Peacekeeping operations must be robust [fr]
Thematic debate Review of peacekeeping operations - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - April 6 2017
I warmly thank the secretary-general for his important speech and would like to assure him of France’s wholehearted support for the approach he has just outlined. I would also like to thank the American presidency for organizing this session. The topic we are discussing today, peacekeeping and the men and women who serve in peacekeeping operations, the peacekeepers – they represent the identity and face of the UN.
I would like to underscore three points in particular.
My first message is that UN peacekeeping saves lives and fulfills a unique role.
Yesterday in Namibia, in Cambodia, in El Salvador, in the former Yugoslavia, in Sierra Leone, in Liberia, in East Timor, in Côte d’Ivoire; today in the Central African Republic, in Mali, in the DRC, in South Sudan, in Lebanon, in Darfur, the peacekeepers prevent fighting; protect civilians; pave the way for the political processes. They do so at low cost, since the budget for peacekeeping operations represents just 0.5% of the budget for annual military expenditure worldwide. It is therefore an essential as well as responsible investment.
The worst tragedies since World War II occurred when the peacekeeping operations failed – I am notably thinking of Srebrenica and Rwanda – and where there are no peacekeeping operations, like in Syria. These failures have rightly become part of our collective memory.
But everyone knows that a peacekeeping base is often the only hope for vulnerable populations in the face of armed groups that terrorize, kill and loot; the only option for vulnerable populations; the only way, quite simply, to have a chance of surviving. Who else would want to, or could, ensure the protection of civilians in so many dangerous theaters of conflict? Conversely, who would want to take responsibility for leaving the populations of South Sudan, the DRC or CAR to their fate?
I would like to pay tribute to the work of almost 110,000 men and women deployed in peacekeeping operations, who are currently working to avoid such tragedies, and to pay tribute to the more than 3,400 peacekeepers who have died in the line of duty since 1948.
My second message is that UN peacekeeping is under constant review and is subject to a continuous process of improvement.
Discussions on how to improve peacekeeping have been taking place for many years. A great deal has already been done:
From a conceptual point of view, the mandates of the most recent operations – multidimensional and integrated operations – focus on the immediate and essential priorities, starting with the protection of civilians and human rights, and more long-term tasks, such as support for the political processes, reforms and the re-establishment of state authority, which are essential to effectiveness and success in order to achieve a lasting solution to the crisis.
These mandates require an integrated approach by all UN stakeholders, including funds, agencies and programs; the special representative of the UN secretary-general has taken the lead in the process of creating a continuum between peace, security and development, which we support.
A great deal has also been done on the operational front: we now expect the PKOs to take a strong and active role in the protection of civilians, as reflected for example by MINUSCA’s recent actions. Troops, capabilities and conduct are being upgraded: training, equipment, intelligence, medical support, language capabilities – notably supported by a shared French language, air assets, police components: While by no means exhaustive, these are all areas that are changing considerably. It is a huge effort: The troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat have a key role to play.
Given this progress, the UN operations provide the greatest degree of legitimacy and integration in order to respond to the conflicts. National operations, like those of France in the Sahel or in CAR can only supplement, never replace the UN operations.
But the UN is not always the appropriate tool, the only tool. This is why partnerships with regional organizations make perfect sense and we therefore notably support the work undertaken with the African Union through resolution 2320, based on the comparative advantages and in accordance with the UN Charter.
Does that mean that everything is okay? No, but – and this is my third message – we have to be fair in making our diagnosis and resolute in terms of our solutions.
Some problems are linked to specific situations, others are more systematic.
The cases of sexual abuse have undermined the credibility and protective mandate of the Blue Helmets. Serious failures with regard to the imperative to protect civilians, in South Sudan as elsewhere, continue to shock our consciences. Everything must be done to correct and prevent these failings, from the zero tolerance policy with respect to sexual abuse to the investigations into the breaches of the mandates.
In our overall analysis, we have to be fair in making our diagnosis: The structural difficulties in peacekeeping also go beyond the operations. Some may have become too entrenched, and others may seem too weak, but there are three key requirements in order to ensure the success of these operations: (i) the unity of the Security Council; (ii) the political will of the parties to resolve the conflict; and (iii) troops that are determined to implement their mandate.
Based on the previous elements, France believes that several conclusions must be drawn in order for peacekeeping to remain a tool adapted to current challenges.
Drawing conclusions means first that we must end operations and pass on the torch to in-country teams when a mandate has been fulfilled, as is currently the case with ONUCI in Côte d’Ivoire and MINUSTAH in Haiti; we could also add UNMIL in Liberia and UNMIK in Kosovo to that list, as they have largely achieved their objectives.
Drawing the right conclusions also means recognizing that certain Missions, despite the frustrations aroused by the slowness of political processes, must be maintained, because they are playing a vital role. This is notably the case for MINUSMA, MINUSCA and UNIFIL.
And it also means striving to ensure that operations are truly likely to succeed. There are several ways to promote this result:
First: making sure of the unity of the Security Council in running such operations. Indeed, the Council’s unified support is the best guarantee of their success.
Second: boosting our support for political processes, including those involving regional partners such as South Sudan. Everything must be done to ensure the coherence of our collective action and to obtain results. And we must point out that for such political efforts to succeed, violence must stop and civilians must be protected.
Third: structuring relations with the host state in such a way as to exchange commitments and responsibilities. That is why we support Mutual Engagement Frameworks and want them to become more widespread.
Fourth: continuing our efforts to provide operations whose troop strength, capabilities, and materiel correspond to their mandates. That presumes continuing the tripartite partnership between the Security Council, the Secretariat, and the countries that contribute troops and police officers. As you know, France is an active contributor in that regard.
Finally, drawing the right conclusions means taking an ambitious, demanding approach that involves better integrating UN peacekeeping into its overall environment in line with the peace continuum promoted by the Secretary-General, with France’s full support.
Why has peacekeeping, initially an ad hoc construction, continued to see its ambitions and resources grow as they have? Because it a tool that benefits all of us, and because over the course of 60 years, it has proven its usefulness. We welcome the discussion that is taking place here today, an important discussion, for which I once again thank the American presidency. It can help us make our collective actions stronger and even more effective