"This collective endeavour, which embodies the values of multilateralism and cooperation, saves thousands of lives every year." - Jean-Yves Le Drian, March 29, 2019
Peacekeeping operations (PKOs) are the United Nation’s most visible activities. They are vital to the peaceful resolution of conflicts worldwide. France makes an enormous contribution to PKOs. With threats to peace in the world proliferating and crises growing increasingly complex, France hopes to expand, reform and modernize PKOs to make them better suited to 21st-century conflicts.
- 1. Peacekeeping operations, central to France’s efforts to promote international peace and security
- 2. Reform of peacekeeping operations to take the complexity of crises into account: one of France’s priorities at the UN
- Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations - 6 November 2019
- © UN Photo/Manuel Elias
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations – headed by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, – currently deploys 12 peacekeeping operations, seven of which are in Africa. Since its establishment in 1948, 71 operations have been deployed worldwide.
With threats to peace around the world proliferating, the number of peacekeeping forces has increased significantly: while there were some 12,000 peacekeepers in 1996 and 20,000 in 2000, that number has risen to more than 95,000 in 2021.
The largest missions (in terms of total personnel deployed, including military, police and civilian personnel) are:
UNMISS in South Sudan, with 18,046;
MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with some 16,537;
MINUSMA in Mali, with 15,207;
MINUSCA in the Central African Republic, with 14,293.
The provision of PKO troops depends entirely on the generosity of Member States. In 2020, 122 Member States contributed to PKO forces.
With 1,017 peacekeepers deployed worldwide in 5 PKOs, France is the second-largest supplier of troops among the five permanent members of the Security Council. Several thousand French soldiers are also deployed on a national basis and provide daily support to peacekeeping operations.
France is the only UN Member State to deploy a national force in support of peacekeeping operations. In Mali, the Barkhane force supports MINUSMA in the fight against jihadist terrorism in the region. In the Central African Republic, the Sangaris force provided support for MINUSCA until 2016. In Côte d’Ivoire, the Licorne force, followed by the French forces of Côte d’Ivoire, also supported the ONUCI throughout its mandate.
Peacekeeping operations’ mandates are decided at the Security Council in New York through Council resolutions. If appropriate, these operations’ renewal and the size of the forces to be deployed may also be decided there. As a permanent member of the Security Council, France participates fully, continuously and with conviction in the preparation of mandates and in the follow-up of peacekeeping operations.
Each peacekeeping operation has a specific budget voted upon by the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee, which runs from July 1st to June 30th of the following year. France is highly active within the Fifth Committee as it is in charge of the administrative and budgetary issues for the UN. France aims to impart the organization with the resources that align with its ambitions, simultaneously respecting principles of budgetary discipline and maintaining control over its expenses. It supports an evolution of the peacekeeping budget to align with transformations occurring in the field of peacekeeping and render peacekeeping operations more modern and more efficient: France thereby defends measures destined to reinforce contingents’ safety or investments which enable the deployment of new technologies in the field (drones, projection means).
France is also committed to defending the exemplary nature, and accountability, of peacekeeping operations: it has supported a series of measures aiming to reaffirm the zero tolerance policy towards sexual abuse and to give the UN Secretary-General the tools necessary to fight against such abuses.
The increase in the number, the complexity and the length of peacekeeping operations has caused their budget to increase significantly: the overall budget for all peacekeeping operations has increased more than threefold between the 1/7/2001-30/6/2002 time period (2.55 billion USD) and the 1/7/2014-30/6/2015 time period (8.17 billion USD). For the past five years, budgetary rationalization efforts led by the Secretariat and the evolution of the scope of peacekeeping operations enabled to reduce this budget to 6.52 billion USD for the 1/7/2019-30/6/2020 time period. For the time period from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, the total budget for peacekeeping operations amounts to 6.777 billion USD.
In the same way as for the regular budget, these budgets are financed by mandatory contributions from Member States, according to a method of apportionment decided by the General Assembly and revised every three years. The contribution scale for peacekeeping operations however differs from that of the general budget: the Security Council’s permanent members, which include France, take on a large share of financial contributions due their prominent position in peacekeeping. In 2020-2021, France is thus the 6th contributor to budget for peacekeeping operations, contributing to 5.61% of the budget, i.e. 387 million USD.
For more information on the financing of peacekeeping operations, we invite you to read our note on UN financing and the detailed information which can be found on our economic department’s website.
