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UN 75: The Future We Want, The UN We Need

Fri, 18/09/2020 - 21:30
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On September 18th, IPI, in partnership with UN75, The Group of Women Leaders, and the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, convened a virtual event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations with a diverse group of women leaders in a dynamic conversation on priorities and solutions for “recovering better” from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following welcoming remarks by IPI Vice President Adam Lupel. Waheguru Pal Sidhu, Professor and Head of the UN Initiative at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU, opened the session positing three possible post-pandemic scenarios for the UN’s future, in order of preference.

The first was the UN’s “continued relevance as the center of the multilateral universe,” but this would come about “only if the UN is able to leverage the ongoing disruption, engage a host of sub-state and non-state actors, devise innovative negotiation approaches and address emerging challenges to recover better.”

The second would result if the UN simply opted for “business as usual,” in which case “it might be relegated to the sidelines and become just one of the multiplicity of forums to deal with 21st century challenges.”

The last, and, by Professor Sidhu’s admission, “most somber” was a UN “unable or unwilling to recover better” and consequently passing into “irrelevance or even demise.”

Professor Sidhu said that none of these outcomes was inevitable but that advancing the UN’s future would require “concerted collective action from the individual to the global level, especially if we want to preserve and strengthen the UN over the next 25 years.” He asked, “So how can we ensure the solidarity and sustained collective action for the outcome we want? Can the UN be the arena, agent, and actor that we need in order to build the future we want?”

In response, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, President of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly and member of The Group of Women Leaders, Voices for Change and Inclusion, singled out the need for “leadership and concerted action.”

She cast a wide net in describing the leadership she had in mind. “It has to come from the whole of society. It is not only government or messianic leaders, but social activists:  women, journalists, opinion makers, scientists, academia, indigenous leaders. I think we all have a role to play in building this new social contract that we have the opportunity now to build, and this new social contract has to be between society, the economy, politics, and nature as well.”

She stressed the importance of a wide-ranging collective effort to shore up the distressed multilateral system. “It is not a self-operating machine, it does not have self-agency. The multilateral system at the UN is what we want it to be. It’s us who have the responsibility to craft the system to serve us and the interests of ‘we, the peoples.’”

Picking up on that point, Elizabeth Cousens, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, commented, “I sometimes say that multilateralism is the new realism. It’s not sentimental. It’s not because everybody gets along, it’s precisely because they don’t always get along that you need multilateral institutions and understandings.”

She lamented the “anger and distrust in politics that are deepening rather than overcoming our divisions” and focused her remarks on the uplift coming from “bright spots, pa­rticularly at the local level.”

Ambassador Cousens listed a random few of them, including the voluntary local reviews of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have been created in more than 100 American cities, the state of Hawaii, and at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh; a new SDG “tracker tool” in Los Angeles allowing community organizations to connect the SDGs to “real lives and impacts;” an effort underway to unite more than 40 American cities behind an equitable response to COVID-19 and recovery; and a campaign by Walmart, the biggest employer in the US, to transform its supply chains to tackle equity, climate change, and gender issues. “That’s just a few snippets from this country, but there is obviously incredible leadership and bright spots around the world in cities and communities.”

What’s essential now, Ambassador Cousens said, is better coordination and broader encouragement. “So I look to a lot of these sources of leadership and innovation where we have real reserves of political power in other places, and the key is to connect them, to empower them, and to find new ways of bringing that leadership into the debate and platforms and actions that we have at a global level.”

Natalie Samarasinghe, UN75 Deputy and Chief of Strategy, said she feared at first that the coming of the pandemic would diminish enthusiasm and distract from the mission of UN75. “But that’s actually when we saw the initiative take off, and I don’t think it was just because people were bored during lockdown. It was because people saw this was a global crisis with far-reaching consequences that couldn’t be solved by their governments acting in isolation and that probably would require intensive efforts over many years and that no country, no matter how big or powerful, was going to be spared.”

She said that she was impressed that even the UN’s biggest backers saw the moment not as just an opportunity to restore the UN but one to make it better and more inclusive and accountable in the future. “They’re thinking long-term, what’s the impact on inequality and unemployment, how can we get more support for the hardest hit? I think it’s a powerful message of solidarity to take back to world leaders.”

In rebuilding the UN post-pandemic, Ms. Samarasinghe cautioned against sticking to just structural renovation and urged attention in addition to improving political leadership and making the world body more inclusive. “We often focus on structures, the composition of certain parts of the UN. That’s right. That’s hard. But even the most perfect system, the most perfect design, won’t make up for politics. We should focus on our leadership, good leadership at all levels, senior but mid-level too. And not paying lip service to include other voices, but actually doing it—meaningful, ongoing inclusion, embedding people, other stakeholders into the system. That will help deliver more evolutionary change, ongoing change and renewal, more than another sort of static re-design of the system would.”

Nisreen Elsaim, Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change and Chair of the Sudan Youth Organization on Climate Change, cited the common observation that the pandemic had laid bare the desperate inequality in the world but stressed that in her part of the world, such inequality was rampant before COVID-19 and would persist afterward if it continued to be neglected.

“We’re always saying that the SDGs are about leaving no one behind, but that is actually what COVID did. So before thinking about the inequalities that COVID caused, we should first think of the inequalities that we had before, and realize that even if we find a cure, there will still be a lot of inequality happening,” she said.

Regarding her youth organization work, Ms. Elsaim said that young people welcomed all the attention and talk about including them in policy-making but were disappointed at the lack of follow-through on repeated promises. “As young persons, we have gotten used to being the trend, to having people say, ‘Young people are the fuel for the future, they are the change agents.’ But then when it comes to decision-making, when it comes to really implementing things in reality, then the young people, the ones who are actually trending, disappear.”

Ms. Elsaim said that involving young people was not just a moral responsibility, it was a measure that would make the UN more effective, innovative, and more broadly relevant. “What makes us special as young people is that we actually take different suggestions, we take the information we get, we empty our cup, we try to use different materials in order to make our world better. And last but not least, we are fearless.”

Jimena Leiva Roesch, Senior Fellow and Head of IPI’s Peace and Sustainable Development Program, moderated the discussion.

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Implementing the UN Management Reform: Progress, and Implications for Peace Operations

Thu, 17/09/2020 - 16:00
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In 2017, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres proposed a new management paradigm to better enable the UN to address global challenges by giving decision-makers at the country level greater authority over their resources and thus greater speed and flexibility in setting and responding to priorities; reducing duplicative structures and increasing support for the field, including through the creation of new Departments of Operational Support (DOS) and Management Strategy, Policy, and Compliance(DMSPC); increasing accountability, and transparency; and reforming planning and budgeting processes.

While the reform is still a work in progress, it has continued to gain momentum, and implementation has become more systematic. More work is needed to fully realize the potential of the management reform, and ensure that it aligns with parallel reforms underway in the UN peace and security architecture and development system.

IPI, in partnership with the French Ministry for Armed Forces, held a virtual conversation among high ranking UN management officials and experts on September 17th to examine the implementation of the reform and its impact on peace operations, both from the perspectives of UN headquarters and the field.

Setting the backdrop for the discussion, Rear Admiral Hervé Hamelin, Deputy Director for International Security Affairs, Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy, French Ministry for Armed Forces, said that while the reform aims to respond to changes in peace operations mandates on operating environments, “stakeholders, more particularly from the field, continue to consider that it is not implemented to its fullest potential. Additional challenges continue as well to divide the international community, more particularly the capacity of member states to overcome divisions during the current 75th session of the UN General Assembly that will be key for the implementation of the reform on human resources.”

Wolfgang Weiszegger, former Director of Mission Support for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and author of the IPI paper Implementing the UN Management Reform: Progress and Implications for Peace Operations, gave a stark overview of how field operation management needs have piled up and why serious reform was needed. “If a UN field operation needs as little as a paper clip or as much as finance personnel, an aircraft, or a maritime fleet, management or support staff, DOS at UN headquarters, and mission support staff in the field better be included and involved in all discussions, and at each and every step of the way you need analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation processes. Otherwise, the resources required to implement a mission’s mandate just won’t be available at the right time and at the right quantity, quality, and cost. There’ll be no sufficient personnel, financial assets, infrastructure, materiel assets in place when and where they’re needed. That’s why it would be important to determine and leverage the converging streams of the management reform also with the streams of the peace and security reform, and the development reform since nothing works in isolation, and synchronicities and interdependencies need to be leveraged.”

Reviewing what had occurred so far in response to the reforms, Mr. Weiszegger said, “Managers have been empowered, accountability strengthened, processes streamlined, delegations of authority decentralized, and trust with member states improved, just to name a few.” A critical part that remained to be done, he stressed, was determining whether it has had a positive impact on people on the ground and people in areas of distress and conflict. But in general, he concluded, “The management reforms have taken off, are on the right track, and emphasis must now be placed on keeping the momentum going.”

Eugene Chen, Programme Management Officer in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, flagged the high priority of the Secretary-General’s reform agenda by saying that its “ultimate objective” was “to maintain the relevance of the United Nations. The reforms seek to achieve this by enhancing the effectiveness and accountability of the organization in program delivery through all three tracks of reform, including management, peace and security, and development. The management reform focuses on decentralizing the management of the Secretariat and empowering senior managers, including heads of missions, such that the responsibility for implementing mandates is now aligned with authority to manage resources. The structural changes to the management architecture at headquarters are a catalyst for the decentralization.”

Mr. Chen detailed some of the changes and counseled against thinking that the reform was simply a rearrangement of functions rather than the sweeping fundamental shift that it is in the relationship between headquarters and the field. “Authority for the management of human and financial resources is delegated directly to senior managers, including heads of mission. Missions are therefore no longer mere extensions of the will of headquarters departments, but are now firmly in the driver’s seat. The newly established headquarters departments have no day-to-day decision-making authority over mission budgets and staffing but instead are responsible for supporting missions and other Secretariat entities through policy and guidance, advisory services, and administrative and logistical support.” He said that there are also new formalized mechanisms with representative field participation to ensure that policies and procedures are in line with recommendations from the field.

Mr. Chen argued that the new system was put to an early unexpected test with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, and had proved its value. “COVID-19 has therefore served as an important test to validate both the underlying concept and the new structures put in place via management reform.”

Picking up on that point, Rick Martin, Director, Division for Special Activities, UN Department of Operational Support (DOS) said, “I shudder to think where we would be with our previous structures and authorities in responding to the pandemic that has impacted across the Secretariat and particularly in our field missions.” The UN was particularly vulnerable, he noted, with peace operations in nine of the 11 countries most affected by COVID-19, and more than 1200 confirmed cases and 18 colleagues lost, many of them police and military officers living and working in congregate high-density situations.

Among the gains he listed from the reforms were:

  • Having supply chain management integrated across procurement and logistics management. “They were in separate departments in the past, and that shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately in our world it does.”
  • Aligning what has traditionally been the medical treatment capacities with occupational safety and health. “I can tell you that quite often when we talk about the pandemic now, we talk less about the medical response and more about occupational safety and health, given the threat to the health of our personnel.”
  • Creating a single entry point on uniform capability support for peace operations.
  • Having a more consolidated approach in standing capacities now for training.
  • Streamlining recruitment and onboarding processes.
  • Closing gaps in what resources peace operations are able to access on an immediate basis.
  • Providing support to the resident coordinators, who are now being brought into the Secretariat.
  • Establishing a standing search capacity of existing staff across the whole Secretariat that can de deployed to an incident or transitional requirement needing additional capacity.
  • “A genuine convergence between the Secretary-General’s reform pillars—management reform, peace and security architecture, and the development system reforms—which has been made possible by having a single Department of Operational Support.”

Olga de la Piedra, Director, Office of the Under-Secretary-General, UN Department of Management, Strategy, Policy and Compliance (DMSPC) said that the enhanced delegation of authority to the heads of missions had allowed her department to bring decision- making closer to the point of delivery so rapidly that some people in the field were slow to act on it. “One of the paradigms that are still shifting is for our colleagues to realize that they do have the authority to take certain decisions that they didn’t have in the past. We saw at first that it was very gradual, but over the last six months, we’ve seen colleagues embrace this delegation of authority more actively, and decision-making is moving much faster.”

Heralding an example of a peacekeeping practice becoming a model for the whole organization, she said that DMCPC now has a clear mandate for oversight over conduct and discipline functions across the global Secretariat. “So the rigorous approach it had been implementing for peacekeeping in the past is now standardized across the Secretariat at large. This is learning from peacekeeping adapted to the whole organization.”

