Strength, Speed, Transparency: Improving UN Peace Operations for the 21st Century

Strength, Speed, Transparency: Improving UN Peace Operations for the 21st Century

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Human Rights

In conversation with Sarah Holewinski, Former Executive Director of Center for Civilians in Conflict, Isobel Coleman, U.S. Ambassador for UN Management and Reform, U.S. Department of State, Victoria Holt, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations discuss how the UN can provide more efficient, rapid, and reliable support to peace operations globally. They also consider the U.S. government's role in peacekeeping missions as well as the most potentially effective strategies for the UN to employ going forward.

HOLEWINSKI: Everyone, welcome to today’s Council on Foreign Relations session about “Improving U.N. Peace Operations in the 21st Century.”

First, let’s start with the rules, which is why I love CFR. I love the rules. (Laughter.) This is the only meeting in Washington that you’ll get out of on time, so we’re going to end at 2:00 promptly. Please turn of your cellphones; they interact with the sound system. And this meeting is on the record. I will remind you again when we’re doing question and answer.

So, we have a group of three reformers up here. It’s actually a delightful panel. And you have their bios in front of you, so I won’t go through them, but let me just introduce them.

Directly to my right, U.S. Ambassador for Management and Reform Isobel Coleman. I have had the opportunity to watch Ambassador Coleman in action up at USUN, and one of the remarkable things about her is not only is she a powerhouse, but all of the diplomats up there love her, which is not typical for somebody with reform in their title. (Laughter.) But she’s really working her magic up there. Ambassador Power knew what she was doing when she asked her to come up.

Directly to her right is Under-Secretary-General Atul Khare. He is at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. And he handles field support, so he’s the one who is making sure that troops and police out there have everything they need to actually do their jobs. And he has taken on advocating for see something, say something, which is what all of us remember from Amtrak, but he has taken it to a new level in transparency for peacekeeping operations, particularly with the recent news of the sexual abuses.

And then directly to his right, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Office (sic; Bureau) of International Organizational (sic; Organization) Affairs Tori Holt. And when I think about peacekeeping, I think Tori Holt, which is a lot of pressure on you, my apologies. But she’s been looking at this issue and working to improve and get peacekeeping right for decades. In fact, there’s a U.S. Army manual that calls her “a shining star in the field.” And it’s not nothing to get a star from the U.S. Army. So, we’re delighted to have all three of them here.

Let me start, Under-Secretary, with you, and ask you about—to give us the big picture of peacekeeping. I think a lot of people think about this perhaps simplistically or in black and white, where peacekeeping is a U.N. army; it is either dysfunctional and abusive or it is a bunch of knights in shining armor coming to rescue people. Can you tell us do you have an army? Is it strong, fast, and transparent? Give us a sense of what you’re seeing right now.

KHARE: Thank you. And thank you to everybody for having come here to participate in this discussion.

To answer the question directly, no, we don’t have an army. We are dependent upon our member states to provide us with the troops as and when we need them. And many a times, we had to go with the begging bowl in hand to look for capacities, which either do not exist or if they exist are not being made available to us. And in this regard, I’m very grateful to the United States, to President Obama, for having led the leadership summit last year, whereby pledges—new pledges—of both enabling capacities, be it (individual ?), helicopter, medical or infantry people, we’re made up to the level of 40,000 troops. And we hope that that promise will soon factify.

I want to give you one more point, and that is peacekeeping has evolved over the years. In 1948, when the first peacekeeping operation was established, it was essentially what I would call peacekeeping by strangers. We got people from very far to moderate themselves between two very defined armies. Through it, it evolved through a system of transitional administrations, state building, including in Timor-Leste, where I was involved, to today, when we are dealing with asymmetric and targeted threats against our U.N. peacekeepers. So it is within this context that we have to realize that peacekeeping, I think, is important. It needs to be continued. But there are certainly blemishes, including, inter alia, the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse, and we need to deal with it to make this an even better instrument.

HOLEWINSKI: So you just mentioned President Obama’s commitment to peacekeeping. And I’m wondering, perhaps Ambassador Coleman, you can—you can answer this—the United States pays the lion’s share of peacekeeping funds. You mentioned the peacekeeping summit that just got 40,000 more troops. And you have been appointed with peacekeeping reform as one of your top priorities. Can you tell us why does the U.S. care so much about peacekeeping? What do we think about when it comes to reform? What do we want to see?

COLEMAN: Well, thank you, Sarah. And I think I should start out by saying, if all the diplomats love me, I’m doing something wrong. (Laughter.) So I’m taking that back, but I don’t think it’s true either.

You know, the reason that the United States cares about peacekeeping and I think will continue to care about peacekeeping is when I took this job, somebody said to that there are only two institutions in the world that can deploy people immediately to the most remote and harsh areas on the Earth. And that’s the U.S. military and the U.N. And, you know, the fact is that the U.S. military doesn’t want to deploy to all these places around the world and shouldn’t have to.

And so the fact that the U.N. can and in some cases does, you know, is to our benefit to maintain peace and security. We see the U.N. today with very big missions in some very strategic places for the United States, and in the Horn of Africa, in Central Africa, in Mali. I mean, you’ve got troops on the ground maintaining the peace, but also as Atul mentioned dealing with—you know, increasingly, it’s almost counterterrorism that’s going on. You’ve got some, you know, asymmetric warfare in a lot of these places. And so having a capable U.N. that is able to deal with these security threats is all important.

