We owe it to the people of the world suffering in conflict situations to maintain as effective a response as possible.

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

UK statement by Ambassador Lyall Grant at UN Security Council Open Debate On Future Trends in Peacekeeping

Thank you, Mr President.

And thank you for convening this open debate. I’d like to thank the Secretary-General for his important introductory statement.

Conflict has changed dramatically over the past 30 years and UN Peacekeeping has been struggling to keep up. It is therefore right that we consider the changes that we have seen, and those we would like to see.

Conflict today is less often inter-state, and more predominantly internal, asymmetric, multi-layered. It is driven by a wide range of factors, some of the most recurrent being: economic and political exclusion, which denies a free future to all; corrupt or venal state institutions that curtail or abuse fundamental rights and freedoms; untrustworthy or inept security apparatuses that favour one or other segment of society.

Addressing these complex, interwoven issues demands a more sophisticated peacekeeping response than in the past. In the past, we had one main model of peacekeeping, an inter-positional force deployed along some form of recognised, perhaps albeit disputed, boundary. This force created a space, physical and political, in which a ceasefire could be solidified and a sustainable agreement negotiated. But the last example of such a traditional force was the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, authorised in September 2000. No United Nations peacekeeping operation established in the last fourteen years follows this traditional pattern.

Today, Mr President, there are at least seven different models of UN authorised peacekeeping operations. This is not a bad thing in itself. It shows that we are adapting. But of course, not all of these models have proved to be equally effective, but the move away from a “traditional” model reflects the realities of today’s world. Infantry battalions deployed to be largely static, monitoring presences are not often able to respond adequately to the sophisticated threats and complex environments that we now face.

Mr President,

To ensure that peacekeepers can respond adequately to the new challenges, they need to have the necessary tools and capability to deliver the required effects. One such tool is Inter-Mission Cooperation, enabling peacekeeping missions to share scarce resources when faced with sudden crises. Inter-Mission Cooperation should help missions implement their mandates; not provide a pretext for protracted budget wrangling or questions about security.

Another tool is new technology aimed at supporting peacekeepers in areas of protection, information gathering, and intelligence analysis. This is a natural evolution and one we should seize with both hands. For instance, Unmanned, Unarmed Aerial Systems can be used to observe the area around an exposed patrol base and provide warning of the movement of armed groups in the base’s direction. This information can then be used to deploy a rapid reaction force to deter any would-be attackers. We have seen the positive impact of the deployment of UUAS has had in the DRC as part of MONUSCO – and I would like to acknowledge the Secretariat’s drive and innovative thinking in delivering this impact. Their use should be considered in other theatres, where peacekeepers are expected to cover huge areas with limited numbers, such as South Sudan and Mali.

Mr President,

At the heart of any peacekeeping operation is the mandate, agreed by this Council. We have a responsibility to make sure that mandates are clear, and not overloaded. We need better prioritised and sequenced mandates that promote an integrated military and civilian response. This requires discipline from everyone, including Security Council members. But it also requires an understanding that not everything needs to be included in the first phase or in the first budget.

We need to make clear the strategic goals of deploying a peacekeeping operation, and what tasks we are asking peacekeepers to fulfil to achieve those goals. The overarching objective should be about trying to sustain or create the conditions in which a lasting peace can be agreed between the warring parties, achieved by themselves or through external facilitation or mediation. Exit strategies should be part of the discussion when mandates are negotiated.

In many of today’s conflicts, this will mean prioritising security and Protection of Civilians in the early phases. Peacekeepers therefore need to be willing to take necessary risks to protect civilians. Where the nature of the conflict demands, this should include conducting targeted offensive operations to neutralise and deter armed groups threatening or attacking civilians.

This robust action is not a radical departure from what the Council has been asking of peacekeeping missions with Protection of Civilian mandates already. One of our closest partnerships is the African Union, and that partnership has generated several models that we have collectively benefited from: in Somalia, Central African Republic, and Mali. Quick deployment and a readiness to adopt a robust posture and use force in pursuit of the mandate give us another important tool in the peacekeeping tool box.

Mr President,

Sadly, it is clear that we will continue to need peacekeeping operations for the foreseeable future. To ensure that United Nations Peacekeeping is effective, we need to remain flexible in how we mandate missions, taking advantage of capabilities offered through new technology, using scarce resources intelligently across missions, and working in partnership with those ready and willing to address those new conflicts.

We should not spend time trying to codify the ever changing peacekeeping landscape. This risks limiting how we respond to conflict, through institutionalising our response. Doing so would be a sure way to constrain our freedom of action – and a sure way to fail in responding to the next conflict.

We owe it to the people of the world suffering in conflict situations to maintain as effective a response as possible. And we owe it to the peacekeepers to provide them with the tools and clarity they need to do their jobs effectively; jobs which they willingly and bravely undertake on behalf of the international community, in pursuit of international peace and security. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to them.

Thank you, Mr President.