Military leaders from three United Nations peacekeeping missions in Africa told the Security Council what they need to support the “blue helmets” under their command and help them better assist local authorities and protect the people of the countries in which they serve. The expanded use of new technologies, including unarmed drones, in United Nations peacekeeping operations could bolster both military and political intelligence and help save lives, the Security Council heard during briefings by force commanders of a number of missions.
“Information is the base of our success,” said Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, Force Commander of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). Indeed, while it faced some “sensitivities and limitations”, the arrival of the Mission’s first drones — formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs — in July could bolster its operations, helping to identify armed groups, track their movements and even monitor the safety of internally displaced persons. In addition, “enabling peacekeepers to stay one step ahead […] would help to mitigate the risks to the people and to United Nations personnel”, while supporting peaceful political solutions to crises by providing real evidence of events on the ground.
Also briefing members this morning were Major General Leonard Ngondi, Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and Major General Muhammad Iqbal Asi, Force Commander of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). Also participating were Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Babacar Gaye, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA).
Major General Ngondi, briefing on the importance of pre-deployment training, said it served to re-orient the operational capacity of troops and to equip them in line with agreed operational requirements. What was lacking was an in-house mission assessment of pre-deployment training and the troop-contributing countries’ capability to “self-sustain”. Training should be validated on arrival in mission areas to ensure operational readiness, he said, emphasizing, however, that field headquarters currently lacked the capacity to conduct validation, which led to capacity gaps. He strongly recommended the creation of an inspection team at field headquarters that would help operational leadership sustain mission-capable troops and functional headquarters.
Major General Asi, for his part, stressed the growing need for cooperation between missions operating in geographic proximity, particularly in the current difficult economic environment. It could include joint border surveillance, intelligence-sharing and even troop and resource redeployment, he said. The temporary re-deployment of three infantry companies from UNMIL to UNOCI in late 2010 had helped the latter fill a critical shortage of personnel needed to protect Abidjan, he said. Similarly, the shifting of three armed and two military utility helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI for the 2010 presidential elections and the December 2011 legislative elections had given UNOCI the mobility required to better monitor sensitive border areas and quickly respond to cross-border violence.
Following the briefings, all 15 Council members expressed support for the men and women who risked their lives in United Nations peacekeeping missions. Many noted the rapidly evolving nature of peacekeeping operations, their expanding mandates and the increasingly complex environments in which they now operated. The also posed questions to the force commanders and raised various concerns.
Pakistan’s representative, for one, referred to two “momentous” recent decisions by the Security Council, the first being its authorization of “targeted offensive operations […] in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner […] with the aim of neutralizing armed groups” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the second entailing the use of drones to support peacekeepers. Both arrangements needed close monitoring to ascertain their utility and effectiveness, he stressed.
Echoing that sentiment, the representative of the Russian Federation emphasized that the use of drones in MONUSCO was an experimental process that would require careful analysis. Their deployment should not be seen as “carte blanche” for their use in other peacekeeping operations.
On the importance of training, the representative of the United States noted that there was currently no mechanism in place to assess how well troops were prepared during pre-deployment training. Expressing support for the creation of a position at the level of director general, with a mandate to help troop-contributing countries evaluate their pre-deployment training programmes, he said the United States was working to improve the standards of its own training, and urged others to do the same.
Many speakers welcomed inter-mission cooperation in cases of immediate need, saying the strategy had proven flexible and effective, citing the example of troop redeployment between UNMIL and UNOCI. However, a number of others stressed that inter-mission cooperation could not supplant permanent, well-resourced missions with sufficient troops of their own. In that vein, Rwanda’s representative underlined that “inter-mission cooperation is just a temporary, short-term solution which should not replace permanent solutions”.
Finally, several speakers expressed concern about the expanding mandates of peacekeeping operations. They included Guatemala’s representative, who stressed that mandates must be clear, verifiable and factual. Like a number of other delegates, he expressed reservations about resolution 2098 (2013), which authorized a specialized “intervention brigade”, significantly expanding MONUSCO’s mandate.
