Reform of Peace Operations, as Fourth Committee Begins Its Consideration of Special Political Missions
5 NOVEMBER 2018
GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOURTH COMMITTEE
SEVENTY-THIRD SESSION, 21ST MEETING (PM)
Senior United Nations officials today addressed improvements in gender diversity and upcoming reforms in relation to special political missions, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its consideration of that matter.
Rosemary A. DiCarlo, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, said women now comprise 44 per cent of the heads and deputy heads of field‑based special political missions, which represents an increase of 16 per cent over 2017. Improving geographical diversity will also remain a priority, she added, noting that the reforms endorsed by the General Assembly will further strengthen the ability of missions to deliver on their mandates.
Turning to the question of partnerships, she recalled the Secretary‑General’s high‑level interactive dialogue with regional organizations active in the realm of international peace and security. Participants agreed to take concrete actions to advance cooperation further, particularly in the field, she reported.
In a second briefing, Atul Khare, Under‑Secretary‑General for Field Support, said special political missions demand agile, efficient and rapid solutions, but often suffer from a lack of scale relative to peacekeeping missions. The Secretary‑General’s reforms will have a positive impact on special political missions through decentralization, simplification and empowerment of field operations, he added.
Commending regional partnerships and gender diversity, South Africa’s representative welcomed the 2017 decision by the African Union to establish the Network of African Women Mediators. He also underscored the need for consistent and predictable funding for special political missions, cautioning that recent budget cuts pose a direct threat to their efficiency and to implementation of their mandates. As such, he called for alternate financing options and the creation of an independent account for special political missions.
Agreeing, Argentina’s representative also called for a separate account and for access to a “support account” for special political missions. He expressed regret that discussions on such funding have been stalled in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) for seven years.
Cuba’s representative warned that greenlighting new missions should not affect the Organization’s regular budget, calling for a wide‑ranging debate to allow a differentiated mechanism and a separate account for special political missions. More effective, nimble and agile missions are needed, he emphasized, calling for an annual report from the Secretary‑General on the issue.
The Committee also held an interactive segment in which the two officials responded to comments and questions raised by delegates.
Also speaking today were representatives of Morocco (for the Non‑Aligned Movement), Indonesia (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Finland (also on behalf of Mexico), Colombia, Maldives, Switzerland, India, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Afghanistan, Namibia, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Norway, Japan and Hungary.
An observer for the European Union delegation also addressed the Committee.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 6 November, when it is expected to take up the effects of atomic radiation.
ROSEMARY A. DICARLO, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, said special political missions remain among the most important instruments for operationalizing preventive diplomacy, assisting in conflict resolution and supporting longer‑term efforts to sustain peace. Three regional offices, in West and Central Africa as well as Central Asia, continue to serve as forward platforms for preventive diplomacy, while also supporting efforts to address the impact of violence carried out by terrorist groups, she said.
Turning to gender and geographic diversity, she noted that women now comprise 44 per cent of the heads and deputy heads of field‑based missions, which represents an increase of 16 per cent over 2017. Improving geographical diversity will also remain a priority, she added. Outlining regional partnerships, she recalled the Secretary‑General’s high‑level interactive dialogue with regional organizations active in the realm of international peace and security, and that participants agreed to take concrete actions to further advance cooperation, particularly in the field.
She went on to point out that the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan works closely with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union to support the peace process between the two countries. That partnership contributed to the signing of the Revitalized Agreement to Resolve the Conflict in South Sudan on 12 September 2018, she pointed out. Simultaneously, the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) worked with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union Mission for Mali and the Sahel in coordinating efforts to better address the region’s multifaceted challenges.
Turning to her Department’s focus on women and youth, she said an inclusive gender working group in Colombia is playing a critical role in mainstreaming gender considerations in verifying aspects of that country’s peace agreement. Meanwhile, the Women’s Advisory Board to the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for Syria is helping to ensure that gender perspectives and women’s participation are considered throughout the political process in that country. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has supported Government efforts to promote gender equality in the context of electoral assistance, she noted, pointing out women made up one third of voters in legislative elections held in October. Security Council resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) on youth, peace and security, and the Secretary‑General’s recently launched youth strategy, provide special political missions with further opportunities to harness the potential of young people as agents for peace, she said.
