Secretary-General’s briefing to the Security Council on Peace Operations

New York, 20 November 2015

It is a pleasure to be with you today. I am grateful to the presidency of the United Kingdom for organizing this important meeting. This is the first time the Security Council will consider the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Peace Operations and my implementation report. I hope this will be the start of sustained dialogue and action to strengthen United Nations peace operations.

I launched the peace operations initiative out of profound concern over the scale and intensity of conflict today. The human, political and financial costs of conflict continue to mount.  Political failures are resulting in insecurity, injustice and deprivation for millions of people today, and feeding the conflicts of tomorrow.

The demands of conflict are also putting enormous burdens on our peace and security tools, particularly UN peace operations. Peacekeeping and special political missions are deployed to more places, in more configurations, than ever before. They are struggling to implement complex mandates. Our systems are straining at the scale of operations. We are not always responding with the speed and effectiveness required. We have difficulty in keeping pace with the evolution of each conflict. We are finding it harder to end conflicts and to sustain peace.

This is why I asked an eminent panel, chaired by President José Ramos-Horta, to look at how the full range of UN peace operations could be adapted to meet today’s challenges.  Strengthening peace operations is a collective task that will require the collaboration of many actors. In my implementation report, I identified those areas where the UN Secretariat can take concrete actions.  I also signalled those areas where the engagement of Member States, the General Assembly and the Security Council is essential. And I highlighted the importance of partnership to achieve our goals.

The focus of your meeting today is on the role that the Security Council can play in strengthening peace operations. The Panel offered a number of recommendations, and I put forward concrete proposals for their implementation. The recommendations cover three broad areas: first, political engagement; second, the design and implementation of UN peace operations; and third, reinvigorated partnerships.

Let me briefly address each.

First, political engagement.

Peace operations are political tools. They are deployed by you to advance and support a political settlement to a conflict. They are the signal of international commitment to help find and sustain political solutions.

Your political engagement even before authorizing a peace operation is critical, and remains essential throughout the life of a mission.

A central finding of this review is that prevention is the most effective means
of tackling the escalating costs of conflict. And it is the best way of supporting national and regional partners, who are and must be the front line of prevention.

Committed efforts among Council members to unite around a shared political strategy to de-escalate tensions can have a powerful effect. Your public statements and private messaging to the parties shape perceptions and actions on the ground. Your engagement with regional and other stakeholders, and, where appropriate, the use of sanctions, can change the incentives of key parties and play a role in reducing the flow of arms and money that fuel conflict. Your engagement can help prevent a conflict from spreading and enhance the support provided to affected civilians. This early engagement is most effective when it is collective, when it is done in partnership with regional players and when it is sustained over time.

The engagement of the Council with host Governments is also critical to ensure that they fulfil their obligations with regard to the safety, security and freedom of movement of uniformed peacekeepers and civilian staff.  Time and again, we have seen missions prevented from performing their mandated tasks by an array of administrative obstacles and other restrictions.

In order to act early, you need timely information. I have committed to provide the Council with frank and timely briefings on situations of escalating concern, particularly those situations where civilians are at grave risk. Regional offices and my special envoys are invaluable in supporting early and effective political engagement. My Human Rights up Front initiative seeks to focus the attention of the UN system on the prevention of serious and large-scale violations of human rights.

Where missions are deployed, we need to devote greater attention to the political strategies that they support. I will encourage my Special Representatives to focus their briefings on the status of political efforts and to identify risks, challenges and opportunities for progress.  We will be more forthright on the role that the Council itself can and should play. This could include engaging your representatives in the countries that host our missions, who can project the Council’s collective determination in their engagement with all parties.

A second area where Security Council action can strengthen peace operations is in better design and implementation of our mandates.

Mandates need to be better tailored to a specific conflict environment, and able to adapt as conflicts evolve.

Good progress is being made to prioritize mandates, so that missions are given realistic and achievable tasks. I also endorse the Panel’s recommendation for sequenced mandates. A sequenced approach can reinforce efforts to focus on urgent protection and political tasks. It can provide greater opportunity for the Security Council and peace operations to engage with national actors and regional partners, and better direct efforts towards national priorities. A sequenced approach can also better match capabilities to tasks and exposes gaps.

Sequenced and prioritized mandates will depend on your receiving better and more regular assessments from the Secretariat. I am putting in place a range of measures to strengthen UN analysis and planning at Headquarters, in our field missions and across the UN system. I have directed my own office to take on additional responsibility to help improve the way we develop – and ultimately provide you with – timely, high-quality analysis, options and proposed courses of action. We are also strengthening the quality and timeliness of our reporting.

The Council has a responsibility to ensure that peacekeepers are equipped to carry out their tasks. This means ensuring that we have the range of capabilities required for increasingly complex and dangerous modern peace operations. High operational readiness, standby arrangements, agile field support and high-quality medical care are essential. Troop and police contributors need support in generating critical enablers, and UN administrative practices need to be streamlined and adapted.

Equally, we need your engagement when things do not go well. Where UN peace operations have a mandate to protect civilians, they must use all tools, including, where necessary, the use of force. But this does not replace the search for political settlements; it makes your engagement more critical. Likewise, when there is a failure to act in the face of threats to civilians, I will inform the Council. I request in turn that you engage, politically and operationally, to help redress such situations. I am making a similar request for issues of misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse. If  the Security Council demonstrates that it will remain engaged in the conduct of a mission and actions by its personnel, that can be a powerful performance incentive.

The third key set of recommendations focuses on strong dialogue with partners, which is crucial for devising more tailored mandates and strengthening the Council’s political engagement.

Deeper engagement with regional partners is a must. We need to institutionalize consultation and dialogue, and where appropriate, collaborate in planning and conducting peace operations. We need to provide effective support to our partners, and this must start with the African Union, our key regional partner today.

Similarly, the relationship between the Security Council and troop and police contributors is fundamental to effective peace operations. We need deeper understanding of our respective expectations, capacities and constraints. We need to engage well before a peace operation is mandated on what is required and what is available. I welcome  the Council’s recent dialogue with contributing countries, and I encourage you to consider my proposals for further strengthening triangular consultations.

The recent adoption of Security Council Resolution 2242 sets out an agenda for stronger implementation of the Council’s landmark resolution 1325.  Women, peace and security considerations have been fully mainstreamed throughout the peace operations initiative.

My report on peace operations has also drawn upon and integrated recommendations from the Advisory Group of Experts on peacebuilding, to ensure strong linkages.  In this connection, consideration could be given to strengthening collaboration between the Council and Peacebuilding Commission.

Taken together, these efforts can enable us to renew the instruments of the United Nations to address conflict, protect people and help countries find durable paths of peace.

I hope that our discussion today will mark the first step in a continued engagement with all of you in support of more effective and efficient United Nations peace operations.

I stand ready to work with you in the months ahead. Thank you.