Also speaking today were representatives of Australia, France, Argentina, Togo, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan, Republic of Korea, China, Morocco and the United Kingdom.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:46 p.m, 26 June 2013.
Meeting this morning to consider issues relating to United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Security Council was expected to hear briefings from a number of force commanders.
HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, introduced the commanders of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).
Lieutenant General CARLOS ALBERTO DOS SANTOS CRUZ, Force Commander of MONUSCO addressed the use of advanced technology, saying that topic was of particular relevance to the Mission as it awaited the arrival of unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). That capability would help MONUSCO carry out the tasks assigned by its most recent mandate, he said, including helping to identify armed groups and their troop movements, monitor internally displaced persons and deter hostile action by armed groups. “Information is the base of our success,” he stressed.
He went on to describe other useful advanced military technologies, including ground-based radar and advanced surveillance technology. “Enabling peacekeepers to stay one step ahead […] would help to mitigate the risks to the people and to United Nations personnel,” he said. Nevertheless, there were certain sensitivities and limitations to the use of technology use. Surveillance could be seen as excessively intrusive unless properly controlled, he cautioned, adding that advanced technology often required skilled operators and analysis to support it, resources that were frequently in short supply. Finally, he noted that the benefits of technology were not purely military, but could also support political solutions, as it could provide real evidence of events on the ground.
Major General LEONARD NGONDI, Force Commander of UNMIL, said pre-deployment training served to re-orient the operational capacity of troops to each mission’s specific environment; to organize and equip them in line with approved and agreed operational requirements; and to establish mechanisms for self-sufficiency in contingent-owned equipment. Troops were expected to have the requisite knowledge, skills and attitude, as well as the right equipment and enablers, as called for in the Peacekeeping Department’s statement of unit or force requirements. They were expected to be covered, for reimbursement purposes, by an agreed, signed memorandum of understanding, and to be in a high state of operational readiness.
While there were a sufficient number of policy and guidance documents for troop contributors to train contingents on vital missions, operational force headquarters lacked the means to ascertain them, he pointed out. He called for an in-house mission assessment of pre-deployment training and the capability of troop-contributing countries to self-sustain, in line with the standard level of operational readiness expected of United Nations contingents, with a view to recommending the creation of a mechanism to undertake that task.
He said training should be validated on arrival in the mission area in order to ensure operational readiness, he said. However, field headquarters currently lacked the capacity to conduct such validations, which had led to capacity gaps. Bridging them could only be done through in-mission training, and as such, field headquarters must have the same capacity to create training plans and aims, and subsequently evaluate their achievement. There was a need to assess procedures for sustaining contingent-owned equipment to ensure they met United Nations standards, but field headquarters lacked the capacity to do so, he said, strongly recommending the creation of an inspection team within field headquarters that would help the force leadership sustain mission-capable troops, as well as functional headquarters. The team should comprise experts in all the envisaged functional areas and be directly responsible to the force leadership for monitoring, evaluating and sustaining the operational readiness of the entire force.
Major General MUHAMMAD IQBAL ASI, Force Commander of UNOCI, stressed the growing need for inter-mission cooperation between missions operating in geographic proximity, particularly in the current difficult economic environment. The temporary redeployment of three infantry companies from UNMIL to UNOCI in late 2010 had helped the latter fill a critical shortage of personnel needed to protect Abidjan. In December 2011, one infantry company had been temporarily redeployed from UNMIL to reinforce UNOCI during legislative elections in Côte d’Ivoire, saving time and the cost of bringing in troops during crisis. The shifting of three armed and two military utility helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI for the 2010 presidential elections and the December 2011 legislative elections had given UNOCI the mobility required to better monitor sensitive border areas and to respond quickly to cross-border violence, he said. Prior to regional and municipal elections held in April, armed UNMIL helicopters had conducted regular reconnaissance and security sorties along the border, dissuading miscreants from acts of violence.
