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30 November 2017
Reform and Strengthening of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Would Serve Important US National Security Interests
By Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (Ret.) and Richard Ponzio, Chairs, UNA-NCA Peace & Security Committee

Reform and Strengthening of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Would Serve Important US National Security Interests

Executive Summary:

On September 20, 2017, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2378 on Peacekeeping Reform. The resolution affirmed that the prevention of conflicts is a primary responsibility of States and that peacekeeping operations should support political solutions. The Resolution endorses the Secretary General’s structural reforms of the peace and security pillar, calls for an annual comprehensive briefing of the Security Council by the Secretary General on Peacekeeping Reform, encourages strong support for the African Union, and urges that more women be recruited for Peacekeeping Operations.

The UNA-NCA UN Peacekeeping Reform recommendations advanced in this report reinforce the UN Secretary General’s recently announced peace and security Secretariat reforms. These proposals aim to strengthen the capacity of UN Peacekeepers to serve agreed UN goals that are also consistent with important US national security objectives. Specific recommendations fall within seven categories:

I.      Ensure achievable, realistic and adequately resourced UN Security Council Mandates that serve clearly defined political strategies.

II.     Implementation of the Secretary General’s governance reforms that streamline the UN bureaucracy and integrate peacekeeping with UN peace building, human rights and humanitarian objectives, vesting overall strategic responsibility in a senior UN executive and delegating operational responsibility to the field.

III.    Enhance readiness and training of military and police personnel and strengthen mediation capacity.

IV.    Hold Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) accountable for peacekeeping performance and a zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation and abuse.

V.     Promote gender integration at all levels.

VI.    Adapt US Leadership to Changing Circumstances.

VII.   Meet US funding obligations while ensuring efficient use of US taxpayer money by establishing effective oversight and exit strategies.

UNA-NCA Report on the Reform and Strengthening of UN Peace Operations

In her first opportunity to chair the Security Council last April, Ambassador Nikki Haley made UN Peacekeeping operations a top priority on the Council’s agenda.  Her objective was to consider “how the UN’s most powerful tool to promote international peace and security” can be made more “effective” and “efficient.” She set forth four reform priorities: Support for political solutions, host country cooperation, realistic and achievable mandates, and an exit strategy. 

The UN Secretary General shares a commitment to UN Reform.  Secretary General António Guterres has stressed “accountability and transparency,” better integration and coordination among UN entities, upgrading the governing structures and Member State oversight, and delegating operational authority to the field. Ambassador Haley has pledged full support for the Secretary General’s “bold strategy” to “advance organizational reforms.”

On the issue of sexual exploitation and human rights violations by peacekeepers, the Secretary General held a high-level meeting on Sexual Exploitation and abuse and called on governments to join his Circle of Leadership requesting heads of state or governments to sign a Compact agreeing to certify that citizens who serve the UN “have not committed, or alleged to have committed, criminal offenses, including of a sexual nature, and/or violations of human rights law or international humanitarian law.” Currently, 33 heads of state and 24 heads of government have signed on including the United States. The Compact further provides for credible international investigations of both military and civilian personnel charged with such violations. Congress also set forth UN peacekeeping reforms such as: (1) a process to determine the goals, objectives, and benchmarks for timely withdrawal of peacekeeping forces prior to any new or expanded peacekeeping operation; (2) aligning the number and qualifications of staff with the specific needs of each UN agency, mission, and program; (3) a strategy to combat sexual exploitation and abuse; and (4) protection for whistleblowers.

The converging objectives of the US Administration, the Secretary General, and Congress in seeking reforms in UN Peace Operations presents a timely opportunity to address the challenges facing UN Peacekeepers, to establish conditions for the settlement of disputes through political dialogue, and to enhance the UN’s capability to support vital US interests. 

Since 2008, the number of conflict situations globally has tripled, and the Security Council has mandated Peacekeeping missions that serve a variety of purposes in differing circumstances. As the largest multi-national military deployment in the world, more than 100,000 UN Peacekeepers serve in 15 conflict zones on four continents. More than 125 countries contribute to these missions. Studies have shown that the presence of Peacekeepers significantly reduces civilian deaths and migration outflows. Examples of UN Peacekeeping successes include the missions in Sierra Leone, El Salvador, Guatemala, Liberia, Mozambique, and Ivory Coast.

