Peacekeeping operations must be adapted to protect civilians - 17 June 2015 [fr]
Peacekeeping operations - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 17 June 2015
I thank the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, as well as the Force Commanders of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization for their briefings and, of course, for their work. I shall very briefly touch upon the three topics that were presented to us.
The first concerns the protection of civilians, which is increasingly at the very heart of our mandates. This trend was not a self-evident one, but following the tragedies experienced by the international community, notably in Africa and the Balkans, it has become a necessity, in the name of the principle of humanity, which lies at the heart of the Charter of the United Nations. The High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations just recognized this, while endeavouring not to give rise to impossible expectations. We wish to pay tribute to the Blue Helmets, who face this demanding work on a daily basis.
We do not underestimate the difficulty of these mandates in crisis situations across vast territories, often devoid of infrastructure, where the population is faced with the violence of ruthless armed groups. Such implementation entails comprehensive action, which involves political settlement of crisis, prevention, support for the restoration of the State’s authority and, sometimes, when necessary, the use of force. Our challenge today is to tailor peacekeeping operations in all their aspects to the implementation of these mandates for the good of the civilian population, who are the first victims of armed conflicts.
In that respect, the human aspect is of the utmost importance. Missions must be able to establish close ties with the populations they are to protect. From this point of view, the use of the French language must be fully taken into account, and I would like to recall here again that we need more French-speakers in current peacekeeping operations — from privates right up to the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, including in New York. This is a precondition for operational effectiveness.
Finally, the protection of civilians should not be limited to ensuring their physical security. Respect for human rights and the protection of women and children are of course at the centre of our priorities. We will have an opportunity to touch upon this issue tomorrow during the open debate on children and armed conflict. But it is absolutely clear in that regard that the behaviour of Blue Helmets must be irreproachable, and zero tolerance must be applied to any actions that could sully the standing of the United Nations.
The second topic concerns action in an asymmetric environment. Blue Helmets are confronted with new threats that sometimes target them directly. In that context, we must respond with trained troops, appropriately equipped, including by providing missions with the necessary multiplier effects: air assets but also sanitary support and logistics and the engineering, combat and work units they often lack. We encourage Member States that have such capacity to fill these gaps, and we encourage the exchanges of training and education among Member States. The Force Commander of МINUSМA could provide details on the status of his force regarding these aspects, and the lessons to be learned for other theatres, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lebanon, where similar challenges exist.
We also have to open peacekeeping operations to modern technology, as is proposed by the report of the Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in United Nations Peacekeeping dated February 2015. By bolstering our capabilities in terms of information-processing and the protection of Blue Helmets, technology allows us to better understand the environment we are active in, to anticipate and to act upstream of peaks of violence to protect people in the best possible security conditions.
Moreover, the new type of challenges we face requires an optimal mobilization of operational and logistical resources available. The operational margin of manoeuvre of a force cannot be impeded by a logistical organization that is unadapted to the theatre. On the other hand, it must be based on the rapid deployment of support capacities, including emergency measures needed for infrastructure work.
Therefore — with regard to the third topic, namely, the issue of caveats — we have the responsibility to ensure that our operations possess the necessary resources for their success and that they are used efficiently, which entails two basic requirements. One is to adapt the modus operandi of the peacekeeping operations to their mandates. Mobile, dynamic, reactive and responsive forces close to the populations are needed in relation to those who seek to derail peace processes and who target civilians and peacekeepers. A proactive attitude is the best way to respond to this dual objective, the protection of civilians and force protection. It would be useful to hear the three Force Commanders share their experiences regarding constraints linked to caveats.
The second requirement is to avoid any ambiguity during the force generation undertaken by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Fraught as it is with the risk to the force and the civilian population, we cannot allow contingents, for national reasons, to avoid carrying tasks ordered by commanders. An effective upstream consultation process is essential to dispel such ambiguities.
The report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, submitted to the Secretary-General yesterday, notes these problems facing peacekeeping operations. France will remain engaged regarding these issues and will carefully consider the numerous recommendations set out in the report.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate France’s deep-rooted commitment to United Nations peacekeeping, to which we fully contribute with Blue Helmets — for example, within the framework of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, as well as in our national capacity and under the European Union — in support of peacekeeping operations, including in Mali, the Central African Republic and Côte d’Ivoire. Today, 7,800 French soldiers are engaged in foreign operations, including nearly 1,000 directly in the service of the United Nations and 6,000 under a United Nations mandate. Since January 2013, 13 of our countrymen have paid for that commitment with their lives. The most recent was Mr. Damien Dustrit in 2014 in Lebanon. I would like to pay tribute here to their memory, as well as that of all their Blue Helmet comrades fallen on the battlefield to bring to life the ideals espoused by the United Nations.