He went on to cite other areas of inter-mission cooperation, such as joint border surveillance, enhanced local cooperation at the tactical level and intelligence-sharing mechanisms. He suggested establishing a joint information-analysis centre for UNOCI and UNMIL, pointing out, however, that shifting assets across borders required the prior approval of the host country and the troop contributors. Restrictive mission mandates and the lack of standard means at the tactical level were also impediments, and the Peacekeeping Department should negotiate and set prior agreements between the United Nations and troop-contributing countries to allow use of the latter’s units during reinforcement missions. Status-of-mission and status-of-forces agreements, as well as rules of engagement must be worked out with the Governments concerned, he emphasized, adding that contiguous missions should carry out joint mapping of armed groups and criminals across borders.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), referring to two momentous recent decisions, said the first concerned the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Security Council had authorized “targeted offensive operations […] in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner […] with the aim of neutralizing armed groups”. The second entailed the use of unarmed, non-offensive UAVs to support peacekeepers. Both arrangements needed close monitoring to ascertain their utility and effectiveness, he stressed. Turning to inter-mission cooperation, he expressed support for the sharing of human and material resources on a case-by-case basis. As the current Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, Pakistan was planning to hold a meeting on the use of modern technology in peacekeeping operations next month. Finally, he asked the force commanders what their most difficult challenge was in relation to inter-mission cooperation.
PETR V. ILIICHEV ( Russian Federation) said peacekeeping missions, as well as the Secretariat, must be fully prepared for the negative situations encountered in the field, and, in particular, be prepared to move troops and equipment quickly in the event of resource shortages. However, while inter-mission troop movement had shown itself to be effective, it was still necessary to ensure that all missions had sufficient resources to carry out their mandates. He asked the force commanders about their perspective on a number of topics, including the formation of the quick intervention brigade for MONUSCO. Another important question concerned the use of UAVs, informally known as “drones”, an experimental process that would require careful analysis, and should not be seen as “carte blanche” for its use in other peacekeeping operations. Finally, he requested more information on the use of drones in peacekeeping missions including perceptions of them on the ground.
PHILIPPA JANE KING ( Australia) said the addition of civilian-protection mandates had made the job of peacekeepers more complex, pointing out that the reputation and authority of the United Nations in the field often depended on their ability to protect civilians. Peacekeepers must have the proper skills, training and mobility, she emphasized, expressing strong support for capacity standards and the proposal to appoint a director charged with the evaluation of field personnel. There should be ways to identify capacity gaps and respond to evolving challenges, she said, welcoming the force commanders’ views on pre-deployment training gaps. Commending the cooperation between UNOCI and UNMIL, she said inter-mission cooperation could help peacekeeping operations bridge gaps in responding to evolving threats and crises. Australia strongly supported consideration of the force commanders’ recommendations, she said, describing the use of innovative technologies to support missions as an “operational necessity”.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said missions must have clear, verifiable and factual mandates. They must be given the instruments necessary for the effective performance of their duties. Huge gaps in capacity, resources and training must be addressed through greater cooperation between the Council, the General Assembly and its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). Priority must be given to providing security for personnel in the field, he emphasized, adding that recent events involving the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) illustrated the urgency in that regard. Host countries must respect the principles of peacekeeping without exception, he said, going on to express reservations about resolution 2098 (2013), which presented a new approach for peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The main question was to define accurately the dividing line between peacekeeping and peace enforcement, he said.