Amadu Kamara, Director of Mission Support, UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and Director of the UN Support Office for Somalia (UNSOS) said the UN’s operations in Somalia provided a good testing ground for the reform. “We support, for example, about 30,000 military personnel engaged in active combat. It’s doesn’t get more dynamic than that. So it was obvious that the regulatory framework was not compatible with the dynamics and rigors of the operating environment. The management efforts with the enhanced delegation of authority to heads of UN entities have afforded scope for UNSOS and UNSOM to address many arising issues, which previously would have had to be referred to multiple operational units and liaisons at headquarters for consideration and consultation without the attendant urgency required to meet demands on the ground.”

Mr. Kamara said that the new flexibility helped mission heads with specific chores like staff recruitment but also in more philosophical ways. “One of the benefits of the management reform, often unrecognized, is that this has led to a subtle shift in the mindset of administrators from a rules- and regulations-based mentality to using the regulatory framework as an enabling mechanism for operational decision-making.”

Suggesting further reforms, he said the delegation of authority might have to be “customized” to suit particularly volatile environments like Somalia and that consideration should be given to applying a probationary period for newly hired personnel. “To put it succinctly, our recruitment is out front, we take a very long time, we are very laborious to be careful to do recruitment, but once that person comes on to the ground and it doesn’t work out, we can never get rid of them. Not everybody can work in the field, and you will never know who will fit in until they actually do the job.”

Jake Sherman, IPI Senior Director of Programs, moderated the discussion.

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Sweden Foreign Minister Calls for Push to Implement Women, Peace, and Security Agenda

Wed, 16/09/2020 - 17:25
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“Where a crisis moves in, inclusion moves out, but there is no law of nature governing this,” declared Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, making the point that although the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to set back the goals of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, it should instead be a factor motivating a redoubled effort to push for the agenda’s full implementation. “Diplomacy and dialogue are needed more than ever in the international response to the pandemic and in our efforts towards sustaining peace,” she said. “The Women, Peace, and Security agenda is crucial.”

Ms. Linde was the opening speaker at a September 16th high-level virtual forum co-sponsored by IPI and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs titled “Implementing Transformative Action: Prioritizing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in a Time of Pandemic.” She noted that women’s organizations were already responding vigorously to the societal challenges posed by COVID-19, intensifying their own peace work, providing support for humanitarian aid flow, facilitating information exchange, and establishing “new ways of connecting.”

She argued that their work needs to be “recognized as the community resilience fabric it is and needs to be connected to the highest decision-making levels.” For example, she said, women civil society representatives should be entrusted with briefing the United Nations Security Council and other decision-making bodies on country-specific matters, as well as other security threats such as terrorism and climate change. “There is no need for the pandemic to be used as an excuse to decrease this participation.”

Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, acknowledged that the pandemic had overshadowed many of the UN’s global priorities like the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of landmark Security Council resolution 1325 and had had a significant impact on global social-economic well- being and on key matters of peace and security, but particularly so for women. “Many of the economic costs of the pandemic are disproportionately affecting women, who are overrepresented in some of the sectors hardest hit by shutdowns, and ensuing layoffs and cuts. Gender-based violence, particularly in the home, surged around the world as COVID-19 lockdowns became necessary.”

Ms. DiCarlo said that digital technology had enabled UN officials in the field to maintain contact and consultation with otherwise marginalized women but had at the same time served to reveal the extent of their exclusion and discrimination. “Virtual spaces mirror the inequalities that exist in the offline world. Women and girls in conflict-affected settings often lack equal access to technology and are subject to online harassment and intimidation that can have real-world consequences for their safety.  Supporting access to technology and combating online bullying must therefore be prioritized as fundamental to ensuring women’s participation in public and political life.”

A top priority was funding, she said. Her department allocates 17 percent of its extra-budgetary resources to projects supporting women, peace, and security; it has created a “gender marker” to track the mainstreaming of gender issues in all of its initiatives, and the UN Peacebuilding Fund devotes 40 percent of its total investments to “gender-responsive” undertakings. “Allocating adequate, predictable, and sustained financing must be a joint priority for all of us to achieve the Women, Peace, and Security agenda.”

Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, highlighted the disconnect between the forefront role that women play in peacemaking and the low level of their inclusion in peacebuilding leadership. “They are the majority in the health sector and informal economy, but at the same time, few have been included in national COVID-19 response plans,” he said.

Mr. Botes proposed that a certain percentage of both official development assistance for conflict–area countries and of spending by the UN Peacebuilding Fund be earmarked for women, peace and security, with dedicated budgets in National Action Plans or equivalent frameworks. He called for more partnerships between governments and women NGOs and greater involvement across the board of young women.

Amat al-Alim Alsoswa, former Minister for Human Rights in Yemen, said the experience of women in her country, site of what the UN has identified as the world’s leading humanitarian crisis, illustrated both the value of women peacebuilders and how they are ignored by people in decision-making positions. “Yemeni women have been active local mediators throughout the conflict, and, in response to COVID-19, women have worked through villages, municipal councils, and the private sector to manufacture and distribute PPE [personal protective equipment], masks, and protective clothing to medical staff and the public. They have also negotiated the release of prisoners from detention centers to reduce the spread of infection. Women doctors and nurses have been among the first responders at the peak of the pandemic, and young women entrepreneurs continue to be active participants.”  She paused for emphasis. “These efforts all were not initiated top-down.”

She contended that while the UN had pursued peace in Yemen “with dedication and sincerity, the well-established standards of Women, Peace, and Security, with respect to building sustainable peace, have been given no more than pro forma attention. This is a common trend; it’s not only related to peace negotiations. UN envoys’ mandates need to clearly include women in peace negotiations. It is not enough to give a voice to women, often after considerable additional pressure, unless they have their rights and also they can vote. Excluding women because one or more of the warring parties refuses to accept the woman’s presence is unacceptable.”

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Founder and CEO of International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and Director, LSE Centre for Women, Peace, and Security, said that independent women peacebuilders merited special consideration and explained why. “They are a very unique community of people. They run to the problem when others are running away. They are the bridge, they are interlocutors, they are trusted. They represent the voice of communities and people and marginalized sectors of society, which neither governments who are bombing their own people nor armed groups that are also bombing their own people, do. In a sense, women peacebuilders have taken on the responsibility to protect, without having the power of the gun, or having the power of the political elite. They need to be recognized as actors in conflicts, and as independent delegations at peace tables. That’s the next step of where we need to go.”

Kaavya Asoka, Executive Director, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, said during the question-and-answer period that despite the adoption of numbers of resolutions endorsing women’s rights and participation, seven out of ten peace processes still exclude women, and only 14 to 22 percent of peace agreements actually include gender provisions. Saying the movement was facing a crisis of political will, she asked, “How do we translate these rhetorical commitments that we’ve heard from the international community over a period of 20 years into real and concrete action? We’ve heard of technical solutions, like including women through virtual spaces, but the fact is what we actually need are political solutions to address the core problem of women’s participation that we continue to confront 20 years since the adoption of Resolution 1325.”

Foreign Minster Linde noted that much research had been done on the added durability of peace agreements where women were active participants. “When I was in Aden, I met so many women who had ideas, who had a lot of constructive ways of how to go forward in this terrible conflict. But they were not used in a way that would be so good for the peace process, and it makes me really frustrated. That’s also why I think the Women, Peace, and Security agenda needs to be pushed. All of us, both in government and in civil society, need to really push this issue, not as some little thing you do, as we say, ‘with your left hand’ but something that should be at the center, because it gets results, and it makes final peace agreements much more sustainable.”

Martha Delgado, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights in the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointed out that her country had officially adopted a feminist foreign policy and was an active member of the global network of focal points on women, peace, and security, promoting joint international efforts to implement its agenda. “We need to recover from the current pandemic with a renewed commitment not to leave anyone behind, and to fully realize that we need a more integrated, multi-sector and gender transformative framework to conflict prevention and resolutions on sustaining peace in which the leadership of women is a reality and not just an aspiration.”

The forum also served to launch an IPI Women, Peace, and Security issue brief by Masooma Rahmaty, IPI Policy Analyst, and Jasmine Jaghab, entitled Peacebuilding during a Pandemic: Keeping the Focus on Women’s Inclusion.

IPI Vice President Adam Lupel moderated the discussion.

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Peacebuilding during a Pandemic: Keeping the Focus on Women’s Inclusion

Tue, 15/09/2020 - 20:45

This year was expected to be an opportunity to assess the past twenty years of progress on the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda. Instead, it has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dominated the international community’s attention and put recent gains for WPS at risk. One of the areas most at risk is the participation of women in peacebuilding efforts and peace processes, which is already a part of the WPS agenda where progress has been limited.

This paper looks into what actions states and international actors can take to ensure women’s participation in peacebuilding and peace processes during the pandemic. It draws on two virtual meetings—one at the ministerial level and one at the ambassadorial level—convened in partnership with the government of Sweden. Based on these meetings, the paper identifies five key factors that could help the UN and its member states keep the focus on women peacebuilders during the pandemic:

  1. State leadership on WPS in multilateral fora: In the face of the pandemic, it is critical for UN member states to defend recent gains made in implementing the WPS agenda in multilateral fora, especially the Security Council.
  2. Women’s participation in formal peace processes: While the pandemic has made it even more difficult for many women to participate in formal peace processes, the normalization of virtual convenings could be an opportunity to bring more women to the table.
  3. Protection and security of women peacebuilders: The UN and its member states have a role to play in providing women peacebuilders both physical protection and international legitimacy and recognition.
  4. Financing for women peacebuilders: The pandemic has made funding even more of a challenge for women peacebuilders. Donors should recognize the important role of women’s organizations in the pandemic response and recovery when deciding how to allocate funding.
  5. Data-driven responses: There is a need for a coordinated, risk-sensitive approach to data collection to ensure that the COVID-19 response reflects an understanding of how the pandemic affects women.

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The Peacebuilding Commission and Climate-Related Security Risks: A More Favourable Political Environment?

Mon, 14/09/2020 - 12:30

Climate change and the associated climate-related security risks increase instability and have significant adverse effects on peacebuilding. Within the UN, however, there is a lack of consensus on which organs are most appropriate to respond to climate-related security risks. Most of the bodies addressing climate change do not address its intersection with peace and security, while many member states have concerns about the role of the UN Security Council on climate change. In this context, the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) seems well placed to complement and advance discussions on climate-related security risks in other UN bodies, including the Security Council.

This paper—a joint publication of IPI and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)—aims to identify areas and ways in which the PBC is preventing and mitigating climate-related security risks and to map the political positions of PBC members on this topic. It also looks at opportunities for the PBC to strengthen its engagement on climate-related security issues.

The paper identifies a number of attributes that uniquely position the PBC as a forum for states to seek international support for addressing climate-related security challenges: it emphasizes national ownership, has a mandate to work across the three pillars of the UN, brings together a wide range of UN organs, and convenes relevant stakeholders from within and outside the UN system. The paper concludes that a gradual but steady approach to addressing climate-related security risks in the PBC is likely to encourage more countries to seek its support on these issues.

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Learning Interrupted: Education, COVID-19, and the Culture of Peace

Thu, 10/09/2020 - 21:45
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As many as 1.6 billion students worldwide have faced school closures this year or continue to face uncertainty about their education in the coming months due to COVID-19. What will be the long-term impact on these children and youth? And how will it affect social, political, and economic development? Already concerns have been raised that interrupted learning exacerbates inequalities of all kinds, including economic, gender, and nutritional inequalities. What can we do to mitigate these risks?

This global crisis and how to address it in alignment with the principles of the “culture of peace” was the subject of a September 10th virtual policy forum cosponsored by IPI and the Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly.

In opening remarks, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, declared that the education sector “has been particularly destabilized by the pandemic. COVID-19 has robbed the world and disrupted learning opportunities of students around the world, particularly those in technologically disadvantaged regions.”

He noted that the world had already been lagging in fulfilling the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number four, which is inclusive quality education, with one in three African children not finishing primary school and only 20 million of the 158 million in sub-Saharan Africa meeting minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. “Then came COVID-19, and the education of 1.6 billion children and youth, including those in refugee camps, took a hit. While learning continued in technologically advanced societies, students without access to digital connections either stayed at home while the pandemic lasted or relied on home-tutoring and parental guidance.”

Mr. Muhammad-Bande said that to promote and sustain the culture of peace, “governments must act proactively and creatively to address ongoing and future imbalances in access to quality education. It is important for education to be given primary consideration in all of our efforts to build back better and stronger, to ensure we truly leave no one behind.”

The concept of the culture of peace was introduced into the multilateral system in 1992 in a program of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In a series of resolutions and programs looking ahead to the twenty-first century, the UN called for a transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace. In 1999, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace. That program identified eight pillars of the culture of peace that are interrelated and interdependent, and the first of them was education.