And can it be better? Absolutely. Can it be stronger, faster, more transparent? It must be. It is not designed for the world that we’re in right now, as was just mentioned. You know, peacekeeping was designed for a very different era, very different mission. Today, you have 85 percent of the troops are in kinetic environments. They’re not just watching a line of demarcation between two sides. They are in very unstable, very harsh, very kinetic environments.

And we’ve also seen the most advanced militaries and advanced economies retreat from peacekeeping. And so now we have the vast bulk of the troops coming from countries that are middle- and lower-income countries. They have less education, less training, less equipment. So we’re asking them to do a lot more with less. And these are challenging conditions and challenging circumstances. But the U.N. itself has to recognize what it’s got and be able to deal with it much more effectively than it’s doing.

HOLEWINSKI: So, I’m hearing phrases like “counterterrorism,” “national security” to talk about peacekeeping. Tori, maybe you can give us a sense of—it feels like a couple decades ago, it was about humanitarianism, it was about civilian protection, it was about coming to the aid of people in danger. Now we’re seeing, I think, a shift in how this is being defined. Can you maybe give us the strategic framework for how you are talking about this, particularly with other countries?

HOLT: Well, if you think of the basic enterprise, I don’t know of another partnership where member states and the U.N. lead civilian-led operations to try and bring a political peace and has the security and a policing backbone. So I just remind everybody, the nature of peacekeeping is risky. These missions go to places where there may be a signed peace agreement, but a fragile environment.

So, Sarah, to your point, as we’ve learned over the years from the ’90s and the enthusiasm at the end of the Cold War, frankly retrenchment after the crises, including that—and well-known in Rwanda and the Balkans. And then the burst of return to peacekeeping in multidimensional approaches, I would say, starting in ’99, 2000, where you saw post-conflict environments—Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone—and then expansion in the Great Lakes in Congo, and South Sudan, and Darfur. You watch the U.N. step up and say, all right, we will also add—we’re not just doing ceasefires, and now we’re adding rule of law and governance support. We’re monitoring human rights, we’re going alongside during elections.

The other trend line, after handoffs by intervention—say the Australians in East Timor the British in Sierra Leone—was to retain Chapter VII authority, which meant that these peacekeeping missions have the mandate to use force on behalf of self-protection, but on behalf of the mandate, which means protection of civilians. So you’ve seen a fundamental shift and expansion in the game and the goals.

But where I think it sits today—certainly the Obama administration came in believing core issues should be dealt with as much as possible with a partnership, and the U.N. is a component of that. But I would say there’s also a very practical piece here. If you look at the crises in the world today—16 U.N. operations, over 100,000 forces out in the field on a rotation led by civilians. Alongside them, you see the U.N. leading diplomatic efforts in Syria, a political mission in Libya, efforts to have the peace negotiated in Yemen, hope in Colombia, we’re thinking about what next in Burundi. So the U.N. has become a partner to us across a swath of peace and security architecture.

So, I don’t want to go too long, but I’m going to say it brought home to us some of the operational challenges that the missions face. And it became organic—whether you saw in South Sudan the difficulty in reinforcing a peacekeeping mission, you saw us cheering on the peacekeeping mission staying in Liberia even when Ebola struck, you watched the bravery of the humanitarian response led by us with the U.N. in Haiti despite the U.N. losing some of its best and brightest in the earthquake itself—but it taught us that the U.N. needs reform and modernization. So I know we’ll get to this, but that’s why Obama held a summit last fall, that’s why the U.S. revisited and revised its own policy for—after 20 years, and it’s why we’ve adopted a pretty substantial U.N. reform agenda.

HOLEWINSKI: That’s a lot for the U.N. to take on. All of those things you mentioned—political and offensive, perhaps, operations. This is a lot, and they’re in dangerous places.

Under-Secretary, can you—can you tell us whether the U.N. is ready to take this on? What are some of the big ways in which you are trying to prepare troop contributing countries to go into these places and do what they’re supposed to do under their mandates?

KHARE: Think that’s a very, very good question. And the main challenge which we have, which was mentioned earlier, that 83 percent of our troops now come from lower income or middle income countries without the required capacities, sometimes without the required training, sometimes even without literacy. So it’s very difficult to demand written standards operating procedures if people don’t know how to read and write. Now, obviously, we cannot start training them from the literacy, to training of green-on-green, to training of how the green could be made blue, but we are very grateful to all the member states because peacekeeping, political missions, and non-U.N. missions supported by my department, which is in fact the largest peacekeeping operation in the world, which is AMISOM, with 23,000 troops, all of them are partnerships. And therefore, in a partnership, we need to look at what I would call triangular partnerships. I’m very grateful to the programs like APRRP, like GPOI, under which bilateral assistance is being provided by United States to the troop-contributing countries to enable them, to better prepare them to meet their task.

On our side, I think we need to do much more on what I would call induction training; imbibing the values of the United Nations. One case of misconduct or sexual exploitation and abuse by a peacekeeper, I think, is a case too many. I’ve said often again, in private settings and public settings, at no stage can I afford—can I afford to accept that a protector will be a predator. I mean, that is simply not on. And I think it is, again, that training which we need to do much more. And coupled with the training, we need to have the punishment to the greatest possible extent of the law on those individual perpetrators who commit those crimes, both in a cathartic sense, but also in a sense of giving the lesson to others that this is unacceptable—(audio break)—which will attract the harshest possible sanctions.

HOLEWINSKI: Can you talk about a couple of the reforms that have just been passed within the U.N. system for dealing with SEA—sexual exploitation and abuse?