UN Peacekeeping serves vital US interests by stabilizing and contributing to the resolution of internal or cross-border situations that would otherwise lead to further regional instability, breed terrorist activity, or create humanitarian catastrophe.  It keeps US forces safe for use in situations where only they can do the job (fewer than one out of 1,000 UN peacekeepers is US military and fewer than 100 U.S. police or troops participate in UN Peacekeeping).  It represents a cost-effective alternative (less than $25,000 per a peacekeeper year for the US, compared to hundreds of thousands of dollars for each deployed US military person). According the Government Accountability Office, UN Peacekeeping is eight times cheaper than a comparable U.S. force.    And UN Peacekeeping can help to ensure continued stability in a country or region for years following a more expensive US-led intervention.  Importantly, UN Peacekeepers are an alternative to direct US military intervention in areas and situations where US deployment not only would be highly costly in blood and treasure but could trigger political or ideological factions or even serve as a recruiting tool for terrorist activity.

US and UN reform initiatives are timely not only because of the expansion of Peacekeeping missions, but also because of the challenges and problems facing Peacekeeping operations. These include reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by Peacekeepers, negligence such as the introduction of cholera by Nepalese Peacekeepers in Haiti, and failure of peacekeepers to protect in South Sudan in two incidents, the first resulting in the death of 38 civilians and over 100 wounded at the UN compound in Malakal and the death of a journalist and the rape of five humanitarians at a compound in Juba, less than a mile from the UN base.

More systemically, Peacekeepers require better training and equipment. They lack adequate engineering, IED detection, medical, intelligence, and air support especially in high risk areas. Security Council mandates can be overly comprehensive and aspirational without setting specific achievable objectives and benchmarks that are matched with adequate resources.  There is often no clear exit strategy or mechanism to determine whether the objectives are being met. Echoes of historical failures in Rwanda and Srebrenica may discourage engagement by some developed countries which have a lot to contribute. Peacekeeping is not the solution to every crisis situation, and should not be the Security Council’s default mechanism. Peacekeeping missions which have achieved their objective or are unable to achieve their objective due to changing circumstances should be phased out. 

The good news is that many great minds have been and continue to be focused on how to make Peacekeeping more efficient and effective. At the UN, the 2000 Brahimi Report on Peace Operations and the 2015 High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) continue to provide guidance, as do many independent studies.

In 2017 the US Institute of Peace and UNA-NCA convened two expert roundtable discussions on UN Peacekeeping Reform. Former policy makers and government officials, NGO leaders, researchers, and think tank professionals provided a candid assessment under the Chatham House Rules. Consensus recommendations include more targeted, achievable, and adequately resourced mandates, better preparation and training of peacekeepers, and more effective integration of peacekeeping into broader peace operations. USIP has prepared a concise summary of the findings and recommendations based on the roundtable discussions that warrant careful consideration by parties supporting UN Reform. 

As has been the case historically, US leadership will be critical in achieving these improvements. As the largest contributor to Peacekeeping operations (with an annual assessment of 28.4% of the total $7.5 billion  per year budget of UN peace operations) and as a permanent member of the Security Council with a veto over new missions and oversight of existing missions, the US has the leverage to bring about significant reforms (except the US will only be paying at 25%, reducing our leverage and going into arrears for the first time in 8 years). With her close working relationship with the Secretary General on UN reform, Ambassador Haley is well-positioned to work for more effective integration of UN programs in support of Peace Operations as proposed by the Secretary General, implementation of the HIPPO and USIP recommendations, a strong partnership with regional organizations like the African Union and NATO, and promoting sound analysis and strategic planning in support of the initiation and termination of Peacekeeping missions. Working diplomatically with like-minded allies is further essential to ensure progress.  

