Evolving and increasingly deadly threats, together with worsening humanitarian crises mean United Nations peacekeeping missions need more support for ‘blue helmets’ on the ground, Force Commanders told the Security Council this week.
In their briefings, military chiefs from UN peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Mali and South Sudan stressed these obstacles have to be overcome if missions are to implement mandates in line with the Dos Santos Cruz Report on casualties suffered by peacekeeping missions.
The retired Lieutenant General’s report released in January said the UN flag no longer offered “natural” protection to peacekeepers and UN peacekeeping pledged to develop an action plan to put its recommendations into practice.
“We owe it to our peacekeepers, both civilian and military, to implement the action plan, to change our mind sets and to adapt – how we lead at all levels – to the new challenges we face,” Major General Jean-Paul Deconinck, Force Commander at the UN Multi-dimensional Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said.
The mission remains one of the most dangerous of all UN missions, where more than 160 uniformed and civilian peacekeeping personnel have died.
In addition to threats posed by armed groups and terrorists, supplying remote outposts and dealing with harsh environments also challenges UN operations. This again stresses the importance of comprehensive training, quality medical equipment, air support and strong intelligence gathering and processing entities, Deconinck said.
The multi-dimensional nature of UN operations “must also include a regional approach to address the crisis through all dimensions, in all countries of the Sahel region,” he added.
Lieutenant General Leonard M. Ngondi, Force Commander at the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), stressed the importance of peacekeeping missions as political tools for durable solutions to conflicts could not be over-emphasised.
Challenges in Darfur, different in nature than Mali, are complicated and must be addressed for the mission to deliver on its mandate, he said.
These include restrictions on UNAMID’s freedom of movement and co-operation from the Sudanese government; dealing with armed groups operating outside the peace framework; helping ease inter-communal conflicts over natural resources; and dealing with rising crime and banditry as well as the proliferation of weapons.
In increasing support for UNAMID, Ngondi urged the Security Council to consider adding a so-called “transition strategy” to mission mandates.
“Lessons learned from missions in Liberia (UNMIL) and Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) show good transition guarantee gains made are not in vain,” he said.
Force Commander at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Lieutenant General Frank Mushyo Kamanzi, spoke on challenges faced in the world’s youngest country that has spent much of its short history since 2011 mired in conflict and plunging the country into a humanitarian and economic crisis.
Providing security and civilian protection in South Sudan is more complex having moved from conflict between two parties to one where the transitional government “has the upper hand, but faces political and military opposition from multiple actors,” Mushyo said.
“Protection of civilians remains our priority task and we continue to provide physical protection to over 209,000 internally displaced persons and UN agencies and other humanitarian actors who live and work within the five Protection of Civilian sites,” he said, noting more than 40% of UNMISS peacekeeping troops are dedicated to this task.
Underscoring the importance of a political solution to the South Sudan crisis, the UNMISS Force Commander called on the Security Council to encourage all parties to work to that end, which he said “will in turn improve prospects for the mission to achieve its mandate.”