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Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations at the UN Security Council Thematic Debate on Peacekeeping Reform and Performance, 8349th meeting

12 Sep 2018

Remarks by Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)

UNWeb TV video of the remarks


Madame President,

I want to thank you for convening this debate on peacekeeping reform and how we can maximize our collective efforts to improve the performance of United Nations peacekeeping operations. Almost a year ago, this Council adopted resolution 2378, a landmark resolution on peacekeeping reform, under the presidency of Ethiopia. Since then, many efforts have been made to enhance peacekeeping but much more needs to done.

We welcome today’s discussion. It comes at a time when our operations face significant challenges: elusive political solutions, intrastate conflicts that are intertwined with broader threats, including international terrorist movements and organized crime, large-scale violence against civilians, and the targeting of our peacekeepers. Too many of our peacekeepers are making the ultimate sacrifice and I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to them.

Improving peacekeeping is by its very essence a collective endeavour. Ensuring that our missions are fit for purpose and perform well requires action by all of us and all of us working together. All stakeholders who, in one form or another, take part in peacekeeping need to improve our performance, and we all need to support each other in doing so. This includes the UN Secretariat, as well as the Member States, Security Council members, troop and police contributing countries, host nations, regional and sub-regional organizations and others. This is why the Secretary-General launched the Action for Peacekeeping initiative in March of this year. Following intensive consultations with all of our Member States as well as intergovernmental organizations, the Secretary-General put forward the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations to all Member States for their endorsement. The mutual commitments that it proposes, including on performance, are key to enhancing peacekeeping.

Madame President,

The United Nations Secretariat is committed to playing its full part to respond to the challenges that I just highlighted.

First, we continue our efforts to enhance performance, particularly by implementing the Action Plan to strengthen the safety and security of UN peacekeepers. This Action Plan is ultimately about performance, and it includes the requisite elements to strengthen it. Through its implementation, we are changing mindset, strengthening our operational readiness and modifying our posture. We are also enhancing the capacity of UN peacekeeping by providing better tailored training and doing our utmost to make sure that peacekeepers have the equipment they need. We are strengthening accountability and ensuring that if an incident occurs, our peacekeepers receive the best care possible as soon as possible.

Much work remains to be done, but we are beginning to see the effects of our collective efforts. From the 1st of January to the 31st of August of this year, 17 peacekeepers have lost their life due to acts of violence. The number over the same period last year was 26. This represents a significant decrease. In mentioning these figures, I want to remain cautious and modest because threats against our peacekeepers remain very, very high. I want to emphasize that each and every peacekeeper killed is one too many. We mourn the lives of the fallen, and are reminded that we must collectively do more to strengthen the safety and security of our peacekeepers. It is essential to enable us to better execute our mandates in the countries in which we serve.

The trend that I described calls on us to remain vigilant and fully mobilized to continue this course of action. In many of our missions, peacekeepers are carrying out more effective responses to threats and attacks. I recently returned from Mali and I can attest to the positive changes MINUSMA has made. Many of their camps are better protected, including through more advanced systems for detecting threats. I saw that our peacekeepers in Aguelhok and Tessalit are proactively patrolling, despite the significant threats that they face. Last April, a large group of assailants carried out a sophisticated, complex attack against one of our bases in Timbuktu, resulting in the death of one peacekeeper. In this case, the mindset and the degree of preparedness of the troops helped to significantly limit the number of casualties, as the attackers were met with a robust response. We see such evolutions in other missions as well. In MONUSCO, for instance, our peacekeepers are protecting civilians more effectively through a more proactive posture.

We have put in place a robust structure here at Headquarters and in the field to take forward implementation of the Action Plan. I assigned the Office for Peacekeeping Strategic Partnership (OPSP) with overseeing implementation, in close collaboration with the Office of Military Affairs and other relevant offices. The Implementation Support Teams established at Headquarters and in the five high-risk Missions continue to be very active in taking forward their respective Action Plans to drive concrete change on the ground.

Second, we have undertaken a series of independently led reviews of peacekeeping missions. We have been going back to square one to assess these missions’ mandates and whether we have the appropriate strategies and resources to keep or restore the peace. The recommendations of the reviews inform the proposals and options that the Secretary-General puts forward in his recommendations to the Council. We are already beginning to learn lessons from this series of reviews and we intend to continue to strengthen and refine this methodology.

Third, we are taking forward the Secretary-General’s reforms of the peace and security architecture in order to provide more integrated analysis and better country and regional strategies. We are also preparing to implement the Secretary-General’s management reform, which will empower our peace operations in the field and enable us to become more reactive and nimble.

