Session I: Contemporary Issues & Challenges in Modern Peace Operations
His Excellency Vice Foreign Minister,
Mr. Robert Mardini, the Permanent Observer of the ICRC to the United Nations,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Participants,
First of all, I would like to thank you very much for organising this Conference. I would like to thank especially the Indonesia Armed Forces and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for bringing all of us together today around this important topic.
Secondly, I would like to appreciate the support of Indonesia, which is one of our main supporters and one of the most important troop contributing countries.
Since 1957, nearly 40,000 Indonesians have served under the Blue Flag around the world, and over the past ten years, Indonesia has nearly tripled its personnel contributions to peacekeeping, with 2,816 Indonesian women and men currently serving in eight missions. This makes Indonesia one of the largest troop contributing and police-contributing countries (T/PCC).
I also recognise that the Indonesian military and police, including both men and women officers, have acquired high distinction in the field, earning a reputation as strong performers with a high standard of conduct and discipline.
Let me also seize this opportunity to pay tribute to Indonesian peacekeepers who lost their lives serving the UN. Unfortunately, peacekeeping has its price and it is all too often a very high price.
I also thank ICRC for our partnership. The ICRC is the custodian of International Humanitarian Law, a crucial instrument to mitigate the ravages of war and to protect the most vulnerable. It is also a crucial partner for peacekeeping.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe it is very important to talk about challenges of peacekeeping, because these challenges are currently unprecedented in many aspects. I think it is also equally important to talk about the achievements of peacekeeping. Firstly, peacekeeping has been effective in supporting stability in many countries as seen recently in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, where we recently terminated our peacekeeping operations.
Secondly, peacekeeping is also effective in the protection of civilians. As you all know, today the protection of civilians has become one of our key roles in many places affected by conflict. There are hundreds and thousands of civilians who depend on peacekeeping to access humanitarian aid or just to be protected within life-threatening environments.
The third reason to appreciate the added value of peacekeeping is the fact that in many places, the preventive role, that is played by peacekeeping, is absolutely crucial. It can be difficult to see because if we prevent, things do not happen. But prevention is important to recognise whether we talk about ceasefire-monitoring in Southern Lebanon and Cyprus, or the protection of territorial integrity in countries like the Central African Republic or Mali. In such contexts, peacekeeping plays a central role, and imagine if peacekeeping operations were not active in those places, then certainly we would have a very different situation.
It is equally true that we have many remaining challenges. The first key challenge is the lack of progress in finding political solutions. Peacekeeping is a tool that exists to support and promote the achievement of political solutions, but the UN cannot achieve those solutions alone. First of all, we need the parties to agree on the particular solution and to be prepared to implement that solution. In addition, we also need other partners to help those parties deliver on their commitment, with encouragement and also pressure. In this regard, we need a united international community, but unfortunately there is often not enough support from the international community, including the Security Council, to provide us with the strong support needed to advance political solutions. As a result of that, peacekeeping operations often find themselves without exits, which creates problems because peacekeeping by definition has to be temporary, and missions cannot be deployed indefinitely.
The second challenge is that we are currently operating in a much more difficult, challenging and dangerous environment. Peacekeepers are no longer protected by the Blue Flag, and because they are part of the UN working for peace and security, armed groups target our peacekeepers or humanitarian workers, as they are interested in preserving chaos and continue illegal activities to the detriment of the population.
The third challenge is that we are operating in many places with high levels of vulnerable civilians – displaced population in need of humanitarian assistance, which creates new challenges for us. First of all, we need to protect civilians, but expectations for the mandate to protect civilians is usually very high and usually much above what peacekeeping can realistically achieve.
So what is our collective response to those challenges? The purpose of the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative (A4P) is for us to highlight those challenges and to explain to members states that we, as the Secretariat, will be doing our best, but also that we need commitment and active engagement from member states because peacekeeping is a collective undertaking – it is a partnership, and if we are to succeed in responding effectively to those challenges, we have to work together.
That was the spirit of the Declaration of Shared Commitment endorsed by 151 Member States of the United Nations. I am very grateful to Indonesia, which was one of the most supportive countries from the outset of the A4P. We have also been supported by all the member states of ASEAN. I had the pleasure to brief the Permanent Representatives of ASEAN yesterday, and I could see that ASEAN’s commitment was very strong and effective: ASEAN is a very important partner for peacekeeping.
Moving forward, we need continuous support from Indonesia and other member states. I am glad to note that Indonesia’s continuous support remains very strong and I look forward to further cooperation.
These commitments ─ shared between Member States and the Secretariat ─ touch on eight key areas for peacekeeping. These key areas are the following:
First and foremost is the political dimension. The ultimate goal of peacekeeping is to support political solutions and for that we need to make extra efforts collectively to advance these solutions. We need to work together to make sure that there will be progress, such as in South Sudan where we have a revitalised peace agreement which has already produced results, and similarly in the Central African Republic where we also worked very hard to achieve a peace agreement together with the AU.