PHILIPPE BERTOUX (France), noting that his country participated in seven of the 15 United Nations peacekeeping operations, said it supported the participation of African troops through training and other activities. Welcoming the expanded mandates on such issues as arresting those sought by the International Criminal Court and the protection of civilians, he said each of those tasks required training for military personnel, as did those relating to ensuring respect for human rights. New tactical surveillance drones were “excellent force multipliers” for MONUSCO, he continued, adding that other avenues, such as helicopters with more modern technology, should also be explored. Finally, he welcomed inter-mission cooperation in cases of immediate need, saying the strategy had proven flexible and effective. He asked General Asi how UNOCI planned to support the deployment of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and, more broadly, how the force commanders viewed the possibilities for regional cooperation in West Africa.
MARIO OYARZÁBAL ( Argentina) said his country had long been a troop- and police-contributing country, and supported efforts to make peacekeeping more transparent and democratic. “Peacekeeping missions are a legitimate and valid tool for the protection and promotion of human rights,” he stressed, particularly in the reconstruction of institutions and democracy, and in supporting the rule of law. There was a clear relationship between the ever-broadening peacekeeping mandates and the increase in security incidents, he said, asking the force commanders about their impressions of the new, specialized intervention brigade in MONUSCO. Argentina had opposed the use of drones, he added, stressing they should only be used in exceptional cases and for intelligence purposes. He asked a number of questions, including about the use of military engineering companies and civilian firms contracted by the United Nations.
EDAWE LIMBIYÈ KANDANGHA-BARIKI ( Togo) said there was a need for greater inter-mission cooperation to optimize the use of available resources in terms of personnel and logistics. The United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) had provided the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) with substantial and important logistical assistance in January 2012, he recalled, welcoming also the cooperation between UNOCI and UNMIL. Commending the deployment of the intervention brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he stressed that it must be properly equipped, welcoming also MONUSCO’s acquisition of surveillance drones to monitor the movements of armed groups and signal civilian displacement. He asked about the status of cooperation between UNOCI and Côte d’Ivoire’s defence and security forces in fighting organized groups sowing insecurity throughout the country.
OLIVIER MAES ( Luxembourg) emphasized the importance of in-field assessment of pre-deployment training, saying he supported the proposal to create a team to evaluate the training of peacekeepers. Calling for the strengthening of capacity at Headquarters, he welcomed the proposal to establish an evaluation unit and a general inspectorate in that area. The United Nations should have access to surveillance drones, which were important for risk mitigation. By combining modern technologies for transmitting information and analysis with others that made it possible to use non-lethal force, the United Nations would improve its ability to protect civilians. He asked about plans to make modern communications equipment available in order to prevent attacks on peacekeepers by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He emphasized that while inter-mission cooperation was important, it was no justification for reducing mission staff and equipment.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said that increased cooperation between UNOCI and UNMIL was essential for support efforts by the Ivorian and Liberian authorities effectively to address cross-border threats and challenges, and to stabilize the situation in the border areas shared by the two countries. Regarding MONUSCO, unmanned aerial systems would significantly increase its surveillance capabilities and help obtain tactical information critical to protecting civilians and ensuring the safety and security of peacekeepers. Although their deployment on a trial basis had been agreed, the possibility of their use in other missions should not be excluded, he said, asking how the force commanders foresaw their future use as part of inter-mission cooperation. What kind of political, logistical and operational challenges might that pose, and what were the potential advantages?
EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA ( Rwanda), expressing support for assessing pre-deployment training, said that his country’s defence forces had invested heavily in different training opportunities. “Inter-mission cooperation is just a temporary, short-term solution which should not replace permanent solutions,” he stressed. Regarding the use of unmanned aerial systems, he said MONUSCO’S imminent use of that technology should help inform its future use by United Nations missions. He asked General Cruz how optimistic he was about the usefulness of drones given the dense jungle topography of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, wondering also what systems were in place to ensure that the information they provided was properly handed over to the United Nations, since those operating them would be non-United Nations personnel. More generally, he asked the force commanders what more the Security Council could do to end the cycle of conflict and violence in Africa.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) noted that there was currently no mechanism in place to assess how well troops were prepared in pre-deployment training. The United States supported the establishment of the Director General position, with a mandate to help troop-contributing countries evaluate their pre-deployment training programmes. He said his country was also working to improve the standards of its own training, and urged others to do the same. In that regard, he asked the force commanders what gaps in essential skills and capacities were being seen on the ground.
