Views from the United Nations

Defining the Boundaries of UN Stabilization Missions

Defining the Boundaries of UN Stabilization Missions

In 2004, the United Nations (UN) Security Council authorized the first stabilization mission in Haiti. Since then, it has authorized three more in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and the Central African Republic. Yet the Security Council has never defined the term “stabilization,” explained how stabilization missions differ from other UN peace operations, or elaborated on the outcomes it expects stabilization missions to achieve. This report argues that there is no consensus as to what stabilization means, and that there is a wide gulf between understandings in New York (where it is often viewed as involving offensive military force) and in the field (where it is often viewed as civilian-led and development-focused work). In the absence of a clear definition of stabilization, it is unclear to many stakeholders whether these missions violate the core principles of peacekeeping. The lack of a definition creates a risk of unrealistic expectations for what missions will accomplish and makes it impossible to evaluate success. It can contribute to a mismatch between mission objectives and capabilities, lead to ad hoc and ineffective implementation of mandated tasks on the ground, and discourage countries from authorizing or contributing troops to these missions. Recognizing these problems, the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations declared last year that “the usage of this term by the United Nations requires clarification.” Drawing on understandings of stabilization in concept and in practice, this report proposes a new definition of stabilization in the context of UN peacekeeping: supporting the transfer of territorial control from spoilers to legitimate authorities. This definition, unlike others proposed, is consistent with the mandates and activities of... read more
Has UN Peacekeeping Become More Deadly? Analyzing Trends in UN Fatalities

Has UN Peacekeeping Become More Deadly? Analyzing Trends in UN Fatalities

Has UN Peacekeeping Become More Deadly? Analyzing Trends in UN Fatalities by Marina E. Henke is the 14th paper in the Providing for Peacekeeping Series. How deadly is UN peacekeeping? Have UN peacekeeping fatalities increased over the past decades? Those who have attempted to answer these questions differ drastically in their assessments, in part due to the dearth of data and the variety of calculation methods employed. In order to fix some of these shortcomings and take a fresh look at these questions, this report analyzes trends in UN peacekeeping fatalities using a new dataset compiled by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. As a result of the new data employed and methodological innovations, this report constitutes the most detailed study of UN fatality trends thus far. The analysis reveals that overall UN fatalities are not substantively on the rise. Indeed, total fatality ratios are declining. Nevertheless, this decline does not equally apply to all types of UN fatalities; there is strong evidence that UN fatalities due to illness are on the rise. While these findings are important, further research is needed to adequately examine whether UN peacekeeping missions have become more dangerous in recent years. Read the paper... read more
Waging Peace: UN Peace Operations Confronting Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Waging Peace: UN Peace Operations Confronting Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Of the eleven countries most affected by terrorism globally, seven currently host UN peace operations. In countries affected by terrorism and violent extremism, peace operations will increasingly be called upon to adapt their approaches without compromising UN doctrine. But to date, there has been little exploration of the broader political and practical challenges, opportunities, and risks facing UN peace operations in complex security environments. This has created a gap between the policy debate in New York and the realities confronting UN staff on the ground. This policy paper aims to bridge this gap by examining the recent drive to integrate counterterrorism (CT) and preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) into relevant activities of UN peace operations, as well as the associated challenges and opportunities. It seeks to expand the scope of discussions beyond whether peace operations can “do CT” to how they can better support national governments and local communities in preventing terrorism and violent extremism. Based on extensive conversations with UN officials, member state representatives, and practitioners, the paper offers a number of recommendations. At the level of headquarters, the UN should: Improve its capacity to analyze and respond to the factors and grievances leading to radicalization and violence; Enhance system-wide dialogue, coherence, and policy guidance; and Prioritize objectives and capacities related to CT and P/CVE in mission mandates. To make field missions more effective, the UN should: Preserve and expand the space for dialogue with all parties; Enhance capacity for early warning and response; Integrate CT and P/CVE into compacts with host governments where relevant; Enhance mission engagement with civil society, women, and youth; Design integrated strategies... read more
Unarmed Civilian Protection: The Methodology and Its Relevance for Norwegian Church-Based Organizations and Their Partners

Unarmed Civilian Protection: The Methodology and Its Relevance for Norwegian Church-Based Organizations and Their Partners