KHARE: This year, under the secretary-general’s guidance, we started naming the countries by nationality, providing details of victims, providing some details of the number of perpetrators, and also providing details of what the country themselves have done to follow up. And this, I think, has been accepted by the United Nations. I see this transparency as a very important initiative in dealing with this scourge. Why? Because I hope and I trust that the member states, including the United States, now that you have this information in your bilateral discussions with those countries, you will be able to raise this topic and to request them—to suggest to them that there are two cases or three cases which may not have been acted upon and if they could be acted upon quickly. This sends the right message, because ultimately, peacekeeping is a partnership between member states, between the United Nations, and within member states.

The second good thought about naming is that now this transparency also provides us with the opportunity to inform you of some of the quick actions which member states might have taken. Just to give you one example: Egypt. They had a case of sexual assault of an adult by a military officer. They immediately withdrew them to repatriate the person, because within 24 hours, we informed the member state concerned this is a new policy which I had made. They repatriated the person, they conducted a court martial, and they awarded a—not only dismissed the person, because they found the person to be guilty, they dismissed the person and they awarded rigorous imprisonment for five years. And this was not rape. I mean, this was assault, so it’s slightly less than rape.

Bangladesh, they had a similar case where they, to my mind, even created a virtuous cycle, because after awarding a term of imprisonment of one year—it was a slightly different case—and dismissing the person, they decided to make this case a case study and to circulate information about this case—how it was dealt with—to all the Bangladeshi troops—10,000 of them—deployed anywhere. So it ultimately—assistance to victims, the criminal action against the perpetrator, and training for prevention, they have to all gel together. And I think that is the main message which I would want to bring today.

COLEMAN: Can I—can I just add?

The other piece of this—the transparency piece that you’ve been talking about is critically important. And the other piece is the accountability piece that you’re noting, and we now have countries taking it, I think, even more seriously than they did in the past and some countries that were not taking it seriously now waking up to the realization that there are consequences for that. And the ultimate consequence will be repatriation; that they will be asked to leave peacekeeping, that they are no longer welcome in peacekeeping if they are not following through aggressively on investigations and on prosecution when appropriate.

And so we have seen a couple instances of that already. And we passed a Security Council resolution this spring that underscored the U.N.’s responsibility to repatriate troops when there is a pattern of abuse and/or when there’s non-responsiveness. So if they are not following up in the ways that you have described and they are not taking action, then they no longer belong in peacekeeping.

KHARE: Maybe just to add there, and we are working on the Security Council resolution, but just to give you a few examples. We had a few cases in the Central African Republic of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by members of Republic of Congo. Now, there were about 20-odd people who were involved, but we were not sure which 20. So we repatriated all the 120. We said, all of you go home, because obviously you are sort of implicated by association, if you like. And we also asked the commander to go back home because the commander has obviously failed to exercise his command responsibilities.

We are also repatriating when there are human rights violations. For example, if there is excessive use of force in the rare instances, if there are extrajudicial killings, we don’t want those type of people. We want them to be out. In the case of Democratic Republic of Congo, we had to repatriate a full battalion. The battalions are smaller; normal battalions are about between 750-950. Their battalions were around 500. But we asked the entire battalion to go. And we said, thank you very much, as in, when you are ready later on and we see improvements, then maybe we’ll take people from you. But for the moment, if you have any contribution to make to peacekeeping, our response is thank you, but no thank you.

HOLEWINSKI: I expect we’ll get more questions on this from the members, so I’m going to put this back up to the big picture again. And Tori Holt, maybe you can tell me, the U.S. military has been used in many conflicts over the past two decades. And there is now a reticence to have our own forces go out into the world and solve problems, protect civilians, come what may. And yet the U.N. human rights chief just said that there were 50-some odd places in the world where there are possible calamities. How far are we stretching peacekeeping to go? And are you optimistic that peacekeeping can actually go in and handle whatever situation we throw at it?

HOLT: Well, thanks, Sarah. You are good at asking good, tough questions.

Look, I think it’s always a political calculation, but there are some very substantive questions that get addressed, either before a peacekeeping mission’s launched or while it’s constantly being evaluated. And one thing the U.S. has asked and encouraged is the U.N. to do regular strategic reviews of missions. We don’t assume it’s a static situation.

So sometimes, you look at an environment and you recognize that there’s an immediate need to provide backbone. And it’s either backbone by deploying forces, but it’s also political backbone to those who seek peace. So I do want to stop and comment that when the Security Council deploys a mission or even begins to design it, it puts the region and the parties both on notice, but are encouraged to move forward with a way to address the conflict. And we shouldn’t underestimate—so, some of the growth in peace operations is voting for that approach.

On capacity, one of the reasons I mentioned kind of the proliferation of missions in our own U.S. organic recognition of the structural problems is that the literal capacity to deliver in the field had become a bit broken. The U.N. could no longer be picky. You couldn’t send home the low performers with confidence that good performers were coming in behind. And we want the U.N. to be very, very picky; that if you were trained for a certain operating environment, you’re willing to be a police, you’re an excellent humanitarian, you’re a wonderful mediator that you go to a place where you will succeed and the U.N. needs you to succeed. And one of the reasons for the summit is to build and deepen the bench of those who are providing potential personnel under a long-range basis with a planning horizon of one, three, five, potentially 10 years out. So we don’t want this to be a static conversation that once you get to 16 missions you have to stop.

