PEACEKEEPING NEEDS EXPERIENCED POLITICAL LEADERSHIP, CREDIBLE FIELD PERFORMANCE

 

DECEMBER 10, 2017

PEACEKEEPING NEEDS EXPERIENCED POLITICAL LEADERSHIP, CREDIBLE FIELD PERFORMANCE
Perhaps another Under-Secretary General position could be provided to a distinguished diplomat from the Q'uai d'Orsay while someone from elsewhere with proven practical record would be charged with regaining Peacekeeping dynamic valor. Otherwise,expect more reports at Headquarters and more trouble in the field".

A recent meeting on peacekeeping in Vancouver reviewed the role of UN missions and made specific suggestions like more agile targeted presence, tighter command structures, more mobility, more women in troop and police positions to protect civilians, zero tolerance on sexual abuse and exploitation. These are very welcomed indications of good intentions. But what matters will be actual action on the ground in specific missions where issues have been raised, yet responses remain of a general nature. For example, despite scandalous reports about the Central African Republic, the Special Representative remained untouched. Troops from participating countries were shifted, nationally reprimanded, and their role generally reevaluated, but those giving political guidance on the practical level were not changed. While dedicated, hard-working, average staff do their best to provide required support, some at a higher level do not seem to be paying attention or being held accountable.

Peacekeeping was for decades one of the most rewarded UN activities. It won two Nobel Prizes for valuable roles in the field. Once a source of pride for UN staff and Member States has deteriorated in certain cases to an open mishandled embarrassment with no perceived corrective action. There were several studies on Peacekeeping prepared by expert committees, proposing certain ideas but not much was changed. A new group of mediators established by the new Secretary-General composed of "distinguished high-level" officials will most likely yield a similar outcome unless there is a determination to take drastic corrective action on the ground and credible experienced Peacekeeping leadership at Headquarters. Earlier pillars like Dr. Ralph Bunche and Sir Brian Urquhart, assisted by F.T. Liu and diplomats like Lester Pearson of Canada, were uniquely experienced to accomplish prized awards, unlike some of those who followed during catastrophic massacres like in Rwanda and Srebrenica, and more recently with widely reported shortcomings in various missions.

It may be a sensitive issue to raise the fact that the post of Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping has been kept within the domain of one particular country for over twenty years. It started with a political bargain in 1997. It perhaps could be changed by another political arrangement, particularly as certain operations are in areas with historical French connections, including presence of its national troops making all parties, including the U.N.and France, openly vulnerable to negative reporting of failure, child abuse and sexual harassment when there are many peacekeepers giving their lives to perform their assignments. Perhaps another Under-Secretary General position could be provided to a distinguished diplomat from the Q'uai d'Orsay, while someone from elsewhere with proven practical record would be charged with regaining Peacekeeping dynamic valor. Otherwise, expect more reports at Headquarters, and more trouble in the field.