I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his statement and the Russian presidency for taking the initiative to organize this debate among the Security Council, the Secretariat’s peacekeeping officials and troop-contributing countries, whose commitment I take this opportunity to commend.
I associate myself with the statement to be delivered by the observer of the European Union.
I would like to make four points. First, despite some of the new contexts in which they are deployed, the role of peacekeeping operations is still to bring a peace process to a successful conclusion. There is no doubt that the classic situation — of a theatre of war where a peace agreement has already been signed by the time an operation deploys — is now an exception. More often than not we find ourselves in ambiguous situations that range from a tacit halt to hostilities to a ceasefire disputed by armed elements, but the challenge still lies in initiating and concluding a process that leads to a lasting peace. In that context, the role of a peacekeeping operation is simultaneously military — it must stabilize the security situation and deter potential troublemakers — and political, in supporting, facilitating and backing up a peace process, including by addressing the root causes of the conflict. One cannot work without the other.
Secondly, peacekeepers’ operational priority must always be the protection of civilians. Civilians are the first victims of modern conflicts. Twenty years after the genocide in Rwanda and the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, the United Nations has made significant progress in putting the protection of civilians at the heart of peacekeeping operation mandates. In environments that are complex and, as the military put it, non-conducive, robust implementation of peacekeeping operation mandates, in general, and the protection of civilians, in particular, is essential. We have seen the relevance of this approach in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the Force Intervention Brigade created within the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo also emphasizes the degree to which this approach depends, beyond its mandate, on a peacekeeping operation’s management team, on the force’s capacity and on the attitude of the troops deployed on the ground. In South Sudan today, everything should take a back seat to the need for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan to protect civilians.
Thirdly, peacekeepers should provide support to the host State’s authorities while preserving the goal of achieving a transition that can consolidate its emergence from crisis. If a State is failed or fragile, peacekeepers can legitimately help to restore the State’s authority and assist it, particularly with disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, security sector reform and justice. That requires the United Nations to develop its expertise in those areas, at the very least in order to better coordinate international action and assist the authorities on the ground. That is a challenge that the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic will have to deal with when it deploys there.
Clearly, peacekeeping operations cannot and should not be a substitute for the efforts of countries themselves or of international donors. That is not their job. On the contrary, they must always be focused on enabling an emergence from crisis and re-establishing both the local authorities and the United Nations country teams at the heart of peacebuilding efforts. It is up to the Council to ensure that those efforts are reflected in its decisions, first of all, but also in the actions and the structure of the resulting operations, and in the renewal of every mandate, which should be not a routine matter but a tool for the dynamic management of a peacekeeping operation.
Fourthly, peacekeeping operations must be flexible as well as stronger. They have become major machines with staffs that can exceed 20,000. Deploying such organizations is a challenge, particularly in emergency situations. Its complexity is further complicated by the constraints imposed by certain resources, such as force multipliers, logistical support, military and civilian expertise, trained personnel — including in the area of languages — and, especially, funding.
In regard to the subject of languages, I would like to make my annual plea to the Secretariat — which I am doing as I reach the end of my term, without much hope of being heard — that it is perhaps more useful to have personnel who speak the language of the country concerned than the language of New York. In other words, in French-speaking missions it is perhaps more useful to recruit French speakers than people who can write reports to New York in English. We know perfectly well that the Secretariat does in fact make it a priority to choose English speakers.
At the other end of the spectrum, a peacekeeping operation must be adaptable in the peacebuilding phase too. It must be able to adjust its approach, adapt the size of its civilian staff and support the host State or the country team and donors in taking over responsibility. We should therefore step up our efforts to make peacekeeping operations more flexible in both directions. On the one hand, that means displaying an ability to deploy rapidly that is not always the case today, as the example of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali shows. On the other hand, a peacekeeping operation should be able to draw down its military personnel in order to restore to the host State its responsibilities, and it should be able to do it rapidly and to propose such action itself.
That flexibility also depends on making the best use of modern technologies. We welcome the experiments being done with the tactical use of surveillance drones within MONUSCO and soon, we hope, in other theatres too. They will enable us to ensure not only forces’ security but also to economize on personnel. The recent presentation by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the first results of the experiments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo convinced us of their usefulness and relevance, and we should pursue them.
Inter-mission cooperation is another avenue. When unforeseen events threaten to destabilize a country, cooperation between missions is an appropriate response that can help missions that need them to strengthen troops and equipment in a timely way. We should pursue this line of attack further; this is about budgets as well as efficiency.
Our discussions today should enable peacekeeping operations to make advances that render them more robust, more flexible and able to create conditions that are conducive to successful political processes without making the countries concerned dependent on peacekeeping activities. France will continue its efforts in that direction within the Council. It will also continue to support the many initiatives on all such areas taken by the Secretariat, in particular, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, whether in drawing up mandates or considering strategic reviews or at regular briefings.
Like my colleague from Luxembourg, I cannot conclude without commending the commitment of peacekeepers of all nationalities, who sometimes pay with their lifes for their dedication in the service of peace. On this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to them.