But as I said earlier, some of this is a gamble, and it’s heavily reliant on U.N. leadership. It also is heavily reliant on the political engagement of members of the Security Council and of the region as well. So I will stumble into my ten top priorities, which is 16 pages, which I will not repeat to you now, about how we look at the U.N. as a system: You need good leaders, you need a clear-eyed political agreement among the parties, you need to make sure the enablers—the police and the military—are there, and you need a strategy to move forward. Those are some of the component parts. So it’s not a yes or no question.


And that begs the question of how you get more nations to give troops to peacekeeping operations. Ambassador Coleman, when you are having conversations with your fellow diplomats in New York, we’re making the case that these are dangerous places, there’s going to be more transparency, their troops may get sent home, there’s going to be publicity around the things that they do. Why would any nation want to give their forces?

COLEMAN: Well, I think there are multiple reasons why nations give forces. Let’s be honest, for some of them, they make a lot of money. So it’s a moneymaker. They get reimbursed for their troops and for the equipment that they bring with them, and they get reimbursed at rates that make it actually quite attractive for them—financially attractive. So for some countries, that’s a very big factor, which is why when you’re repatriating them, it really hits home for them because this is an important source of revenue for their—for their—for their militaries. And I think that’s also part of the reason that you’ve seen as peacekeeping has expanded, who has filled the gap but troops from middle and lower income countries where the money actually makes a big difference. So, for some, there is a financial motivation.

For others, I think, you see a strategic calculus; that peacekeeping missions are in places that they care about. It may be countries that they have deep historical ties to where they really care about the stability and they see the U.N. as a very effective umbrella for them, under which they can work.

And then, you know, for some of the more modern armies and militaries out there, they have to keep their troops current. They have to give air hours to their air force and they want to keep their troops active. And so they have fewer opportunities to do that. And the U.N. provides them with an opportunity to be in as we—as we have described, increasingly kinetic environments and to work in a multilateral sense, which for some of the NATO countries that’s important too.

So there’s a whole variety of reasons that they do this. And frankly, we urge them to do it. (Laughs.) I think having the summit last year was something—we pushed a lot of countries to do this, because we don’t want to be the major financial contributor when other modern militaries are not, frankly, stepping up in ways that they should.

HOLEWINSKI: Mmm hmm. Tori.

HOLT: Maybe just to also add to that, a lot of this happened—started happening before the summit. And we learned from it. So, for example, if you look at the U.N. mission in Mali, the Dutch deployed for the first time in 20 years, and they did it because they saw a strategic interest for them. They were joined by a lot of the Nordics—Norway and Sweden, the Danes—the Germans are going in, and we’re seeing the Portuguese stepping up. So we were watching coming out of the summit those that have deployed before, but 21 European countries pledged at the summit. So, in addition to what Isobel is pointing out, I think for a lot of the European countries, this is of strategic importance. They know that some of those governments, those countries, they’re a flight away from a capital or a beautiful place in Europe.

I would also add, I’ve been to Uruguay. In advance of the summit last year there were four regional conferences lead-up. And for some other governments, it is a value. They believe in international partnership. They are proud, they believe in the values of the U.N. Why would Uruguay deploy a component to Congo? I don’t ultimately know their political decision-making, but the amount of energy, and stress, and the risks that their troops have faced probably are not—they are not solely for some weird transactional reason. They are today on the Security Council and they often lead on really substantive conversations about peacekeeping, which links their political goals with their functional knowledge in the field.

So I think the interesting thing for all of us is that it’s a deep partnership with many motivations. And what we’re trying to do is maximize that so that the U.N. has the best and brightest available wherever they may go.

KHARE: Just to build on the point which Tori was making on this linkage, which the countries see between their political aspirations and their in-depth knowledge of the field, from a purely U.N. perspective, contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security is a charter obligation. So, anybody who had joined the U.N. has a charter obligation to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. And we, therefore, are very interested in getting newer and newer partners.

And just to give you one example, again, in the spirit of transparency, for the last one year, I’ve been working very hard to bring into peacekeeping a country which had been sort of left out for some time, which is Israel, which has a lot of contributions to make, particularly on the side of technology, innovation, medical care. And gradually they are coming in.

COLEMAN: And China made the significant commitment at the summit of 8,000 troops. It was by far the largest commitment. And again, I think there are a myriad of reasons, but most of those troops, I think, will be deployed to Africa, where they have very significant interests. So, you know, I think there are really a range of motivating factors for countries, and they make their own calculus. For some, it’s pride, charter, financial, strategic. But it really doesn’t—and that provides its own challenges of trying to meld all of that together in a system that works.

HOLEWINSKI: Before we get to members’ questions, let’s do a lightening round. You all will not be in your particular offices forever. What is the thing that you are excited—you think you will be excited to shout from the rooftops at the end of your tenure that will have happened for or to peacekeeping? This is your time to pitch it.

Let’s start with Tori. (Laughter.) She looks ready.

HOLT: I think a few weeks after I took my job, I got a phone call and I was invited to go up to New York and sit in on a private roundtable that President Obama had with the heads of state of roughly a dozen peacekeeping countries. There were no cameras, there was very little information. I only got to sit behind him. And he said, our goal is to close the space between the aspiration of a Security Council resolution and what happens in the field. And he opened it up to the others and said, what do you guys need?

That’s my aspiration. That’s what I think we have not completed, but we have done immense amount of work. And one of the things I’m most proud of is that there are dozens of Americans working in the U.S. government across the interagency who I do not even know who are working on this every day, whether it’s our commands, who are doing training, our embassies, which are working with the U.N. every day, whether it’s the country team and the peacekeeping mission.