Concerning security and safety, she said many special political missions support complex peace processes in challenging environments, many characterized by ongoing violent conflict. “Our staff face a considerable risk of becoming collateral victims, or even direct targets, in particular of extremist groups,” she said. Outlining departmental risk management strategies and security mitigation measures, she cited the deployment of armed civilian United Nations staff, military personnel as well as guard units provided by Member States. In that regard, she said that she looks forward to the phased return of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to Tripoli and other parts of the country in 2019, security conditions permitting. That will allow the Department to provide more direct support for implementation of the United Nations Action Plan for Libya and complete the political transition there. Underscoring the critical role played by special political missions in the maintenance of international peace and security, she said the reforms endorsed by the General Assembly will further strengthen their ability to deliver on their mandates.
ATUL KHARE, Under‑Secretary‑General for Field Support, said that special political missions demand agile, efficient and rapid solutions, but often suffer from a lack of scale relative to peacekeeping missions. Their work is characterized by customized support, frequently required on short notice, he said, noting that those demands present challenges that the Department of Field Support, and soon the Department of Operational Support, must undertake in establishing and delivering solutions in the field.
Highlighting the Department’s efforts to deepen support partnerships, he reported that it continues to work with the Department of Political Affairs, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and other partners to support the establishment of the United Nations Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL), which deployed in Iraq on 29 October. It also supports the start‑up Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General on Myanmar, he added. In Libya, the deployment of the United Nations Guard Unit and improved security infrastructure in Tripoli have allowed UNSMIL to maintain a scaled up rotating international presence even as the security situation remains precarious, he said, adding that, in Yemen, the Department continues to provide appropriate aviation support for the Special Envoy there.
Concerning the support provided to special political missions, he said that the Kuwait Joint Support Office and the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe collectively offer back‑office support to 81 per cent of all special political mission personnel. Regarding the environmental impact of missions, he reported that the Department is working with special political missions managing their own facilities and infrastructure in pursuit of mission‑wide environmental action plans, specifically, the implementation of an environmental performance and risk management framework. The Secretary‑General’s reforms will have a positive impact on special political missions through decentralization, simplification and empowerment of field operations, he said, citing the integration of procurement and logistics support as an example of enabling a unified supply chain to offer better and more timely acquisition of goods and services.
With the floor open for questions, the representative of Sudan recalled the Secretary‑General’s report on special political missions, noting its focus on mediation and conflict resolution and its aspiration to peacebuilding. He went on to ask for greater detail about the expected impact of the prospective rebuilding process on special political missions on the ground. He also asked about the development of criteria on geographical representation. Highlighting recent political developments in the Horn of Africa region, he asked what efforts were being pursued in that context.
The representative of Libya asked for an analysis of events in his country, inquiring also about communications between the Department of Political Affairs and UNSMIL. While agreeing with some assessments of the situation in Libya as a political crisis, he pointed out that Special Envoy Ghassan Salameh recently described it as a safe haven for armed groups and terrorists. He asked for a diagnosis of the situation, including reliable security strategies. Referring to paragraph 13 of the Secretary‑General’s report, he said the Panel of Experts has submitted two reports to the Security Council that are not related to Libya.
Ms. DICARLO said the new Peacebuilding Support Office will enable the Department to focus on conflict‑prevention issues. Citing greater synergies between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs, she said they will enjoy greater cohesion in the future. Regarding diversity in appointments, she said more women have been included at senior levels in missions, but more must be done in terms of geographical diversity. On the Horn of Africa, she cited opportunities for reconciliation and said the Secretary‑General intends to appoint a Special Envoy for the subregion. On Libya, she said the Special Envoy has developed a strategy in collaboration with the Department, and endorsed by the Security Council, which will help to drive a political transition in the country.
Mr. KHARE said greater geographical diversity is a Charter obligation, and more must be done in that regard. In 2017, a global call was circulated to all Member States for applicants to be placed on a roster, and 1,200 candidates were identified in that way. However, fewer than 50 Member States responded, he recalled, calling for more applications in response to other such calls. On security strategies, he said a rotational presence is maintained inside Libya, and expressed confidence that nobody will target United Nations officers, which constitutes a war crime. Responding to Sudan’s representative regarding reforms, he said faster deployments will be possible, and a new special activities division is planned.
YASSER HALFAOUI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasized the importance of respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all States. The Security Council and the General Assembly must ensure the adoption of achievable mandates, he said, emphasizing the need for greater coherence between mandates and resources. In addition, integrated planning and coordinated approaches to linking policy formulation and implementation are of paramount importance in achieving success.
