Top Officials Highlight Progress of United Nations African Union Partnership, as Fourth Committee Starts General Debate on Peacekeeping Operations

Delegates Urge Greater Female Participation, while Expressing Alarm over Liquidity, 'Worst Financial Crisis' in Recent Memory

Highlighting the Organization's developing partnership with the African Union today, senior United Nations officials also described the progress achieved in terms of the security of peacekeepers and gender parity, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its annual review of all aspects of peacekeeping operations.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under Secretary General for Peace Operations, noted that the developing United Nations African Union partnership represents a top priority for both organizations, pointing out that the collaboration enabled encouraging progress with the peace agreement in the Central African Republic. And on 6 December, the Secretary General signed a joint declaration on cooperation for peace operations with the Chairperson of the African Union, he recalled.

He went on to report progress on the implementation of the Action Plan on the Security of United Nations Peacekeepers, saying it involves implementing solutions in such areas as base defence, force protection, enhancing mobility and flexibility, integrated trauma care and integrated operations planning. Moreover, there has been significant progress in terms of gender parity, he said, citing women's participation in the Central African Republic peace process for the first time. Also, the percentage of deployed women peacekeepers rose from 3.6 per cent in January 2018 to 4.5 per cent today, he noted, adding that among female staff officers and military experts, that figure rose from 8.1 to 15.3 per cent over the same period.

Atul Khare, Under Secretary General for Operational Support, also highlighted regional partnerships, noting that his Department continues to implement its knowledge and expertise and exchange programme, which enables the exchange of experts and leaders between the United Nations and the African Union to enhance the planning of peace support operations. He also outlined several of the 50 ongoing initiatives undertaken through the Secretary General's Action for Peacekeeping reform agenda. To enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers, the Department has focused on improving medical training and field support, including by developing tools to help identify challenges in hospital performance, and demonstrating best practices, he said.

Catherine Pollard, Under Secretary General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, recalled that her Department was launched in January to help implement the Secretary General's vision for a nimbler and more responsive United Nations by shifting to a decentralized management paradigm at the Secretariat. The Department works with peacekeeping leadership to develop strategic, realistic financing proposals that allow field missions to deliver on their mandates, she added.

At the outset of the general debate, Morocco's representative spoke on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, urging the Secretariat to fulfil its financial responsibilities to troop and police contributing countries in a timely manner. He went on to underline the need for greater coherence between mandates and resources to ensure the success of peacekeeping missions. As for cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations, he called upon the Organization to provide the regional body with consistent and predictable funding.

In a similar vein, Canada's representative expressed concern over the worst financial crisis in recent memory affecting the United Nations. Speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, he said those States contributing troops, police and equipment to peace operations are often the first victims of arrears and liquidity problems. He went on to underline that Canada, Australia and New Zealand pay their contributions in full, on time and without conditions, calling upon all other Member States to do the same.

Indonesia's representative spoke on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), emphasizing the bloc's commitment to increasing its contributions towards women's participation in United Nations peacekeeping. More than 4,500 police, military advisers and troops from ASEAN countries are deployed to 12 United Nations peace operations, he noted. Moreover, Indonesia now has 121 female peacekeepers in eight missions, he added, noting that his country is one of the world's largest contributors of peacekeeping troops and police.

Also speaking today were representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Singapore, Thailand, Mexico, Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia and Japan.

An observer for the European Union delegation also addressed the Committee.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 November, to continue its general debate on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

Opening Statements

JEAN PIERRE LACROIX, Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the proliferation of non State armed groups in peacekeeping settings as well as the unchecked spread of weapons and the regionalization of conflict continue to complicate the quest for peace. Describing recent successes, he recalled that the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) engaged with all political actors during the tense climate of elections in December 2018, thereby helping to create the conditions for that country's first peaceful handover of presidential power in its history. Through sustained engagement by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 14 armed groups were encouraged to sign a peace agreement in February 2019, he said, adding that levels of violence in the Central African Republic have dropped markedly in the months since, with civilian casualties falling by 60 per cent.

