You are here: 5 Action for Peacekeeping – progress on addressing poor performance

Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) is the name of the Secretary-General’s agenda for peacekeeping reform and also for the “declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations” made by 130 countries in support of this agenda. It will be further supported by a high-level event and social media campaign.

As our Head of Policy discussed in a recent piece for IPI’s Global Observatory, A4P has a number of parts:

  • a recommitment by states to the concept of peacekeeping;
  • a recognition – building on the work of the earlier “HIPPO” report – of the centrality of political peace processes to peacekeeping;
  • a reorganisation of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and Department for Political Affairs (DPA) into two new Departments: the Department for Peacebuilding and Political Affairs (DPPA) and the Department for Peace Operations (DPO), in order to eliminate the arbitrary distinction that had previously existed between political and peacekeeping missions;
  • some tough talk on the robust use of force in self defence and in the defence of civilians, building on the controversial dos Santos Cruz report released earlier in the year.

There is much in this agenda that is positive and welcome. However, UNA-UK is concerned that fundamental tensions between various stakeholders remain unaddressed, and that the views and needs of the “peacekept” – those living in the conflict affected area in whose name the mission exists – continue to be side-lined.

Perhaps more substantively, on Friday 21 September the UN Security council unanimously passed a resolution on peacekeeping performance. This resolution called for objective measures to be used for the assessment of the performance of both uniformed troops and civilian staff and for these measures to have an impact in terms of recruitment and “force generation” (the process by which military contingents are picked for use as peacekeepers).

UNA-UK is delighted by this development, which reflects recommendations that we have made as part of our Mission Justice campaign on sexual violence in peacekeeping.

Previously, while DPKO conducted performance assessments of various contingents, it was not clear to what extent performance reviews influenced force generation. While there had been recent efforts to place more emphasis on performance in decisions on troop composition, including by reaching out to additional troop contributors and by rewarding good performance, there was a perception that political considerations remained paramount – not least given the sensitivities involved with UN staff telling states their troops are not wanted. There was even less clarity with regards to civilian staff.

Performance isn’t just crucial to achieving mission objectives. The ability to repatriate contingents and send home civilian staff is vital to attempts to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. Further, as we told the UK House of Commons International Development Committee, it is in the interests of Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) who are better served by “establishing objective and evidence-based baseline criteria for contributing troops to UN peacekeeping missions” which “take the decision out of the hands of the overstretched DPKO, thus avoiding both the political sensitivities of UN officials being seen as ‘evaluating’ TCCs and reducing the risk of selectivity and politicisation that TCCs fear.”

Finally, as was noted by Security Council Report, “a recurrent element in the discussions about peace operations is the sense of disconnect between those who determine the mandates of peace operations and cover most of their financial burden, and those who deploy most of the troops and police to implement these mandates. Pressure from the US and others to reduce the peacekeeping budget and focus on the performance of uniformed personnel may add to this friction.”

It is therefore very important that donor states and permanent members of the UN Security Council, such as the UK, demonstrate “skin in the game” by maintaining and developing meaningful contributions of personnel to UN Peacekeeping missions. The old colonialist dynamic: “we lead, you bleed” is no longer acceptable and damages the coherence and legitimacy on which peacekeeping depends.