Fourth, we continue strengthening cooperation with our key partners, especially the African Union and the European Union, both of which are with us today. This includes more triangular cooperation between the UN, AU and EU, at the strategic and operational levels.

Madame President,

As part of this wide effort to enhance the efficiency of peacekeeping, we are devoting considerable attention to better assessing performance. We are putting in place the policies and evaluation systems that will enable all of us, collectively, to better tailor our efforts to strengthen peacekeeping and better support all peacekeepers, whether uniformed or civilian.   

For our military personnel, we established a clear framework of performance standards and assessments based on regular performance evaluations of military units, including on command and control, protection of civilians, conduct and discipline, and training. These assessments will inform our reporting to the Council in accordance with several recent mandate resolutions, including resolution 2409 mandating MONUSCO. We also stepped up our efforts to make sure that the units joining our missions meet our operational readiness standards before they are deployed, including through the development of a new methodology for carrying out pre-deployment evaluations. Since April, we used this new methodology to assess eight units from six TCCs. The evaluations examine whether they have the basic military “know how” and the requisite skills to carry out the mandated tasks of the mission. They also assess whether these units have the expertise needed for the specific environment in which they will be deployed. We are also developing more specific performance assessment criteria for Formed Police Units.

Further, we are also investing significant resources and efforts in the development of the integrated performance policy framework requested by the Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations and supported by this Council. Through it, we aim to strengthen and hold accountable all peacekeepers, civilian and uniformed, at all levels and in equal measure, both in the field and at headquarters. Changing institutional structures and individual behaviour requires us all to rectify shortcomings, strengthen leadership, accountability as well as provide incentives for change. Our goal is to maximize the effect we have on the ground as we deliver on the Council’s mandates.

Data collection and analysis is an integral element of our approach. The new comprehensive performance assessment system (CPAS) will enable us to assess whole-of-mission performance - civilian and uniformed components, staff and leadership - through data collection and analysis. By identifying bottlenecks or problems, we aim to promote better informed decisions by senior leadership to refocus efforts and take corrective action. This system will also help Member States craft more targeted mandates and direct resources towards areas where we can make the biggest difference. We are already starting with three pilot missions. We already conducted a visit to MINUSCA last month, and will visit a further two missions by the end of this year. And we are planning for all missions to be using the new system by July 2020. We will continue to engage Member States proactively on this topic.

We also attach particular importance to leadership across all mission components, and we have enhanced and professionalized the assessment process for selection as well as support to our Heads and deputy Heads of Mission.

Finally, but most importantly, we developed mechanisms to enhance accountability for when we fall short. We established a system to commission independent, ad-hoc investigations to clarify the causes and circumstances of incidents that indicate serious shortfalls in mandate implementation. Through frank and precise analysis, these investigations have fostered constructive engagement with TCCs and PCCs as well as amongst ourselves. This has enabled us to work together to find solutions for such shortfalls. We have taken measures to change the way we work, notably through enhancing our procedures and our collective preparedness, as we did following the July 2016 incident in Juba, South Sudan. Where necessary, we have also instituted remedial measures, including in some cases preventing the redeployment of troop or police units until we can confirm that they are able to meet relevant standards and equipment.

Madame President,

Despite its full commitment to develop and implement these initiatives and tools, UN peacekeeping cannot succeed without the engagement and the mobilization of all stakeholders, and, first and foremost, the Member States.

Strengthening peacekeeping often requires strengthening the capacities of those who provide its men and women, the TCCs and PCCs. As has been highlighted on many occasion in this Council as well as other fora, it is an effort that involves not only the Secretariat, but fellow Member States. It is precisely the goal of the “light coordination mechanism”, which we established late last year. By identifying specific needs for targeted training support, we can facilitate training and capacity building partnerships among Member States. We thus welcome the development of triangular partnerships, whereby Member States provide troop and police contributing countries training and equipment prior to deployment. Such cooperation is an illustration of how we can collectively respond to capacity challenges. I encourage all Member States who have the capacity to provide such training and equipment to TCCs and PCCs to continue their efforts to respond to the current needs, so that our peacekeepers can operate more efficiently in the challenging contexts in which they are deployed. In this regard, I want to mention the new Action Plan for Training, for which we have requested voluntary contributions. We are grateful to those we have already provided support. I also encourage all Member States to assess themselves the evolution of the performance of UN peacekeeping operations, including through visiting them on the ground and sharing your conclusions with us.

I would also like to take this opportunity to call on all Member States, particularly those with the most advanced military capabilities, to contribute more troops and police to UN peacekeeping. We still have an ongoing need for critical capabilities, including helicopters, counter-IED capacities, rapid reaction forces, situational awareness, and medical support. We welcome all contributions in these areas.