Abdul Aziz Saud Al-Babtain, Director and Founder of the Al-Babtain Foundation, said  “COVID-19 has revealed our mutual need to work together and share knowledge, sciences, and researches, …to benefit from the common intellectual knowledge we share between us to find a medical cure for humanity.” He added, the mission was now to “go beyond the previous globalization model and start a new multilateral model of interdependence centrally based on the education of a culture of just peace.”

Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, said the pandemic and its effect on youth had driven home the cultural centrality of schools. “We realize that schools are simply and crucially places where we learn, but very much more than this, places where there is social protection, there is nutrition, there is health, and there is a social-first relationship with the rest of the world outside the family.”

The responsibility of the international community going forward, she said, was to avoid what the Secretary-General has called a “generational catastrophe.” She estimated that 24 million children from pre-primary school to university level, were at risk of dropping out of education altogether due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone. “A good majority may not be able to return to school for reasons ranging from poverty, child labor, and child marriage.” She cited figures showing that in the developing world, only 30% of people have access to online education. “It is imperative that the COVID response and recovery efforts include adequate measures and resources to ensure the right to education for all children. Both immediate and long-term response plans and programs must be planned and undertaken to address the disruptive situation in the education sector. The pandemic exposed the digital divide that hinders education for all.”

Ambassador Fatima proposed that “to make up for lost ground, we can leverage the focus of culture of peace on education, to review, innovate and restructure conventional education, including research and development.” She said the culture of peace could act as a “force multiplier in our pursuit, it could help bring back the much-needed inclusivity in pandemic response and SDG implementation.”

Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), called the pandemic the “largest disruption in education since the creation of the UN system, and we can say, in history.” She said that a culture of peace is “intimately linked to a culture of inclusion. This is the starting point for educational recovery, pulling out all the stops to ensure that the most marginalized children return to school and learn in safe environments, with special attention to girls, with special attention to refugees in conflict situations.”

Mrs. Giannini said that “education should be a bulwark against inequality.” Accordingly, she said, the focus ought to be on investing in social and emotional skills like empathy, awareness, and a capacity to manage emotions and to develop positive relationships. “They must be mainstreamed throughout the education systems.”

To reorient education systems around the culture of peace, she asserted, students must be “wired to defend human rights, act for social justice and gender equality, and to take care of the environment. ”

Dr. Robert Jenkins, Chief, Education and Associate Director, Programme Division, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), pronounced this moment  “a once in a generation opportunity to reopen schools in a new way, to re-look at schools and the critical role they play and to support schools and education systems, to maximize the potential to transform learning that we have now in a new way.” He said the central question now with schools resuming was “how can we maximize the reopening process so that it has the most positive impact on peace that it could potentially have?”

Experience had taught him that speed was essential, Dr. Jenkins said. “ We have seen in previous school closures as a result of Ebola, the longer schools are closed, the more vulnerable children become, and the more risk there is of dropping out and never returning to their learning.”

He listed three key issues around reopening:

  • focusing on reaching the most vulnerable.
  • transforming the way learning is provided, recognizing that the world was experiencing a learning crisis before the pandemic.
  • meeting the emotional, social, nutritional, health, and protection needs of children.

He suggested that teachers were showing the way. “Teachers are better skilled now at recognizing the traumatic situation many children have faced with this disruption and enabling them to bridge back to school. There have been a lot of interventions at a country level around working with parents providing the education skills or ways of coaching their children and supporting their children, both on learning and preparing to bridge back to school.”

The central role of education in sustaining peace was more appreciated now than before, he argued. “I think there’s been an increased recognition of the importance of schools in communities, by parents, by decision makers. I also think there’s a recognition that we have an opportunity to reimagine how the front door is open in a school, and what happens behind that door.” As for the urgency of getting increased funding to support schooling, he said, “We in the education sector are ‘all hands on deck’ reemphasizing that.”

He particularly stressed the importance of “engagement,” repeating the word three times in sequence for emphasis. “Countries that have been most successful in reopening schools are those that had very significant engagement processes, investing heavily in communication.”

In answer to a question about whether there was data on whether remote online education can be effective at spurring personal and emotional development, he said, “My simple answer—and sadly it’s unsatisfactory— is that the evidence is mixed.” He said that “there are some very exciting innovations that are IT-enabled that do indeed target social and emotional health. The most successful are those IT tools that enable interaction, questioning, and engagement.”

Mrs. Giannini commented that one of the key lessons learned from the Ebola crisis was the crucial role of community and families “which usually we don’t consider within the constituency of education. There is a traditional boundary between the school community and what we find outside, including family and parents, especially in the north of the world, they are viewed as the counterparts and not part of the same mission.”

She concluded: “To summarize, some key words: engagement, solidarity, partnership. What we need now is to strongly work together. We are making a big effort on the international organization side, unprecedented, in my opinion, in terms of integrating all out competency and expertise in one common mission, which is about the continuity of learning. It’s about assuring education as a basic human right.”

IPI Vice President Adam Lupel moderated the discussion.

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A “Do-No-Harm” Approach to Community Engagement: Lessons for the Protection of Civilians by UN Peacekeeping Operations

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 20:46

Community engagement has been recognized as a critical tool to strengthen people-centered approaches to peacekeeping and protection of civilians. Liaising with local populations enables peacekeepers to better identify protection needs, improve early warning, and design tailored and effective protection plans. It is also key to defuse tensions through mediation and dialogue. However, community engagement, when not carefully devised and implemented, may also put civilian populations at risk of exposure and retaliation, or inadvertently fuel political, economic, and social drivers of conflict.

On September 9, IPI, along with co-hosts Nonviolent Peaceforce and the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN, held a closed-door roundtable with representatives of the UN, member states, and civil society organizations to reflect on these risks and identify lessons as well as good practices from different peacekeeping operations. The session offered various perspectives coming from the UN, NGOs, and other humanitarian organizations on different approaches to community engagement, and particularly on the “do-no-harm” approach to community engagement.

The two-hour discussion was conducted under the Chatham House rule of non-attribution, and moderated by Dr. Namie Di Razza, IPI Senior Fellow and head of IPI’s Protection of Civilians program.  Opening remarks were made by Mark Zellenrath, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations.

Participants explored a wide range of potential risks associated with community engagement. They first discussed risks of reprisals from armed groups or state actors who may target civilians for their perceived “collaboration” with the UN, or seek to deter them from reporting abuses and human rights violations. They also examined the distinction between community engagement and peacekeeping-intelligence, and specific methodologies to avoid doing harm, protect sources and support the capacities and the voice of local communities. Discussants also considered risks and challenges induced by COVID-19, including the need to reduce contact with local populations to prevent the spread of the virus, and shared innovative perspectives to adapt community engagement approaches.

Key takeaways were:

  • Protection of civilians is an all-of-mission mandate, and community engagement should accordingly be undertaken by all sections of the mission in an integrated manner, including by civilian, police and military personnel.
  • Training is critical to ensure the ability of all missions’ components to engage with communities in a safe and professional way.
  • Despite the UN peacekeepers’ efforts to abide by “do-no-harm” standards, creating a protective environment where multiple diplomatic, NGO and state actors engage with communities through their own channels can be an important challenge. Communities can be put at risk of retaliation by a wide range of actors engaging with them.
  • It is important to distinguish peacekeeping intelligence and community engagement for protection of civilians (PoC) purposes. Community engagement has multiple objectives, from gathering information to facilitating political dialogue, mediation and peacebuilding. Peacekeeping intelligence, which aims at enhancing the situational awareness of the missions, stems from the analysis of information coming from a wide range of sources, which can include human sources, but are mostly open source data.
  • Community engagement is not a one-way street and should not be reduced to extractive methods of information collection. Communities should be regarded as active participants who should be given ownership over the design of effective protection strategies.
  • As missions need to reduce their interaction with communities to mitigate the risks of spreading COVID-19, new ways of working have provided an opportunity to test the robustness of community engagement tools established in the past and to strengthen the use of digital platforms to facilitate dialogue and engagement.  However, there are also inherent risks in the use of technologies, which can be weaponized for digital surveillance, or inadvertently end up empowering elite groups with easier access to technologies.

The discussion aimed at informing IPI’s upcoming research paper on community engagement and the protection of civilians in peacekeeping contexts, which will be published this fall.

African Leadership Centre Fellows Debate Governance, Security and Peace in a Post-Pandemic World  

Mon, 27/07/2020 - 21:37
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Current and past fellows of the African Leadership Centre held a virtual discussion on July 27th on “Rethinking Governance, Security and Peace in the Time of COVID-19: Implications for African Leadership.”

To stimulate the discussion, an article by one of the current fellows was shared ahead of the event.

IPI Senior Adviser Youssef Mahmoud said the purpose of the conversation was to reassess some of the inherited organizing paradigms of good governance, the state, security, and development, and to highlight innovative actions that African leaders, particularly women and youth, have come up with to spur progress and lay foundations for the post-pandemic future.

Since 2008, IPI has worked with King’s College London and the African Leadership Centre to bring a select group of African scholars to New York each July, though this year’s nine IPI African Junior Professional Fellows participated virtually. For the purposes of the conversation, they broke off into three groups, choosing their individual focuses from the categories of governance, security, or peace, and selecting a spokesperson to articulate their views.

The first fellow to speak, Kundai Mtasa of Zimbabwe, highlighted how COVID-19 had disrupted governance. “The key disruption that we decided to speak about is corruption, which is not a new disruption, but it has been emphasized because of the increased need for resources,” she said. “COVID-19 has shown that every restriction on movement or economic activity has created a favorable market for those who can find a way around official controls through bribery, smuggling or other activities. Lockdown has provided an opportunity and an income to those who are already engaged in activities such as corruption. And corruption during COVID-19 has largely been as a result of the mismanagement of resources that were supposed to go to the mitigation of COVID-19.” This, in turn, Ms. Mtasa said, has led to large parts of the population being deprived of access to health care and water and sanitation hygiene facilities and systems of cash stimulus to cushion the blow on low-income households.

Ms. Mtasa cited cases in both Kenya and Zimbabwe where citizens had innovated to make up for official lapses. “In the context of Kenya, the COVID-19 funds meant to improve health care infrastructure have been highly mismanaged, and this has resulted in a lack of beds to cater to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. Consequently, Kenyan youths have taken matters into their own hands by making and providing beds. In the case of Zimbabwe, we have seen how sanitizers, masks, and gloves have been made within universities, such as the University of Zimbabwe. This has been in response to the lack of sanitizers and basic COVID-19 infrastructure available to the rest of the population.”

As for the future, Ms. Mtasa argued that the achievements of university students in Zimbabwe making their own hand sanitizer and young Congolese students creating masks and sanitizing booths were examples of youth response that ought to be encouraged. “It also highlights the importance of investing in higher institutions of learning for current and future development within African society.”

Ms. Mtasa said her group concluded that COVID-19 has actually shown the potential of African solutions to African problems. African leaders need to look for inward solutions and invest in their own countries, particularly the youth who drive the majority of the innovations in Africa. This is an example of how the youth play a crucial role in creating the sustainability of resilient and peaceful societies.”

Tabitha Mwangi of Kenya chose the subject of security and listed a number of security issues that had been adversely affected by the pandemic:

  • Accountability: “We have had emergency powers invoked by many governments;”
  • Transparency: “There’s a lack of disclosure on how funds are being used by governments to deal with the pandemic;”
  • Rule of law: “It has been neglected with police and other security agencies doing what they want;”
  • Participation: “Decisions are now being made by elites, mostly men, given the structure of government in most countries, and they do not consult experts, such as doctors, with many recommendations being made that are not directly compatible with what medics are prescribing;”
  • Responsiveness: “Regulations are out of touch with the reality of people’s lives, like lockdowns in low-income areas where people are unable to stay at home because they need to make a daily wage;”
  • Effectiveness: “Security forces have to do things outside their scope of work like escorting expectant women in distress to health centers after curfews;”
  • Diversion of attention from real security needs: “The fact that there’s a pandemic going on doesn’t mean that violent extremist groups are going to take a back seat;”
  • Human rights abuses: “They have been on the rise because of increased sexual and gender-based violence. We have had a higher incidence of rapes and female genital mutilation happening;”
  • Police brutality: “Police use excessive means to enforce curfew and lockdown regulations;” and
  • Xenophobia: “Foreign nationals have been targeted because of the perception that COVID-19 came from the outside. So if you see a foreigner, then they’re likely the ones who brought the disease to your home.”

Ms. Mwangi mentioned several instances in which African governments and citizens had acted to address security disruptions. In Kenya, she said, the president apologized for the actions of officers who had used excessive force to enforce curfews. The African Union held a virtual conference on the joint response to COVID-19, and governments had adopted different approaches to cushioning the most vulnerable, like tax reductions and easing of lockdowns to allow people in the informal sector to continue working. In Kenya, we have had money transfer cuts so it’s now cheaper for people to transact to avoid having to use physical cash.”