Concrete Proposals for Reform and Strengthening of UN Peace Operations: 

Drawing upon many of the studies and expert analyses, UNA-NCA recommends the following actions as an integral part of any United Nations Peace Operations reform and renewal initiative. The recommendations are grouped around the following seven categories: (i) Achievable and Realistic Mission Mandates, (ii) Supporting Political Solutions and Effective Exit Strategies, (iii) Readiness and Training,  (iv) Accountable International/Host Country Partners, (v) Zero Tolerance and Gender Integration, (vi) US Leadership in Adapting to Changing Circumstances, and (vii) US Funding of Peace Operations.

 Achievable and Realistic Mission Mandates

· Security Council Peacekeeping mandates should serve clearly defined political strategies and objectives; set forth specific, concrete, achievable goals; reflect careful planning to provide resources, training, and equipment that will enable mission achievement; and incorporate an exit strategy. (US leadership in crafting mandates should ensure that they also serve US interests in fostering global stability and national security.)  

· Mandates should not be a wish-list of worthy tasks but a concise, achievable and adequately resourced mission aimed at the primary task of stabilizing a situation.  The force commander should have the flexibility to respond to developments within the resources of the mission. If circumstances change or progress is not being made, the Security Council should amend the mandate or terminate the mission. (Again, US leadership at the Security Council should ensure that missions not only serve US interests but are an efficient use of US taxpayer dollars.)

 Supporting Political Solutions and Effective Exit Strategies

· Peacekeeping should be part of a full spectrum of Peace Operations that supports a political solution and includes early warning and prevention of conflict situations, conflict resolution, mediation, negotiation and peacemaking, peace agreements, enforcement of peaceagreements, and peacebuilding—that is building sustainable inclusive institutions under the rule of law and  transitioning to host country law enforcement and military support for stable governments.(US leadership should help craft Peacekeeping Mandates that are a transitional tool supporting political solutions and regional stability and reducing the threat of terrorism, migration outflows, and other destabilizing factors.) 

· To enable the Security Council to meet these objectives, the Secretary General should implement governance reforms that streamline the UN bureaucracy to integrate peacekeeping with political and peacebuilding programs as he has proposed in his restructuring of the peace and security pillar , incorporate human rights and humanitarian concerns, and place overall responsibility in a senior executive who is solution-focused and can draw upon various UN programs and funds, coordinate with other international and regional organizations, financial institutions, civil society and the private sector, and work closely with strong in-country UN leadership. The UN organizational structure should allocate clear roles for strategic, operational and tactical mission-planning, with a greater role for the Secretariat in strategic planning and more autonomy for leaders on the ground to make operational decision and work closely with non-governmental organizations in the field. (US leadership is critical in preventing bureaucratic competition and in-fighting and assuring the recruitment and promotion of qualified UN personnel based on merit.)

· Peacekeeping serves different purposes. The UN should clarify the kinds of Peacekeeping missions and the purposes they serve. New Peacekeeping missions should fit a category deemed appropriate for Peacekeeping and the mandate should be tailored to achieve specific results deemed appropriate for that category. E.g., civilian protection, protecting the delivery of humanitarian assistance, enforcement of a peace agreements, disarmament, arms free zones, election monitoring, training local police and military, supporting economic reconstruction, etc. The same criteria do not apply to all kinds of Peacekeeping operations. There may be circumstances where there is no imminent practical political solution, but Peacekeeping is a necessary holding action to protect civilians or support humanitarian relief. Mandates can be sequenced to prioritize specific tasks and outcomes before moving to the next transitional stage.  However, in some circumstances, UN Peacekeeping is not appropriate. It should not be a default mechanism for intractable conflict situations or a substitute for UN leadership in seeking political solutions.

· Evaluation of Peacekeeping effectiveness could be enhanced by engaging the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services in exit strategy reviews and ensuring whistleblower protection.

Readiness and Training

· Peacekeeping missions must have adequate resources, personnel, training, equipment, medical, engineering, aircraft, intelligence, and field support to achieve the specific objectives of the mission.  (The US should contribute the expertise and resources to each Mission that enables the achievement of US national security interests. The U.S. should continue to support the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) and African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (A-PREP) which trains troop contributing countries.)