The engagement of Member States is also key to increase the number of women who are part of peacekeeping. More women in peacekeeping simply makes peacekeeping more effective. We need to significantly enhance the number of female peacekeepers at all levels and within uniformed as well as civilian components. We must also ensure that they are able to meaningfully participate in our work.  Women are only 21% of our personnel. We must do better.

I am pleased that, through our common work, we have seen some improvements. Gender strategies for DPKO and DFS as well as within each of our missions, and the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy, are starting to yield results. At headquarters, women officers now represent 18% of all officers in the Office of Military Affairs, and we are committed to raising this proportion further. In the field, women police officers represent 21% of our Individual Police Officers, and 7% of our Formed Police Units. We intend to continue our efforts to increase the number of female peacekeepers in headquarters and in the field, in line with Security Council resolution 2242.

The policies that we have promoted can only be achieved through the active involvement of Members States. I therefore welcome the efforts undertaken by a number of Member States, and I call on all of you to further these initiatives and significantly increase your contributions of women peacekeepers.

Madame President,

Ensuring that all United Nations personnel maintain the highest standards of conduct must be at the heart of our collective efforts. We fully share the Council's expectations in this regard, and we will continue to place prevention at the forefront of our efforts.

In recent years, we have done more to strengthen accountability, transparency, enforcement, awareness-raising, advocacy and the provision of victim-centred support. We have implemented greater transparency in reporting, expanded vetting of personnel, improved investigation timelines and seen increased responsiveness by Member States. The Secretariat now vets all categories of personnel against a prior history of misconduct while serving in the United Nations.

Last year, the Secretary-General appointed a dedicated Victims’ Rights Advocate, Ms Jane Connors, to ensure that victims of sexual exploitation and abuse have access to the support they need, including urgent assistance, the ability to file complaints safely and reliably, and access to timely information on the progress of their case. Multiple channels exist to anonymously report misconduct, including online and by phone.

After Security Council resolution 2272, the Secretariat established a committee to consider possible credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse, or instances where Member States may not have taken appropriate steps to investigate allegations, hold perpetrators accountable or inform the Secretary-General of the outcome of these processes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this complex issue, but the 2272 Committee has not shied away from engaging with Member States to take preventive and corrective action, including repatriations where required. We have removed or repatriated units where we deemed it appropriate.

I am glad that we will shortly hear from Ms. Sarah Blakemore, CEO of the NGO Keeping Children Safe. One of the most critical partners for our work in prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse - as well as for accountability and victim support - is the network of NGOs and civil society partners operating on the ground. Only by working together will the United Nations, Member States and civil society end this behaviour which irreparably harms victims and tarnishes the reputation of thousands of UN personnel who serve with honour.

When, despite all our efforts, personnel violate our standards of conduct, we must continue to work to achieve accountability in partnership with Member States. To do so, we are strengthening our policies. UN investigative entities are required to complete investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse within six months. Troop-contributing countries have also been asked to complete their investigations within this time frame. In matters deemed particularly urgent, troop-contributing countries are requested to complete investigations within 90 days. Such measures have led to a decrease of the average reaction time of Member States.

We must be unequivocally clear that it is Member States who possess the authority to hold all categories of personnel accountable for criminal conduct. In the case of police and military personnel, they can also enact administrative sanctions as appropriate. Such responses are essential, and we are grateful to the [98] Member States that have signed the Voluntary Compact with the Secretary-General on the commitment to end sexual exploitation and abuse. 

We share a joint responsibility to end impunity, to strengthen prevention and response, to respond rapidly and decisively to credible reports, and to meet the needs of victims quickly and appropriately. 

Madame President,

Drawing on all these efforts, the Secretariat is fully committed to playing its part to enhance peacekeeping performance. In this spirit, the Secretary-General makes several concrete commitments, including on performance, in the Declaration of Shared Commitments proposed in the framework of the Action for Peacekeeping initiative. We will spare no effort to deliver on these commitments.

We are very grateful for the willingness shown by a large and growing number of Member States and other stakeholders to also make such commitments through their support to this Declaration. I am happy to report that, as of today, 55 Member States have already endorsed the Declaration. The many TCCs and PCCs who have done so account for more than 65% of all personnel contributions and the numbers are growing every day.  The broad and cross-regional support to the Declaration reflects the strong consensus around the key objectives that it lays out. I want to express my thanks to all of you that have already endorsed. We look forward to a substantial number of additional endorsements before the High-level Event on Action for Peacekeeping on 25 September. We look forward to building upon this Declaration to continue strengthening UN peacekeeping.

Finally, we are gratified to see the Council’s commitment to support our efforts to improve peacekeeping. We hope to be able to count on the continued support of all Council members for A4P and all our ongoing initiatives to foster a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation.