Briefing on the Secretary-General’s Report: The Future of United Nations Peace Operations

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, November 30, 2015.

Mr President

Thank you for presenting today’s briefing and for the concept note. Thank you Secretary General for attending today and giving us your briefing.

Our topic today and the briefing addressed the role and effectiveness of some of the Council’s most powerful tools for maintaining peace and security.

We welcome the reports and recommendations of the Secretary-General and the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations. Both provide an important basis and an opportunity for change.

The reports set out useful recommendations to address long-standing challenges, including the growing mandate-resource gap and the need for enhanced political strategies and engagement, more timely deployments, and innovative and flexible support and financing arrangements a number of which have been touched on this morning by the Secretary General.

Today I wish to focus on several issues that New Zealand considers of particular importance.

First, we support the calls for a much stronger investment by the Security Council and the wider UN system in conflict prevention, and to better harness the Organisation’s ‘collective political leverage’ in pursuit of political settlements. 

New Zealand sees merit in making greater use of timely Missions by the Council, including mini-missions, to the field. They are both a concrete demonstration of the Council’s interest in a situation and a means for the Council to both influence and obtain a better understanding of the conditions on the ground.  These missions should work with relevant regional organisations.  In our view, there should be standing arrangements for such missions so that funding is not at the expense of the on-the-ground operation.

Second, this Council needs to put into practice its commitment to clear, focused, and realistic mandates. We agree with the High Level Panel that we should use two-stage mandates for Missions being established or reconfigured and allow for operations to be built up and drawn down according to clear priorities and the situation on the ground.   

Third, the Council needs to consider changes to the way it develops, considers and approves mandates.  In particular, there needs be more consistent and meaningful engagement with the Council, Troop and Police Contributing Countries and the affected states as well as with the Secretariat.

As the concept notes, New Zealand has been active in promoting informal discussions along these lines with positive results. Such interaction should be a part of everyday Council and Secretariat culture and practice in our view.  Moreover, to be useful, the conversations need to focus on the practical and avoid formality. Formalistic and formulaic consultation is not useful for any us.   

Fourth, we need to enhance the UN’s ability to ensure the safety and security of UN peace operations personnel. Countries won’t make soldiers and police available if they feel their people may be exposed to unacceptable risk.  At a recent IPI-organised workshop that New Zealand co-hosted with Chad and Uruguay, there was discussion about this matter.  It was concluded, there is no single answer to this issue, rather, safety and security need to be key concerns in the development and review of mandates, the training and equipping of peace operations personnel, access to information, and in the Secretariat’s planning and management practices. 

Fifth, in order to be effective, mandates need to fit the real world context. Understanding this context is critical to effectiveness. This means we need to enhance the Council’s access to information necessary to enable sound decision-making.

New Zealand has proposed options for addressing this issue. We have requested more regular, informal briefings for Council members on specific Missions, beginning with MONUSCO. This has already proved valuable in providing operational level information and insights. The Secretariat briefings provided in informal triangular consultations on specific mandate renewals have also been similarly useful.  But we believe there is scope for a more systematic approach.

We would see merit in the Council receiving regular situational awareness briefings, led by the UN Operations and Crisis Centre and supported by other UN stakeholders. This is consistent with what is called for in the High Level Panels report and various Secretary-General’s reports, as well as Council resolution 2171. We understand such a practice used to exist.  Such briefings would provide Council members a more regular and relevant flow of information on key points across all UN peace operations to assist mandate implementation, safety and security, and the protection of civilians.

Finally, we need to get much better at addressing ongoing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. We must get past ritualistic expressions of condemnation and zero tolerance. We think that a key missing piece of the puzzle is implementation of the 2005 report by His Excellency Prince Zaid which reports with recommendation for a more independent and confidential process to receive and register complaints in missions.

Mr President,

The Secretary General’s report and the High Level Panel’s report provide clear analyses of key problems facing UN peace operations and a wealth of useful proposals to address these.  But the debate has never suffered from a dearth of problem definition or proposed solutions.  What we need is a sustained commitment to fix things in a real world sense, to set aside narrow interests and fixations with doctrinal purity to make the changes that can make a practical difference.

Pragmatism and practicality underlay the original conception of peacekeeping. It is important that they continue to inform our responses to modern realities.

Thank you.


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