ISS Today

Political action is required to save peacekeepers’ lives

By ISS Today 29 May 2018

UN members must act fast to bridge the gap between expectations and performance in peace operations. By Annette Leijenaar and Gustavo de Carvalho for ISS TODAY.

First published by ISS Today

Today, 29 May, is International Day of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers, established to acknowledge the contributions of peacekeepers and honour those who have lost their lives. While such tribute is essential, this year’s commemoration is fogged by questions regarding the effectiveness of peacekeeping as a tool to respond to the challenges of armed conflict.

Change in practice (at the UN) sometimes comes far too slowly,” the Australian permanent representative in New York, Gillian Bird, said during a seminar at the International Peace Institute on 16 May. The slow pace of change is especially evident in the number of attempts and limited results of reforms of UN peacekeeping over the past three decades.

In 2015, a report from the High-Level Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) identified key mechanisms that can strengthen the quality of peacekeeping. The report brought new expectations on how peacekeeping could be enhanced, particularly by identifying more pragmatic forms of interventions. Three years later, there is still much to be done.

The latest initiative launched by UN Secretary-General António Guterres was the Action for Peacekeeping. The action summarises the findings of the UN’s latest peacekeeping reform attempts, including the HIPPO report.

It focuses on three areas: identifying realistic expectations; making missions stronger and safer; and mobilising greater support for political solutions and effective forces. In addressing these areas, member states must provide the political will to better design and deploy operations.

Firstly, to help them identify realistic expectations, they need to address the gap between the expectations and performance of peacekeeping operations.

The United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) mandate that was approved in March 2017 demonstrates this gap. Troop and military observer numbers were cut, the need to replace ordinary soldiers with specialised units was neglected and the political commitment to find a solution became lukewarm.

The ultimate test for peacekeeping is its capacity to implement its mandates on the ground. Political organs such as the UN Security Council must provide more realistic, focused and achievable mandates. The UN must continue to provide guidance on how to manage a wide range of tasks, and design mandates that can be implemented effectively.

Therefore the initiative by the UN Security Council requesting Guterres to provide ‘frank advice, recognising the importance of re-evaluating the mission mandates and composition based on realities on the ground’ is welcomed. It however won’t be successful without timely action by the UN itself, and its member states.

Secondly, the UN must address the problem of deploying peacekeepers to areas described as having “no peace to keep”, for example in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Mali. With fatalities on the rise, operations need to better ensure the safety and security of UN peacekeepers.

In December 2017, the UN released the report Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers: We need to change the way we are doing business – informally known as the Cruz report. It claims that UN peacekeeping has not effectively adapted to increasingly challenging environments, with critical deficiencies in training, equipment and performance.

Implementing the recommendations of the Cruz report will not be easy for the UN, and there are certainly concerns from many member states about the willingness of the UN to use “overwhelming force” as a response to challenges on the ground.

The report says if the UN and troop- and police-contributing countries “do not change their mindset, take risks and show a willingness to face these new challenges, they will be consciously sending troops into harm’s way”.

Thirdly, the UN must identify ways to garner greater political support for its operations. Challenges include the reduced budget faced by peacekeeping operations. This puts pressure on the UN to “do more with less”.

Financial reductions could lead to operations that have fewer personnel, a smaller footprint and a lower capacity to project forces, says peace and security expert Paul Williams.

Mobilising greater support will require member states to find new ways of addressing security concerns. While the Cruz report calls for more offensive operations, there has been increasing willingness of member states, especially in Africa, to deploy such operations outside the UN context.

Examples include regional ad hoc security initiatives such as the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Multinational Joint Task Force and G5 Sahel.

The deployment of the G5 Sahel force showed how countries would increasingly need to step in to address the limitations of UN peacekeeping and broader buy-in from member states. Such challenges were made clear when the UN Security Council, and especially the United States, resisted appeals from African member states and France to give the UN a stronger supporting role.

Resourcing of peacekeeping operations and political will have to go hand in hand to ensure continuous support for developing innovative responses. If political will is not found to address challenges in the design and implementation of peacekeeping responses, operations will continue to under-perform.

To ensure the safe deployment of peacekeepers and the successful completion of mandates, states must implement provisions in the frameworks that already exist. If sustained action is not achieved, these frameworks will remain nothing more than written documents. DM

Annette Leijenaar is Programme Head and Gustavo de Carvalho is Senior Researcher, Peace Operations and Peace building, ISS Pretoria


Watch Pauli van Wyk’s Cat Play The Piano Here!

No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.

Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.

It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.

But our job is not yet done. We need more readers to become Maverick Insiders, the friends who will help ensure that many more investigations will come. Contributions go directly towards growing our editorial team and ensuring that Daily Maverick and Scorpio have a sustainable future. We can’t rely on advertising and don't want to restrict access to only those who can afford a paywall subscription. Membership is about more than just contributing financially – it is about how we Defend Truth, together.

So, if you feel so inclined, and would like a way to support the cause, please join our community of Maverick Insiders.... you could view it as the opposite of a sin tax. And if you are already Maverick Insider, tell your mother, call a friend, whisper to your loved one, shout at your boss, write to a stranger, announce it on your social network. The battle for the future of South Africa is on, and you can be part of it.


Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.

Family Ties

Ramaphosa acts to smooth relations with Botswana after Bridgette Radebe controversy

By Carien Du Plessis

A lightning bolt is 5 times hotter than the sun's surface.