Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today told the United Nations Security Council that the international community must be prepared to invest in peacekeeping and peacebuilding at a “key moment for this flagship UN activity” as he highlighted new trends and approaches affecting operations, whose budget is approaching $8 billion.
“The continued use of UN peacekeeping by the Security Council testifies to its continued relevance and its unique universality and legitimacy. The demand for peacekeeping will remain,” Mr. Ban told the 15-member Council at the opening of a debate on trends in UN peacekeeping.
Outlining the first of four trends he has prioritized, Mr. Ban noted that UN peacekeeping operations are increasingly mandated to operate in countries where “there is no peace to keep.”
More than two-thirds of all military, police and civilian personnel operating under the UN flag are in the Central African Republic, Darfur, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and Mali where levels of violence are significant.
UN “blue helmets” are also being authorized when there are no clearly identifiable parties to the conflict or viable political process, such as in Mali, where no comprehensive agreement in place and where the situation remains precarious.
“When there is no clear path towards peace, crises will inevitably recur and peacekeeping operations are much more likely to struggle to meet their mandates,” Mr. Ban said.
Peacekeepers are also increasingly operating in more complex environments with asymmetric and unconventional threats.
“Whether acting in self-defence or implementing our mandate to protect civilians, we need to ensure that UN peacekeeping operations are undertaken in full compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law obligations,” the UN chief noted.
He added that the international community needs to build on what he sees as “the renewed commitment of the Security Council to respond to our changing world,” but to also recognize the limitations of UN peacekeeping and ask whether it is always the right tool.
The debate follows a request by Mr. Ban to the UN Secretariat to begin a review of UN peacekeeping, including potentially mandates, logistical support, training and accountability, among some of the areas that may warrant review.
In March 2000, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed the Panel on UN Peace Operations to assess the shortcomings of the then existing system and to make specific and realistic recommendations for change. The panel was composed of individuals experienced in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
The result, commonly known as the “Brahimi Report,” after Lakhdar Brahimi, the Panel’s Chair, called for renewed political commitment on the part of Member States; significant institutional change; and increased financial support. The Panel noted that in order to be effective, UN peacekeeping operations must be properly resourced and equipped, and operate under clear, credible and achievable mandates.
“As we approach the 15-year anniversary of the Brahimi report, it may be necessary to again take stock of evolving expectations of UN peacekeeping and how the Organization can work toward a shared view of the way forward,” said Mr. Ban.
Highlighting the criticality of speed to protect civilians, and in the absence of a standing UN reserve force, Mr. Ban urged that “we all work together to ensure we are able to deploy or reinforce our missions, when necessary, as quickly as possible.”
The Secretary-General also highlighted the importance of UN’s relationships with the African Union, the European Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, among others.
Among other issues raised in his speech, Mr. Ban stressed the need to use all forms of technology that enable peacekeeping operations to work more safely and cost-effectively. For example, the deployment of unmanned unarmed aerial vehicles based on experiences gained from their use with the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
Marking International Day of UN Peacekeepers on 29 May, this year’s theme focused on building a modern, adaptive peacekeeping force.
More than 116,000 UN personnel from more than 120 countries serve in 16 peacekeeping operations. Since the beginning of peacekeeping in 1948, over one million “blue helmets” have participated in more than 70 operations on four continents.