As part of our expanded online presence and making our work more accessible, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) will be posting occasional updates to our various programs. This update was provided by CIVIC’s UN Team. We hope you find it useful as a snapshot of our work around the world to protect civilians trapped in conflict.

From Words to Action on UN Peacekeeping Reform

The UN Security Council held an Open Debate on March 28th on ‘Collective Action to Improve UN Peacekeeping Operations’. At the event, the UN Secretary-General launched his new peacekeeping reform initiative, Action for Peacekeeping, or A4P. The Open Debate was convened by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It served as a platform for more than 70 statements by briefers and member states, and we listened to all of them. In this inaugural blog post from CIVIC’s UN Team, we walk you through some of the key themes and issues raised during the Open Debate.


Safety and Security Looms Large

The report by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Dos Santos Cruz on Improving the Security of Unite Nations Peacekeepers featured prominently in interventions during the Open Debate. There were at least 47 references – the most of any issue – to the Santos Cruz report and the need to improve the safety and security of UN peacekeepers operating in increasingly complex environments. In case you missed it: The Secretary-General appointed Santos Cruz to lead a high‑level review of peacekeeping fatalities and injuries due to violent acts. The Santos Cruz report caused a splash in the peacekeeping world, nicely captured in a series of articles from our friends at the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory. The UN is currently working through an ambitious action plan to implement the Santos Cruz report’s recommendations.

The Bottom Line

Ensuring peacekeeping operations have adequate capabilities and resources to deliver on mandates was also highlighted by a broad swathe of speakers, with at least 25 references to this issue. Read more: Against the backdrop of budgetary pressure facing UN peacekeeping operations, we explored how the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo is attempting to deliver protection with fewer resources. Check it out here.

Performance, Performance, Performance

Improving the performance of peacekeeping operations (22 references by our count) and calls for accountability for the implementation of protection of civilians mandates (15 mentions) were also notable themes. The United States called for, “robust performance standards and data-driven analysis on the performance of peacekeepers,” and accountability when peacekeeping personnel do not meet those standards. Ethiopia in turn called for balance and objectivity regarding performance and accountability, highlighting that, “peacekeepers can only be expected to effectively deliver on their mandate of protecting civilians, while ensuring their own safety and security, if they are provided with the necessary resources and capabilities, which are matched with the needs and requirements on the ground.”

What else came up during the Open Debate? A few other key issues were raised, like:

  • Enhancing cooperation with regional organizations;
  • Strengthening threat assessments, information, and intelligence;
  • The importance of strategic and independent reviews of peacekeeping operations; and
  • The links between Action for Peacekeeping and the Secretary-General’s other reform initiatives, namely management reform and the reform of the UN’s peace and security architecture.

Words to Action?

While A4P received support in most interventions, a number of member states stressed the pressing need to move from words to action on peacekeeping reform. Rwanda captured the feeling best:

There have been numerous reviews and reports on ways to improve peacekeeping operations, and I think that, quite honestly, we can all agree that we know exactly what needs to be done by every peacekeeping stakeholder to make this improvement a reality. So, why isn’t this improvement that we are calling for happening faster than we see today? We believe that…we need the political commitments that are expressed in this room to transcend past these halls and materialize on the ground and in capitals.

Will A4P finally be the initiative that addresses reforms critical to the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping? The Open Debate was certainly a strong starting point. A high-level side-event on A4P is planned for September, where a compact of “mutually-agreed principles and commitments” is set to be elaborated. A “formal agreement” (likely a resolution) at the Security Council is hoped for in December. The Secretary-General may have quipped that “Christmas is over,” but the success of this reform initiative is clearly on his Christmas wish-list.