She said too that various countries were working together to ensure that they speak with one voice so that when a global vaccine is found, “they will not be left behind.” Among the homegrown innovations she mentioned were decongesting prisons, integrating trade within the continent to enhance food security, and involving the local population in “matters of security and accountability to ensure transparency in the use of funds.”

Going forward, Ms. Mwangi said that COVID-19 “presents an opportunity to build better by bridging the inequality gap and prioritizing health and human security, ensuring that security officials respect the rule of law and human rights and continue training and increased community-law enforcement dialogue and engagement, and empowering and auditing oversight bodies to ensure that they deliver justice.”

Essa Njie of The Gambia, the last current fellow to speak, focused on peace and noted that the African Union said at the outset in February that COVID-19 was a direct threat to peace and security on the continent. “That is certainly what we are seeing today,” he said. He reported that the pandemic had diverted the attention of both national and international actors from ongoing peace processes, closed national borders, and also provoked instances of police brutality and security force repression on the ground that were compounding the fear that people already felt from the menace of the disease. “We have seen cases of excessive peacekeeping use of force in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa where the threat from law enforcement is more immediate than the threat from the virus itself.”

Mr. Njie said that countries like Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan were facing the twin dilemmas of rising COVID-19 cases and stepped up terrorist group activity. “We have also seen peacekeeping operations facing challenges, especially as critical operations and rotations have been delayed or canceled due to military forces and police forces being quarantined. Some of them have to be quarantined when they arrive.”

Mr. Njie said the pandemic had created opportunities by spurring online conversations to advance peace processes and enabling governments and individuals to get food and funds to needy communities. But a significant downside was the rise of authoritarianism with “authoritarian regimes using the pandemic as an opportunity to stifle dissent and to violate human rights, as others have pointed out, with excessive use of force.” He noted that 24 elections had been postponed since March, costing governments credibility and heightening the allure of armed opposition groups. “People have started questioning whether COVID is, in fact, real, whether it exists, because the government has lost that level of confidence or that support from the people. I think it’s a result of the corruption allegations, the fact that politicians are using this as an opportunity to gather more money and misuse public funds.” He recounted that local rights groups and societal actors had “embarked on online sensitization on COVID and domestic violence against women.” He added, though, that he had seen several reports of femicide during lockdowns, notably in South Africa. “Governments and private individuals have also responded to the financial impact vis-à-vis poverty by providing food packages and funds to vulnerable families and individuals, for instance, in The Gambia and in Nigeria where the private sector has been effectively engaged in that.”

As examples of moves that governments have made that should be carried forward, he cited actions in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire making short-term provisions for free electricity and water through suspension of bill payments to protect citizens from financial pressures brought on by the pandemic. “These measures prove that governments in Africa can provide substantial and universal social protection measures, especially in crisis situations,” he said. “The pandemic has necessitated governments to each look to their own and not look outward for help.”

Dennis Jjuuko, an alumnus of the African Leadership Centre, commented that the pandemic was telling Africans not to neglect the value of their homegrown capacities. “We have always had innovations happening on the continent that we have chosen to be silent on, for a certain reason. COVID-19 actually lays bare the traditional context that we’ve always thought about, and opens us to emerging realities from academia, youth innovations, and inventions on the African continent.”

Mr. Jjuuko, who is now a doctoral student of global governance and human security at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, touted “African solutions to African problems, looking inward into Africa and harnessing our potential. Though we’ve always chosen to push aside and look towards the West for solutions, Africa as a continent is ripe for ideas that are worth harnessing.” He asked, “Are we seeing a leadership ready to harness these innovations in their kind of governance? How do we then ensure that governance guarantees the harnessing of these efforts? I think academic institutions and think tanks and civil society have a role to play in this kind of governance.”

Another alumnus, Akinola Olojo, Senior Researcher, Complex Threats in Africa Programme, Institute for Security Studies, South Africa, said that while violent extremism had risen to the top of the security agenda across Africa, strategies to combat it were dated and failing. “If we look at how we’ve been addressing this very serious problem of violent extremism, it’s usually with the use of force, but we know that for more than a decade now, this particular approach has not really been effective. So, maybe we need to explore other paradigms that might be uncomfortable, that might actually challenge the way we do things, and see how that works for Africa. When we speak of dialogue, it’s not only about dialoguing with the combatants or with violent extremist groups or those other insecurity actors, but also about engaging with communities too. I was glad when the panel mentioned something about the responses of citizens, the local communities. To what extent are we really consulting them, trying to get their insights on how we solve these problems?”

Dominique Dryding, a former fellow who is now Afrobarometer Project Leader for Southern Africa, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, South Africa, cited the mention by Mr. Njie of the rise of femicide in South Africa during the pandemic and asked why it was not being prioritized as a threat to peace. “We have a government that is quite capable of responding to crises, in creating emergency measures, from instituting a lockdown to ensuring that people have social protection, but gender-based violence, which is an absolute slap in the face to a notion of peace, is not prioritized by our government, so again when we think of peace, what are we talking about? And how do we bring peace back to an individual person who is stuck in a marriage where they get beat up, when being at home in a lockdown is not keeping you safe, but actually endangering your life?”

Mr. Mahmoud moderated the discussion.

Other group members included Ivy Nyawira Wahito and Alexandra Lukamba for governance, Ikran Mohamed Abdullahi and Ibrahim Machina for security, and Chimwemwe Fabiano and Margaret LoWilla for peace.

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A Year in the Life of an Elected Member: Lessons Learned on the Security Council

Thu, 23/07/2020 - 19:00
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On July 23rd, IPI held an information-sharing discussion on the United Nations Security Council, the most powerful body in the UN system, among 15 ambassadors of countries who are current or recent members of the Council or primed­­ to join it next year, and a select group of experts.

The event was prompted by the English language release of the book With an Orange Tie: A Year on the Security Council by Karel van Oosterom, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN. Ambassador van Oosterom served on the Council in 2018, as part of an historic compromise under which the Netherlands shared the 2017-2018 term with Italy.

The moderator of the event was IPI Vice President Adam Lupel, who began the discussion with a tantalizing preview of the book: “It mixes political insight about relations between the elected members and the veto-wielding P5, accessible explanations of procedural arcana, and chronicles of debates about top issues like Syria and Yemen with personal anecdotes and intimate insider details such as which are the most comfortable seats around the Security Council table or when you are allowed -or not-a snack during deliberations.” Pointing out that elections to the Council had now been advanced from October to June, affording new members more preparation time, Dr. Lupel noted that the book “shares useful knowledge and experience for incoming members, to be better prepared and make the Council more effective, which is in everybody’s interest.”

Ambassador van Oosterom said his book was particularly focused on enhancing the experience of the ten elected members of the 15-member council, known as the E10, who serve two-year terms alongside the five veto-bearing permanent members, known as the P5. “The purpose of this English translation is to make the E10 stronger,” he said. “P5 members have their own archives of experiences, but for the E10, a term on the Council is a once in a lifetime event. We can all benefit from each other’s stories. Incoming members should look to current members for guidance.”

He said the E10 were too often intimidated by the P5 and shouldn’t be. “There are around 30 subsidiary organs, and in recent years, the permanent members have largely been the ones to take up the pen, and the heaviest workload of chairing the subsidiary organs has fallen to the E10. We tried to change that, but didn’t succeed.” In a comment aimed at incoming members of the Council, he counseled, “Make sure the P5 get some of this workload as they have the time to do it, and deputies are allowed to do it. This is an unfair division of labor, which leaves less time for your priorities. Don’t accept being framed as non- permanent by the P5. You’re the elected ones. Say, ‘If I’m non-permanent, then you’re non-elected.’”

Ambassador van Oosterom warned that “if a P5 member is close to an issue on the agenda, the chances of reaching an agreement are slim. There is a big difference between what they talk about and what our products are. In 2018, the Council spoke the most about Syria, but Syria figures very little in press statements. Results on the Palestine question are similarly absent.” In that connection, he added, “My biggest frustration was not being able to refer the killing of more than 500,000 people in Syria to the ICC [International Criminal Court] or a special tribunal.”

Accompanied by a slide whimsically entitled “The Hamster Syndrome,” he said the workload for Council members had tripled from 1990 to 2018, with many more meetings, resolutions, presidential and press statements, formal visits, peacekeeping operations, and subsidiary organs. “Delegations need to be sufficiently staffed; claim enough diplomats from your capitals. The agenda is overloaded—formally 69 items.” Consequently, “if you don’t have established priorities, you get lost.”

With demands this great, he said, even personal fitness becomes an issue. “Stories of working day and night and on the weekends intimidate colleagues. Be aware, plan ahead for the health and well-being of your colleagues and team.” He recalled that the Council had been traumatized by the death in April 2018 of a Council colleague, Bernard Tanoh–Boutchoue, the Permanent Representative of Côte d’Ivoire.

Ambassador van Oosterom emphasized the importance of learning the ropes ahead of time. “Procedural challenges are one of the most difficult parts of the Council, and make sure your team knows them inside and out.” If one arises and you have any doubts about it, he advised, suspend the meeting, move to a consultation room and solve it there with the assistance of an expert.

He talked light-heartedly about some of the “bizarre” unwritten rules of the Council chamber and several instances in 2018 when they had been broken. The entry of Nikki Haley, the American Permanent Representative, was blocked when she tried to enter with a cup of coffee, and a meeting was stopped because Peter Wilson, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, was eating a breakfast sandwich. Other rules of the consultation rooms, like keeping the curtains closed or not shedding your jacket on warm days are moments to declare independence, he said. “You have to break these rules to own the room and let the P5 know that you are truly part of the Council. It gets very hot; take off your jacket!”

Inga Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said she wanted to “debunk the many criticisms that the Council has been unable to do its work, that we have been slow to get started [during the pandemic].” She countered that in June the Council had 50 virtual meetings compared to 44 meetings the year before, that it had held 170 virtual meetings since March 24th and that the number of resolutions adopted was almost identical for the same period of time.

Kairat Umarov, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan, conceded that the work of the Council had suffered from “polarization. The Security Council is very divided. We need to improve and overcome this through dialogue and trust. And it’s not only about building trust between the E10 and the P5, but also between the P5 themselves.”

Olof Skoog, Head of the European Union delegation to the UN and former Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN, acknowledged the divisions on the Council and the damage they cause and said the solution should come from the E10. “That’s where building alliances is important. We are the elected members, we have a completely different view of the need to deliver during our short terms on the Council. That makes us think differently than the big countries, who can afford to have a show or use their veto to block something whereas we should always try to find solutions. The E10 need to stick together. You need to come together especially when the P5 aren’t able to deliver because they are lost in blockages. “

Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, expressed appreciation for the book as her country prepares to join the Council. “It’s 20 years since Ireland was on the Council. There isn’t much of a folk memory for the procedural arcana or what works and what doesn’t. We’re thinking about the relationship between the E10 and the P5. We’re asked whether we can hope to do anything, given the P5 veto. My answer is always, ‘Yes. We’re an elected member with the legitimacy of the General Assembly behind us.’”

Odd Inge Kvalheim, Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway, another incoming country, said, “ This sharing of experiences is extremely important for us as an incoming member. We are all ears to the experiences of others. In terms of carrying the torch, there’s been a development over time in how elected members can make a difference.”

Juan Ramon de la Fuente Ramirez, Permanent Representative of Mexico, another incoming country, said he too was concerned about the “increased polarization” on the Council. ”We have the impression that existing differences seem to be more evident. The fact that it took almost 4 months to agree to the Secretary-General’s resolution to call for a global ceasefire is testimony of this.”

India is also coming onto the Council, and its Permanent Representative, T.S. Tirumurti, commented, “I got an excellent picture of the increase in the workload and how the discussions don’t correlate to the outcomes.”

Francisco Duarte Lopes, Permanent Representative of Portugal, said he wondered to what extent interventions and advice from civil society were listened to and taken into account.

Karin Landgren, Executive Director of Security Council Report, said she hoped there could be a way to cultivate stronger links between the Council and other principal UN organs like the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Loraine Sievers, co-author of The Procedure of the UN Security Council said, “One thing that becomes clear is how long it takes for the Council to evolve. There are few revolutions. Change is incremental. Sometimes elected members don’t see the seed that they planted bear fruit until long after they’ve left.”

Mansour Ayyad Sh. Al-Otaibi, Permanent Representative of Kuwait, said he had noticed “great movement” in recent years towards empowering the E10. “The E10 should be united, not against the P5, but to carry on the mandate of the Council and to make the Council more efficient and transparent.”

