One of the current main shortcomings of UN peace operations is the authorization of mandates that are not fully implemented. While sometimes this happens because of the emergence of unpredictable external factors, it is common to see mandates whose implementation is hindered by insufficient planning or operationally unrealistic recommendations in the first place. Examples of this disconnect include the limited success of the inter-mission cooperation arrangements to provide the UN Mission in South Sudan with additional troops after the crisis in December 2013; the sluggish pace in which the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali has been deployed (a year and a half since its establishment, MINUSMA has yet to reach its full operational capacity); and the difficulties in ensuring that the re-hatted contingents in Central African Republic or Mali meet UN standards in terms of equipment and capacity. While the Security Council is ultimately responsible for issuing these decisions, the mandates are usually adopted following specific recommendations provided by the Secretary-General.
These operational inadequacies do not only hinder the implementation of specific Council mandates but more broadly, risk delegitimizing the UN’s involvement in such critical moments. In this context, it might be useful for the Panel to examine the potential of the Military Staff Committee (MSC) for providing advice on the military requirements of UN peace operations. The current pool of military advisors to the Council’s permanent representatives is a hugely underutilized resource. While largely dormant since its inception in the UN Charter, over the past couple of years the MSC has been holding regular substantive meetings, has undertaken a recent field mission and it has informally involved the military advisors of the ten elected members in its activities. The Panel may wish to look at the MSC as a tool that could provide a space where military planning developed by the Secretariat is given due consideration prior to the Council’s strategic decisions.
Developing a more reliable and accountable system of UN peace operations will serve better the needs of the populations they strive to serve and will be instrumental in encouraging the involvement of new actors to consider providing troops. That will also contribute to minimizing caveats and operational limitations which new troop- and police-contributing countries might have when deployed in new theatres.