and control, training, adequate equipment, strategic planning, and conduct and discipline. It further highlights the importance of performance in contributing to the safety and security of both peacekeepers and the civilians they protect.
Discussions about performance have been a source of contention in the Council and among the wider membership. This was evident during the member state consultations on performance, led by the Netherlands and Rwanda, which were organised as a part of the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative earlier this year. Some Council members prioritise increased accountability for under-performance, while some troop- and police-contributing countries (TCCs and PCCs) argue for broadening the focus of performance discussions beyond uniformed personnel. TCCs and PCCs underline that performance cannot be delinked from other factors related to mandate implementation, including the roles of the Security Council and the UN Secretariat, and the role of mission leadership. The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34) and the Council have expressed support for the development of a comprehensive and integrated performance policy framework that promotes full and effective mandate implementation and identifies clear performance standards for evaluating all UN civilian and uniformed personnel working in and supporting peacekeeping operations. A 14 May presidential statement recognised that effective mandate implementation is contingent upon several critical factors, including well-defined, realistic and achievable mandates; political will, leadership, performance and accountability at all levels; adequate resources; policy, planning and operational guidelines; and training and availability of equipment (S/PRST/2018/10).
The concept note highlights sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) as one of the gravest violations of conduct and discipline standards by peacekeepers. Despite the widespread condemnation among member states of incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse, some TCCs and PCCs have challenged the focus on this issue as unfairly targeting those member states that contribute troops and police.
Secretary-General António Guterres has taken some steps to address SEA. At the beginning of his term, he established a high-level task force to develop a system-wide response that prioritises prevention, the protection of the rights of victims, and the promotion of accountability. He also proposed a voluntary compact for all member states that support UN operations to demonstrate their joint commitment and mutual responsibility to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse, secure accountability, and provide meaningful support to victims. By 4 September, 98 member states had signed the voluntary compact or were processing it for signature. Blakemore is expected to highlight the impact of SEA on children and the need to implement safeguarding measures, and to promote both upward and downward accountability.
The need to increase the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping, particularly uniformed women, is also expected to feature in the debate. The note stresses the need for the UN and member states to fulfil and surpass previous commitments to deploy women peacekeepers.
The debate takes place two weeks before a meeting scheduled during the high-level debate of the General Assembly in which member states are expected to express support for a Declaration of Shared Commitments prepared by the Secretariat in consultation with member states as part of the A4P initiative. The Secretary-General launched this process in March with the aim of renewing political commitment to peacekeeping operations. The debate is expected to be an opportunity for the Secretariat and member states to take stock of what has been achieved in the process so far and present ideas for following up the commitments set out in the declaration. In a 31 August letter, Russia expressed its reservations with some of the provisions of the declaration and stated its belief that it does not create any precedent.
A recurrent element in the discussions about peace operations is the sense of disconnect between those who determine the mandates of peace operations and cover most of their financial burden, and those who deploy most of the troops and police to implement these mandates. Pressure from the US and others to reduce the peacekeeping budget and focus on the performance of uniformed personnel may add to this friction.
The format of the meeting, a debate, provides an opportunity for TCCs and PCCs and other stakeholders that do not sit in the Council to participate in the discussion under rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure and address some of the issues mentioned above.