NO CAVEATS, PLEASE?: BREAKING A MYTH IN UN PEACE OPERATIONS

For years, the UN Secretariat said caveats were not allowed in peacekeeping operations. Mentioning them was a kind of “taboo”. They existed on the ground but were rarely acknowledged at the political level in New York. But when operations faced a crisis and troops needed to take more risks than usual, the hitherto hidden restrictions quickly appeared, creating obvious command and control issues. Unfortunately, with peacekeeping operations now facing increasingly challenging environments, contingents refusing to follow orders, or waiting for their national authorities to confirm or countermand orders received from the UN mission’s authorities, has become the norm rather than the exception. Should we condemn this or understand the reasons why UN missions are facing such situations? It is time to stop lamenting that caveats exist and try to better learn how to manage them. CAVEATS ARE CAUSING INCREASING CONCERN In June 2015, the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) report recognized that “the ability of field commanders to ensure performance is severely hampered by caveats and national controls”. The report’s language was strong and it said that after deployment “any further caveats beyond those national constraints accepted at the outset, cannot be condoned”. Undeclared national restrictions, it stated “should be treated as disobedience of lawful command”. The September 2015 Secretary-General’s report on The future of United Nations peace operations called on every contributor to communicate during negotiations over possible deployment those national caveats that would apply to their military or police contingents. The UN Secretariat would take these caveats into account, including whether to proceed with deployment. “Additional caveats beyond those explicitly agreed by the Secretariat cannot...

Capacity to Protect Civilians: Rhetoric or Reality?

After the experiences of Rwanda and Srebrenica in the 1990’s, and the United Nations (UN) failure to act, the protection of civilians (POC) has taken an increasingly prominent role in international peace operations. The first mission to be mandated with an explicit POC-mandate was the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNASIL) in 1999. While the emphasis on POC may initially have been met with reluctance, both from traditional Troop and Police Contributing Countries (T/PCCs) and from within the system, the concept has increasingly taken a central role in UN peace operations after the presentation of the milestone Brahimi Report in 2000. More than 98 percent of military and police personnel currently deployed in peace operations have a mandate to protect civilians, as part of integrated missionwide efforts. This policy brief focuses on the UN’s protection capacities, asking what this implies for civilians in the countries where the organization operates. This is related to capacity- and institution-building in host nations, in particular in the security sector. The policy brief provides a short overview of the implementation of POC-mandates in UN peace operations drawing upon the author’s experience from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) between 2011-2014 first, with a particular focus on the capacity to protect through non-military means, and second, on the capacity to provide physical protection. Third, the responsibility of the host government is elaborated upon, ending with some concluding remarks on what the next steps should be in order to further enhance the UN’s capacity to protect civilians. Download the policy brief here. The policy brief was originally written as a background paper for the Challenges Annual Forum 2015 on...

Preventing Conflicts, Building Durable Peace

This is an excerpt from the The Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture held by Jose Ramos-Horta at Uppsala University, Sweden on November 3rd. (…) Your Royal Highness, Rector Magnifica, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dag Hammarskjold was an Aristocrat. I am not. I come from a very different background; I grew up in places like Laklubar, Barike, Atsabe, Laga…as poor and as remote, forgotten, as any village anywhere in the world can be. As a child I was mostly barefoot; I got my first pair of shoes for Christmas of 1957 and as I didn’t want it to be worn out too quickly, I wore it only once for the midnight Christmas mass; after the mass I carefully put it away saving it for the next Christmas. Every once in a while I would pull out my cherished shoes, looked at them lovingly and day dream about next Christmas when I could proudly wear them again. And when the next Christmas did arrive…to my utter shock my feet no longer fit in those shoes; I was puzzled how those shoes had shrunk. I had never seen a car until one day by act of God a beaten truck arrived in our village bringing some supplies for the lonely Chinese shop owner; the arrival of the old truck was cause for celebration. Children and adults, we were all in awe. Fast forward 20 years and I found myself in New York. Between 1975 and the late 80’s, I lived in New York and to survive I did occasional menial work, including as a helper in a small Chinese take-away food business. My first engagements with...

Tackling the Peace Operations Dilemma: Q&A with José Ramos-Horta

Warren Hoge, Senior Adviser for External Relations at the International Peace Institute, interviewed Chair of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, José Ramos-Horta, on his views on the way forward for UN Peace Operations. The United Nations must strengthen relationships with regional organizations such as the African Union in peace operations and seek to remain neutral in responding to increasingly complex crises, according to José Ramos-Horta, head of the recent UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO). HIPPO released a report containing more than 100 recommendations for reforming UN peace operations in June this year, with a Secretary-General’s response following in September. Both the HIPPO and Secretary-General’s reports advocated a cautious approach to the use of force in peace operations, but Mr. Ramos Horta admitted there were difficulties in implementing this when UN missions were increasingly deployed to unstable environments. “It’s extremely dangerous for the UN and there are no easy answers, obviously, to this dilemma,” he said in an interview with International Peace Institute Senior Adviser Warren Hoge. Nonetheless, Mr. Ramos Horta said the UN cannot be seen to be a party to conflicts, because it would lose credibility and authority and become unable to exercise a mediation role. “So there has to be a strong resistance on the part of the Secretariat and the Secretary-General to demands from the Security Council for intervention in areas that are very volatile, complex and where you have a mixture of terrorism, extremism, etc.” he said. The HIPPO report recommended the UN remain committed to the “primacy of politics” and to putting more emphasis on prevention mechanisms and mediation, which...

A Background to the Report of the High-Level Panel on Peace Operations

Global Peace Operations Review, Center on International Cooperation (CIC) A Background to the Report of the High-Level Panel on Peace Operations By Jean Arnault August 6, 2015 The HIPPO-report can better be understood by placing it within its historical context, and comparing it to the previous attempts to review peace operations, the Agenda for Peace (1992) and the Brahimi report (2000). The three reports present different perspectives on three key issues: the use of force and the principles of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and the challenge of having no peace to keep. While the issues covered in the Brahimi and HIPPO-reports are “strikingly similar”, the more cautious approach considered in the 1992-report serves to a larger extent as a frame of reference: Robust mandates are in some cases necessary, but must be treated with care. The importance of accommodating the centrality of negotiated political solutions to internal conflicts is the key concern of the HIPPO-report, both to strategic and practical reasons: A new multi-actors response is needed as UN peacekeeping cannot be a substitute to the creation of a “global-regional peace and security framework”. Read more   Jean Arnault (France) Most recently, Mr. Arnault has been a professor at Sciences Po Paris focusing on mediation and settlement of civil wars. He previously served as United Nations Special Adviser to the Group of Friends of Democratic Pakistan; Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG); Special Representative of the Secretary General in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA); Representative of the Secretary General for Burundi and Head of the United Nations Office in Burundi...
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