INDEPENDENT NEWS AND COMMENT ON WORLD AFFAIRS
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15 January 2018: Secretary-General António Guterres made a hastily arranged two-day trip to Columbia (13-14 January) to take stock of the peace process in the wake of an unexpected resurgence of tensions a year after the November 2016 cease-fire in the country's five-decade old civil war.
He met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón in Bogotá on 13 January 2018 and made a field visit on the 14th to reintegration camp in the Department of Meta for former combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP).
Noting the increasing frequency of new conflicts arising from the ashes of old ones, the Secretary-General told the Press in Bogota that what happened in Colombia was of "fundamental symbolic importance for the world." His visit was "clearly a mission of solidarity with Colombia and with the Colombian people in a historical moment and of enormous importance for Colombia, for Latin America and for the world,” Mr. Guterres said.
Colombia is headed for legislative elections in March and presidential elections in May. Also, a temporary ceasefire agreement between the Government and another rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has just expired.
26 December 2017: As the United Nations prepared to close down for the year-end holidays the Security Council heard from several United Nations officials on the situation in Afghanistan where a four decade-old conflict continues with no assured peace process. None of the speakers was undiplomatic enough to rake up the sordid details of that tortured past but that was not necessary; the prime movers were all at the table, and everyone knew the history.
In brief, the 1979 Soviet invasion to save a tottering client regime in Kabul had destroyed Afghanistan’s flimsy independence and the jihadist opposition mobilized by the United States, Britain and client regimes in Riyadh and Islamabad had tipped it into the abyss.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and slackening of American interest in the region, Britain and Pakistan fielded the Taliban as managers of the opium/heroin trade, the most lucrative of colonial British legacies. The Taliban also served to host Al Qaeda as it precipitated the post-Cold War “Clash of Civilizations” dynamic necessary to keep military-industrial coffers filled. The 9/11 attacks activated the dynamic into new domestic and international control mechanisms, the Patriot Act within the United States and the NATO-supported “War on Terrorism” in Afghanistan.
The reason the war in Afghanistan has proved unstoppable despite the end of the Cold War is that its drug trade generates over $60 billion annually. That money is laundered through the "tax haven" system under the control of the United Kingdom and flows into "legitimate" businesses around the world, especially the $3 trillion hedge fund industry.
The war also serves to keep regional tensions high in Asia, the world's largest market for the international arms trade. The Permanent Members of the Security Council are the world's largest arms producers (scroll down on Home Page for listing), and the peace efforts of their governments are deeply conflicted because of pressure from powerful arms corporations.
What the Briefers Said
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that despite intense fighting, recent efforts by Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to protect civilians had resulted in reductions in civilian deaths and injuries. However, there was no assured peace process; he called on the Taliban to express a clear willingness to begin negotiations. A crucial issue was the holding of parliamentary elections in 2018, followed by presidential elections in April 2019. Preparations had not progressed sufficiently and electoral stakeholders were intensely critical. The Independent Election Commission needed to demonstrably advance preparations to regain its credibility. UNAMA would continue efforts to advance women’s political participation.
Mr. Yamamoto said the Government’s goal to reduce reliance on aid and secure its own tax base would require concentrated efforts to stimulate the private sector, reduce corruption and red tape, and build infrastructure, after which Afghanistan’s mineral wealth could be exploited. Although the achievements in regional cooperation were encouraging, he said the main dividends of regional cooperation could not be achieved until there was peace and stability.
Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drew attention to the “unprecedented” highs in opium poppy cultivation and production, with an increase of almost 90 percent, to a record 9,000 metric tons in the past year. Recent seizures showed interregional links between organized crime and terrorist groups exploiting drug manufacturing and trafficking. In spite of those trends attention had progressively shifted away from the threats posed by drugs in recent years. He said comprehensive counter‑narcotics programs needed to be mainstreamed in national development agendas. It was essential to have economic development to create new jobs, as well as access to education, financial services and markets. Illicit financial flows must also be intercepted.