He also highlighted the exponential increase in the financial requirements as well as the complexity of special political missions over the past decade. Acknowledging their unique characteristics in terms of establishment and financing, he noted that they do not follow the regular budget cycle of the United Nations, despite being funded by that budget. In order to enhance the efficiency and transparency of Organization’s budgetary process — taking into account the characteristics for the approval, functioning, scope and mandate of those activities — special political missions must be financed through the same criteria, methodology and mechanisms used to fund peacekeeping operations, including the establishment of a new separate account for special political missions, he stressed.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that in recent years, there has been a sense of urgency over the cause of sustaining peace as the international community realizes that peacekeeping does not operate in a vacuum; it requires a coordinated and integrated approach to ensure real results across the peace continuum, especially through the prevention of conflict and addressing root causes. In that context, special political missions play a role, he said, citing special envoys and representatives of the Secretary‑General, sanctions monitoring panels and regional offices supporting political processes, and large operations involving military and police personnel. All of these are tools for enabling and supporting the cause of peace, he said.
With a view to helping to sharpen the work of special political missions, reform must move forward in a coordinated manner in order to break the silo mentality, he continued. He stressed that national ownership is crucial to achieving concrete results on the ground, as are partnerships between the United Nations and regional as well as subregional organizations. In addition, the meaningful participation of women at all stages of peace processes must continue. He said it is past time to address the funding and backstopping arrangements for special political missions, emphasizing that better coordination must be matched by integrated financing.
Speaking in his national capacity, he noted his country’s continuous support for national ownership and capacity even after a mission’s drawdown. That is why integrated analysis and planning are crucial, especially during transitions, he added. Indonesia supports the inclusion of women and young people in special political mission, he said, adding that South‑South Cooperation is increasingly a very valuable addition to traditional modes of support.
GUILLAUME DABOUIS, European Union delegation, emphasized the importance of preventing conflict, citing the United Nations‑World Bank report “Pathways for Peace”, which states that scaling up preventative action can save $70 billion a year. The timely interventions of special political missions are of paramount importance to prevention and mediation, he said, adding that peacebuilding efforts must be integrated with peacekeeping activities from an early stage in order to manage transitions effectively.
Full and effective participation by women and young people should be integral to the work carried out by special political missions, he continued, welcoming the inclusion of that issue in the draft resolution on the comprehensive review of special political missions. He also welcomed the emphasis that the Secretary‑General places on the European Union‑United Nations partnership as key to global peace and security, stressing that partnerships must be central in efforts to serve those suffering the effects of instability, insurgencies and conflict. He expressed appreciation that the draft resolution stresses the role of regional and subregional organizations in preventing, managing and resolving conflict.
KAI SAUER (Finland), also speaking on behalf of Mexico, said that special political missions are critical assets for the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security. Given their versatility and flexibility, they can be used in different phases of conflict, from preventive measures to post‑conflict peacebuilding, he said, adding that they lie at the heart of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Emphasizing that prevention is the cornerstone of the work of the United Nations, he said that special political missions not only relieve tensions, but also help countries step back from the brink of conflict. They support national and regional efforts to build and sustain peace, for example through mediation, facilitation and good offices. Overall reform of the Organization presents an excellent opportunity to improve United Nations peace operations, particularly special political missions, he said, stressing also the significance of an inclusive approach to conflict prevention, peacebuilding and sustaining peace, as well as the need to ensure that women enjoy meaningful participation in peace processes.
GUILLERMO ROQUE FERNÁNDEZ DE SOTO VALDERRAMA (Colombia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said traditional armed conflicts have given way to international threats to peace and security that require solutions to such issues as protection of civilians, massive migration and climate change. In that context, special political missions demonstrate what can be done to address increasingly complex challenges. In September, the Security Council adopted resolution 2435 (2018) renewing the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, he recalled, noting that the deployment of a second political mission there marks a milestone. Noting that the Government of Colombian has a mandate to ensure peace at home, he said that commitment responds on a broader basis to the values of the 1991 constitution. Based on the national experience with special political missions, the structural overhaul of the United Nations must be replicated in the field, he said, adding that flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing realities on the ground are crucial. He called stressed the need for ongoing dialogue with national authorities on special political missions.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the political analysis of special political missions helps to increase their transparency and accountability. Regarding the Secretary‑General’s reforms, he agreed with the emphasis on prevention and preventative diplomacy. Concerning the funding of missions, he called for a separate account as well as access to a support account, expressing regret that discussions on funding have been stalled in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) for seven years. Noting the progress of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, he cited Argentina’s contributions and commitment to its efforts.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said that special political missions require an inclusive approach and as such, partnerships between them and regional organizations must be strengthened. Highlighting the recently concluded Joint Consultative Meeting between the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council in that context, he said regionally mandated envoys can also be used to enhance special political missions. “It is imperative that women be included in peace negotiations and also be appointed to senior leadership positions to serve as envoys,” he said, welcoming the African Union’s 2017 decision to establish the Network of African Women Mediators. Moreover, coordination with peacekeeping missions can foster a culture of prevention, laying the foundations for smoother transitions from traditional peacekeeping operations. Underscoring the need for consistent and predictable funding for special political missions, he cautioned that recent budget cuts threaten to directly affect their efficiency and implementation of their mandates. The proposal to unify the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations should allow progress on financing, he said, calling for alternative financing options and for the creation of an independent account for special political missions.
