A Ghanaian peacekeeper with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is pictured on guard duty during a visit by Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIL, in Cestos City, Liberia. Photo ID 535529. 16/11/2012. Cestos City, Liberia. UN Photo/Staton Winter.

One Tangible Outcome of UNGA? Strengthening UN Peacekeeping

Though it will not likely make headlines, one of the tangible outcomes from UNGA this week will be a renewed global commitment to making UN peacekeeping a more effective tool of global security.

UN Peacekeeping is currently in a moment of renewal. Some recently shuttered missions are widely considered to be successes, including the UN mission in Liberia which closed down in March after 15 years. But other missions are struggling, largely for the fact that they are under resourced and do not have much of a peace to keep. Additionally, widely reported incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN Peacekeepers in places like the Central African Republic have eroded the standing of Blue Helmets and undermine the success of missions.

Peacekeeping is one of the most significant, and expensive, undertakings of the United Nations and key member states like the United States have taken the lead in recent efforts to make UN Peacekeeping a more effective and accountable institutions.

The week prior to UNGA, at the behest of the United States, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution that would strengthen accountability mechanisms for incidents in which missions fail to protect civilians in harms way. “This resolution mandates a timely and transparent reporting process for performance failures,” Nikki Haley said upon adoption of the resolution last Friday. “It creates real accountability measures for when these failures occur. And it applies objective criteria – data, not politics – to match the right police and troops with the right peacekeeping roles.”

Today, the UN Secretary General is convening a high level meeting of member states to further bolster international support for UN Peacekeeping. The meeting falls under the rubric of the Secretary General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, which is intended to renew global political support for UN Peacekeeping. The centerpiece of this meeting will be the endorsement of a “Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping,” to which the assembled member states have pledged support.

Chief among the commitments enumerated in the document include affirming “the primacy of politics in the resolution of conflict.” This is an important principle to bring back to the forefront of global debates about UN Peacekeeping because many long-running UN missions have been deployed as a substitute for conflict resolution—rather than as a mechanism to support there resolution of conflicts. In places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN Peacekeepers have deployed for years without any meaningful peace agreement to enforce. To be sure, Peacekeepers in places like DRC and South Sudan often serve as the last line of defense for besieged civilian populations; their presence protects civilians and helps keep a lid on conflict. But their presence may also prolong the underlying conflict so long as member states and other key players do not exert political will and diplomatic pressure to foster peace. 

Renewing the international community’s commitment to taking hard steps to resolve conflicts is a key outcome of this meeting. And the fact that so many high level officials are attending this meeting and committing themselves to this declaration of shared commitments suggests that countries are rallying behind UN Peacekeeping