High-level Panel Discussion on International UN Peacekeepers Day | June 6, 2022

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6 Jun 2022

High-level Panel Discussion on International UN Peacekeepers Day | June 6, 2022

High-level Panel Discussion on International UN Peacekeepers Day on the theme: “People. Peace. Progress. The Power of Partnerships”

Organized by UNOAU and Amani Africa

Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso, Founding Director of Amani Africa opened the event by delivering introductory remarks. He underscored the importance of peacekeeping, multilateralism, partnership, and the critical role of the UN Charter in this regard, while also praising the leadership of the UNSC and the important contributions of Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs), host countries as well as the critical role and contribution of regional actors. He further paid tribute to the men and women peacekeepers and their important work in the pursuit of peace.

In his introductory remarks, Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso thanked UNOAU for their collaboration, briefed the audience on the work of Amani Africa and introduced the four panellists: H.E. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the African Union and Head of United  Nations Office to African Union (UNOAU); Mr. James Bot, Civil Affairs Section Chief,  United Nations Organization Stabilization  Mission in the Democratic Republic of  the Congo (MONUSCO); Mr. Zinurine Alghali Chief, Policy Development Unit, Peace  Support Operations Division (PSOD), African Union Commission; and Ms. Bitania Tadesse Wube Programme Director, Amani Africa.

The first briefing was delivered by SRSG Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, who shared his personal experience of working in peacekeeping. He noted that while some criticism and/or reflection around possible improvements in peacekeeping are warranted, the role of peacekeeping itself should not be called into question, highlighting the critical importance of peacekeeping for the International Community. SRSG underscored that UN peacekeeping operations have greatly evolved in their purpose and complexity over the years, spanning from the first generation of peacekeeping, known as traditional peacekeeping, to what is known today as the third/fourth generations of peacekeeping. In addition, the UN now puts a stronger emphasize on victims, ensuring a systematic focus on the needs and concerns of victims. Nevertheless, the sad reality is that there are still (individual) peacekeepers and humanitarian workers who take advantage of the vulnerable position of victims, a concern which is taken very serious by the UN leadership and has been addressed by the UN through the implementation of several measures to prevent any abuse. SRSG also noted that peacekeeping changed a lot since the end of the Cold War resulting in the multidimensional peacekeeping that we have today. He underscored the importance of effective collaboration between key partners in peacekeeping, citing examples such as UNAMID and the cooperation between AU and UN in Somalia. SRSG further elaborated on the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, and more specifically on its chapter pertaining to UN-AU cooperation in peacekeeping, and on the right timing of peacekeeping, noting that it cannot substitute the political process. He underscored that the essence of partnership is that ‘no single entity can alone solve the complex issues that societies in conflict are facing’, noting that the AU has ultimately the legitimacy and access that the UN does not always have. Meanwhile, the UNSC assures that mission have political backing, as well as the required resources and tools. SRSG underscored the huge efforts undertaken by the UNSG to advocate for sustainable and predicable funding for peacekeeping missions. SRSG thanked Amani Africa for its partnership and paid tribute the men and women ‘who put their lives on the line for the service of humanity’.

Mr. James Bot, Civil Affairs Section Chief, MONUSCO briefed on ‘Partnership in peacekeeping: Challenges and opportunities from the perspectives of MONUSCO’, highlighting the complexity of peacekeeping. He noted that MONUSCO was one of the longest-running and largest UN Peacekeeping missions and presented a critical example of partnership in peacekeeping. Mr. James Bot noted that the partnership with the government in the DRC and with the TCCs in the region was very important and highlighted the critical roles of the International Conference of the Great Lakes and the Nairobi process. He further discussed the importance of cooperation in the area of demobilization, disarmament, reintegration (DDR) efforts and gave examples of MONUSCO’s engagement with NGOs, community leaders, religious groups, women, youth and other important local actors, highlighting the importance of efforts being grounded in the community. Finally, Mr. James Bot discussed the latest developments with regards to the transition plan signed by the government of the DRC in 2021, noting that partnership was needed beyond peacekeeping.

Mr. Zinurine Alghali, Chief, Policy Development Unit, PSOD, African Union Commission briefed on ‘Perspectives of African Union Commission in Peace Support Operations, Challenges and opportunities and the way forward’. He noted that when the UN started its peacekeeping activities 75 years ago, the UN was the sole actor in this field, but today the AU has deployed several different peacekeeping missions on the continent. Mr. Zinurine Alghali provided an overview of the different peacekeeping missions deployed and supported by the AU and updated on the peacekeeping efforts coordinated together with regional bodies such as the RECs. He noted that while the partnership with the UN and other entities was important, the cooperation in the past had not always been principled and consistent. Mr. Zinurine Alghali provided different examples of partnership of peacekeeping using the examples of cooperation in Mali, CAR, Sudan, Somalia and South Sudan. Mr. Zinurine Alghali noted that all five countries were still of concern today and noted that ‘we tend to have common understanding, but the challenge is [to agree on] the action that need[ed] to be taken’. He further highlighted the importance of four points: 1) Availability of adequate, predictable, and sustainable funding; 2) The setting of clear benchmarks, timeframes and joint reviews to assess and ascertain for transition (as done in Somalia); 3) Agreement that the AU should be the first responder to conflict on the continent; 4) Common understanding on what actions need to be taken.

Ms. Bitania Tadesse Wube, Programme Director of Amani Africa briefed on ‘Advancing the Frontier of Peacekeeping Research’, noting that Peacekeeping was a key tool for conflict management but did not substitute for conflict resolution. She discussed the role of the UN Charter in shaping partnerships, the primacy of the UNSC in international peace and security and the changing environment of conflicts, highlighting the expansion of non-traditional security threats, such as terrorism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change. She further discussed the growing call for a robust mandate for peace support operations and analysed the relative success of partnership in Somalia and the Sahel. Ms. Bitania Tadesse Wube further underscored that peacekeeping could only work in conjunction with a robust political process, as recognized in AU and UN doctrines. She provided an overview of the role of African institutions in peacekeeping, highlighting the comparative advantage of the RECs and AU on the continent and using the examples of Darfur, Liberia, Mali, CAR and Abyei. She further underscored the importance of the inclusion of regional and sub-regional actors in peacekeeping efforts as well as the full involvement of women in peace support missions, noting the problems of gender stereotypes and sexual violence in the area of peacekeeping. In this context, she highlighted the critical importance of the landmark UN resolution on Women, Peace and Security. Ms. Bitania Tadesse Wube also noted the important role of the A3 and underscored the need to strengthen partnership between the two councils. Finally, she elaborated on the role of policy and research institutions, welcoming the partnership between Amani Africa and UNOAU.

Then panel discussion was followed by a 60-minute interactive Q&A discussion section discussing the interventions made by the four panellists. The High-level Panel Discussion and its Q&A session were recorded and are accessible online.