Peacekeeping reform is a central issue for the future of the United Nations. [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 12 September 2018
At the outset, I would like to thank you, Madam President, for organizing this important debate and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, for his particularly enlightening briefing, as well as Ms. Blakemore for her valuable testimony.
Peacekeeping reform is a central issue for the future of the United Nations. The Blue Helmets are the most visible face of the Organization. Every day, under difficult conditions, they contribute to safeguarding ceasefires, protecting civilian populations from abuses and maintaining a fragile peace that, without their presence, would very quickly collapse. Therefore, not only must we pay tribute to them, but we also owe it to them to do everything possible to enable them to work effectively in the service of peace.
Much has been accomplished in recent years, but more remains to be done. That is why France fully supports the Secretary-General in his undertaking to reform the peace and security pillar of the United Nations. For their part, more than 50 States, including France, have already endorsed the Action for Peacekeeping initiative that we will adopt at the summit on 25 September. It is an important success for the Secretary-General, the United Nations and all of us. Among the elements of that reform, the question of the performance of peacekeeping operations is essential to the credibility of the action of peacekeeping forces. The report authored by retired Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, entitled Improving security of United Nations peacekeepers, which was commissioned by the Secretary-General, proposed many improvements that the Secretariat has begun to energetically implement. That is a good thing, and France encourages the Secretariat to continue on that path.
To contribute to improving the performance of those operations, there are three key components that I would like to underscore.
First, I will address training both before and during missions, which includes of course basic military operational training and linguistic training. As everyone knows, France is working in both of those areas. The Blue Helmets deployed in the field must benefit from that training so as to deliver their best performance, particularly in the event of a change in mandate. To that end, triangular cooperation offers many advantages and benefits both for troop-contributing countries and for third countries. France plays a leading role in such cooperation by supporting the training of nearly 30,000 French-speaking African soldiers each year, and intends to continue its efforts in that regard.
Secondly, it is necessary to improve force generation. Better mobilization of the armed forces and police, improving their projection capabilities and mobility and increasing the ratio of women within contingents are key elements of peacekeeping performance. There is still work to be done there, but we are confident that the Action for Peacekeeping initiative will make great strides in that regard.
Thirdly, it is essential that a proper performance assessment be put in place and that cases of underperformance be addressed. A frank and open exchange must take place between the Secretariat and the troop- and police-contributing countries in the event of proven underperformance in order to better identify the various pitfalls that have led to those situations and to rectify them, even if, in the event of failure and especially in the case of abuses, we will need to consider repatriating the troops concerned. That is crucial to the effectiveness of missions, the security of other contingents and the successful implementation of mandates, particularly with respect to the protection of civilians. In the same vein, it is important that the quality of the work of the most efficient contingents be recognized and acknowledged.
But the performance of peacekeeping operations is not limited to the military and police aspects of the operations concerned. The performance of civilian elements and the quality of mission organization must also be assessed. Some structural flaws can have very concrete consequences. To cite but one example, France is very concerned about the lack of real progress on the coherence and responsiveness of the health-care chain of command, the shortcomings of which could endanger the lives of the Blue Helmets on the ground.
Finally, there must be zero tolerance towards peacekeepers and civilian personnel who are guilty of sexual assault. It is not possible to overemphasize the crucial importance for the Blue Helmets and civilian peacekeepers to exhibit exemplary and responsible behaviour, especially at a time when the actions I have referred to can undermine the credibility of our work and the trust of the civilian population in the United Nations.
Our goal is to create a real culture of performance backed by clear, accountability and incentive mechanisms. That is the best way for us to collectively respond to professional United Nations bashers, who will always find themselves repudiated by France. Performance cannot be judged out of context, however. Blue Helmets and civilian members of missions work within the specific framework of their mandate. I take this opportunity to reiterate the urgent need for those operations to have a clear, sequenced and prioritized mandate in the service of well-defined and transparent political objectives. That imperative must guide our daily work. To that end, France is working on all the mandates for which we are responsible in our capacity as penholder.
It is also key to ensure that operations have the necessary resources. Indeed, without funding commensurate with mandates, the entire functioning of a mission is weakened, along with the safety and security of United Nations personnel. That essential point also falls under our collective responsibility.
I cannot conclude without reiterating the importance of proper coordination and cooperation of peacekeeping operations with the various local and regional actors on the ground. In that regard, I fully share the opinion expressed by my colleague and friend from Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of the three African countries on the Council. Regional organizations play an increasingly important role in the promotion of peace and security. That is the case with the European Union, but also and above all of the African Union and the continent’s subregional organizations. Their operations add irreplaceable value and are in full complement of those conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. That is why strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union is a top priority of our work, and why we must effectuate United Nations support for African peace operations as soon as possible, which is one of France’s strategic priorities.