And the I would say the other thing is, I think fundamentally we’re trying to shift the conversation and look at system changes, trying to elevate the capacities that are being offered to the UN. And frankly, we’re giving the U.N. a really hard time, but in the best way, to make changes fundamentally to how the U.N. does business. So I hope that that will have an enduring effect.

HOLEWINSKI: Thank you. Under-Secretary.

KHARE: I would like to just build on what Tori said. Making sure that there is a culture of measuring and communicating transparently effectiveness and efficiency of operations—very nice to see, you know, that if peacekeeping were not there, situation would be even worse, which may be true. But I think we need to get into the real culture, because we are spending resources which are your resources, which are resources of the member states. And we are accountable to them. So this culture of accountability, responsiveness, effectiveness, and efficiency, they are the four cultural shifts that I want to see.

HOLEWINSKI: Great. Ambassador.

COLEMAN: Well, I will not be shy in saying that I am skeptical at times that some of what the U.N. does is—that it has a comparative advantage in those activities. But in peacekeeping, it actually does have a comparative advantage, because there’s no other institution that can really do what it does in peacekeeping. So making peacekeeping as effective as possible, closing that gap between the aspiration of peacekeeping and what actually takes place on the ground, if I can play even a small part in doing that I will shout from the rooftops. And making peacekeeping more transparent and more accountable I think are desperately needed, in many ways, so that peacekeeping can be as strong as it should be.

HOLEWINSKI: Great. Thank you.

OK, let’s turn it to the members. When you ask your question, wait for the mic, please stand up, speak into the mic, give your name, affiliation, one question which should end with a question mark. That would be terrific. Remember that this is on the record. Thank you.

Back here.

Q: Thank you. Andy Olson, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, majority.

My question is for Ambassador Coleman. We’re in the middle of a process of electing a new secretary-general. I wanted to ask you to what extent you or your colleagues are raising this U.N. sexual exploitation and abuse question as you meet with the candidates for that position. And how are those conversations going? Thanks.

COLEMAN: Thank you, Andy, for that question. You know, it’s interesting, we’re not raising it because they’re raising it. Every single candidate is raising it. Now, we push them on it, but what I’m saying is that it’s very front and center. They have had some publicly broadcast informal dialogues in the General Assembly. All of them have been webcast. And I don’t think I have seen one candidate neglect to mention this as a priority for them.

You know, the gap, though, between affirmation of zero tolerance and actually implementing the tough actions that are needed to really hold individuals and ultimately countries accountable for the actions that are occurring I think requires a lot of leadership. So we’re really plumbing on how would you do it. OK, great to hear that it’s important to you and that this is something that you aspire to. But we’ve heard zero tolerance for a long time and, as we all know, there is not zero tolerance. And there has—in places there has not been zero tolerance. And certainly there has not—there’s been an uptick in cases this year, reported on.

So taking the tough actions and really driving the institutional changes that I think we have started over the years. There’s been movement in that direction, but in the last year with the increase in transparency and with the accountability measures through the Security Council resolution I think create a platform that the next secretary-general will have to really push, consistently, effectively, and with tremendous leadership, to make sure that it really is driving consistently in the right direction.

HOLEWINSKI: Next, right here.

Q: Thank you. Paul Williams at George Washington University.

So—this is to anyone on the panel—you talked a lot, convincingly I think, about peace operations being partnerships between the U.N. and member states and other forms of actors. But I want to ask particularly what’s being done about the partnerships with some of the host states that are on the receiving end of peace operations? And particularly what’s being done to convince them that allowing peacekeepers to do what they’re supposed to be doing in their mandates is actually useful and productive. We’ve seen in Sudan, South Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire at some points, Burundi at the moment, all seem particularly skeptical about peacekeeping. So what is going said to the potential hosts and recipients of the peacekeeping operations?

KHARE: Thank you. Thank you, Paul. And that is one of the challenges which we grapple with almost continuously, particularly in my department, which deals with the support issues. Because when the consent—which is, of course, a primary consideration for deployment of a peace operation starts evaporating, the first impact is felt on us. That means they’re trying to tax commodities which they are not supposed to tax, or they put in place various impediments to our operations, be it to the supply chain, be it to electricity generation, and so on.


KHARE: Visas. And I think we need to work together on ensuring that inconsistencies in the consent, or a gradual diminution, evaporation of consent does not happen. And why does it happen? I think it happens because must before the patient—which is the body politic—much before it becomes full well, there comes a time when it is able to sit up, to stand, and that is the time when it believes that it has already become completely well and no longer requires any external assistance, particularly one which is perceived to be a bit intrusive.

What are we trying to do? We are now trying to develop an idea of contacts between us and the host question, that here are the responsibilities of the host country and here are the responsibilities which we have towards the international community, which is spending money. And here are the results which the international community should expect. We tried this first compact with Central African Republic. And if it works well, then we will do it with others. But, yes, I agree with you. I mean, Darfur, for example, the U.N.—at the cost of being undercut—I want to say instances it is a death by a thousand cuts of the mission.

COLEMAN: I would just also note that there’s at times an opposite problem, which is that host countries hold on to missions for too long when they are—to your analogy—they’re up and running marathons, but insisting that they still need the U.N. to be there. So it can cut both ways.

HOLT: Just to add, you know, as I said, these are always risky enterprises. And the nature of negotiation is core in the peacekeeping mission. A country can kick a mission out at any time. What’s interesting is how many harass or limit the mission, but don’t actually go that far. Paul, and we could add to your list. So one thing we have done is ask for more consistent reporting in the Security Council, because it’s not just an operational gap between the mandate and the field, it can be a political gap as well. So we stay current with the political challenges, the dialogue, and what those in the field are facing, not to get in their way but to mindful at the strategic level some of the agreement on the basis which the mission deployed is now at risk.


