"UN peacekeeping saves lives and fulfills a unique role"- F. Delattre, 6 April 2017
July 2016 – © UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein
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
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations March 2017 – © UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations – headed by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who succeeded Hervé Ladsous on April 1, 2017 – currently deploys 14 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 100,000 in 2019.
The largest missions (in terms of total personnel deployed, including military, police and civilian personnel) are:
MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with some 17,140;
UNMISS in South Sudan, with 16,716;
MINUSMA in Mali, with 14,871;
MINUSCA in the Central African Republic, with 13,677.
The provision of PKO troops depends entirely on the generosity of Member States. In 2019, 122 Member States contributed to PKO forces.
With 738 peacekeepers deployed worldwide in 8 PKOs, France is the second-largest supplier of troops of 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.
Changes in peacekeeping operations are also reflected by an increase in their budget, which has more than tripled since the early 2000s. The total budget for all PKOs went from $2.55 billion for budgetary year 2001-2002 to $7.89 billion for the period running from July 2016 to June 2017. The annual budget is decided on by the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly, which is responsible for administrative and budgetary issues at the UN.
France is the fifth-largest contributor to the peacekeeping operations budget (the third-largest among the Security Council’s permanent members). It contributes 6.31% of the PKO budget, after the United States, China, Japan and Germany.
The mandate of PKOs, their annual renewal, when applicable, and the forces deployed, are determined by resolutions at the Security Council in New York. On March 31 2017, for example, MONUSCO‘s mandate was extended until March 31, 2018, by resolution 2348, drafted at France’s behest. As a permanent member of the Security Council, France participates fully, regularly, and with conviction in the preparation of mandates and in following up on PKO actions.
For further information on the funding of PKOs, read our article on UN funding
2. Reform of peacekeeping operations to take the complexity of crises into account: one of France’s priorities at the UN
“UN peacekeeping saves lives and fulfills a vital mission”
François Delattre, April 6, 2017.
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.
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. With this in mind, France hosted a UN Training of Trainers session in Paris in February 2017. This training session followed on from the Paris conference on peacekeeping in a French-speaking environment in October 2016, which focused on language training and the importance of interaction with the local populations. 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.
Lastly, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who assumed office in January 2017, made reviewing the PKOs a major thrust of UN reform. In this context, the new UN zero tolerance policy with respect to sexual abuse is fully integrated in the peacekeeping reform efforts. Special emphasis is also given to the role of women in peace and security. The presence of female personnel is vital in order to best serve the populations.