Richard Gowan, UN Director at the International Crisis Group, wondered if there were times when Ambassador van Oosterom had felt tensions between his EU identity and his E10 identity.

Ameirah Alhefeitii, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates, asked if the role of the E10 could be “enhanced” given the diversity of the group.

Taye Atske Selassie Amde, the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia, said it was important that “New York and your capital should be on the same page and speak with one voice. Otherwise, you will be a Spanish piñata, especially for the P5.”

Both Besiana Kadare, the Permanent Representative of Albania, and Vanessa Frazier, the Permanent Representative of Malta, asked Ambassador van Oosterom if, despite all his preparation, he had been caught by surprise by anything, and he said, “I did not realize that the seats rotate after one month.”

The event concluded with reflections by Ambassador van Oosterom, who stated that the conversation had proven it was useful to share experiences that help incoming members prepare, and to do so publicly to show the world how the Council works in practice.

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Implementing the UN Management Reform: Progress and Implications for Peace Operations

Thu, 23/07/2020 - 18:48
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In September 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres proposed a new management paradigm to enable the UN to confront global challenges and remain relevant in a fast-changing world. The new management paradigm would bring decision making closer to the point of delivery, empower managers, increase accountability and transparency, reduce duplicative structures and overlapping mandates, increase support for the field, and reform the planning and budgeting processes.

Eighteen months after the management reform came into effect, this paper examines the implementation of the reform and its impact on peace operations from the perspective of both UN headquarters and the field. The paper highlights the current state of the reform, identifies good practices, flags areas for possible improvement or attention, and offers forward-looking recommendations for UN headquarters, mission leaders and managers in the field, global or regional support offices, member states, and staff at large.

While the reform is still a work in progress, it has continued to gain momentum, and implementation has become more systematic. Nonetheless, the paper concludes that greater effort must be made to get input from personnel in peace operations to ensure that the reform responds to their needs and constraints. More work is also needed to fully realize the potential of the management reform and ensure that it aligns with parallel reforms underway in the UN peace and security architecture and development system.

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Impact-Driven Peacekeeping Partnerships for Capacity Building and Training

Wed, 22/07/2020 - 17:22
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On July 22nd, IPI, with co-hosts Ethiopia, Indonesia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, held a virtual discussion on Impact-Driven Peacekeeping Partnerships for Capacity Building and Training, guided in part by a new IPI white paper on the subject. The event and the paper served as input to the next United Nations peacekeeping ministerial-level meeting in April 2021 in Seoul and to a preparatory meeting on the subject co-chaired by Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Japan due to take place sometime beforehand in Addis Ababa.

“In peacekeeping, training and capacity building are the cornerstones for ensuring the efficient performance and the safety and security of all peacekeepers,” said Cho Hyun, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN.

He chose to highlight three aspects of the white paper—expanding the participation of women in peacekeeping operations; broadening and standardizing missions’ use of digital technology; and strengthening the medical capacity of peacekeeping operations, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While noting new awareness of the need to include women in peacekeeping, Ambassador Cho stressed that “barriers and challenges remain for uniformed women in the field, and we need to discuss how to overcome these challenges. We may need to explore new ideas, such as creating female platoons, instead of just a few women peacekeepers in a platoon mainly made up of men. Such female platoons may be better placed for engaging with local communities.”

Dian Triansyah Djani, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the UN, said his country had been increasing the number of women assigned to peacekeeping, with notably positive results. “We have found when handling cases of child or sexual abuse in a community, local women were more inclined to talk to women peacekeepers. As such, they have to have training in psychology, health, and other social issues. Community engagement, cultural awareness, language skills, and addressing sexual exploitation and violence against women and children are all important in the role of women peacekeepers.” At the same time, Ambassador Djani said, women peacekeepers’ needs were not properly accommodated, gender was not sufficiently “mainstreamed” in peacekeeping decision-making. “The need to increase spaces for women peacekeepers, including their living quarters, is ignored. The questions of leave for mothers and other such issues that affect women disproportionately require a different approach.”

Ambassador Djani said that Indonesia had advocated for more emphasis on community engagement in peacekeeping training. “With COVID-19, it is more important than ever to win the hearts and minds of the community,” he said. “Peacekeeping operations are not effective without the support of the local population. Most importantly, community engagement is necessary to better protect and serve the needs of the people. With that in mind, in our training centers in Indonesia, we equip our peacekeepers with language skills, soft skills, and understanding and respect for local cultures.”

The author of the white paper, IPI Senior Non-resident Adviser Arthur Boutellis, singling out one of the report’s 13 recommendations, emphasized the need to build sustainable, systemic, and institutional capabilities within troop- and police-contributing countries (TCC/PCCs). “Training and capacity building starts at home, and countries need to integrate and value peacekeeping in their own national curriculum and develop their own national support system,” he said. Elaborating on another recommendation, Mr. Boutellis also stressed the importance of joint initiatives and partnerships, saying “Capacity providers interested in improving peacekeeping, but lacking the resources to do so alone, should join existing training partnerships programs such as the Triangular Partnerships Project (TPP), which has expanded in scope and region, or join a joint capacity building partnership.”

On another point, he cited the “proliferation” of in-mission trainings but warned they should be limited to addressing capability gaps that had been identified by the UN as “critically hampering” the security of TCC/PCCs or the implementation of the mandate of the mission, “notably when it comes to the protection of civilians.” On evaluation, he said, “Member states and the UN should work closely together to better link performance evaluation to training and capacity building efforts and create feedback loops.”

Mark Pedersen, Director, Integrated Training Service, UN Department of Peace Operations, highlighted the importance of building self-sustaining national capacity, which he said led to an improvement in peacekeepers’ self-employment, their pre-deployment preparations, their training, and rotations. “Much capacity building focuses on skills, but unless these skills are built on a solid professional basis of military and police skills, the result is a house built on sand.” He said this was particularly true in the case of women peacekeepers. “Focusing on core skills is important to help member states deploy more female peacekeepers, who must be deployed into operational roles in battalions, police components and headquarters. To succeed, they need the same military and police skills and experience opportunities as their male counterparts. One way to do this is to work with the TCC/PCCs to strengthen the female components of their forces, especially at the junior commissioned officer level, so these women become examples for others.”

A survey conducted by his office last year identified the priority areas for training and capacity-building, in descending order, as they relate to pre-deployment training, lessons learned, deployment, sustainment, force generation, and rotation. “Addressing systemic capacities will make a massive difference,” he said. “There are cost-light opportunities, where a small amount of niche experience will make a big difference.”

Kristina Zetterlund, Counsellor, Civilian Adviser of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN, said that increasing the number of women peacekeepers should be prioritized.  “Peacekeeping operations must have a gender lens. Training on this means ensuring there is an understanding of the different needs, interests, and opportunities of girls and women and boys and men on planning and implementing tasks in the field.” Asserting that “more inclusive processes make for more sustainable results,” Ms. Zetterlund said that missions should work on “gender mainstreaming with a long-term view, making sure efforts are sustainable, even after missions transition.”

Michael L. Smith, Director, Office of Global Programs and Initiatives, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, US Department of State, outlined the US Global Peace Operations (GPO) initiative and the direct link between its provisions for capacity building and UN force generation efforts. “Our process for assessing and prioritizing training, equipping or other assistance requests has evolved with the establishment of the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS) groups. We require all new assistance be linked to a capability pledge in PCRS. Formally registering a pledge requires demonstrating political commitment, which helps ensure that our assistance packages are supporting a viable, deployable capability.” Mr. Smith said the GPO promotes ongoing “full training capability,” and he stressed that “pre-deployment training alone will not produce an effective peacekeeping unit without an upstream military education system to develop core staff and soldier skills. This needs to exist within a broader structure of human resources, financial resources, and logistics.” He detailed a three-tiered monitoring and evaluation framework, based on “outputs, outcomes, and impacts. It’s more of an art than a science because it relies on anecdotal analysis, mission reporting by the UN, external organizations, and our own mission visits.”

Fumio Yamazaki, Director, International Peace and Security Cooperation Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, discussed progress made under the Triangular Partnership Project (TPP), which was an outcome of the 2014 UN peacekeeping summit. Under TPP, supporting member states provide trainers, equipment and funds required for the training of TCC/PCCs’ uniformed personnel while the UN coordinates and manages the overall program. Mr. Yamazaki said that 40 percent of the TCC/PCCs now participated in the program. “It’s important for the TCC/PCCs to build their own capacity, and the key to success is the political decision by a TCC/PCC to use and train its forces for UN peacekeeping.”

Dawit Yirga, Director, International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said that improving training and capacity building was very important to his country, which is a leading contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping.  “We have in Ethiopia an international peacekeeping training center which fills crucial gaps in training and capacity building in Ethiopia and other African countries. We work with bilateral, regional, and international partners in this regard, particularly Japan and Indonesia, and we hope to develop the center as having a niche in organizing integrated training programs that enable us to deploy able personnel.”

Namie Di Razza, IPI Senior Fellow and Head of Protection of Civilians, moderated the discussion.

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Gender Trainings in International Peace and Security: Toward a More Effective Approach

Mon, 20/07/2020 - 23:32

As more and more states and organizations adopt a gendered approach to international policy, trainings on how to conduct gender-based analysis and integrate gender perspectives into policies and programming have proliferated. But despite this increase in gender trainings, it remains unclear how effective they have been due to challenges related to their design, delivery, targeting, and evaluation.

After mapping the ecosystem of gender trainings in the realm of international peace and security, this issue brief unpacks each of these challenges. It concludes with a set of recommendations for improving gender trainings, suggesting that those designing gender trainings should consider the following:

  • Conducting a preliminary needs assessment to adapt trainings to their audience;
  • Soliciting feedback at every stage of the training, including “live” feedback during the training;
  • Grounding training in local contexts and providing evidence to back up claims; and,
  • Generating self-reflection by both participants and trainers during evaluations.

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From Local to Global: Building on What Works to Spur Progress on the 2030 Agenda

Thu, 16/07/2020 - 16:45
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Despite advances in some areas of sustainable development, countries around the world are still not on track to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and implement the 2030 Agenda. As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes more and more important to renew the multilateral cooperation around the SDGs, but a major challenge to doing so is the disconnect between the local, national, regional, and global levels.

On July 16th, the International Peace Institute (IPI)—in collaboration with the government of The Gambia and the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, along with the governments of Japan, and Switzerland—addressed this question with a virtual interactive discussion and launch of a report on how to design locally led strategies for the 2030 Agenda entitled Localizing the 2030 Agenda in West Africa: Building on What Works (available in French and English).

The meeting followed up on one held last October in Banjul, and Mamadou Tangara, the Gambian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the Banjul Forum had made clear the importance of inclusive engagement and multilateral cooperation around the SDGs. “The process must include actors at various levels of the development process. As the famous African proverb goes: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Mr. Tangara praised UN Secretary- General António Guterres for his “build back better” pledges to go beyond just restoring the UN in the post-COVID period but making sure it was more effective than before. “If there could be anything like a bright side to the pandemic, it is that it has shown us the resilience of the UN spirit in the face of adversity,” he said. “If we are to succeed in localizing the 2030 Agenda, we must possess this spirit of resilience. Better communities make better countries. Better countries make better regions. And better regions create a better world. It all starts with our communities.”

Read his full remarks here.

Munyaradzi Chenje, UN Development Coordination Office (DCO) Regional Director for Africa, said the word “local” was key to successfully implementing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs and to combating the effects of the COVID-19 virus. “We build from the ground up and not the other way around,” he said. “Local means data and information on where everyone is, knowing those who have been left behind, those at risk of being thrown back into poverty and vulnerability because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the young adults… Our success will hinge upon empowered communities as a driving force with national, regional, and sub-regional partners.”

Also emphasizing the importance of building up from the local level was Tamba John Sylvanus Lamina, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development in Sierra Leone. “Sierra Leone is in the midst of a pandemic, and that speaks to the issue of how we should use home grown methods to help achieve the goals. The more we focus our attention on the issues and ensuring that people have buy-in, especially at the local level, then the more progress we’ll make as a nation.”

He said that in the aftermath of its civil war, Sierra Leone had created a “People’s Planning Process ” which it is now taking forward in implementing its national development plan. “Consultations were done all over the country to formulate that document, and after that, we moved around the communities for validation of that document to find out what the communities wanted to prioritize.” One of the priorities that emerged from that consultation was an emphasis on education, and particularly secondary school courses in science for girls. “Moving forward, the people’s participatory framework is a social mobilization tool where people sit together and discuss issues together as we would in our traditional homes around the fireplace.”