Welcoming the decision to develop 10 additional manuals on skill sets necessary for peacekeeping, he also expressed support for the use of new technology to improve mission security and carry out important mandates, such as the protection of civilians. He asked General Cruz whether MONUSCO had the personnel and resources necessary for the rapid assessment of information gleaned from drones and for its efficient use. In the context of the current fiscal crisis, the shortage of helicopters and other resources, as well as the closeness of missions in Africa, inter-mission cooperation was critical, he emphasized, requesting General Asi to provide additional insight into that process within UNOCI.
KIM SOOK ( Republic of Korea) said the intervention brigade for MONUSCO and the deployment of MINUSMA were the most recent example of the evolving role of peacekeepers and the associated challenges. Mission capabilities must be enhanced, including through inter-mission cooperation, but cooperation must be undertaken cautiously. Even the successful cooperation between UNOCI and UNMIL had not involved sharing a major number of troops, but merely equipment, he pointed out, saying he was well aware that new attempts always entailed new questions. The development of technology would strengthen efficiency, he said, cautioning, however, that the political and legal implications of introducing such technology must be further analysed. He asked the force commander whether a sufficient level of intelligence was available for decision-making in places like Darfur.
WANG MIN ( China) emphasized the importance of abiding by the three “Dag Hammarskjöld principles”. Peacekeeping missions should ensure full respect for the sovereignty of host countries, strengthen coordination with the parties concerned, and create favourable conditions for the peaceful resolution of conflict and differences. The success of peacekeeping missions required a clear political process. Peacekeepers must ensure strict compliance with their mandates and have adequate resources to do so, he said. The Department of Field Support should keep improving the level of logistical services to missions and provide them with effective, timely support, he continued. Calling for stronger coordination between Headquarters and field missions, he said resources and assets must be used rationally. The United Nations should urgently address attacks on peacekeepers, he stressed, noting that Chinese peacekeepers were important contributors to the maintenance of international peace and security. More than 1,600 of them were deployed in nine United Nations missions, he said.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco), noting that peacekeeping operations were facing increasing challenges, called for action to ensure that they were better able to carry out their increasingly complex mandates. Training was of vital importance and ensured the success of any mission. Morocco had long supported inter-mission cooperation, which had many advantages, including maximizing resources and filling gaps, he said, adding that his country had held a dedicated debate on that topic during its Security Council presidency. However, inter-mission cooperation should not be seen as a permanent solution, he warned. On the use of new technologies, he said more thinking was needed on that matter, and consensus should be achieved in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.
Council President MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom), speaking in his national capacity, paid tribute to those engaged in the “noble cause of peacekeeping” and acknowledged their important contributions before raising a number of questions for the force commanders. To General Cruz, he asked what preparations MONUSCO was undertaking ahead of the arrival and deployment of unmanned aerial systems. To General Ngondi, he asked whether it would be useful to validate pre-deployment training before deployment of peacekeepers. Given the existence of joint operation centres, could cooperation be enhanced with a view to more regular sharing of information? He asked Mr. Ladsous whether his Department could do more to address the political and legal constraints facing inter-mission cooperation.
Mr. LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, then responded to the Council members’ interventions, saying there was an enhanced focus on specialized manuals.
Regarding the composition of infantry battalions and field hospitals, he said specific training was needed in terms of women’s child-protection issues, emphasizing that such training could not always be decided before deployment.
The Fifth Committee was debating the proposal to establish a director for the evaluation of uniformed field personnel, he said, expressing hope that the proposal would be approved because it would help resolve systemic issues.
