Growing Demand, Emerging Conflicts Dominate Debate as Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations Opens 2013 Session
Special Committee on
227th & 228th Meetings (AM & PM)
Members Hear from Heads of Peacekeeping, Field Support As Chair Urges ‘Spirit of Give and Take’ to Avoid Repeating 2012 Impasse
With the United Nations peacekeeping machinery confronted by increasing demands and a range of emerging conflicts — and potentially poised to consider new engagements in Mali, Syria and the Horn of Africa — the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations opened its 2013 substantive session today amid discussion of critical and evolving issues, including reimbursements for troops and equipment, and civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict.
“We have increased our engagement in contingency planning … for potential requests for peacekeeping operations in Mali, Somalia and Syria,” said Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, pointing to new challenges on the Special Committee’s 2013 agenda. The United Nations must nevertheless remain focused on current operations, he said.
The situation in Syria was likely to remain a major factor in the volatility and uncertainty across the Middle East, he said. “Continued intense violence is a human tragedy of untold proportions,” he stressed, warning that the situation would continue to threaten the safety and security of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) personnel deployed in Syria. The Organization was currently engaged in planning for various contingencies should the involvement of United Nations peacekeeping become necessary and viable at any point, he said.
He went on to say that Mali faced an extremely grave political, security and humanitarian crisis. With the adoption of Security Council resolutions 2071 (2012) and 2085 (2012), the United Nations was pursuing a multi-pronged approach to help facilitate a resolution of the crisis, in close participation with the Malian authorities, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, as well as other key stakeholders. “With rapidly unfolding developments in Mali and the Sahel, the [United Nations] anticipates investing significantly more efforts and resources in the coming months,” said the Under-Secretary-General, emphasizing that the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation was a “very real possibility”.
Ameerah Haq, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, called attention to the emerging concept of civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict. Recalling that General Assembly resolution 66/264 requested the United Nations Secretariat to conduct a comprehensive review of civilian staffing requirements for peacekeeping operations, she said the civilian capacity initiative — aimed at facilitating national ownership, improving post-conflict nimbleness, and ultimately focused on delivering stronger support in the field — was one issue that the Special Committee would have to tackle in the context of evolving demands on the United Nations peacekeeping machinery.
She also addressed the long-standing and thorny question of reimbursement policies, noting that a Senior Advisory Group had been convened to consider the rates of reimbursement to troop- and equipment-contributing countries and related issues. The Group’s report, currently before the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and then the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), represented the best opportunity in more than a generation for the United Nations to come together and find a way forward on an issue that had proven divisive and difficult, she said, adding that the report was a good basis upon which Member States could consider how to further develop and strengthen peacekeeping as a global public good.
Ms. Haq pointed to a number of changes in other areas of peacekeeping, including efforts to improve results on the ground. In that regard, she said the Special Committee was scheduled to consider the Global Field Support Strategy, a five-year plan launched in 2010 and aimed at transforming the delivery of services to peacekeeping missions. The Strategy was about providing timelier help to peace operations, a vision that required each level of service provision — from Headquarters to global and regional service centres to the missions — to fulfil specific and complementary roles.
Egypt’s representative, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, declared: “United Nations peacekeeping is passing a critical juncture due to increased demand and the expansion of its mandate with responsibilities beyond the nature of its role.” The continually increasing activities of peacekeeping operations required improved capacity to assess conflict situations, effective planning based on accurate information, and rapid responses to emergencies, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, he stressed.
He joined other delegations in calling for the full participation of troop-and police-contributing countries in policy formulation and decision-making. A full review of the current system of reimbursement was needed, he said. It was also important to achieve consensus among Member States on the development of peacekeeping policies. “Only ideas and approaches that have been adopted by Member States collectively would be implemented,” he said.
Thailand’s representative, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted the new and challenging environments for peacekeepers, from Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Syria. ASEAN was pleased that United Nations missions had performed well in such contexts, but “we must continue to push ourselves to do better”. Effective responses could only be achieved through the concerted support and involvement of all relevant parties, he stressed.
While more regularized briefings for troop- and police-contributing countries was a good step, he said, it was also critical to involve them in all stages of peacekeeping operations, especially in the early stages of drafting mandates. He also underlined the need to respect the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-intervention in matters of national jurisdiction, and, while recognizing the expanding scope of peacekeeping, reiterated the need to keep mandates “clear, credible and achievable”, and to match them with sufficient resources.
In opening remarks, newly re-elected Chair U. Joy Ogwu (Nigeria) said the Special Committee — the preeminent review forum for United Nations peacekeeping operations — was facing a host of new tests around the world. In 2012, for example, no one could have foreseen the magnitude of the turmoil in Mali, which demonstrated the immense challenges confronting the global peacekeeping community. “The future of peacekeeping is ours to shape in this Committee,” she said.
While the Special Committee’s recent discussions on reform had culminated in a “more purposeful, action-oriented agenda” this session, there remained many crucial topics to discuss, she said, calling on Member States to negotiate in a “spirit of give and take”, and to leave behind the divisive arguments that had led to a seven-month impasse in 2012. Indeed, the session’s outcome must be reached in a spirit of consensus, she said, adding that the core United Nations principles of fair and equitable participation must permeate the Special Committee’s work.
Also speaking today were representatives of Cuba (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), European Union, Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), United States, Guatemala, Chile, Switzerland, Rwanda, Ukraine, Senegal, United Republic of Tanzania, Argentina, South Africa, Mexico, Serbia, Iran and Brazil.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Morocco.
The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 February, to continue its general debate.