2. Reform of peacekeeping operations to take the complexity of crises into account: one of France’s priorities at the UN
While the first PKO mission, when the system was established in 1948, was to monitor ceasefires and provide support for stabilizing countries, these missions changed and diversified to adapt to the increasingly complex crises that the UN must face: civil wars, jihadist terrorism, armed groups, etc.
Consequently, peacekeeping operations have become more complex and their missions more diverse. A peacekeeping operation consists not only of military personnel (the famous “blue helmets”), but also of police officers and civilians, in order to respond to all challenges on the ground. They work together to strengthen security and support political processes that help consolidate peace.
Most PKOs are multifunctional and multidimensional and evolve in line with transition objectives. Their role is not just to maintain security but to support the political process, protect civilians, strengthen the rule of law, uphold human rights, provide humanitarian assistance, and support the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR).
The mandates for the PKOs now often go beyond the strict security-oriented framework of peacekeeping, and are shifting more toward the area of peacebuilding, sometimes even when the conflicts are over. In Kosovo for example, since the declaration of independence in 2008, UNMIK’s mandate has significantly shifted focus toward promoting stability and respect for human rights.
The PKOs often have to coordinate with regional organizations working with the UN. For example, with the African Union in Darfur or Somalia or with the European operation EUTM in Mali in support of MINUSMA.
Lastly, the PKOs evolve in line with improvements in the situation on the ground: reduction in the number of military personnel, shift toward an international presence in the form of police forces, slight civilian component. Once they have completed their mandate, peacekeeping missions are meant to withdraw from the country. This was the case for example in Côte d’Ivoire where UNOCI ended its operations in April 2017, after playing a key role in stabilizing the country.
Peacekeeping operations have long been a topic of debate at the UN. The PKOs have been heavily criticized over the last several years despite the remarkable work they accomplish: high cost of the operations, deployments that are too long, allegations of sexual abuse of civilians, etc.
This debate has resulted in changes to the mandates for the peacekeeping operations, with priority being given to the protection of civilians. In light of the unfolding crises and their complexity, France emphasizes, at the Security Council, the importance of integrated multidimensional peacekeeping operations which notably include civilian protection and human rights components, without which lasting peace would be impossible.
The recommendations of various reports on the reform of peacekeeping operations, notably the Brahimi Report (2000), stress the need for strong and clear peacekeeping mandates. These mandates should continuously evolve in order to constantly adapt to priorities on the ground. The 2015 HIPPO report stresses in particular the need for PKOs that are better adapted to the complexities on the ground, to the needs of the civilian populations and more firmly rooted in the political process to resolve the crises.
Reforming the PKOs also requires modernizing them. This is the role of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which has notably stressed over the last few years the need to provide the PKOs with adequate resources to carry out their missions, while at the same time noting that the resources allocated to them must be utilized to the full. The modernization of the PKOs, including by providing them with helicopters, armored vehicles, drones and other new technologies, will enable them to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who took office in January 2017, has made the PKO Review one of the main angles of the UN reform. With this in mind, he launched the "Action for Peacekeeping" initiative (A4P) focused on eight key themes: promoting political solutions to conflicts; protecting civilians; protecting peacekeepers; improving the performance of peacekeeping operations; sustaining peace; strengthening regional partnerships; and improving the conduct of operations. 151 countries supported this initiative and signed a Declaration of Common Commitments on 25 September 2018 to work collectively to improve peacekeeping.
In this framework, the new UN strategy of "zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse" is fully integrated into the reform of PKOs. Particular attention is also being paid to the role of women in peace and security. The presence of female staff is fundamental to serve the population in the best possible way.
Upgrading the PKOs also requires political support from states, enhanced cooperation with the regional organizations and the contributing countries and efforts to improve the quality of personnel rather than increase the number of troops. Cooperation with regional organizations such as the African Union is therefore a priority for France. France also trains 30,000 African soldiers each year with a view to deploying to an OMP and provides support for the development of French-speaking peacekeeping capacities.Following the Paris Conference in October 2016, devoted to peacekeeping in a French-speaking environment and where language training and the importance of interaction with the local population were highlighted, France organizes each year , and in coordination with the Department of Peace Operations, training in Paris of United Nations trainers, for the benefit of some 40 French-speaking officers.
On the ground, 320 voluntary aid workers contribute to the training of contingents deployed in PKOs. Given that many of the PKOs are deployed in French-speaking environments, there are 74 French-language teachers working with the contingents. This is key to communication between the troops and with the civilian populations.