UN report recommends sweeping changes on peacekeepers

Recommendations include formation of new “vanguard” force to enable quick military response.

Peacekeepers Haiti
The panel found peacekeeping missions were often too slow to react to crises [AP]

United Nations peacekeeping missions face “chronic challenges” such as too few resources and they are often too slow to engage with crises, a UN panel conducting the first major review of peacekeeping operations in a decade has found. 

The panel, in a report released on Tuesday, made sweeping recommendations, including that the UN form a new quick-response “vanguard” force and that its peacekeepers not engage in counterterrorism operations.

Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from UN headquarters, said it was “pretty clear from reading the report that the UN peacekeeping system is creaking, with a record number of 125,000 peacekeepers”.

“When the UN last year set up a peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, it took five months to get it up and running. The panel says it wants that to be possible in just eight to 12 weeks,” Bays said.

The report said that UN peacekeeping missions lacked the specific equipment, intelligence, logistics, capabilities and specialised military preparation required for counterterrorism missions, and such operations should be undertaken by the host government or by a capable regional force or coalition.

The report recommended that the UN should consider forming a small UN “vanguard” force, integrating civilian, military and police capabilities, to enable a quick military response to a new mission or to reinforce an existing mission, as the organisation has no existing army.

“Reliance on ad hoc solutions for rapidly deploying new missions and for crisis response has limited the timeliness and effectiveness of international response,” the report said.

“And yet, repeated calls for a global on-call standby capacity have time and again foundered on concerns about predictability, availability and cost.”

The panel also recommended creating a new position of deputy secretary-general under its chief Ban Ki-moon [AFP]
The panel also recommended creating a new position of deputy secretary-general under its chief Ban Ki-moon [AFP]

The panel also said the UN Security Council should engage earlier to address emerging threats in partnership with regional organisations, and consider creating an additional deputy secretary-general position responsible for peace and security.

It also said that peacekeeping operations should only be conducted as “time-limited, exceptional” measures and must be undertaken with “extreme caution”.

The report also acknowledged that “to the enduring shame of the organisation”, sexual exploitation and abuse still continued in UN peacekeeping operations. It recommended that victims of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers be compensated for the harm they have suffered.

Read more: UN peacekeepers accused of swapping goods for sex

Damaging information leaked to the media last week revealed that UN peacekeeping troops commonly paid for sex with cash, dresses, jewellery, perfumes, and mobile phones. A draft study said 480 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse had been made between 2008 and 2013, of which one-third involved children.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon in November appointed the panel to recommend changes to international peacekeeping in the face of increasingly complex and dangerous conflicts.

The independent panel, chaired by former East Timor president Jose Ramos-Horta, included 13 experts from a range of countries.

“The world is changing and UN peace operations must change if they are to remain an indispensable and effective tool in promoting international peace and security,” Ban said in a statement at the time.

Source: Al Jazeera