Georges Ki-Zerbo, World Health Organization Representative in Guinea, spoke about the localization of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Guinea. “Two days ago, I was in the municipality of Kaloum in Conakry, and the Kaloum mayor, who was with us at the Banjul Forum, the Minister of Communication, and religious leaders from Conakry joined in to discuss how to best strengthen community engagement in stopping COVID-19. I learned from that discussion that by engaging communities at the district level, the Kaloum municipality was able to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections from 380 to five cases in just a few weeks. This amazing local success was possible through engaging the elders, religious leaders, and women’s and youth associations who went around with the medical teams, promoting face masks and helping families with food, hygiene kits and other commodities. This is a success story, and it shows that we can leverage community networks for responses to scale up the COVID-19 responses and improve social protection and development.”

Noting that as part of commemorating the UN’S 75TH birthday, this year had been designated a year for “listening,” he declared, “Listening will be key for localizing the SDGs and leaving no one behind. In addition to listening locally, we need to work better across borders, not only geographical borders, but also cultural, religious, gender, and age group borders to rebuild after COVID-19 so that we can have the unique ability to innovate.”

“With the added challenge of COVID-19, it is evident that we must consider the decade of acceleration towards the SDGs with the highest possible level of humility, gravitas, and resolve,” Mr. Ki-Zerbo said.

Raheemat Omoro Momodu, Head of Human Security and Civil Society Division, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Division, said that in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis people would be expecting more from their states and governments. “And that’s how ECOWAS will become more relevant,” she said. “We are going to see greater relevance of intergovernmental organizations.”

As a consequence, Ms. Momodu said, ECOWAS had mainstreamed its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “ECOWAS will need to re -strategize, innovate, and reform to be a better fit for a redefined course in a post-COVID world. We need to reexamine our approaches, listen more and get more connected to the local community. We need to start the local transformation in such a way that we are informed by what the local needs are.” As part of that transformation, she said, ECOWAS was promoting community-based economic growth “so that people at that level can survive day by day.”

Dominique Favre, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN, noted that in his country the 2030 Agenda was applied at both the federal and cantonal level. “At the international level, Switzerland is promulgating the same approach regarding all levels of actors for implementation of the agenda, including the local level, civil society, and public authorities. Local partners are priority partners. It’s indeed at the local level that solutions are lived. It’s at the local level that leaving no one behind seems most personal and applicable. ”

Nérida N.M. Batista Fonseca, CEO of Innovation, SARL, in Guinea- Bissau, said that the greatest needs in her country were upgrading the health and education systems and thereby helping young people, who make up 64% of the population. She said that civil society organizations and the private sector could help in several key areas like agriculture. “Our country relies on agriculture mainly so we need to create new entrepreneurs who can collaborate and work within certain areas to meet the needs of the population.

The biggest problem was political, Ms. Fonseca said, because there were frequent changes of government and consequently little stability in the country’s institutions. Also, there was little interaction between the private sector and the UN. Accordingly, she said, “we will only be able to continue the work if we create a commission on sustainable development with innovators from all sector of society that remains a constant platform that withstands the political upheavals.The training of people is crucial because it helps their inclusion in the work force. And we need to support the female entrepreneurs as well if we really want to achieve the 2030 Agenda.”

The authors of the report are Jimena Leiva Roesch, IPI Senior Fellow and Head of the Peace and Sustainable Development Program, and Masooma Rahmaty, IPI Policy Analyst for the Peace and Sustainable Development and Women, Peace, and Security programs.

Citing highlights of the report, Ms. Leiva Roesch said it contemplated a more “people-centered and context specific” approach to putting the SDGs into effect. “We can’t think that we’re going to parachute the SDGs into a local context and just think that municipalities will follow. The 2030 Agenda needs to be perceived as a flexible format that allows for greater inclusion and participation. It’s like opening a door so we can all speak a common language, the SDGs language.”

She also questioned approaches taking up the SDGs in a siloed manner. “The SDGs were designed as a tapestry of connections, so once you focus solely on a specific SDG, the tapestry falls apart and you lose the complexity of the framework. If you’ve ever seen the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, shrinking the SDGs from the national to the sub-national level makes it less overwhelming to tackle the SDGs from a local level, but it hopefully becomes less overwhelming when it’s beyond the national level to the subnational but still keeps the holistic nature of the framework.”

Ms. Leiva Roesch recalled that at last year’s Banjul Forum, the seating was designed to be “non-hierarchal,” with ministers mixed in with local leaders and municipal figures. “What happened there is that national representatives had an ‘aha’ moment where they realized that they had so many resources at home, that there were so many initiatives happening within. We should become aware that there’s a lot more inside than we originally thought. For international actors, it has to be a more humbling process. When you’re trying to localize the SDGs, there’s already so much inside that we have to build on what’s there already.” With COVID-19, this way of working becomes more relevant and urgent than ever.

In brief comments, Alex Konteh, a municipal authority leader from Sierra Leone who participated in the Banjul Forum, asserted that “we must prioritize local cultures as the yardstick of measurement for the realization of the SDGs.”

In concluding remarks, Toshiya Hoshino, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN, said the SDGs were “widely promoted” in his country and embodied Japan’s commitment to the “human security agenda,” something he said had become even more relevant with the COVID-19 pandemic. He termed it “politically important to include the concept of human security in the process of localizing the SDGs.”

Ms. Leiva Roesch moderated the discussion.

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Multilateralism Under Fire: A Conversation with Adam Lupel and Peter Yeo

Wed, 15/07/2020 - 17:24

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“What’s true is that a world organized by multilateral cooperation is a more just world order based upon sovereign equality of states, the rule of law, the practice of diplomacy, and not ‘might makes right’ in which a strong country can simply take territory from another country, as we saw for all of human history, up until the 20th century,” said Adam Lupel, IPI Vice President, during an event hosted by the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA).

He added, “This is important for small countries, though the strong countries also have an interest in this system, because we all have an interest in peace, and there is no doubt statistically that interstate war has been [on] a dramatic decline since the creation of the UN.”

Dr. Lupel spoke extensively on multilateralism during a conversation with Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Organization, on July 15, 2020, at an event moderated by Rachel Pittman, Executive Director of UNA-USA.

“I think today’s context of a pandemic is a real case in point,” Dr. Lupel pointed out. “This is a global phenomenon and even the strongest country in the world can’t handle it in isolation—it’s something that we need cooperation to handle.”

“Also, it’s only through multilateral cooperation that we can aspire to do the really big things—end poverty, feed the world, combat climate change, advance human rights—things that we’re looking to do on a global scale,” he said. “And this uncertainty has only been exacerbated by the pandemic and evident divisions in the multilateral system that has made a globally coordinated response so difficult.”

In response to a question about nationalism, Dr. Lupel said, “If nationalism means isolationism and go-it-alone, it is a problem from an international perspective because it won’t lead to a safer, more secure and more prosperous nation. It will actually lead to an impoverished and more insecure nation, because there are a host of problems that can only be addressed through both cooperation and the pursuit of national interests.”

Dr. Lupel noted that the multilateral system is not just about the UN Security Council but also relates to real technical cooperation—civil aviation, the Universal Postal Union, telecommunications—”all these things have multilateral mechanisms that ease the way for us to do things that are very common, but actually would be very difficult if we didn’t cooperate internationally,” he said.

He recalled that the conversation in the lead up to the UN’s 75th anniversary “is more future-oriented. It is about recognizing global transformations and the uncertainty regarding where the international system is heading.

“Many people are beginning to speak about this moment as one of two things for the international system. It is either a moment in which long-term trends are simply being accelerated: geopolitical division, inequality, rising nationalism. Or it is a fork in the road, where we can make real change, and change direction.”

Dr. Lupel said it is likely a bit of both, “but what is clear is that the decisions being made today will have profound consequences.”

He added, “So to the extent that ‘Multilateralism is under Fire,’ organizations like the UNA-USA and IPI have a great task ahead of them to work against those trends that threaten multilateral approaches and work to improve efforts at international cooperation.”

Localizing the 2030 Agenda in West Africa: Building on What Works

Thu, 09/07/2020 - 21:01

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Despite advancement in some areas, countries around the world are still not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The transformation needed to achieve these goals depends on innovation and initiatives that build on existing capacities and fit the needs of local contexts, yet the 2030 Agenda remains largely unknown at the local level. Therefore, a key avenue for progress is to move the focus below the national level to the subnational level, including cities and communities.

Toward this end, together with partners including the UN Trust Fund for Human Security and the Government of The Gambia, the International Peace Institute hosted a forum in Banjul on “Localizing the 2030 Agenda: Building on What Works” in October 2019. This forum provided a platform for learning and sharing among a diverse group of stakeholders, including government officials from both the national and municipal levels, UN resident coordinators, and civil society representatives.

Drawing on the discussions at the forum, this report highlights the path some West African countries have taken toward developing locally-led strategies for implementing the 2030 Agenda. It focuses in particular on four key factors for these strategies: ownership across all levels of society; decentralization; coordination, integration, and alignment; and mobilization of resources to support implementation at the local level.

For more information related to IPI’s work during the 2020 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, see here.

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Launch of Policy Paper on Human Rights Readiness of UN Peacekeepers

Thu, 25/06/2020 - 17:00
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The extent to which consideration of human rights is integrated into the generation, operational configuration, and evaluation of uniformed personnel of United Nations peacekeeping missions was the subject of a June 25th virtual event co-sponsored by IPI and the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN. The event served to launch the policy paper Integrating Human Rights into the Operational Readiness of UN Peacekeepers co-authored by Namie Di Razza, Senior Fellow and Head of Protection of Civilians at the IPI, and Jake Sherman, Senior Director of Programs and Director of IPI’s Brian Urquhart Center for Peace Operations.

The paper offers a definition of “human rights readiness” for peacekeepers, which is intended to complement the UN’s “operational readiness” policy framework. It analyzes the extent to which human rights are integrated into training and force generation for uniformed peacekeepers, and concludes with concrete recommendations for how the UN and troop- and police-contributing countries can strengthen human rights readiness.

Jukka Salovaara, Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN, said that human rights training was compulsory for all Finnish police recruits in keeping with Finnish foreign policy’s overall emphasis on human rights. “Finland’s goals in international human rights policy are the eradication of discrimination and increased openness and inclusion, and we are really mainstreaming this in all our foreign policy. And it is crucial to us that the men and women we deploy in the field respect the principles of human rights. This is critical for upholding the credibility of UN peacekeeping and the shared value of UN operations.”

Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “We have in the last few years worked with various internal and external partners to mainstream UN peacekeeping under a broad framework of human rights readiness.” She said the goal was to “reinforce the centrality of human rights” and to ensure that personnel from the UN and countries that contribute police and troops to UN operations had human rights training. “Political willingness and respect for human rights is a key condition and prerequisite for peace and security at the national, regional, and international levels, including in the work at the UN.”

Luis Carrilho, Police Adviser, UN Department of Peace Operations, declared, “Every United Nations police officer, like every police officer around the world, is a human rights officer. And the police is one of the most visible faces of the state, so the action of the police is key for the balance between freedom and security for all.” He said that all mandated tasks should incorporate “democratic policing,” which he described as policing in which the human rights of everyone are “protected, promoted and respected.” The best way to guarantee that, he said, was through comprehensive and early training. “It goes without saying that effective training, with human rights aspects, mainstreaming human rights throughout, lies at the core of these efforts.” He also said it was critical that this training should be conducted prior to deployment.

Also arguing for thorough-going pre-deployment training was Mark Pedersen, Director, Integrated Training Service, UN Department of Peace Operations. “Human rights is not a peacekeeping-only skill, it should be the foundational knowledge for all soldiers and police personnel,” he said. “The first time a soldier… meets a human rights issue should not be on a peacekeeping operation. As long as we continue to deal with a situation where that first encounter is in a peacekeeping situation, we’ll be struggling uphill to inculcate human rights among peacekeeping personnel.”

Francesca Marotta, Chief, Methodology, Education and Training Section, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that in force generation, knowledge of human rights was a key determinant in both selecting and deploying UN personnel. “An effort has been made to flesh out modalities leading to uniformed personnel best equipped to advance human rights aspects of mandates.” She said the UN screening policy had two main goals—“to preempt the deployment of personnel involved in violations” and “to enable selection of personnel and units that are best equipped to effectively implement their mandates.” She said there were still “gaps in training where specialized human rights resources may be limited. We know from our work with troop/police-contributing countries that national trainers who are typically police officers may not have the effective background to deliver human rights training” and that “resorting to external partners may also have its limits.” Instead, she said, OHCHR had developed a pre-deployment training approach jointly teaching both policing and human rights expertise. “We have partnered with standard police capacity to develop training of human rights that provides a different understanding of human rights.” The first such course was conducted in Jordan for African peace trainers, she said, but a second had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maj. Gen. Hugh Van Roosen, Deputy Military Adviser, UN Department of Peace Operations, said that a major focus of his office’s work was educating peacekeepers about human rights. “For the military, if we are going to require individuals to be stewards of human rights, as part of the protection of civilians strategy and our other tasks and mandates, we have to have a clear understanding of what those human rights are,” he explained. He said that explicit language about concepts of human rights tasks, principles, and standards was now included in infantry manuals and training materials. “Within the UN structure, there is a long-overdue integration of these concepts and practices in a way that’s meaningful to basic soldiers. If a basic soldier said simply ‘human rights,’ without any definition of what we are talking about, that would not be clearly understood. We have to focus on clear tasks and standards, and I’m delighted to report that the integrated effort we’ve been making is beginning to pay off.”