· The UN should strengthen its central capacity to coordinate and improve training and preparedness and organize regional training centers working with regional organizations to provide essential training for UN military and police Peacekeepers, ensuring that they are qualified, accountable, and able to undertake tasks required by the mandate, including, for example,  the protection of civilians and the human rights of minorities, and that they are prepared to adhere to rules of engagement that are tailored to the circumstances of each situation. (The US military can provide effective training models that will enable Peacekeepers to serve US interests more effectively.) 

· Peacekeeping missions should include trained mediators and translators who are well versed in local culture and history and can work with local factions to address threats, resolve conflicts and build inclusive, sustainable governing institutions. (The US can select experienced mediators, including women, to foster regional stability.)  

· Working with member states, the UN should establish a rapid response capability that is fully prepared and ready on short notice to address imminent conflict or emergency situations, which would include military, police, mediation and conflict resolution capacity. (US leadership is critical to develop the capacity to address incipient conflicts that can develop into far more expensive and destabilizing situations that threaten US national security interests.)

Accountable International/Host Country Partners 

· To enable the achievement of these objectives, the Secretary General should strongly encourage the involvement of more developed member states in providing and advising UN Peace Operations, building upon the September 2015 Leadership Summit in New York and the 2016 conference in London and 2017 conference in Vancouver in which pledges were made to provide additional Peacekeepers and equipment support. (Having initiated this series of peacekeeping strengthening conferences, the US has a special role in leveraging the capabilities and financial resources of developed member states.)

·  Consistent with the authority granted the Secretary General in Security Council Resolution 2172 in 2015, troop contributing countries (TCCs) should be held accountable for the performance of Peacekeepers and adherence to transparent zero-tolerances policies on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and negligence.  Peacekeeping forces which commit systematic abuses should be immediately terminated, and host countries that do not act expeditiously to prosecute abusers should be barred from Peacekeeping missions until they meet UN standards as determined by an independent authority. Missions should establish independent claims commissions, and TCCs should agree to compensate victims of abuse and negligence. Host countries and TCCs must agree to implement and enforce protocols on civilian protection and human rights. (The US should urge all member States to join the Secretary General’s Circle of Leadership, sign the Compact, and adhere to its principles.) 

Zero Tolerance and Gender Integration

·       Recognizing that sexual abuse by peacekeepers has been widespread, there needs to be a strict zero tolerance of any sexual abuse in all peacekeeping missions. This needs to be made clear in all training, hiring practices and personnel materials, with swift punishment for any perpetrators. UN peacekeepers need practical and tactical training on preventing and mitigating violence against women. (The US should strongly support the Secretary General’s initiative to engage heads of states and governments in a top down approach to ensuring that their citizens serving the United Nations do not engage in human rights violations of any kind and that independent investigations are undertaken of alleged abuses.)


·       To correct the wide disparity between numbers of male and female peacekeepers, specific efforts need to be made in terms of hiring, outreach and training to ensure that women are more equally represented as peacekeepers, mediators and negotiators. There is ample research to show that sustainable peace can only be achieved if women participate in all aspects of peacekeeping and post-conflict negotiations. (The US should support the Secretary General’s 2020 gender parity agenda.)


·       There needs to be a gendered perspective in the development and maintenance of all peacekeeping missions to ensure they are meeting the needs of all the people they serve, who often have differing needs. Importantly, mission mandates should include the protection of women and girls who are often at risk in conflict settings.

US Leadership in Adapting to Changing Circumstances

· Recognizing that the nature of conflicts is changing and that conflict areas are presented with new challenges and obstacles, the Security Council with the support of the Secretariat should establish policies that determine when and if Peacekeeping is appropriate where: (1)  the host government is unwilling or unable to provide support, (2) where there is significant terrorist activity, (3) where there is civil war or genocide and a political solution is not currently achievable, or (4) where the actions of the host government challenges the impartiality of the Peacekeepers. In such circumstances, if Peacekeepers are to be used, they must be part of a clearly defined strategy. If, for example, mediation with belligerents such as a terrorist organization is not acceptable, then Peacekeepers must be trained and equipped to protect civilians and to prevail in any conflict with belligerents. The rules of engagement should be tailored to the specific circumstances. Where UN Peacekeepers are not appropriate in certain conflict situations, the Security Council should consider engaging regional organizations like the African Union or NATO.  (The US should ensure that the Secretary General’s restructuring proposals on peace operations enable the Secretariat to address these issues effectively.)

