Keeping peace all over the world has always been dangerous. It has become lethal in recent years. The fag months of 2017 saw militants operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo attack a United Nations base in the eastern part of the country. A total of 15 peacekeepers lost their lives- making it the deadliest toll in the UN history. A new UN-released report showed that more on-duty UN personnel were killed during the last five-year period compared to 70 years of United Nations peacekeeping.
In troubled waters
Seasoned military experts are not surprised. A number of UN operations are currently taking part in places where there is absolutely no peace to keep. In places like South Sudan, peacekeepers find themselves in lethal environments as host authorities intentionally restrict the free movement of UN forces. Extremists in Mali have even attacked UN convoys along with civilians. Even though the attackers used small weapons and improvised devices, peacekeeping forces were not even equipped to combat such attacks. They are vulnerable to almost all threats.
A new report authored by Retired Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz of Brazil, if followed up, may change things on the ground. This report titled “Improving security of United Nations peacekeepers” has recommended a number of reforms to varying the manner the United Nations approach peacekeeping operations. Changes are recommended in four facets. The first is that the UN personnel must project force if required and the second is improving the mission capacity to operate inside high-threat environments. The third is to make sure that the mission footprints are always “threat sensitive”. The fourth and last is enhancing the accountability of the uniformed contributors and mission leadership in the case of adaptation to the high-risk environments.
Accepted but still to be deployed
The report has been accepted by the UN officials. They want to adopt the new measures as fast as possible. Concerns regarding security and safety while the UN conducts peacekeeping operations hold paramount importance in this regard. These factors determine whether the troop-contributing nations will send their personnel or stay away. There is a concern based on past experiences that a number of proposed changes could hit a wall. This takes the form of caveats. The latter is used by member states to set the boundaries and communicate expectations to the United Nations so that risks are managed by their troops. The report suggests that the United Nations must not accept any caveats.