Sari Rautio, Director, Security Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, stressed the importance of exchanging lessons learned. “An important finding of our training is that international cooperation offers the opportunity to share best practices, develop and compare modules, share trainers and students, create and harmonize standards.” She added, “We take to heart the recommendation that we should make greater use of human rights officers and human rights NGOs and human rights commissions in the training. We already do this, but there is always space to improve.” Finland put particular emphasis on the need for women in peacekeeping and has achieved gender parity in two of its annual UN missions over three years, she said. “Finland thinks the inclusion of women in peace operations is a prerequisite for sustainable peace, democracy, and human rights. By the same token, the participation of women in peacekeeping widens the skills available, access to communities, and ways UN missions can be enhanced.”

Mohammad Koba, Deputy Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the UN, said that in selecting persons for peacekeeping missions, “we check their human rights records to make sure we have the most qualified and well-prepared personnel. We develop human rights-specific training, incorporating lessons learned.” He stressed that meeting human rights objectives was a mission-wide responsibility. “The civilian human rights component has the main responsibility. However, all personnel in the mission—both civilian and uniformed—have an important role to play. The delivery of human rights mandates on the ground is not easy, and now the challenge has become even greater with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Christoph Heusgen, Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN, said that how peacekeeping and special political missions can contribute more effectively to the promotion and protection of human rights would be a focus of the current German presidency of the UN Security Council. “It’s important that peacekeepers have a clear understanding of what human rights is,” he said.

Dr. Di Razza, co-author of the policy paper, observed that although human rights was a part of the core pre-deployment training prepared by the UN and administered by member states to their personnel, “the delivery of these trainings can vary in quality.” And while the human rights screening had improved from the days when it relied on self-certification, she said, there still was a need for a greater role by the Secretariat to do its own assessment of the human rights readiness of personnel. Commenting on another of the paper’s findings, she said, “quite interestingly, as the UN focused on the human rights records and compliance of non-UN partners, it seems that more processes were developed for external actors than for UN personnel themselves.”

The other co-author of the paper and moderator of the discussion, Jake Sherman, remarked, “Human rights activities are not just for the human rights component of a mission, and the speakers today have emphasized that this is really an obligation for all peacekeepers and that the intent of this initiative is to try to proactively integrate human rights into police and military operations. There is a solid policy basis that already exists within the organization to do that. This is ultimately a partnership between the UN and member states, and if the UN is going to be able to hold up its end of the partnership, it needs capacities to be able to do so across the whole range of offices and departments.”

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Protecting Civilians While Supporting the Host State: A UN Peacekeeping Dilemma

Wed, 10/06/2020 - 18:10
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While most United Nations peace operations are expected to protect civilians from any source of physical violence, they also need to maintain the consent of the host-state to function. How the missions work with, despite, or even against the host state to implement their protection mandates while supporting the host state is the subject of a new IPI policy paper With or Against the State? Reconciling the Protection of Civilians and Host-State Support for UN Peacekeeping. The paper was launched at a June 10th virtual event, cosponsored by IPI and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN.

“The UN is an organization of states, and support to host states represents a cornerstone of UN peacekeeping approaches,” explained Dr. Namie Di Razza, IPI Senior Fellow and Head of Protection of Civilians, who moderated the conversation. “Supporting host states is critical to ensure national ownership of protection strategies, and the sustainability of protection activities undertaken by UN peacekeepers,” but “at the same time,” she said, “where state actors, such as national security forces, are themselves responsible for violence against civilians, peacekeepers are expected to confront government actors.”

The author of the report, Dr. Patryk I. Labuda, Non-resident Fellow at IPI and Hauser Post-Doctoral Global Fellow at New York University School of Law, outlined the potential conflict between people-oriented peacekeeping and state-centric support. “On the one hand,” he said, “the rise of POC is a priority, and on the other, there is the rise of host-state support, and by that, I mean more and more mandates that require peacekeeping to support host-states. This report is an attempt to see to what extent these two parallel phenomena are compatible, or in some cases incompatible.”

Dr. Labuda reported that in his research, when he would ask peacekeepers why they were operating in a country, “they reflexively, effortlessly invoke POC, it rolls off the tongue naturally, ‘We’re here to protect civilians.’ But when you ask whether POC is something that should be done together with the host-state, in support of the host-state, reactions vary significantly. Some think that the host-state is the end game—everything the mission does, including POC, is a means to an end, empowering the host-state because it will have to take over the mission. At the other end of the spectrum, they view the state with suspicion, caution, and even mistrust.”

Among the examples of events causing friction that he highlighted were the implementation of the human rights due diligence policy, instances when support of government actors is seen as a risk to civilians, and self-censorship in missions, as in “when do peacekeeping personnel tone down or suppress criticism of the host government’s human rights record to be able to maintain cooperation?” He singled out what he called the “most controversial question: When can peacekeepers use force against state actors? The problem is that peacekeepers are dependent on host-state support, and by using force against the state, they are imperiling, weakening that host-state consent.”

Ugo Solinas, member of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Integrated Operational Team, UN Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA/DPO), said it was essential that missions be “pragmatic” about maintaining host-state consent, which is “dynamic and ebbing and flowing in response to political interests and actors on the ground.” He expressed concern over what he viewed as an overreliance on the use of force. “These dilemmas and these problems cannot be resolved through the use of force alone… but increasingly the success, effectiveness or failure of peacekeeping operations is seen through the lens of willingness to use force. Recent years show that while force may be part of the equation, it is certainly not the solution, and certainly not when force is applied in the absence of the broader political understanding of the objective that the mission is trying to achieve in partnership with a broader set of actors who have a stake in the success of the mission.”

He said he was encouraged by evidence that an alternative approach—engagement—was “becoming the default setting instead of go/no go.” He cited engagement on human rights, justice, and child protection, where important progress has been made. “Through engagement with leadership at all levels, from the highest levels to provincial levels to communities, engagement has proven more effective, including at the height of tension in the 2016-18 period when MONUSCO (UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) was facing pushback from the authorities. Engagement helped to de-escalate tension and ensure an open line of communication that enabled the mission to create a protective environment.” He declared, “Going forward, we should be looking to strengthen those aspects.”

Aditi Gorur, Senior Fellow and Director of the Protecting Civilians in Conflict Program, Stimson Center, said a mission’s effectiveness often depended upon the kind of host-state consent it had, which she categorized in three ways— “strong,” “weak” and “compromised.” She said that “often consent may be strong at the start of the mission and can deteriorate over time,” due to developments that governments can see as threatening their sovereignty like elections. In light of this, she advised to “Take advantage of a window of strong consent at the beginning” of peacekeeping missions’ deployment.

As a general rule, she said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure… Once we reach a crisis point of consent, options become much more limited.” She said that problems in navigating consent arose often through “simple misunderstandings.” One way to head off those misunderstandings, she suggested, was for the Security Council before deployment to “sign a compact with the government for a shared political vision, with a detailed role for the government and for the mission so that expectations can be aligned.” She said governments had the “ultimate trump card of expelling missions,” and it was consequently important for missions to be developing relationships with many stakeholders beyond the head of state “so that it’s not just one individual who will be deciding whether a mission stays or leaves.” Describing the “worst-case scenario,” she said, “We want to prevent situations where missions are unintentionally bolstering autocratic states.”

Ammar Mohammed Mahmoud, Counselor, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Sudan to the UN, commented that “analyzing the element of consent on paper, the UN Security Council authorized peacekeeping missions to always give the primary responsibility of POC to national governments. But once the peacekeeping mission starts to operate, it is recommended that it engage in dialogue with the authorities, government and local communities. Whatever is the strength of the peacekeeping mission remains secondary to that of the government. That dialogue should have two objectives: implementation of the strategy of POC and building the capacity of law enforcement bodies to be equipped with international standards and best practices.”

Lizbeth Cullity, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), raised the range of challenges the mission was facing, including farmer-herder tensions, ethnic divides, class disputes, and a situation where many of the armed groups are Muslim and the central government is Christian. She said MINUSCA had focused on “investing in people who can develop watchdog groups, who can understand how local governance is operating, what local budgets look like and how they can contribute to their society.” She described how MINUSCA had developed a “complex monitoring mechanism” to track closely communities, security concerns, and political perspectives at a local level. “My favorite recommendation of the report is capacity building for a people-centered and holistic approach. I could not agree more, and that comes after 20 years of peacekeeping in Haiti and Sierra Leone and Mali, that if we focus only on the states, we will never ever reach our goal.”

In brief remarks, Karel J.G. Van Oosterom, the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, praised the IPI report. “I think the report is spot-on that stabilization missions are really something completely different with a new environment, new threats, new challenges, but also with a new role for the host governments. And indeed, is it with or against the government? I think for all of us, it would be our preference to work very closely with government—it’s very difficult to work against—but sometimes there is a friction between the two, and on that, I think your report was very enlightening.”

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With or Against the State? Reconciling the Protection of Civilians and Host-State Support in UN Peacekeeping

Fri, 29/05/2020 - 19:29

Contemporary UN peace operations are expected to implement ambitious protection of civilians (POC) mandates while supporting host states through conflict prevention, peacemaking, and peacebuilding strategies. Reconciling these people-oriented POC mandates and the state-centric logic of UN-mandated interventions ranks among the greatest challenges facing peace operations today.

This report explores how peace operations implement POC mandates when working with, despite, or against the host state. It analyzes the opportunities, challenges, and risks that arise when peacekeepers work with host states and identifies best practices for leveraging UN support to national authorities. The paper concludes that peacekeeping personnel in each mission need to decide how to make the most of the UN’s strengths, mitigate risks to civilians, and maintain the support of government partners for mutually desirable POC goals.

The paper offers seven recommendations for managing POC and host-state support going forward:

  • Persuade through dialogue: Peace operations should work to keep open channels of communication and better prepare personnel for interacting with state officials.
  • Leverage leadership: The UN should better prepare prospective mission leaders for the complex POC challenges they will face.
  • Make capacity building people-centered and holistic: The UN should partner with a wider group of actors to establish a protective environment while reconceptualizing mandates to restore and extend state authority around people-centered development initiatives.
  • Induce best practices: Missions should leverage capacity building and other forms of support to promote national ownership and foster best practices for POC.
  • Coordinate pressure tactics: Peace operations should make use of the full spectrum of bargaining tools at their disposal, including pressure tactics and compulsion.
  • Deliver coherent, mission-specific messaging on the use of force: The UN should improve training, political guidance, and legal advice on the use of force, including against state agents.
  • Reconceptualizing engagement with states on POC as a “whole-of-mission” task: The UN Secretariat should articulate a vision and mission-specific guidelines for partnerships with host governments on POC.

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Lessons from the Implementation of the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations

Fri, 29/05/2020 - 10:30
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“When a mission fails to protect civilians, that calls into question the credibility of the entire peacekeeping undertaking and the credibility of the United Nations,” said Valentine Rugwabiza, Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the UN. “We’ve seen that. This is what is at stake.”

Geraldine Byrne Nason, the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, agreed, saying “those of us with experience with conflict or who are peacekeepers know that when protection fails, consequences are absolutely devastating.”

The two ambassadors were speaking about the centrality of Protection of Civilians to effective peacekeeping at a May 29th IPI virtual policy forum on Pledging to Protect Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations: Lessons from the Implementation of the Kigali Principles. The forum took place on the International Day of Peacekeepers, during the UN’s annual Protection of Civilians (POC) Week.

Adopted five years ago at the High-Level International Conference on POC in Kigali, Rwanda, the Kigali Principles are a non-binding set of 18 pledges for more effective and thorough implementation of POC in UN peacekeeping. The principles focus on the training of troops, their performance, and their readiness to identify and address threats, including through the use of force to protect civilians, the provision of adequate resources and capabilities, and the establishment of accountability and oversight mechanisms.

