You are here: Parliamentarians consider UK's approach to UN peace operations

17 March 2016

The All-Party Parliamentary Goup on the United Nations met on Wednesday to explore the current state of UN peace operations and how the UK could contribute. 

Chaired by Lord Hannay of Chiswick and coordinated by UNA-UK, the meeting featured two distinguished speakers: Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President of International Crisis Group and a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping; and Professor Michael Clarke, former Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute. 

Mr Guéhenno focused on the international prospects for UN peace operations, remarking that peacekeeping was the UN's "flagship" activitiy. He noted that while this status meant that peacekeeping has the attention and support of UN member states, it has provided an unreliable measure of the UN's effectiveness, since the success of missions relies heavily on actors working independently from the UN.

Mr Guéhenno further argued that the current division of labour between the permanent five (P5) members of the UN Security Council, who largely mandate and pay for peacekeeping missions, and the Troop Contributing Countries, whose personnel face the real dangers associated with warfare, was unsustainable. He warned that aspiring permanent members who contribute the highest numbers of troops, like India, may begin to follow the P5's example and reduce them in favour of financial contributions.

Professor Clarke concentrated on the UK's recent shift in policy towards UN peace operations and considered how the UK could contribute more. He said that rather than focusing too much on numbers, the UK should concentrate on "enablers", such as equipment that improves the mobility of personnel in an operation; command and control structures; or defence medicine. 

According to Professor Clarke, one of the major barriers to a more active UK in UN peacekeeping was the fact that UN secondment is not viewed as a progressive career choice. 

The meeting was attended by a diverse audience from across Parliament, including the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Lord Ramsbotham and Emily Thornberry MP, as well as civil society and representatives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. 

Ahead of the meeting, UNA-UK produced a briefing for parliamentarians on the UK's role in UN peace operations. This briefing can be downloaded here.