We also have to continue in our efforts to advance partnerships. And I could equally comment along the similar lines on Mali and other situations where peacekeeping is active. The importance of working hard to take forward political efforts and solutions is critical, which also requires partnership.
I would like to highlight the second dimension for A4P, which is partnerships. We, as peacekeepers, have a mandate centred around advancing political solutions, protecting civilians, building state capacity, establishing the rule of law, among others, but at the same time we cannot do everything. I would like to emphasise that peacekeeping can never achieve a durable solution alone or by itself. So the importance of partnership is crucial for all political levels. As an example, I have been working with the AU to advance political solutions in different parts of Africa. I believe that ASEAN is also a very important partner for the UN, and with Indonesia currently serving as a member of the UN Security Council also has a very important role.
Partnership is also important to address issues related to performance and training, making sure we fill equipment gaps and we also work on performance assessment, which is crucial for the improvement of the effectiveness of peacekeeping, and also important when it comes to partnership.
The third dimension of partnership has to do with work on the ground, because we focus on certain areas with more specific added-value and other tasks have to be performed by others. I think this is a way forward to be able to determine what is the added-value of the United Nations in peacekeeping, with other agencies and programmes, and with regional and sub-regional organisations such as ASEAN, AU and EU so as to maximise the collective impact of our action on the ground.
There is also the crucial importance of working on improving performance. We started working on performance when we launched the Action Plan on the Security of United Nations Personnel. This is a plan that has a very important objective mentioned earlier but also links to performance because if we manage to protect ourselves better, we manage to improve our performance and to improve the way we protect civilians.
In fact, protecting the lives of our peacekeepers also improves our performance, which has many different aspects. One of the aspects is training and I am glad that His Excellency the Vice Minister emphasized the importance of training. I was impressed with the Training Centre here in Indonesia with very impressive facilities.
We need to change the way in which we train peacekeepers, both civilians and military, because today, expectations for peacekeepers are very different. This involves a combination of different elements because peacekeepers have to be ready for robust peacekeeping which, in some cases, may involve combat situations, but at the same time peacekeepers need to be sensitive to cultural differences. Peacekeepers need to be able to effectively engage with communities and to be able to coordinate and co-exist with civilians, the police, NGOs, and civil society. In this regard, the spectrum for responsibility is very broad and has a very different nature – peacekeepers have to be trained and sensitized to all of this and that really requires very comprehensive training.
In relation to that, and given the new type of environment in which peacekeeping is operating, there is also a requirement for overall military skills to adapt to the changing environments in which peacekeepers are deployed. Also, the training of leaders is important to handle these complex challenges. I think partnership is very important in training. Of course, we as the Secretariat provide guidance and advice including certifying training programmes but training is essentially delivered by member states themselves. Those member states with the capacity and experience such as Indonesia also can do much in helping others to develop their capacities.
The second important dimension regarding performance is equipment: we continue to have some shortcomings when it comes to equipment, particularly regarding the new requirements of peacekeeping today. We have to make sure that we receive adequate equipment to be effective. One very important aspect is to increase our mobility, because we do not have static peacekeeping anymore. Even before the stage of reaction, we also need to have a better situational awareness so as to enable us to detect and prevent threats before they materialise. That requires peacekeeping-intelligence and the use of new technology to help in our efforts to develop situational awareness. We also work hard to make sure that troop contributing countries are provided with such equipment for their troops. Also, in relation to that, the ability of the military to protect themselves also requires adequate equipment. In addition, better medical support is another key area. Having a whole chain of effective medical support, from the reactive phase all the way to the hospital.
The last element that I would like to emphasize is performance assessment. We are working in several avenues – one of them is to roll out the Comprehensive Performance Assessment System (CPAS), which would help us to assess the performance of every single peacekeeping mission in terms of the delivery of its mandate. In addition to that, we have also developed a system whereby we assess the performance of a military unit. We now have a special unit in the office of military affairs charged with the role of assessing military units according to this system and the use of data. We also do the same with the police.
Whenever we have cases where we think there is failure to perform, particularly regarding the protection of civilians, we systematically investigate those cases. Once we have the outcomes of the investigation, we firstly look at what has stopped working within our missions and then engage with headquarters. We also interact with troop and police contributing countries to share with them the conclusion of the assessment and try to remedy with them, in a very constructive approach.
These are the different aspects of performance. Of course, it is a challenging task but we have seen results on the ground which is much more reactive. They are better protecting themselves. We have been working a lot with camp protection, which is the accommodation of passive and active measures to strengthen the protection of camps and also to make sure that we have collective control so we are better at so-called area domination – all has been a subject of very intensive efforts particularly in the most challenging missions.
