The UN Secretary-General called UN peacekeeping a beacon of hope in a recent speech. Find out what the plans are to make that beacon shine even brighter.
If you grow up in Canada, you’re taught to take pride in United Nations peacekeeping. The idea of sending a military team from a neutral country into conflict zones to maintain the rule of law came from Canada.
During the Suez Crisis back in 1956, Canadian foreign minister, Lester Pearson, told the UN General Assembly that the crisis called for a “peace and police force.” He told them that, “peace is far more than ceasing to fire.”
The Assembly voted to send a peacekeeping force to the canal. It was commanded by Canadian General E.L.M. Burns. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and went on to become Canada’s prime minister. Since then, the UN has deployed 70 peacekeeping missions around the globe.
MORE THAN 125,000 CANADIANS HAVE SERVED AS PEACEKEEPERS
This is all the stuff of legends in Canada. We’re fiercely proud of our role in peacekeeping. More than 125,000 Canadians have served as peacekeepers to protect civilians around the globe and 122 of them have died in action.
To be honest, since the 1990s, our small but dedicated armed forces have been more focused on UN-sanctioned NATO operations. These have been are more like peacemaking than peacekeeping.
Even so, there are about 110 Canadian soldiers serving in peace missions around the world today. I mention all this because UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talked about peacekeeping operations at the Centre for International Peace and Stability in Pakistan recently.
PAKISTAN HAS SENT OVER 150,000 PEACEKEEPERS SINCE 1960
He pointed out that Pakistan started taking part in UN Peacekeeping missions in 1960. They’ve sent over 150,000 peacekeepers on missions since then. 157 of them have lost their lives.
Peacekeeping started in the middle of the Cold War and a lot has changed since the 50s. Guterres told his audience that, more and more, the peacekeepers themselves face direct attacks.
Guterres also said that host countries have been harder to deal with on peace agreements in the last few years. As we all know, it’s a lot harder in today’s world to end a mission and plan an exit strategy than it used to be.
GROUPS ARMED TO THE TEETH BUT DON’T BELONG TO A COUNTRY
A lot of this has to do with the number of well-supplied groups who are armed to the teeth but don’t belong to any particular country. They pay no attention to borders and it’s not clear what they’re fighting for.
Social media is another problem for peacekeeping. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, people spread lies about the peacekeepers to try to thwart peace operations.
These issues led to a new strategy at the UN called the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative (A4P). (It’s the UN, you have to have an acronym!)
UN ACTION FOR PEACEKEEPING INITIATIVE (A4P)
The A4P relies on partnerships. The UN wants more cooperation between the countries supplying peacekeepers, host governments, regional organizations and anyone else who wants peacekeeping to work.
This would include member states, the Security Council, the General Assembly, financial contributors and the UN Secretariat. Pakistan was the first country to sign onto the A4P.
Since then, more than 150 other countries have joined in. It’s an eight-point plan that covers the following.
1. Political solutions – put forward political solutions to the conflict and give peacekeepers more political impact.
The idea here is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The countries agree to settle conflicts politically and not by force. They realize that goals like security, rule of law, unity, development and rights all depend on finding political solutions to problems instead of starting wars.
2. Women, peace and security – implement the women, peace and security agenda
Women have been left out of decisions about war and peace in the past. The countries agree that this has been a tragic mistake. The plan commits them to make sure that women have a full and equal say in peace processes.
It also calls for them to look at the analysis, planning, implementation and reporting phases through the lens of gender. In the field, the plan calls for countries to place more civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping roles at all levels.
3. Protection – strengthen the protection provided to peacekeeping operations
The countries commit to supporting tailor-made peacekeeping efforts to protect civilians, especially women and children. They also agree to communicate better with local people to make sure everyone knows why the mission is in their community and how it helps local people.
4. Safety and security – improve the safety and security of peacekeepers
The members realize that peacekeeping has changed over time. In response, they’re committed to working together to deal with the higher numbers of peacekeepers killed in action in recent years.
There’s a new training plan. They’ve also started giving peacekeepers better technical, medical and systems support on the ground.
5. Performance and accountability – support effective performance and accountability by all peacekeeping components
All of the parties agree to hold everyone in peacekeeping roles, civilian and uniformed, to the highest standards. This applies to leaders above all.
The Secretary-General is working on new policies that set even clearer expectations. These will be used to plan and evaluate new missions.
6. Sustaining peace – Strengthen the impact of peacekeeping on sustaining peace
Host countries need to be included and able to participate in peacekeeping missions. The countries also commit to including and engaging communities and individuals when putting peacekeeping mandates in place.
The UN agrees that the Security Council needs to work more closely with the Peacebuilding Commission during ongoing missions. As the missions wind down, the UN commits to helping UN Country Teams to keep things going in the right direction.
7. Partnerships – Improve peacekeeping partnerships to enhance collaboration and planning
This involves working together with other international organizations like the African Union and the European Union. Working as a team means playing your position, so there need to be clearer lines around the role each group plays.
The parties also agree to make sure that stable funds are in place to keep peace operations running.
8. Conduct – Strengthen the conduct of peacekeeping operations and personnel
There’s a new zero-tolerance policy that focuses on victims of sexual assault or abuse. On top of that, in general, the parties agree to hold all personnel, especially leaders, accountable for proper conduct and vet everyone they send on missions.
Since the plan started, the process for evacuating casualties works better and peacekeeper deaths have dropped from 59 in 2017 to 28 in 2019.
A lot more peacekeepers are women lately, especially from Pakistan. The UN Chief said that this is making a key difference in getting communities to trust peacekeeping missions.
A LOT MORE PEACEKEEPERS ARE WOMEN LATELY
Guterres pointed to four new ways to make A4P progress. The first was even more help for missions in the toughest conflict zones dealing with higher security risks.
Secondly, he called for better civilian protection. This involves better training for peacekeepers and getting them better equipment.
The third point involves improved information gathering. This has to happen locally, by listening carefully to host governments, communities and local people.
The last point is getting the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy in place. This involves doing better progress reviews among other things.
UN’S MAIN ROLE IS TO PRESERVE PEACE AND RESOLVE CONFLICTS
The United Nations arose out of the ruins of a century that went through unspeakably horrific wars and abhorrent atrocities. Its main role is to preserve peace and resolve conflicts through diplomacy.
Having spent time in the field himself during his ten years as High Commissioner for refugees, Guterres called UN peacekeeping, “A beacon of hope for millions of people affected by conflict and instability.”
Due to our ingenious gift for technology, humanity has taken the appalling absurdity of war that came from our baser primate instincts and turned it into a loathsome barbarity. In this nuclear age, we can’t possibly survive another world war between the world’s most powerful nations.
WE CAN’T POSSIBLY SURVIVE ANOTHER WORLD WAR
Peacekeeping prevents local or regional conflicts from escalating into that final apocalypse for humanity. We all need to support these initiatives and discover other ways to rid the world of the scourge of war.
We always have more to learn if we dare to know.
Future Challenges to Global Peace: The Role of the United Nations vis-a-vis A4P
Secretary General’s Initiative on Action for Peacekeeping (A4P)
“The Absurdity of this Ongoing War” in Libya
Calls for a New Geneva Convention for the Environment
Happy International Day of Non-Violence