Noting that missions regularly undergo strategic reviews and assessments, he said the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) established and expanded its integrated strategic planning unit, bringing together civilian, military and police planners alongside finance and budget staff. That action has improved the Mission's ability to analyse, plan and articulate a clear vision for fulfilling its mandate, he said. Emphasizing that the end of a mission's lifecycle is a crucial moment, he said it can provide opportunities when the transition process is carried out in an integrated manner. Citing the African Union United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) as an example, he said its engagement is being recalibrated from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, emphasizing that strong engagement is maintained with national actors in all such cases, as in Liberia and the Central African Republic.

He went on to state that the developing partnership between the United Nations and the African Union represents a top priority for both organizations. In the Central African Republic, the collaboration enabled encouraging progress with the peace agreement, and on 6 December, the Secretary General signed a joint declaration on cooperation for peace operations with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, he recalled. In Mali and the Sahel, MINUSMA continues to deliver essential support to the G-5 Sahel thanks to funding from the European Union, while in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA works with the African Union to help make the Special Criminal Court operational, he said, adding that Mission specific cooperation was strengthened through joint high level visits by the European Union and the United Nations to both missions in 2019.

Reporting progress on the implementation of the Action Plan on the Security of United Nations Peacekeepers, he said it involves implementing solutions in such areas as base defence, force protection, enhancing mobility and flexibility, integrated trauma care and integrated operations planning. A comprehensive performance assessment system was rolled out in six missions during 2019 and all peacekeeping operations will adopt it by July 2020, he said. Since January 2018, the Department of Peace Operations has conducted 19 enhanced pre deployment visits, which led to significant improvements in operational readiness. Such assessments have contributed to targeted engagement with Member States, including the implementation of remedial measures where needed, he said. The Department has been working to roll out or update guidance in many fields, such as weapons and ammunition policy and the Military Peacekeeping Intelligence Handbook. Through such guidance, peacekeepers have clear frameworks when preparing for and performing their duties and can have a better impact on the ground, he said.

In addition, the systematic assessment of uniformed components underpins the Light Coordination Mechanism, which facilitates training partnerships and improves performance through bilateral training, he continued. As a result, two Member States deployed mobile teams to five contributors of personnel to MINUSMA for training on improvised explosive devices, he reported, noting out that the ability of that Mission's troops to detect such devices before detonation increased from 11 per cent in 2014 to higher than 50 per cent of the devices found in 2018. Concerning protection, he said MONUSCO launched a plan to protect women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adding that significant progress was also achieved in terms of gender parity, with women participating in the peace process in the Central African Republic for the first time. The revitalized peace agreement in South Sudan included provisions on gender issues and women were represented at a rate of 35 per cent in governance structures, he reported. Moreover, the percentage of deployed women peacekeepers rose from 3.6 per cent in January 2018 to 4.5 per cent today. Among female staff officers and military experts, that figure rose from 8.1 to 15.3 per cent over the same period. He went on to point out that the number of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse appears to be decreasing in peacekeeping. Observing that peacekeeping requires collective effort, he called upon Member States to endorse the Action for Peace Declaration.

ATUL KHARE, Under Secretary General for Operational Support, outlined several of the 50 ongoing initiatives undertaken through the Secretary General's Action for Peacekeeping reform agenda, noting that, in order to improve performance, the Department of Operational Support is implementing an executive governance and resource stewardship programme in peacekeeping operations that will provide senior leadership with the tools and support they need to improve organizational management and the use of United Nations resources. The Department is also developing a new mentorship programme to improve the performance of managers handling support functions in the field, he added.

New levels of collaboration between supply chain planners in the Department and client entities have eliminated waste and improved support, he continued, citing the success of the Global Peacekeeping Supply Chain Plan and the establishment of the Uniformed Capabilities Support Division as the single administrative entry point for troop and police contributing countries as well as field missions. To enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers, the Department has focused on improving medical training and field support, including by developing tools to help identify challenges in hospital performance, demonstrating best practices, and implementing tele health and telemedicine technologies. Additionally, the Department has rolled out a wide range of medical training courses covering all aspects, from first aid to training the next generation of trainers and medical assistants, he said.

Recalling that four health risk assessments in high risk missions provided recommendations for leadership, he went on to outline efforts to improve occupational safety while addressing health hazards, accidents and illness, he reported, citing research that indicates peacekeeping fatalities caused by such factors far outnumber those due to malicious or violent acts. Turning to partnership efforts involving the Secretariat, troop and police contributing countries and Member States, he reported that, through the Triangular Partnership Project, the Department has made notable progress in enhancing the engineering and signals capacities of uniformed peacekeepers and is taking concrete measures to expand triangular partnership arrangements to include new geographic areas. He went on to highlight partnerships with regional organizations, saying the Department is continuing to implement its knowledge and expertise and exchange programme, which enables the exchange of experts and leaders between the United Nations and the African Union so as to enhance the planning of peace support operations.

CATHERINE POLLARD, Under Secretary General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, recalled that her Department was launched in January to help implement the Secretary General's vision for a nimbler and more responsive United Nations by shifting to a decentralized management paradigm at the Secretariat. A key pillar of its work is managing the accountability framework for delegated authority, she said, adding that the framework emphasizes transparency, simplification, decentralized decision making that is closer to the mandate and programme delivery. A new accountability mechanism requires decision makers to comply with ethical standards and monitors 16 key performance indicators, she said, adding that a broader performance management framework allows staff to develop annual workplans, set and adjust goals and receive annual evaluations.

Turning to the resourcing of peacekeeping operations, she said the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance works with peacekeeping leadership to develop strategic, realistic financing proposals that allow field missions to deliver on their mandates. It also provides tailored policy and management strategies to address unique field requirements. Regarding conduct and discipline, she said the Department now has oversight over those functions across the global Secretariat and the goal is to forge an integrated, Secretariat wide approach to upholding standards of conduct by all personnel, including both civilian and uniformed staff. In that regard, the Department has reviewed individual misconduct cases of United Nations personnel, including by taking the lead on high profile sexual exploitation and abuse cases, she reported. On advancement of the women, peace and security agenda and gender parity in peacekeeping, she said her Department has worked to accelerate emergency measures to increase parity among civilian personnel assigned to missions.

General Debate

YASSER HALFAOUI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, said improving performance is a shared responsibility requiring a clear and adequately resourced mandate. In that regard, stakeholders must be responsive to concerns coming in from the field, he emphasized. Performance assessment cannot be seen in isolation but must be considered in the unique context of each mission, he added. There must be consensus among Member States on developing peacekeeping policies, he emphasized, calling upon the Secretariat to refrain from implementing policy that has not yet been agreed. Reaffirming the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non intervention in domestic matters, he stressed decisions on troop adjustments must not be taken unilaterally, warning that such violations could lead to entrenched politicization within the United Nations system. Urging the Secretariat to fulfil its financial responsibilities to troop and police contributing countries in a timely manner, he underlined the need for greater coherence between mandates and resources to ensure the success of peacekeeping missions. Regarding the safety of United Nations personnel, he emphasized the importance of appropriate training, updated training materials and adequate medical resources in the field. Noting that stressful conditions also have an impact on the health of peacekeepers, he said the Non Aligned Movement favours maintaining a database of case studies on various scenarios for training purposes. Furthermore, peacekeeping missions must find new ways to eliminate their environmental footprints. As for cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations, he called upon the Organization to provide consistent and predictable funding to the regional organization.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that peacekeeping operations came at a great cost, particularly to peacekeepers, citing as one such tragedy, the death in February of his countryman, Clive Peck, a United Nations staff member killed in Benghazi, Libya. Recalling CARICOM's extensive past contributions to global peacekeeping efforts, he said they affirm the importance that the regional organization places on effectuating the difficult transition from conflict to peace. The grouping continues to offer support to peacekeeping missions across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, he noted. Turning to the situation in Haiti, a small island developing State, he welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 2476 (2019), creating the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) in succession to the recently concluded United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) for an initial one year period. CARICOM equally supports the Security Council's request that a special representative head BINUH, with responsibility for advising the Government of Haiti. He went on to emphasize the need for active participation in peacekeeping by women and called upon the Department of Peace Operations to continue to strengthen its efforts in that regard, including by increasing the number of deployed female officers. Turning to the 10 year review of the peacebuilding architecture, he called for close coordination among the latter, the Department of Peace Operations as well as United Nations funds and programmes, stressing that they must work in close partnership with national authorities.

