AMID ESCALATING VIOLENCE, UN PEACE OPERATION IS STRUGGLING TO DO MORE WITH LESS

UNITED NATIONS (April 5, 2017) — On April 6, the United States will host a UN Security Council debate to review UN peacekeeping with an eye to downsizing or closing missions. As the United States seeks to find significant cuts to the UN peacekeeping budget, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, or MINUSCA, is struggling to deliver more with less as it confronts escalating threats to civilians, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) said in a report released today.

The report, The Primacy of Protection: Delivering on the MINUSCA Mandate in the Central African Republic, reviews how the mission is protecting civilians, which has been a priority focus since its deployment in September 2014. Three cases of MINUSCA responses to protection crises are examined: the response to violence in Kaga Bandoro in September and October 2016; the violence in Bria between November 21–24, 2016; and the ongoing situation in Bambari and its surrounding areas.

The protection crisis in CAR has escalated since mid-2016, but “The situation would be immeasurably worse without MINUSCA,” said Federico Borello, Executive Director at CIVIC. “The government of CAR does not have the capacity to protect its own population, and armed groups attack and threaten civilians every day. Draconian budget cuts by the United States would endanger countless civilian lives and plunge the country into further conflict.”

MINUSCA has adopted a robust posture to prevent escalation and attacks against civilians in Bambari since November 2016. The UN mission has halted columns of armed rebels moving on the town using attack helicopters, and has sent reinforcements to defend Bambari and its civilians.

The mission has still struggled to deliver protection as the situation has deteriorated. In Kaga Bandoro, located in central CAR, MINUSCA peacekeepers failed to halt a deadly attack on a displacement site in October 2016, which left at least 37 people dead and forced thousands to seek shelter around a UN base.

In Bria, located in the remote eastern part of the country, UN peacekeepers failed to prevent and contain violence in November 2016. Peacekeepers left their posts near a hospital, which was later occupied by armed groups and the site of deadly clashes outside its gates. As civilians suffered during the height of the violence, UN peacekeepers largely stayed in their bases. The final toll of the November violence, which CIVIC investigated, is still unknown.

Drawing on these case studies and extensive interviews in CAR, CIVIC’s report outlines seven key obstacles facing the mission in upholding its protection of civilians mandate. MINUSCA will need to undertake a number of steps to overcome these challenges, including ensuring it strengthens early warning and analysis, develops better contingency planning for protection crises, and deploys its military and police rapidly. The report also captures good practices.  The UN mission should more systematically document these successes along with reporting and learning from failures.

“MINUSCA has fewer resources compared to other UN missions given the immense size of the country, the scale of threats, and the number of tasks it’s been assigned. The mission is trying to do more with less, but it is struggling,” Borello said. “MINUSCA needs to re-focus on the priority task—protecting civilians. And the UN Security Council—and the United States in particular—needs to support MINUSCA in accomplishing this.”

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Note to editors:
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)’s mission is to improve protection for civilians caught in conflicts around the world. We call on and advise international organizations, governments, militaries, and armed non-state actors to adopt and implement policies to prevent civilian harm. When civilians are harmed we advocate for the provision of amends and post-harm assistance. We bring the voices of civilians themselves to those making decisions affecting their lives.

For more information, contact Christopher Allbritton at +1 (917) 310-4785 or chris@civiliansinconflict.org.

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