“The Kigali Principles are crystal clear that peacekeepers must be prepared for the tasks set for them,” said Ambassador Byrne Nason. “There are extraordinary challenges with far too many instances where we have seen that the deliberate targeting of vulnerable people and communities is still happening. And let’s be frank, without the proper resources, peacekeeping missions will never be able to fulfill the roles that we set.” She lauded the Kigali Principles for providing a good framework but added, “that framework is of little use if it’s not fully implemented.”

Ms. Rugwabiza said one of the key purposes of implementing the principles was “instilling in our peacekeepers the confidence to act in appropriate and effective ways to protect civilians. We found that most of the time when action towards POC has not been taken, it’s really by lack of will or hesitation, with peacekeepers wondering if they actually have the authority to use force, and the Kigali Principles will help clarify that. We all have an intricate complementary role to play in peacekeeping. When any of us fall short of responsibility, the consequences are tragic.” She reported that the Kigali Principles had become part of Rwanda’s routine “training regimen.”

She sounded the same existential warning as Ambassador Byrne Nason did about the need to provide support for the principles. “The principles demand for mandates to be accurately matched with resources on the ground,” she said. “The principles necessitated impartiality because impartiality means deference to objectives of the mandate rooted in the principles of the UN Charter: place POC at the heart and center of our efforts.”

Bintou Keita, Assistant-Secretary-General, UN Department of Peace Operations and Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, commented, “POC is at the heart of what we do now in the context of peacekeeping. The trust and confidence of the population lies within the fact that no matter what happens, there will be no breakdown in the communication, authority, and the ability to act.” She said the Kigali Principles stress active collaboration and the need for accountability. “When we look at the principles, it’s about partnership, not just about talking and saying the nice thing, it’s also about walking the talk and making sure we have a strong partnership because it’s only with that that we’ll have success. It’s a combination of the policy and the handbook which articulate elements of a strong accountability framework. When I look at key elements to highlight, everyone agrees it makes a difference to have strong political will and partnership. It’s not just about the uniformed people, it’s about the whole of mission encompassing endeavor for peacekeepers and POC.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Raoul Bazatoha, Defense and Military Adviser, Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the UN, focused on the principles’ emphasis on training. “In Rwanda, we only had pre-deployment training, but later we had to develop post-deployment training to collect valuable information to inform our training cycle.” Now, he said, Rwanda has established a peace academy training officers in International Humanitarian Law, armed conflict, and other training related to peace operations. He said that Rwandan contingents had carried out activities like outreach programs, quick impact projects, and built a relationship based on trusting the host population and including constructing school classrooms and markets safe for women, and supply of potable water to internally displaced people and local residents.

“Accountability is a central aspect of good governance in Rwanda,” he added, “and it applies to the armed forces as well as peacekeeping personnel, holding our highest standard of conduct, with a national investigative officer in each unit deployed. The Rwanda defense service also deploys lawyers that provide training on crime prevention and conduct investigations when crimes are committed.”

Eshete Tilahun, Minister Counselor and Political Coordinator, Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the UN, said, “We all know that the POC mandates are getting more complex as peacekeepers are becoming subject to violent attacks.” Aware that “civilians continue to bear the brunt of consequences of conflict… we have made a lot of progress in training because we found ways of building the capacity of uniformed personnel, all under POC framing.” He noted, though, that as more and more is expected from peacekeepers, “less and less resources” are being provided. Mr. Tilahun shared some of Ethiopia’s practices in implementing the Kigali Principles, such as mandatory POC training for peacekeepers and building the capacity and capabilities of uniformed personnel.

Carlos Amorin, Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the UN, noted that the current moment is a particularly difficult one for peacekeepers. “The challenges that peacekeepers face are greater than ever. They are not only having to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic but also support and protect people in the countries they are based in.” Mr. Amorin noted that Uruguay’s endorsement of the Kigali Principles is just one example of their country’s commitment to POC. As one of the earliest signatories to the principles, Mr. Amorin said that their peacekeepers “must complete many training courses prior to deployment” and that Uruguay “deploy[s] without caveats, with the appropriate means to protect civilians and prepare to perform the tasks at hand.” He also said that Uruguay “places a great deal of importance to accountability in POC, both at our national and multilateral level.”

Alison Giffen, Director, Peacekeeping, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) emphasized the importance of supporting POC so that the mandate is “matched with the resources” needed to do the job. “For more than two decades, civilians have looked to UN peacekeepers for protection, and, I want to remind folks, whether or not the peacekeeper is in uniform or whether or not the words protection of civilians were in a mandate.”

Pointing out that promoting and protecting human rights was “a key purpose and guiding principle of the UN,” she concluded, “There’s no reason to doubt that implementing the Kigali Principles and investing in more protection is worthwhile.”

Sofiane Mimouni, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the UN, listed the various challenges that civilians face on the ground and voiced the urgent need to strengthen POC. In particular, he stressed the need for the UN to be “strengthening cooperation and coordination with regional organizations such as the African Union” asking panelists about the “potential synergies to strengthen the culture of protection amongst peacekeepers and peacekeeping stakeholders.”

Dr. Namie Di Razza, IPI Senior Fellow and Head of IPI’s Protection of Civilians Program, moderated the discussion.

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Safeguarding Civilians During a Pandemic: The Repercussions of COVID-19 on the Protection Agenda

Thu, 28/05/2020 - 18:45
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How COVID-19 and measures to curb its spread have amplified the vulnerabilities of civilians caught in conflict and raised new challenges for protection actors like humanitarian workers, peacekeepers, and human rights defenders was the subject of a May 28th IPI virtual policy forum. Co-hosting the event with IPI were the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom, Estonia, Niger, and Canada to the UN.

“The health crisis is quickly becoming a protection crisis,” declared Natacha Emerson of OCHA. “Collective and urgent action is needed to strengthen the protection of civilians so that we can tackle the pandemic and safeguard humanity. For people already struggling to cope with conflict, displacement, and hunger, COVID-19 adds another layer of insecurity, and in conflict settings the virus can easily grab hold and overwhelm crippled health care systems with deadly consequences.”

IPI Senior Fellow Dr. Namie Di Razza, who heads IPI’s Protection of Civilians (POC) program, introduced the discussion with the observation that COVID-19 “has had major disruptive effects, but it has not stopped atrocities, violence and abuse. On the contrary, the pandemic has raised new protection concerns for humanitarian workers, peacekeepers, and human rights defenders.”

Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that human rights violations were rapidly rising in conflict situations in the world, with parties to the conflicts exploiting the circumstances of the pandemic to their advantage, further endangering the most vulnerable people. “So it is in this time of global crisis that universal values and norms, as guaranteed in international law, need more urgent attention than ever, and it also directly engages the responsibilities of states and other duty bearers to uphold their obligations under the law.”

She said that people infected with COVID-19 or suspected of being infected were being stigmatized, attacked and denied medical assistance, and even media representatives who report on the virus were being targeted. “Efforts to fight impunity are significantly impacted [and] governments are focused on the health response, so investigations and trials are de facto put on hold,’’ she said. As a consequence, there could be a premature release of grave human rights violators under the pretext of decongesting prisons for public health reasons. “The UN system must do better in better protecting people in pulling together different mandates and operational activities into one coherent whole under one and the same understanding of protection, putting human rights at the center.”

Laetitia Courtois, Head of Delegation to the UN, International Committee of the Red Cross, said that her organization was used to dealing with epidemics, but never with a pandemic of this “scope and impact.“ She broke down ICRC’s major protection concerns, and outlined four “asks” that would serve to mitigate and alleviate the repercussions of COVID-19:

  • Insist that member states and parties to the conflict respect International Humanitarian Law (IHL);
  • Prevent COVID-19 restrictions from hampering the movement of humanitarian staff and essential services;
  • Protect medical equipment and medical personnel at all times; and
  • Ensure that ICRC and other impartial organizations are allowed to continue working with non-state armed groups, and keep counterterrorism measures from impeding them from engaging with the groups, even those designated as “terrorist.”

Heather Barr, Acting Co-Director, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch, said the COVID-19 crisis had become “a global crisis for women.” She said there had been “huge spikes” in gender-based violence; waves of restrictions, staff shortages and shutdowns at clinics that provide sexual reproductive services; loss of income and jobs for health care workers, 70 percent of whom are women; and widespread closures of schools for girls, which adversely affects rates of child marriage, pregnancy, and sexual violence.

She pointed to water and sanitation as an example of how COVID-19, gender, and preexisting crises “come together in a really harmful way. We all know that washing your hands is important, but often they can’t safely access toilets, latrines, and water points because of concerns about sexual violence, poorly designed camps, lack of freedom of movement for women and girls, and that’s really a crisis in this situation.” She added that long term recovery planning must be gender responsive and “has to think about what impact there’s been on women and how we repair that.”

Caitlin Brady, Director of Programme Development and Quality for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Save the Children, gave a stark account of the effects of epidemics on children, based on past experience. “Border closures and impacts on trade will increase economic hardship everywhere, of course, creating a range of risks, one of them hunger, malnutrition, and associated diseases, and vulnerability to sexual exploitation and abuse, as we saw in the West African Ebola response. We’ll see very weak health facilities, which are already directly targeted by armed groups or are collateral damage when explosive weapons are used in populated areas. Having to respond not just to existing illness and childbirth, but also to COVID-19 will increase excessive maternal and infant mortality.” She forecast that children would be subject to recruitment by armed groups and harsh labor like working in mines.

It was imperative, she said, that school feeding programs be maintained even if the schools themselves were closed. “Yes, the pandemic is a public health emergency, but it’s exacerbating existing protection crises and patterns of marginalization. It’s important that while countries try to respond to the epidemic, they continue with commitments to address child protection and other humanitarian needs.”

Koffi Wogomebu, Senior Protection Adviser, UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), said that steps to curb the virus like limitations on the ability to travel into the field were inadvertently impeding the peacekeeping mission’s POC work. “I just want to say that COVID-19 itself did not constitute a physical violence against civilians falling under our POC mandate, but it is seriously having direct and indirect consequences on the protection of civilians. Measures taken to protect public health such as scaling back activity to prevent the spread of the disease are certainly posing a serious risk to the protection of civilians.”

He said too that the 14 armed groups in the Central African Republic, despite the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, were exploiting the lockdown situation to advance their own aims. “We believe that they take advantage of the fact that we are no longer moving a lot to within their territory, and in doing so, they are committing some serious human rights violations.” In addition, he said, there was an “anti-MINUSCA sentiment” arising out of the misperception that it was the responsibility of the UN mission to slow the spread of the virus and produce a remedy. “This has a put another pressure on the mission,” he said.

James Roscoe, Acting Deputy Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, said that the UK, working with other countries, had made four pledges in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. He listed them as supporting an effective health response led by the World Health Organization (WHO); reinforcing resilience in the most vulnerable countries; pursuing treatments and vaccines; and helping to “shore up” the global economy. As for POC and the COVID-19 crisis, he said, the United Kingdom would work to expedite access and needed equipment and to guarantee “unfettered humanitarian access.”

In concluding remarks, Gert Auväärt, Deputy Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN, lamented that some conflict parties have “sought to take advantage of the situation, and regrettably it has provided a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic.” The main message, he said, was that “we need more protection, not less.”

Mohammad Koba, Deputy Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the UN, observed that “what is more important now with the spread of coronavirus already and international cooperation is to support those who are most vulnerable to the virus, particularly in armed conflict.” Furthermore, he reiterated that Indonesia “fully support[s] the call for the immediate global ceasefire. It is an extremely important call for all parties to the conflict, to focus on the handling the impact of COVID-19, provide respite for civilians, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and offer space for continued diplomacy.”

Abdou Abarry, Permanent Representative of Niger, remarked that “one of the unfortunate unintended consequences of COVID-19 is the worldwide alarming increase of gender-based violence and violence against our children,” which exacerbated existing inequalities “particularly in African countries where women constitute the majority of the work force.” He said that direct and indiscriminate attacks on schools had deprived over one half million African children of education. “An attack on education is an attack on the future,” he declared. Looking ahead, he said that when a safe and effective vaccine would be developed, “let it be the people’s vaccine, available to all. This would be a cornerstone of the POC agenda.”

Richard Arbeiter, Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the UN, commended participants for ensuring that the just concluded POC week “was not a casualty of COVID-19 as well.” He praised the POC community’s work, saying that “the POC community is very sophisticated and it has evolved over twenty years. I am amazed by how quickly all parts of this community has been able to identify and analyze the situations locally and what that means globally for all of us. [Panelists] had ground-truth reality recommendations, both to acknowledge what is working, where the gaps and inequalities have been exacerbated as well. It’s really quite something to stand back from it and see how quickly and ably we are able to figure out what needs to change in order for those that are most vulnerable to receive the support that they need.”

Dr. Di Razza moderated the discussion.

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