Peacekeeping: No Strategy without Exit

The review of peacekeeping by the Secretary-General continues. The most recent issue was an "exit strategy", the view expressed by a report about the need to have a plan to conclude an operation while preparing to start it.

Some, like Ambassador Chowdhury of Bangladesh, stressed the need to link the conclusion of peacekeeping operations with their potential transition to the post-conflict peace-building phase. Ultimately, maintaining peace and security was an ongoing process, he said. On the other hand, an "exit strategy" could be misleading, according to Dutch Ambassador van Walsum, if it did not link clearly the end of a mission to that mission's objective. An "overall strategy" is rather required - "a long-term plan to lead to a self-sustaining peace in the conflict area". At any rate, it was important not to confuse "exit strategies" with "exit deadlines", thought U.S. Ambassador Holbrooke. An exit strategy must be directed towards an overall specific objective" - "not an arbitrary self-imposed deadline" - which would only serve to give hope "to warlords, criminal and corrupt officials" who may think they could outlive those dates.

Italy's delegate thought that an exit strategy too often had amounted to an escape route. French Ambassador Levitte, in an analytical intervention, thought it "was not a simple task" for the Security Council, which may not have on hand the full dimensions of the underlying causes of conflict, "as well as the intent and motives of the protagonists". Without such an understanding, there would be a risk of dealing only with symptoms, thus coming up with temporary solutions. A similar view, in different terms, was expressed by Mr. Heinbecker of Canada. Elements of peace-building should be integrated in a mission's mandate from the beginning, he said, after indicating that the focus of any peacekeeping mission must encompass the political and socio-economic context of the conflict, "including the rule of law and the human rights situation".

The Chinese representative, Wang Ying-fan, said that the formulation of an exit strategy depended largely on establishing "a realistic peacekeeping plan, an understanding of the underlying causes of the situation and a guarantee of the resources necessary for implementing the operation". Gennadi Gatilov of the Russian Federation thought there was a need to create favourable conditions to bring about political decisions that would end the conflict. "Exit strategies must be carefully developed to ensure that violence did not again erupt", he added. Tunisia's former Foreign Minister and current Permanent Representative Said Ben Mustapha stressed that any peacekeeping operation should strictly respect the principles of the UN Charter and that an exit strategy was not an end in itself, but part of a long-term solution to a conflict situation. Selma Ashipale-Musavyi of Namibia viewed the objective as a way of establishing a continuum from peacekeeping to peace-building. The theme was not about "getting out" but "getting it right". Ambassador Yel'chenko of Ukraine examined the matter within the wider context of the whole process of peace efforts and the ongoing efforts to reform peacekeeping mechanisms. Conflict prevention was one of the most prospective instruments in the UN arsenal, he said, adding that it was crucial to sustain success after a mission was accomplished and that the Council should be firmly committed to the post-conflict peace-building leading to a self-sustaining peace. The UN could not "enter" or "exit" conflict situations without a clearly defined and far-reaching strategy.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock thought there was a need for a much broader and deeper analysis of what the Council was doing. A mandate of a mission should contain a criterion for an exit. At the very least, the problem must be dealt with. Once the mandate is set, everybody should understand it, particularly the troop-contributing countries and potential contributors. He supported the establishment of an "Executive Committee on Peace and Security Information and Strategic Analysis Secretariat (PSIS). (That proposal actually reflects a "back to the future" approach. It is an incarnation of what was known as ORCI, then under Mr. James Jonah, currently Finance Minister of Sierra Leone. When dismantled, part of it was sent to the Department of Public Information. Now it would be part of a rehashed ORCI, with a different name, slightly modified task, but with almost identical objectives. It is proposed to have it under the supervision of the British Under-Secretary-General, Sir Keiren Prendergast. But obviously, Sir Jeremy's support has nothing to do with that bureaucratic detail.) Ambassador Antonio Monteiro of Portugal, an experienced former Council member and seasoned field observer, thought that the "twilight zone", the transitional period between peacekeeping and peace-building, was a crucial one and, if not handled properly, could result in a return to violence. The necessary resources should therefore be combined with a "clear and achievable" mandate. Since certain peace-building elements were part of peacekeeping, they could be included in the initial planning and deployment of operations. One of the ways to ensure a smooth transition, he advised, was for the Council to remain involved in all phases of the UN efforts to address a conflict situation. It was evident that UN peacekeeping was sick and that something should be done about it, he continued, and it was time for hard, far-reaching decisions once and for all to establish peacekeeping on a solid foundation. That foundation was made of three building blocks: Member States, the Security Council and the Secretariat. Each would have to play its required role in order to achieve a joint objective of healthy and effective peacekeeping.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit of Egypt said that the Security Council should approach the termination of peacekeeping operations on a case-by-case basis, since the strict application of a single policy or set of policies was not practical. In conflict areas where peacekeeping operations had already been deployed, the Security Council should not apply political pressure on any side to achieve the self-serving interests of one or more of its members and without paying attention to the interests of the hosting society, State or region. Somalia and Rwanda were examples of cases in which peace operations had been terminated for such political motives. The Council's responsibilities and role necessitated that its members put aside parochial and individualistic actions in the interest of the higher general good. He thought that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations was within the domain of the General Assembly. Therefore, in considering past mistakes where peacekeeping operations had been abandoned prematurely or contrary to the needs of the prevailing social climate, the Security Council should hold a frank dialogue with the Assembly and other United Nations organs and bodies. The time factor was important, he continued, but it should not be the key factor determining the departure of a peacekeeping operation from the hosting State. Some operations had existed for decades, and their existence had become an important symbol of the international presence pending the achievement of a satisfactory agreement between parties to a conflict.

It may be Sir Jeremy who summarized the current situation: "The buck was passed endlessly between the Secretary-General, the Council and troop contributors". Most people feel it is about time to make sure that the buck stops somewhere between the three - actually, amongst the three. There is no exit. Indeed, we are all in it together.