Q: Thank you. Stewart Patrick, Council on Foreign Relations.

Maybe for the under-secretary in particular—under-secretary-general. In particular, beyond the need for troops, which obviously there were a tremendous number of pledges generated last September, what other issues or elements of the missions that you’re trying to staff and to field and to support are missing? And what—is it questions of logistics and lift? Is it questions of specialized equipment that you would really like to have your hands on, or types of surveillance and monitoring that helps with situational awareness? Could you give us a sense of that and whether or not there are any prospects of those sort of other in-kind contributions in addition to just troops?

KHARE: Thank you. Thank you, Patrick. Maybe I should just repeat a few of my strategic priorities that I have put forth for my department. First and foremost, supply chain management because, you know, 60 percent of our people are now deployed in landlocked countries, in hard-to-reach areas. Eighty-three percent of deployed in countries which are classified by the World Bank as very hard to do business in. Markets are weak. Local products are not available. So supply chain management, end-to-end, I think is the call of the day. I’m not talking about just in time or stockless inventory of HP. I like to learn as much as I can from the private sector. But at least getting the right product at the right place at the right time at the right cost, I think that is a clear challenge on which we are working.

Second is what I would call greater use of technologies which are available, technology and innovation. And the challenge there is, first and foremost, to get the technology. But also, the second challenge, to ensure that there is a good human-technology interface, because even if we have the technology—if we put aerostat, you know, this is a helium balloon to provide information about camp security. But if the people don’t know how to analyze the report of that helium balloon then there’s no point. So I think greater use of technology innovation is a second priority.

There we have some very specific risks. For example, 70 percent of our military helicopters today are deployed in absence of night-flying equipment, in absence of air collision avoidance system, in absence of terrain collision avoidance system, in absence of FLIR, the forward looking infrared, so they cannot operate in the night. You know, what is the point of those helicopters? But we have to take them because nothing else is available. So I think we need to look at those type of very specific challenges.

Third, I think the specific focus on conduct, because last year we lost—139 people sacrificed their lives. People sacrifice their lives every day. Their memory, their sacrifices, are sullied by one, two, 10, 20, 100 sexual exploitation and abuse. And I think we need to really work very hard on that, both as member states and as an organization.

And, fourth, better focus, greater focus on environmental promotion and protection. We are deployed in countries which cannot deal with their own governance, law and order. How do we expect that they will deal with environmental issues? And therefore, we need to do—just to give you one example, the city of Bamako does not have a municipal sewage system. But I have said that, for my people, we must have a wastewater treatment plant, so that at least whatever goes into the river immediate on part of us, on our account, is at least purified, no matter whatever is happening to the rest of Bamako. Because, believe me, if you don’t deal with it, just as we are discussing this here today, 15 years down the line I won’t be here, but we might be sitting here discussing environmental liabilities. So better to deal with those issues now. And they are the four immediate priorities which I have put forward.

HOLT: I could just mention, if you wish the read the list of gaps the U.N. has helpfully provided that. And we expect in advance of the U.K. hosting a follow up to the summit in September, there’ll be a ministerial that we expect to see both the accounting for what gaps have been filled in the last year, up until September, and possibly a new list from the U.N. And just to highlight, sometimes it’s as simple as you need more French speakers, you need female police officers, you need someone who can do the analysis of that incoming information or know how to run a tabletop exercise. And I would say with the complexity of mission, we have put a priority on leadership both at the top level, but also mid-career.

Sometimes what a mission needs is a brilliant civilian who can sit down with the government and bang out a rule of law or security sector reform strategy, and have them believe it’s their plan and the U.N. is there to help them, which is actually in fact the case. And so I think sometimes we rightly look at the big stuff, but there’s a lot of component parts that we’re trying to help identify to solve the problem. But just to mention again, the U.K., that we hope this summit will—this ministerial will help keep the momentum going on identifying those gaps.

HOLEWINSKI: Great. Let’s go to the back first.

Q: Great. Thank you. Peter Yeo with Better World Campaign and the U.N. Foundation. Thank you to all of our panelists. A great discussion.

 Following up on the comment that, Tori, you were just making, there’s obviously sometimes a gap between commitments made and commitments delivered in terms of the new capabilities, new military equipment, new training opportunities that were made last September. You mentioned the upcoming summit in the U.K. As we think about the five-year time horizon here, what are some ways that we can more systematically ensure that countries actually continue to feel the heat to bring new capabilities to the table so that two years from now we’re not having to call a high-level summit to restart it. In fact, we have a more institutionalized process to bring new countries into peacekeeping? Thanks.

HOLT: Well, I could start, but actually my colleagues could answer this just as well.

So we recognized last year for many governments if they were either rejoining or shifting their contribution emissions, I think of some of the Latin American countries saying, hmm, we’re interested in Africa, but we have not trained or supported missions there. Or Western governments, including the U.K. for example, announcing and going to provide engineers to South Sudan and send personnel to Somalia, but they needed an on-ramp. So it gets to your point, Peter, but the Strategic Force Generation and Planning Cell was created. And it’s small, but it was meant to be the opening of a door both for the conversation about commitments and an entry into this larger world of the U.N. system that was different than, hi, you ready to go to CAR, press one; South Sudan, press two.

