On Monday (14 May), Security Council members are expected to adopt a presidential statement on peacekeeping operations. The statement, which was drafted by the Netherlands, builds on the themes raised in the 28 March open debate on “Collective Action to Improve UN Peacekeeping Operations”, held during the Dutch presidency of the Council.
At that meeting, Secretary-General António Guterres announced a new initiative, “Action for Peacekeeping”, aimed at mobilising all stakeholders to create peacekeeping operations “fit for the future” through enhanced collective engagement. The presidential statement is the first Council outcome related to this initiative, in what is expected to include a series of meetings on peacekeeping operations before the end of this year.
The draft statement, which includes a significant amount of new language, has been negotiated since mid-April. It was originally expected to be adopted during the 9 May Council briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and three heads of military components of UN missions. However, additional time was needed to achieve consensus and finalise the text. After a first silence procedure was broken by Russia earlier this week, a revised draft passed silence today.
The draft recognises the need for peacekeeping missions to have integrated strategies, articulating a clear end state with a pathway to achieving sustainable peace. The draft stresses the importance of achievable, sequenced and phased mandates, where appropriate, with clear priorities set by the Security Council, and requests the Secretary-General to provide integrated analysis, strategic assessment and frank advice to the Council. It further recognises the importance of re-evaluating the composition and mandates of missions based on realities on the ground.
The draft welcomes and supports the commitment of the Secretary-General to continue to undertake steps to help improve UN peacekeeping. In particular, it notes the intention of the Secretary-General, in consultation with all stakeholders, to develop a set of mutually-agreed commitments to adapt peacekeeping operations to today’s complex and high-risk environments. The draft also looks forward to the briefing to the Council expected to take place in September as per resolution 2378 of 20 September 2017, which focused on peacekeeping reform.
It seems that Council members debated how to refer to several UN reports and initiatives, including those related to peacekeeping reform. While the draft recognises the important contribution made by the 2015 report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) and the 2000 report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations (the Brahimi report), it merely notes the circulation of the 2016 External Review of the UN Police Division, the 2017 report on enhancing the safety and security of peacekeepers (the Cruz report) as well as the related Action Plan, and special investigations commissioned by the Secretary-General.
The draft supports the Secretary-General’s vision of reforming the peace and security pillar. However, at the request of Russia, language was incorporated taking note of the assurances provided by the Secretary-General that his reform proposal does not seek to change established mandates, functions or funding sources of this pillar.
It seems that a source of division among Council members was the level of detail in the statement. The original draft outlined several tasks to improve peacekeeping in a way that seemed too prescriptive to some Council members. These members expressed a preference for awaiting the outcome of the consultation process that the Secretary-General is expected to undertake. As a consequence, the final draft supports the efforts of the Secretary-General to achieve concrete results on a wide range of issues related to peacekeeping—including people, politics, performance, partnership and peacebuilding—with less detail than had been included in the first draft. The draft further expresses the Council’s intention to actively monitor results and explore measures to advance peacekeeping reform.
Discussions about performance have been a matter of ongoing tension in the Council and among the wider membership. Some Council members have prioritised increased accountability regarding under-performance, while troop- and police-contributing countries have highlighted how performance cannot be delinked from broader factors related to mandate implementation. Given these divisions, language on performance was mostly taken from agreed language by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34) and previous Council resolutions. The draft supports the development of a comprehensive and integrated performance policy framework that ensures effective and full implementation of mandates, and identifies clear standards of performance for evaluating all UN civilian and uniformed personnel working in and supporting peacekeeping operations. The draft further recognises 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.
Council members also debated how to refer to the interaction between the host state and peacekeeping operations. Host state ambivalence towards field missions has become a challenge facing some peacekeeping missions in recent years. Although references to the erosion of host state consent were deleted, the draft recognises the need for missions to report regularly on each instance of non-compliance with Status of Forces and/or Status of Mission agreements by any party and affirms the need for strong political action where there is lack of cooperation.
The draft further includes new language on the importance of women’s empowerment and equal participation in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase women’s role and leadership in decision-making.
It underscores that any form of sexual exploitation and abuse is unacceptable, reaffirms the Council’s support for the UN zero-tolerance policy, and welcomes the Secretary-General’s victim-centred approach. It also includes new language expressing concern regarding allegations of sexual harassment.