I think we are also making progress regarding medical support. Over the last month, we have had a high number of fatalities despite attacks decreasing since 2017 . We are working to make sure that injured personnel will survive, which is a key objective we are pursuing to improve medical support.
Another aspect highlighted by the Vice Minister is conduct and discipline. I think we are in a better place today than we were a couple of years ago when sexual exploitation and abuse was very high whenever peacekeeping was discussed. Although such acts come from a tiny minority of peacekeepers, it deeply affects the victims and tarnishes the perception as well as effectiveness and acceptability of peacekeeping.
Although this was eventually made clear that it was not a widespread phenomenon, and a phenomenon not only in peacekeeping, the Secretary-General decided very quickly after his appointment that it was a priority issue, and that it was essential to involve governments in the efforts to fight sexual exploitation in peacekeeping. Measures have been taken regarding listening and speaking to victims, and the importance of quickly investigating any allegations as well as the appointment of dedicated personnel in our missions to address this issue.
Today, we see much more reactivity from troop contributing countries whenever this kind of allegation occurs, but at the same time I believe much more has to be done in several aspects. First of all, we have to make sure that any allegation of misconduct be brought to our knowledge. We have to provide support to the victims. Also, we have to make sure that all T/PCCs have adequate roles to make sure that these acts be prosecuted and adequately sanctioned. I noted that there is also effort to make sure that legislation be in place in T/PCCs.
I also would like to emphasize that there should be no tolerance for misconduct, and that it is very important for us to make sure that leaders need to be sensitized to this kind of issue at every level, and, again, training is crucial in this regard. There needs to be a strong and convincing call for leaders to pay special attention to adequate discipline at every level of responsibility – we will continue to place strong emphasis on this.
While it is encouraging to see that the number of these cases appears to be decreasing in peacekeeping, we must remain vigilant, and seek accountability wherever the Secretary-General’s “zero tolerance” policy is violated and ─ most importantly ─ provide support and assistance to victims.
I would like to refer to the two other aspects – one is the importance of making sure that we improve transitions from peacekeeping, especially from peacekeeping to non-peacekeeping. Transition has been always a challenge for our missions because when we roll out and exit peacekeeping, challenges still remain, which call for international responses of different natures. It usually raises the issue of financial resources, the issue of adequate coordination between different partners who can provide support, and also raises the question of whether or not there has to be a formal presence of the UN in the same countries.
I think we have been gradually evolving, recognising that in some cases there is a need to keep some kind of formal presence of a more political nature. And this is what the Security Council has just decided on Haiti where we were about to terminate the mission, but the Security Council yesterday decided to create a smaller political presence of the UN which will be tasked with continuing good offices and support to Haiti in areas such as dealing with the police and the rule of law institutions. We might be considering the same kind of formal presence with the AU in Darfur, depending on how the political situation evolves in Sudan. In addition to that, I think it is also important to make additional efforts to address the issue of financial resources which requires adequate coordination.
Finally, let me turn to the subject of Women, Peace and Security. I think we all agree that we are more effective as peacekeepers when we have more women. We also talked about creating trust and confidence in communities where we can have men and women, not only military but also police, engaged in communities - I believe that there are more troop and police contributing countries undertaking more efforts to deploy more women. Indonesia is certainly very active, and I very much appreciate your efforts. More needs to be done and I call on all troop and police contributing countries not only to increase the proportion of women in units but also to consider deploying female officers including senior officers, including female generals, whom we will be happy to deploy to leadership positions in our missions.
We also need to make sure we create the environment in which women peacekeepers feel comfortable in peacekeeping. This requires adequate training and sensitization of our peacekeepers. On this, we are undertaking many efforts but there is more to be done. It is also a question of resources and a question of making sure that again we have facilities in different missions.
While peacekeeping is about trust-building in communities and populations, it is also about making sure that peacekeeping operations are reflective of the realities of the societies in which we operate, because our military and police interact with communities and societies. Therefore, it has to also be reflective of gender diversity of societies in which we operate. I believe that there is an effort to increase the role of women in peacekeeping. It is not just about increasing the number of women, but also increasing the role of women peacekeepers in political efforts and processes, which is one of the important dimensions in the Women, Peace and Security agenda, not only at the national level but also at the local level.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude by saying that I am very grateful for the invitation to join you. I am also grateful for Indonesia’s active support to peacekeeping and to the UN in general.
I am also very grateful to ICRC, which is an outstanding partner – with whom we have a strong relations of cooperation and confidence. I am again grateful to your countries for their support. I think we have a long way to go, but I believe if we continue to work together, we will achieve more.
Thank you for your attention.