It’s like, OK, your parliament has to approve. You need to send out some officers. You understand command and control. Are you sleeping in a pup tent or a hard-walled container? So this is a very good innovation. In addition, every government that pledged at the summit has been asked to registered with the U.N. And then we’ve encouraged, pushed, harassed, the U.N. to then go and visit them. And we think—I think you can tell us—that the majority of the contributions are both going to be registered and visited in advance of September. But I also hope that we do continue to stay focused. The U.N. deserves that. This can’t be a summit that happened once or twice. And that part of the partnership with us is our diplomatic push that all the governments that came remain serious.

And I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, so very briefly: If you have a leader at the head of state who came to the summit, made an announcement, virtually no government could come without having some interagency process to make that announcement because it was heads of state. So your MFAs and MODs had to talk to each other. So one of the hidden things I think we’ve accomplished is we’ve gotten governments around the world, whether they came or not, to suddenly say, huh, what do we think about U.N. peacekeeping? What would that involve? What do we have available? What are our strategic interests? So to have nearly 50 countries come and another, I don’t know, dozen pledged since means that that’s been a positive way forward.

COLEMAN: And I would just add that it’s not an easy process. I mean, maybe you get a sense of it from what Tori’s just described, but the forcing mechanism of the summit, you know, the photo op, essentially, to be on—in a room with the president of the United States was very, very useful to force those conversations to happen. It took a lot of work to get there. And some countries, who we were very hopeful would get there, frankly couldn’t. They just couldn’t work their own intra-government process to be able to deliver the answer that was needed. Some got there afterwards.

Some who have gotten there have been slow to register, I think because they’re still going through that internal debate. Deploying to a U.N. peacekeeping operation is not taken lightly. It’s a—as we’ve been discussing—it’s not your grandmother’s peacekeeping. It’s a dangerous environment. Things are very harsh environments, definitely potential of fatalities. And these are real, politically sensitive issues in almost every country that is deploying. And they’re making their own cost benefit analysis and coming forward.

And I think what we’re seeing is it’s not press one Sudan, it’s a very long, integrated, comprehensive, political discussion that they’re having. And coming out in support of peacekeeping, which then puts in train a whole long lead-time set of activities around training and equipment and all of these things. So I think it is—you got to look at it on a five-year horizon. And I think that once these things are set in motion, they will have a momentum of their own.

KHARE: I think—

HOLEWINSKI: Briefly, go ahead.

KHARE: Yeah, but just to add, because they have explained the PCRS, the Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System to you already. There are two elements which I wanted to comment on. In the five-year horizon, what do I want? I want, first of all, the return of high-income countries to peacekeeping. In 2000, 50 percent of peacekeepers came from high-income countries. Today, 7 percent do. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are nearly about 50 countries who do not yet contribute to peacekeeping, so I want them to. So I want new contributors and I want the return of high-income countries to peacekeeping.

HOLEWINSKI: All right. The lovely salmon colored cardigan here.

Q: Thank you. Thanks. I am Kristen Cordell with USAID, formerly had the pleasure of serving in UNMIL in Liberia for a short time.

My question is, given all the discussion today on SEA, I’m curious of the flipside of the coin is discussing the recruitment and retention of qualified female staff into some of these peacekeeping missions? The numbers remain quite low on the security side as well as the civilian side. And given all the changes we’ve seen with the U.S. military’s integration of women into direct combat, what role should the U.S. government potentially have in pushing this issue forward? Thank you so much. (Laughter.)

KHARE: U.S. government.

HOLT: (Laughs.) The U.S. government. You’ve hit on a really key issue. Women are not at the proportion they should be at the civilian, police, or military level. There are a lot of factors behind this, as you mentioned. In Liberia, actually, is the first place we saw an all-female police unit deploy. But you want also them to recognize the role of police not just as women. And herein lies a tension. Some governments, including ours, look for the best person. And I was once told when I called up a friend of mine in the Pentagon and said, hey, we’ve got Americans who are female and in the U.S. Army. Let’s send some of them. They said, we are not biased on the basis of gender.

So the very quality we were seeking was not something that they necessarily wanted to accentuate. So I think this is a long term process, to both value people for the skills they can bring and recognizing that women bring some unique talents that should be maximized. And so as part of the summit, one of the gaps, as I mentioned earlier, was to recruit and support and actively ask for female leaders across the system, particularly police but not exclusively so.

COLEMAN: This is something we’re pushing. And when I was asked what would I cheer from the rooftops I almost included this as one, but I don’t know that in the time that I have remaining that I’m going to be able to see it, the results on the ground. But we really have been pushing to include language and even get to incentives for women to deploy more women peacekeepers. And I think the police—you know, women make up about 10 percent of uniformed police and about 4 percent of the military, the troops. But you know, we don’t have data. You started with sexual exploitation and abuse. Some of the countries that have high incidents of SEA, as reported this year, have actually some of the highest percentages of women. So I don’t think we can jump to more women, fewer incidents.

But I see it as a very important element of peacekeeping, because particularly with the police because they’re interacting with civilians on a very day-to-day basis, they’re role models, and more importantly, they’re really pulling from, in their own countries, women into the police forces. And as we talked about earlier, deploying to peacekeeping can be very financially attractive. And so it’s a very, very important leverage point for the inclusion of women in their own national militaries and police.

KHARE: Very briefly, just to add, what can we do? Because on the civilian side, we find that we have about 35 percent of women in the middle management level, but it falls immediately to 18 percent when it comes to the top. And that 18 percent has sort of remained constant. So we are now looking at various mechanisms, including what we call the Women Talent Pipeline Project. We keep on discussing with our partners if they have names to suggest to us.