AHMED SUZIL (Maldives), noting the potential of special political missions as effective tools for preventive diplomacy, said that conflict prevention begins with an understanding of the interrelationship among very complex underlying causes. Emphasizing the importance of ensuring a mission’s relevance to the challenges prevailing in a host country, he said the principles of national ownership and sovereign integrity must be respected. Furthermore, there are many positive outcomes resulting from the inclusion of women in peace processes, and the mandates of special political missions must prioritize their meaningful participation by incorporating a gender perspective, he stressed.
DOMINIQUE FAVRE (Switzerland) said that preventing violent conflicts and sustaining peace must constitute the heart of all United Nations activities, emphasizing that special political missions play a key role in that context. Issues of peace and security can only be dealt with efficiently if they also incorporate human rights, he said, stressing that one cannot be separated from the other. The three reform processes under way will enhance mission efficiency, he said, expressing his delegation’s support for the Secretary‑General in that regard and welcoming the priority attached to conflict prevention. A tangible increase in financing for special political missions — as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in 2011 — will allow improved and streamlined management, he pointed out.
HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the value of special political missions, saying they are tailored to situations on the ground. Given the diversity of models and functions, they must avoid a single mould or “off‑the‑shelf” model, he said, adding that they must also have concrete goals and the necessary resources, while respecting the Charter principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non‑intervention in domestic affairs. Greenlighting new missions should not affect the Organization’s regular budget, he said, calling for a wide‑ranging debate on a differentiated mechanism and a separate account for such missions. Emphasizing the need for more effective, nimble and agile missions, he called for an annual report of the Secretary‑General on the issue.
EENAM GAMBHIR (India), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that, given the mounting threat posed by terrorists, it would be useful to hear a briefing from the Counter‑Terrorism Committee’s Executive Director. To ensure a comprehensive assessment, the 14 special political missions comprising Cluster II should have been included in the Secretary‑General’s report, she said. Pointing out that she and several other delegates have raised the issue of fragmentation on various occasions, she called for greater collaboration and coherence in the formulation and renewal of mandates, notably through additional interactive briefings organized by the Department of Political Affairs. It would also be useful for the Secretary‑General’s report to assess the impact of peace and security reforms on special political missions, she added. Pointing out that the report does not address the ad hoc management of budgets for special political mission, she called for a separate account, aligned with the peacekeeping budget cycle and assessed at peacekeeping scales.
LAZARUS OMBAI AMAYO (Kenya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said more can be achieved if special political missions increase their coordination and collaboration with national authorities as well as regional and subregional organizations. While commending the complementary relationship between the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in support of the political process, he said continued support for such missions requires financial and other support from Member States to ensure they fulfil their mandates efficiently. Kenya appreciates the decision by the Department of Political Affairs to enhance the standby team of conflict mediators and the determination to ensure gender and geographic representation in that context, he said. “If local capacities for conflict prevention are enhanced, including through standby mediators, comprehensive conflict prevention will be achievable,” he added.
MOHAMMAD AL‑SHALFAN (Saudi Arabia) said that, given the important role of special political missions should be promoted and strengthened. Noting that his country has been one of the main donors to humanitarian assistance efforts in Yemen, he cited its contribution of $530.4 million, among others, as proof that Saudi Arabia is in favour of restoring stability in the neighbouring country. The United Nations Charter grants regional partners a role in conflict resolution, he noted, emphasizing the need to strengthen partnerships between missions and regional organizations and calling for evaluations to gauge the effectiveness of special political missions.