MOHAMMAD K. KOBA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement, said the regional body is fully committed to reform of the peace and security pillar of the United Nations. The endorsement of the Declaration of Share Commitment by 154 countries demonstrates the near universal support for the reform initiative, he added. ASEAN welcomes greater engagement with the United Nations in analysing and planning United Nations peace operations and, in the context of the Plan of Action, in implementing the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations 2016 2020, he said. Noting the importance of early and inclusive consultations among the Council, the Secretariat, relevant troop and police contributing countries, regional actors and host countries, he said those actors can work together to draft, review and adjust peacekeeping mandates and work on strategic and political matters affecting the missions. He went on to emphasize ASEAN's commitment to increasing its contribution towards women's participation in United Nations peacekeeping, pointing out that more than 4,500 police, military advisers and troops from ASEAN countries are contributing to 12 United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Speaking in his national capacity, he said peacekeepers require operational, financial, political and training support, adding that his country is ready to work with others and the United Nations in providing state of the art training, including the use of its Peacekeeping Training Centre in Sentul. Women's participation in peacekeeping must be increased because women add value to peace processes in general, he said, emphasizing that Indonesia is proud that it now has 121 female peacekeepers in eight missions and wishes to increase that number. As one of the world's largest troop and police contributing countries, Indonesia is fully determined to play its role in strengthening United Nations peacekeeping, he said.

RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada), also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, said that, having visited the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), he was encouraged to see the Comprehensive Performance and Assessment System implemented in both. Mission enhancement includes addressing cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, an egregious betrayal of trust that requires strengthening of the United Nations zero tolerance policy, he emphasized. The United Nations must also continue to deepen its partnerships with regional organizations such as the African Union, he said, explaining that the latter enjoys a better understanding of the site specific context of peace operations. He went on to underline that the attainment of sustainable and inclusive peace is impossible without full and effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, while expressing concern over the worst financial crisis in recent memory affecting the United Nations. Noting that those contributing troops, police and equipment to peacekeeping operations are often the first victims of arrears and liquidity problems, he underlined that Canada, Australia and New Zealand pay their contributions in full, on time and unconditionally, calling upon all other Member States to do the same.

GUILLAUME DABOUIS, European Union delegation, said that working with and supporting the United Nations is the best way to serve the collective interests of peace, security and global stability, adding that the bloc's member States all joined the Action for Peacekeeping initiative. Concerning the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, he said the European Union looks forward to its work during the course of 2020 on the basis of the revised structure of its annual report. Describing the European Union United Nations partnership as key to global peace and security, he noted that they are working to strengthen implementation of the women, peace and security agenda and have agreed to ensure that a conflict prevention lens is applied across priority areas, since prevention and mediation are essential and cost effective in finding political solutions to conflicts. He went on to emphasize the link between mandate delivery and adequate financial resources, urging Member States to pay their contributions in full, in a timely manner and without conditions, for both the regular and peacekeeping budgets. Stressing that the protection of civilians must be at the core of peacekeeping mandates, he said the European Union attaches great importance to child protection mandates, including the deployment of child protection focal points and civilian child protection advisers. Children associated with armed forces and groups must be treated as victims, he added. Member States should actively strive to improve the gender balance in all components of peacekeeping operations, he said, adding that the European Union continues to support adequate financing of gender expertise in peace operations. As for pre deployment training, he said the request for adequate training certificates is a step in the right direction. He went on to call for a better definition of the role of regional organizations within United Nations led interventions, such as European Union Training and Capacity Building Missions and Operations, pointing out that the bloc also continues to support the development of African peace capacities.

CHARISSA SEAH (Singapore), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non Aligned Movement, said her country has deployed more than 2,000 military and peace personnel to peacekeeping and observer missions since 1989. Additionally, Singapore supports other multinational peace efforts, including the Combined Maritime Task Force combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden, she noted. The Notification of Casualties software application, on which Singapore collaborated with the Departments of Peace Operations and Operational Support, has become operational across all United Nations peace missions to enhance the efficiency of their casualty reporting, she said, adding that, at the regional level, Singapore is an active member of multilateral regional security forums that play an important role in promoting peace and stability.