He said inter-mission cooperation enhanced the performance of peacekeeping operations and could address surge needs, during election processes, for example. Cooperation between UNMIL and UNOCI was exceptionally good, benefiting MINUSMA as well. The sharing of attack and utility helicopters was of benefit to operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and South Sudan. Similarly, cooperation between the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF) and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was exemplary, he said.
The procurement of unmanned aerial vehicles for the Democratic Republic of the Congo was under way, he said, stressing the need to use readily available equipment to “do the job”.
General CRUZ said pre-deployment training was fundamental, and night-surveillance technology vital to locating rebel groups and gangs at night. What missions needed now was the knowledge to put the new technology to best use, he said. Acknowledging the questions and concerns raised about the mandate of the intervention brigade proposed for MONUSCO, he said the United Republic of Tanzania had supplied one battalion and a special force company, also expressing hope that a company expected from Mali would be deployed in late July. The Congolese people had very high expectations of the intervention brigade in terms of resolving all their country’s problems, but the reality was that the United Nations would only have 20,000 troops to protect civilians, he cautioned.
Asked about the rules of engagement, he said it was not so easy to have a clear target in conflict situations. MONUSCO currently had to contend with 50 armed groups, and even though the intervention brigade would have a larger mandate than other peacekeeping missions, it would need to follow the same principles, including those relating to the use of force. Regarding delegates’ request for fresh information from missions on the ground, he said enhanced technology would make it easier for them to provide it more readily.
General NGONDI said a major gap was the inability of commanders to determine the operational readiness of their troops. A number of manuals and documents — and more continued to be produced — provided guidance on which training activities should be undertaken in pre-deployment training, and when new challenges emerged, a team should be on hand to formulate new directives and ensure that troops underwent the necessary training.
Responding to a question about what the United Nations could do to end the cycle of violence in Africa, he said that, in his experience, the violence was a result of “exclusiveness” within a country. More inclusive institutions, which gave everyone a voice, were urgently needed, he said, emphasizing that as long as national institutions remained exclusive, it was only a matter of time before grievances arose and eventually grew into conflicts.
General ASI said joint analysis centres were both possible and desirable, but there must first be agreement on a regional approach to conflict management and a common mechanism for initiating response. Indeed, it was necessary to sort out the overall United Nations approach to conflict resolution. On training gaps among troops in the field, he said they were inevitable because national contingents came from a broad range of countries with widely varying training backgrounds. However, a contingent’s collective attitude, and the ability of its officers to inspire performance, could make a difference on the ground.
Responding to a question raised by the representative of Rwanda, he agreed that inter-mission cooperation could not supplant permanent solutions, but stressed that permanent solutions required more resources.
To a question on logistical and administrative problems facing inter-mission cooperation, he agreed that such challenges existed, but they could be reduced or eliminated through a strong legal framework. On questions regarding inter-mission cooperation in the context of Mali, he said that, early on, UNOCI had begun working on logistical support. Such cooperation was “natural”, but overall, the most difficult challenge facing inter-mission cooperation was legal and political, with particular regard to agreement on the part of the accepting country.
BABACAR GAYE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), commenting on UNMISS, said the goal was to optimize the size of reserves. Situational awareness had been essential during the December 2011 crisis. Observations from helicopters had allowed the Mission to alert authorities about clashes in Jonglei State, but violence had still occurred despite its efforts. Usually in peacekeeping mandates, the force was responsible for providing United Nations personnel with security, he said. It was up to different levels of the Organization to coordinate humanitarian activities. In the case of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) following the 2009 earthquake, an engineering force had been provided, but engineering companies must be used in a planned manner, he said. As such, companies did not work on two- or three-day assignments; rather, MINUSTAH set up a weekly coordinating and planning meeting. However, financial problems had ensued.
Video of the Press Conference: Force Commanders from the UN missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Golan Heights; Lebanon; and South Sudan.
Video of the Security Council Meeting: United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Security Council, 6987th meeting.