EZZIDIN Y. A. BELKHEIR (Libya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed appreciation for the support special political missions provided to his country’s Government with local elections and in training citizens in various fields. Recalling that his delegation has previously expressed concern about UNSMIL leadership relying too heavily on Twitter and Facebook to express its official position on complex issues, he noted that the policy has changed. Pointing out that the crisis in Libya is primarily a security issue, he expressed satisfaction with the Mission’s efforts on security questions in parallel with political solutions. However, he expressed strong reservations about the Mission’s practice of issuing reports without coordinating with Libya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, describing that as a violation of national ownership. He also noted that a number of international organizations have acted in coordination with UNSMIL without coordinating or even notifying the Government or the Foreign Ministry. Furthermore, UNSMIL humanitarian assistance efforts should be focused on Libyan citizens first, he emphasized, noting that most of the Mission’s efforts are currently focused on illegal migrants.
MOHD SARWER BAHADURY (Afghanistan) said that UNAMA helped his country lay the foundation for lasting peace, stability and development, and to develop and strengthen a nationally‑owned democratic system. UNAMA is also coordinating international support through the co‑chair of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, he said. He went on to express appreciation for UNAMA support during the recent parliamentary elections, noting that close to 9 million Afghans registered to vote. The preventative role of special political missions must be advanced, he emphasized, calling for mandates that are more responsive to the needs and priorities of host nations. Additionally, greater efforts must be made to increase the number of women participating in peacekeeping operations, he said.
ELTON KHOETAGE HOESEB (Namibia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said armed conflict continues to cause unprecedented fatalities among innocent civilians and among the dedicated men and women serving in special political missions. Noting that it is mostly developing countries that pay the ultimate price, he said such deaths rob those countries of talented people, as well as skills and resources that could otherwise be helping them achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Highlighting the support provided by special political missions in such areas as national reconciliation and reconstruction, electoral assistance, constitution- and decision-making, as well as the rule of law, he emphasized that the United Nations and the African Union must work closely together in strategic partnerships.
FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of ensuring enhanced and predictable resources for special political missions, expressing support for the proposed creation of a separate budget account for them and reiterating the need for further discussions on financing and backstopping. He expressed regret, however, that the draft resolution before the Committee once again gives short shrift to the question of adequate resources, saying necessary budgetary provisions must be made to allow mitigation measures in high risk settings. Regarding the implications of reforming the peace and security pillar, he called for enhanced system‑wide engagement and support for the work of special political missions. Initiatives to enhance gender parity and geographic representation are also integral to reform, he stressed. He concluded by saying that his delegation will extend cooperation to the Special Envoy to Myanmar.
ELSA HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said geopolitical rivalries create serious tensions and threats such as trafficking in drugs and human beings, which are increasingly regionalized rather than confined within national borders. Prevention is an essential strategy for all work of the United Nations and the role of special political missions is critical in that regard, she said. Expressing support for regular, inclusive and interactive dialogues on overall policy matters pertaining to such missions, she also emphasized the need for them to operate under clear, credible and achievable mandates. Missions must be crafted, implemented and monitored through consultations and processes in accordance with Charter principles, particularly impartiality, respect for sovereignty and non‑interference in internal affairs, she said.
TORE HATTREM (Norway) said that special political missions are the most operational end of United Nations political efforts, noting that conflicts increasingly have a regional dimension, requiring flexible approaches suited to cross‑border issues in terms of preventative diplomacy and regional cooperation. Noting that special political missions are effective and of low cost, he said that if they are not supported properly, the result is large‑scale peace operations and humanitarian responses. Emphasizing the need for a solid foundation for mission funding, he said special political missions should be seen as part of a spectrum of peace operations. Norway supports the focus on greater coordination between missions and the Peacebuilding Commission as well as the increased attention to climate change as a driver of conflict, he said.
TATSURO TERADA (Japan) drew particular attention to special political missions — UNOWA and the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). He said that, given the large geographic areas and multidimensional issues they cover, their work cannot constitute “stand‑alone business”. Rather, it requires dynamic cooperation with other partners. The missions have taken integrated approaches in addressing stability issues, promoting a nexus between peace and security, development, human rights and humanitarian issues, he noted. Regional special political missions can also play a bridging role in successful transitions from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, he pointed out, citing the drawdown of missions in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. In those cases, UNOWA has played an important part in the transition, cooperating with country teams and regional as well as subregional organizations, he observed. Outlining challenges faced by special political missions, he said their geographical diversity necessitates tailored mandates, with focused, sequenced and achievable mandates.
KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s focus on mediation and conflict prevention in relation to special political missions, said that sustainable peace can only be achieved through broad agreements in coordination with regional organizations. Subnational and local capacities are also crucial in peace efforts, she added, emphasizing the importance of local initiatives at the grass‑roots levels. She went on to underline the need to involve women and young people, as well as moderate religious leaders, in mediation and conflict‑prevention efforts.