Executive Summary Unarmed civilian protection (UCP) is one of the most effective responses there is to one of the greatest, consistent challenges of our time: The killing of civilians in warfare. As opposed to other approaches to reconciliation and peaceful resolution to conflict which indirectly target violence, UCP is directly aimed at stopping violence. Simply through being present, and through using their presence strategically, international civilians deter violence, protect local civilians and support the efforts of the locals to protect themselves and plan for a peaceful future. The most utilized element of UCP is accompaniment. Results from accompaniment and other UCP methods include significant drops in gender based violence, locally facilitated peace agreements or ceasefires, reduced levels of violence in camps for internally displaced people, reduced levels of humiliation of civilians at military check-points, an increase in children’s access to education, an increase in access to health care, accurate and timely information delivered to key humanitarian actors, and multinational companies pulling out of investments that cause breaches of human rights law. The main actors in the accompaniment and UCP field of work utilize a variety of means to protect civilians. The means include protective presence, monitoring and documenting, internationalizing local abuse, building relationships with all stakeholders, building and supporting local civic capacities, and facilitating dialogue. Accompaniers and protection officers create spaces where local actors themselves can find the best approaches to peace. UCP is especially relevant for the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. If the excruciating needs in conflict-affected areas are to be met, it is time to spend more energy on the women who suffer from violence... read more
UN Secretary-General Press Release

UN Secretary-General Press Release

I thank the President of the General Assembly for bringing us together for an especially timely debate on how best to strengthen United Nations peace operations.

In recent years, all of us have grown deeply concerned about the escalating challenges confronting UN peace operations — both peacekeeping and special political missions.

One year ago today, I appointed an eminent panel to assess our operations and suggest ways to meet these tests.

President Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste, with wide-ranging national and UN experience, was uniquely suited to lead this effort. Ms. Ameerah Haq, who served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and also as Vice Chair of this panel, has also had extensive exposure to the realities the United Nations faces in the field. I am very pleased that both are with us today.

The task was ambitious and the time was short. Yet the Panel delivered a report that was wise and bold, and reflects the results of consultations with diverse stakeholders in every region of the world.

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Remarks by the President of the General Assembly on the HIPPO-implementation report of the Secretary-General

Remarks by the President of the General Assembly on the HIPPO-implementation report of the Secretary-General

Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

Peace operations are at the heart of UN’s global engagement. They are among the major innovations since the UN’s inception which have enabled this Organisation to better fulfil its mandate and have contributed greatly to peace and security in our world.

But peace operations, like any tool, are in constant need of refinement. Evolving challenges and threats to international peace and security make it necessary for the UN to strengthen its role, capacity and efficiency and more particularly the effectiveness of field operations.

Today’s debate is both necessary and timely. The dramatic global refugee crisis and the other humanitarian as well as security dimensions of ongoing crises, demonstrate just how complex today’s conflicts have become.

In light of these new realities, we must review our practices and instruments, how we approach policy and operational questions, and how we address budgetary and management issues.

I therefore commend the Secretary-General for having taken the initiative to launch this review. The high-level independent panel on peace operations consulted widely and their work resulted in a number of concrete recommendations. Subsequently, member states have received the Secretary General’s implementation report.

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Sustaining Peace as the Ultimate Goal: Q&A with ASG Oscar Fernandez-Taranco

Sustaining Peace as the Ultimate Goal: Q&A with ASG Oscar Fernandez-Taranco

Peacebuilding is not an afterthought, but a core task for the United Nations. It will require a “significant change in mindset” to place peacebuilding at the center of the UN’s conflict responses, according to Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Peacebuilding Support.

Speaking with International Peace Institute Senior Policy Analyst Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Fernandez-Taranco reflected on the recent report of the Advisory Group of Experts for the 2015 Review of UN Peacebuilding. The report coined a new term, “sustaining peace,” to call for a coherent approach to peacebuilding and “as a reminder of the UN’s original peace and security goal,” he said.

Fernandez-Taranco highlighted the increasingly complex and protracted nature of conflict today. A key dilemma for the UN, he said, is “constantly addressing immediate and short-term responses,” even though many crises require a longer-term vision. He said that uniting the UN’s work under the concept of “sustaining peace” can help ensure a more strategic response to address these challenges. This will require that UN actors overcome fragmentation, and coordinate their responses across various departments and between headquarters and field operations.

Fernandez-Taranco believes that peacebuilding can play this uniting role: “Peacebuilding should be seen as a thread that runs through the whole conflict cycle, focusing the attention of everybody on the ultimate goal, which is sustainable peace.”

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