· US Defense Department and NATO funding and technical support for Peacekeeping should be increased by providing additional training, military advisors, engineering, medical, IED detection, and air support. 

· The US should consider whether UN institutions like the Military Staff Committee could play a role in overseeing and upgrading the quality of Peacekeeping operations and whether a reformulated Trusteeship Council in which developing states are represented might play a role in building sustainable institutions in fragile states that will ensure the peace.

·As a member of the Security Council, the US Representative should ensure that the Secretary General addresses these issues of changing circumstances in the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2378 on Peacekeeping Reform, including the role UN Peacekeepers should play in confronting the spread of terrorist activity in fragile states.

· The Security Council should link Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development and encourage better coordination with the World Bank and regional financial institutions. 

US Funding of UN Peacekeeping Operations 

Congress is currently considering FY 2018 appropriations for UN peacekeeping operations (the CIPA account). The House and Senate have passed  a continuing resolution funding the federal government through December 15th while the House and Senate seeks to reconcile their  FY 2018 appropriations bills, each of which has rejected the draconian reductions proposed by the Trump Administration. Both the House and the Senate bills, however, provide for a reduction in peacekeeping funding that would be consistent with the 25% statutory cap on US assessments.  If enacted this funding would fall short of the U.S. actual assessment of 28.43 percent for the second year in a row, adding to U.S. arrears in peacekeeping funding.

The United Nations has taken seriously the concerns of the US administration and Congress about peacekeeping reforms and funding. The Secretary General, who is working closely with Ambassador Haley on UN reforms, is working on a disciplined budget proposal.  Some reductions are possible because of the termination of the mission in the Ivory Coast and the phasing down of missions in Liberia and Haiti. Reductions are offset by additional funding need to address the increasing challenges presented by terrorist activity in Mali and the conflict in Syria which affects the Disengagement Observer Force in Syrian Golan Heights. There are concerns that proposed cuts to the missions in the Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur, and South Sudan are driven more by budget constraints than strategic analysis.  There may be merit in diverting some funding to enhance political conflict resolution, but the resources needed to support a political solution should be based on sound analysis not artificial budget targets.

To achieve critical reforms in Peace Operations that would advance US national security interests, it is important to keep the following factors in mind.

· Meeting US funding obligations enhances US influence in seeking reforms and can be leveraged to achieve proposed reforms.

· Adjustments in US Peacekeeping funding obligations should be negotiated through the UN Committee on Contributions and not imposed unilaterally. Unilateral reductions would put the US in arrears, weaken US influence in seeking reforms, invite other nations to reduce their assessments, and diminish the resources necessary to strengthen the effectiveness of Peace Operations. It is not unreasonable to ask other nations, especially members of the Security Council or States like Japan, Germany, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, to increase their contributions to Peacekeeping, but this should be accomplished through negotiations.

· Additional resources will be needed to train and equip Peacekeeping operations to implement the reforms sought by the United States and the UN Secretary General, which would ensure that Peacekeepers serve US national security interests more efficiently and effectively. Because early intervention is critical in preventing and mitigating conflict situations, contingency funding is essential and cost effective by enabling a rapid response to emerging threats.

· US funding of better trained, equipped and accountable UN Peace Operations is a cost-effective use of US taxpayer dollars, one-eighth the cost of US boots on the ground. Other nations pay more than 70% of the cost and provide the military and police in harm’s way with the engineering, intelligence, medical and training support that the US, NATO, and other developed nations are best able to provide. 


UNA-NCA believes that the focus of the UN Secretary General, the US Administration and the US Congress on UN reforms presents a unique opportunity to address constructively the challenges facing UN Peace Operations. By enlisting the support of experienced professionals, the US is positioned to work with the UN to strengthen UN Peace Operations in ways that advance agreed UN goals that are simultaneously consistent with US national security interests in a cost-effective way. History shows that US leadership is critical to achieving real reforms. Meeting US funding obligations strengthens the US hand in bringing about these changes.

Peace and Security Committee of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area

Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (Ret.) and Richard Ponzio, Co- Chairs