CHUMPHOT NURAKKATE (Thailand), associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement and ASEAN, highlighted the cross cutting nature of peacekeeping, reiterating the need to improve cross pillar coordination. Underscoring the role of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations as the only body with the mandate to discuss peacekeeping policymaking, he described its inability to produce a substantive report in 2019 as troubling. He went on to underline the importance of investing in sustaining peace, peacebuilding and development, pointing out that peace is intrinsically linked with sustainable development and respect for human rights. A comprehensive and people centred approach to peacekeeping is, therefore, imperative, he said. Emphasizing the importance of sufficient financing of peace operations, investing in adequate pre deployment preparation and in the ability of women to participate in the field, he called upon stakeholders to eliminate barriers to women's recruitment, pointing out that women make up 30 per cent of Thailand's military and police personnel serving in UNMISS, UNAMID and the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

MARA�A ANTONIETA SOCORRO JA�QUEZ HUACUJA (Mexico) said reforms have contributed to the development of a new concept of peacekeeping and increased the adaptability of operations so that they are better able to respond to modern conflicts. Describing peace operations as one of the most complete responses of multilateralism, she said such cooperation implies the shared commitment of all stakeholders. Peace operations face asymmetric threats and must therefore have clearly defined mandates and realistic resources to meet their goals, she said, emphasizing that it is crucial to include peacebuilding tasks into initial peacekeeping mandates. Concerning the inclusion of the gender perspective in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, she reported that Mexico has been able to meet the requirement of 15 per cent recruitment of women personnel and plans to increase female participation further.

ALEJANDRO GUILLERMO VERDIER (Argentina), noting that his country has provided peacekeepers for the past 60 years, called for peacekeeping to employ a holistic approach in order to be sustainable and effective. Emphasizing the importance of the women, peace and security agenda, he also reaffirmed the support of the Government of Argentina for the zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. He said peacekeeping missions should be more flexible, working in cooperation with host States and receiving all necessary financial resources. Calling for new ideas and alternatives, he said the Peacebuilding Commission should have a permanent role in decision making, he said, urging renewed support for focused approaches to conflict prevention, mediation and preventive diplomacy. Expressing regret that the Special Committee was unable to produce a substantive report in 2019, he called upon Member States to ensure it remains a critical part of United Nations peacekeeping.

GOLAM FARUK KHANDAKAR PRINCE (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement, called for a specific institutional mechanism within the United Nations system for informed and regular dialogue among all stakeholders. Fatalities among peacekeepers continue to remain unacceptably high, he emphasized, expressing support for putting that issue high on the agenda of the 2021 Peacekeeping Ministerial Conference. Member States in a position to provide resources and specialized equipment and training must come forward with an unequivocal commitment to enhancing situational awareness, access, agility and peacekeeper performance, he emphasized. It is crucial that objective assessments of political processes guide the design and review of peacekeeping mandates, he said, stressing also that the performance of peacekeepers cannot be considered in isolation from fundamental questions of needs based, predictable resourcing. He went on to report that Bangladesh is working closely with partners in the Elsie Initiative steering committee to remove barriers from and incentivize increased participation by female peacekeepers.

FRANCISCO JAVIER GUTIA�RREZ PLATA (Colombia) said the United Nations has an essential responsibility, starting with the initial conception of mandates, which must be clear, specific and based on feasible, concrete results. Emphasizing that peace operations cannot be deployed in place of State responsibility, he said they must be based on legitimacy. During the development of peace operations, priority must be given to formulating strategies to prevent the escalation of conflict, he said, stressing in that regard, the need for ongoing dialogue involving the host State, the United Nations and the relevant regional organizations as well as troop contributing countries. Such exchanges are essential in responding effectively to security risks confronting United Nations personnel and civilians, he said. As a troop contributing country, Colombia has offered its support and offered to share best practices with other Member States since 2006, he said.

HIROYUKI NAMAZU (Japan) said the past year has witnessed positive elements, including increased female participation in peacekeeping based on the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy. However, negative occurrences included 80 peacekeepers losing their lives in the first nine months of 2019, he noted. Describing the security environment faced by peacekeepers as increasingly volatile, he noted that they are targeted for malicious actions, suffering injury or illness while executing their duties. Japan welcomes efforts by the Secretariat to improve medical care, he said, including the United Nations Buddy First Aid course launched in 2018. He also noted the successful completion of the United Nations Field Medical Assistance course in Uganda, which provided 29 MONUSCO and UNMISS peacekeepers with the necessary skills to provide pre hospital medical care, he noted, encouraging troop and police contributing States to send trainees to the programme. Highlighting the role of mission leadership, he noted the growing responsibilities in areas including support for political solutions, integrated planning and gender equality and empowerment. The importance of leadership training is growing in accordance with these trends, he emphasized.

Source: United Nations

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