The APSTA Peacekeeping This Month is sharing with our readership a brief overview by Colonel Festus Aboagye, Chief Executive Officer of APSTA, of the 2015 Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping on 28 September 2015 that was convened by the United States (US) President Barack Obama, and co-hosted by the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The Summit gathered together leaders from more than 50 countries, who pledged new commitments, in addition to existing commitments by traditional contributors who were unable to make new pledges, to strengthen existing capabilities, as well as the flexibility of current and future peace operations.
The significance of the new pledges are reflected in the words of Ban Ki-moon, that: “the demand for peacekeeping has never been greater…” and that the peacekeeping statistics show both the value of peacekeeping, but also symptomatic of troubled times.
The Secretary General also remarked that “Peacekeeping operations save lives, protect people and help countries overcome conflict…being a peacekeeper is a noble calling…we must always remember the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of peace”.
In the words of President Obama, the summit sought “to strengthen and reform UN peacekeeping because our common security demands it…[T]his is not something that we do for others; this is something that we do collectively because our collective security depends on it.”
Overview of Summit Commitments and suggestions…
The Summit commitments and suggestions for reform are divided into three goals, namely to:
a. Close persistent military and police gaps in current peace operations by generating contributions from member states.
b. Generate rapid-deployment commitments from member states to deploy specified units within 30, 60 or 90 days, to an expanded or new operation for a defined period of time.
c. Generate and make available specified units from the commitments made by member states that could be called upon to deploy to an expanded or new operation or to backfill units transitioning out of ongoing operations.
Overview of existing contributions…
It is a pertinent note that about a month prior to the Leaders Summit (31 August 2015) the existing 16 UN peace operations were composed of a total of 124,746 personnel, made up of 106,245 uniformed personnel drawn from 122 contributing countries. The total number included 90,889 troops, 13,550 police and 1,806 military observers, as well as 16,791 civilian personnel (as of 30 June 2015), 5,315 international staff, 11,476 local staff, and 1,710 UN Volunteers (as of 31 August 2015).
Overview of country contributions…
Within the above framework, the various stakeholders (more than 50 countries from Bangladesh to Colombia, and from Finland to China) made the following contributions) made the following contributions:
• Nearly 150 military and police contributions to UN peacekeeping, amounting to more than 40,000 new troops and police
• Pledges of almost 30 infantry battalions, more than 15 police units, and significant commitments of high-end “enabling” assets, including approximately 40 helicopters, 10 field hospitals and fifteen engineering companies
• Announcing of almost 30 specific commitments to build the capacity of the UN and partner countries, in areas from counter-IED to intelligence to policing
New Presidential Policy on US Support to UN Peace Operations…
President Obama noted further that, “during the past seven decades, our collective ability to ‘maintain international peace and security’ has often depended on the willingness of courageous UN peacekeepers to put their lives on the line in war-torn corners of the world.”
The US President used the summit to issue a new Presidential Memorandum to US Government Departments and Agencies seeking to reaffirm the strong support of the US for UN peace operations and directing a wide range of actions to strengthen and modernise UN operations for a new era.
The US policy revolves around:
• Building partner capacity…the US is committed to enhancing the capabilities of our partners to enable more effective field operations
• Expanding US contributions…the US will seek to provide direct contributions and enabling support to UN peace operations and augment our own institutional capacity to do so
• Driving reform…Given the implications for US national security interests and resource commitments, the US will continue to advance critical and systemic reform of UN peace operations
The new US commitments to UN peacekeeping include…
• Staff Officers… the US offers to work with the UN to double its contribution of military staff officers serving in UN missions
• New Logistics Support Framework… the US recently concluded an international agreement with the UN that will enable the provision of airlift, sealift, and other logistic support, supplies, and services around the world
• Technology Support… the US will work directly with UN experts to identify cost-effective technology solutions to shortfalls in countering IEDs, force protection, protection of civilians, collaborative planning, information-led operations, rapid deployment of the vanguard force, and expeditionary logistics
• Engineering Support…the US has unique engineering capabilities that could be used to provide support to UN missions
• In-Mission Training and Mentoring…the US intends to make available mobile training teams on a case-by-case basis for deployment
• Prepositioned Non-Lethal Support/Defense Equipment…the US will take steps to pre-position defense equipment to accelerate the equipping and deployment [of personnel to UN and regional peacekeeping operations]
• Civil-Military Command Exercises…the US offers to work with the UN to develop table-top, scenario-based exercises
• Pre-Deployment Training for Police in Peacekeeping…the US intends to increase its contributions to UN police in peacekeeping by allocating an additional $2 million
• Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) Training and Assessment…the US plans to contribute $2 million for C-IED training for partner countries deploying forces to the UN mission in Mali and the African Union mission in Somalia
Significance of commitments…
There is no doubt that overall these are encouraging words and commitments. The outcomes of the Summit, notably the commitments, will strengthen global-regional peace and security partnership, as noted in the report of the UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) in June 2015—Uniting Our Strengths for Peace – Politics, Partnership and People, that is required to respond to more challenging future crises.
Further, on the assumption that the countries that made the pledges will make good on the promises and redeem them, the pledges will provide UN peace operations with a degree of flexibility in responding to the exigencies of peace operations, as elaborated in the HIPPO report.
Beyond the numbers game…
One observation, especially reading the policy stance of the US is that the US and other countries that withdrew from direct participation in UN peace operations in substantive numbers, may not at any time soon be participating in UN peace operations in big numbers and with combat units. For the US, where applicable, it is likely to manage its commitments through existing frameworks as the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) and the US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
On the other hand, the Brahimi Panel cautioned more than a decade ago in August 2000 that: “the best way to solve the problems of the United Nations is [not] merely to throw additional resources at them.” The UN HIPPO Report therefore rightly underscored the critical need for a focus on “political primacy” emphasising the point that “political solutions should always guide the design and deployment of UN peace operations…Member States, must help to mobilise renewed political efforts to keep peace processes on track.”
Thus, among others, the pledges made at the Leaders Summit, as a demonstration of people-centred partnerships, may be more meaningful and effective if they are geared towards objectives that promote “political primacy”. This is perhaps the biggest gap and weakness in the prevention and resolution of incessant conflicts that demand mind boggling peacekeeping numbers that are already proving unsustainable in the long term.
Ultimately, while commending the 122 countries for the existing contributions, the onus is on the Member States that made these profound commitments to redeem their respective pledges. Failure to do so will weaken the resolve of the global-regional efforts towards more effective, timely resolution and management of violent armed conflicts.