On military and police side, even small things can make a difference. In Somalia, we have a shortage of accommodation for AMISOM. So I have made a decision that any women who are deployed will, by definition, get a priority over accommodation which has attached restrooms, attached ablutions. And the rest, the men team, they can have ablutions which are shared, far off. Because these are small things, but they’re important, you know? So even for our national staff, something which we have not talked of before, there must be breastfeeding rooms in the peacekeeping missions. How do we expect a woman national staff to promote breastfeeding? And they will have children. I mean, nothing says the national staff should not have children.

So we are going to make even these small, small changes, which actually inculcate and make the environment women-friendly. Why? Because in my view, men and women are affected by conflict differently. And therefore, by extension, women and men perceive peace differently. And I think it’s very important to have that perspective.

HOLEWINSKI: Thank you. We have time for one more question. And you, sir, had your hand up.

Q: My name is Bob Kasten. I’m a former U.S. senator from the state of Wisconsin, and lucky enough to have been part of the U.N. General Assembly mission a number of years ago.

You said the two keys were transparency and accountability. And as someone that’s been in this arena for a while, there’s a little bit of “Groundhog Day” going on, in terms of we’ve heard these speeches before. But it sounds to me—I’m encouraged—it sounds to me like you’re making some progress. I want to talk not so much about transparency but about accountability—and accountability that goes beyond the troops on the ground. It seems to me, whether it’s water in Haiti and problems with sexual abuse in Africa or whatever, that, yeah, you can look—there’s a problem and you can identify the half-dozen, or 12, or more. And if you’re aggressive you could throw the whole battalion out.

But the question of accountability goes beyond just that place. I know we’ve got issues with regard to—you know, this is an issue in industry and other kinds of places. But for different reasons, certain times the problem has been going on, and it’s been tolerated by people three or four steps up. I don’t mean that they’re encouraging it. In certain places, after the problem has become public, there is an effort made by the people three or four places up to hide it, to avoid it, to obscure it, or to deny it. And that’s the key to accountability. But I want to know if you can speak to this. First of all, am I right? And secondly, are you making progress on the accountability part in this very complex, complicated, messy bureaucracy called the United Nations?

HOLEWINSKI: Thank you.

COLEMAN: Well, I think that the starting point for accountability is transparency, because we can’t hold people, institutions, organizations accountable without knowing. And so is there a tendency for big bureaucracies like the U.N. to hide things? Of course. I think there always are for any big organization. But having very clear agreements on what is going to be reported and how it’s reported—and, you know, we’re talking specifically about sexual exploitation and abuse. I mean, the U.N. started some years ago reporting on incidents of abuse. But we never knew which countries. We didn’t know if there were countries that had multiple abuses. We didn’t know if there were countries that were not following through on responding. Now we do. And actually, if you go and you look at the secretary-general’s report from February, it lists the country.

And frankly, it’s completely unacceptable, in my view, that every—almost every single ones says pending, pending, pending, pending, pending. We now have transparency, but no accountability with all of those pendings. Next year—and I’m looking at you—(laughs)—we better not see a list that says pending, pending, pending. And if we do, those countries, you know, we have had too long to follow through in a responsible way on those cases. And so then I think action must be taken. And so that’s the process that you have to see.

Now, when it comes to—there are all sorts—when it comes to fraud, when it comes to corruption, when it comes to any number of problems that you have, there are mechanisms that the U.S. government has pushed very hard to put in place to create that transparency and have accountability. Does it work perfectly all the time? Of course not. It is—you know, we have to keep pushing. But with the greater transparency, you can achieve the accountability that you want.

I mean, we have a corruption case going on with a former PGA in New York. Here is something that exposed an area where we actually didn’t have transparency. The PGA is not—the president of the General Assembly is not a staff member of the U.N. So the transparency measures didn’t apply to that office. Well, now we discovered that was a loophole and we need new transparency measures to ensure accountability there.

KHARE: Just to add there on the accountability part, that Isobel has been talking to me that next year we should not see so many pendings. And I have been telling people that not only next year we will give the status of the current year, but we will also give a review of previous five years. The intent of that is, because I told them that where it is pending I would write that we spoke to the country concerned 10 times, we sent formal letters 20 times, and the country did not respond. So now they have got a bit afraid.

So now, countries are coming back to me and resolving cases which happened five years ago. But they are now resolving it because they don’t want to mentioned in that report. So I think we are—

COLEMAN: Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. (Laughter.)

KHARE: Yeah. So I think we are getting some traction on—I mean, I could tell you, frankly, Sri Lankans, they had a case where there was a pending allegation against one of their individuals. They investigated. They found that that allegation as justified. But the person disappeared from Sri Lanka. He is nowhere to be found. There is an Interpol notice against him. So Sri Lanka came to me, they said that they wanted to do something, what they should do? I said, you take the responsibility as government. You make an ex gratia payment on part of the government for the upkeep of the child for the next 15 years. And they have decided to make such a lump sum payment.

COLEMAN: And let’s just be clear. The reason that we’re pushing this is not to be vindictive against a particular individual. It’s to end a culture of impunity.

KHARE: Absolutely.

COLEMAN: On whatever the issue may be. But now, the Sri Lankan government is going to say, oh, we actually had to pay for this paternity case. Let’s actually take this more seriously and make sure that all of our troops recognize their own individual responsibilities and codes of conduct.

HOLEWINSKI: So our panelists have lived up to the original title of reformers. It’s been a great discussion. Thank you all for coming and for your great questions. Let’s thank our panelists. (Applause.)



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