Wazhma Frogh, Founding Member of Women and Peace Studies Organization and Member of the High Peace Council, said Afghanistan was still one of the most dangerous places for women. In 2017, the Afghan Human Rights Commission had reported more than 5,000 cases of severe violence against women. All Government and armed groups continued to be complicit in rape and extortion. Even though women suffered massively from the ongoing violence they were excluded from the peace and reconciliation process. Lasting peace could only be achieved if women sat at the negotiating table, she said.
The representative of Afghanistan said that the so‑called “fighting season” of the Taliban and other terrorist groups had nearly ended. Those groups had failed to make any notable gains on the ground. Increased dialogue was needed among regional and global powers, he said. Turning to bilateral relations with Pakistan, he highlighted substantial improvements. He said, “Afghanistan has the will and capacity to defend its territory and our patience should not be tested.”
The representative of Kazakhstan, speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council's Sanctions Committee (resolution 1988/2011), said that other than removing the name of one reportedly deceased individual from the sanctions list, no other changes had been made in 2017. Emphasizing that implementation of the sanctions regime depended on national, regional and international actors, he encouraged Member States to play a more active role in providing information that would help to keep the sanctions list up‑to‑date. The Kabul process was now fully operational and provided an overarching framework to harmonize international and regional efforts. The February meeting would represent an opportune moment for the Taliban to change course, renounce violence and join the peace process. He noted recent progress in implementing projects aimed at making Afghanistan a land bridge, business hub and trade and transit roundabout for Central Asia, South Asia, the Far East and the Middle East.
Other speakers in the Council stressed the importance of an Afghan‑owned, Afghan‑led and Afghan‑controlled process that had the support of neighboring countries through the 2018 Kabul process meeting. There were expressions of concern at the increased levels of violence in the country, due to activities of the Taliban and terrorist groups such as ISIL/Daesh. One speaker expressed disappointment that the single woman nominated for a cabinet post had not been confirmed.
The representative of the United States said Americans were impatient with the conflict in Afghanistan, but would continue to support Kabul in its efforts against Al‑Qaida, ISIL and the Taliban. Her country did not seek military gains but rather to accelerate an Afghan‑owned peace process.
Pakistan’s representative said that the war, violence and terrorism afflicting Afghanistan were the consequences of foreign military interventions, occupation and imposed war. Preventing cross‑border terrorism was essential for both Afghanistan and Pakistan and could only be achieved through constant vigilance. They had agree to place liaison officers in each other’s army headquarters and establish ground coordination centers.
The representative of India said the Council had not effectively used its sanctions regime to deal with funds generated by terrorist networks. “We need to go after the leaders of the terrorist organizations” and investigate and designate illicit drugs trafficking businesses, he said. He drew attention to the New Development Partnership launched by Afghanistan and India in September, but regretted that overland access between the two countries had been blocked for many years. However, Chabahar Port in Iran now offered a new avenue of trade.
Other Speakers: The representatives of Japan, Italy, China, Ukraine, France, Russian Federation, Bolivia, Sweden, Uruguay, Senegal, Egypt, Ethiopia, United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Canada, Netherlands, Iran and Australia also spoke, as did the delegate of the European Union. For more details see Press Release #SC/13137 of 21 December 2017
21 June 2017: The government of the Republic of Congo has withdrawn the military unit that has been at the center of sex abuse charges confronting the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). The action came after a UN Secretariat review found that "the nature and extent of existing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, in their totality, point to systemic problems in command and control."
The details of the review were not released, but the statement issued by a UN spokesperson made clear they were a devastating indictment of "the preparedness, overall discipline, maintenance of contingent owned equipment, and logistical capacity of these troops. "
The statement said the UN recognised "the importance of the sub-region in the resolution of the crisis in the Central African Republic" and appreciated "the constructive role played by the Republic of Congo, and President Sassou-Nguesso as international mediator during the Transition and after the election of President Touadera." It looked forward to "their continued political engagement to bring stability to the Central African Republic. "
The Secretariat is "working with the Republic of Congo and MINUSCA on the modalities for a speedy withdrawal that will have the least impact on the mission's operational requirements and ability to implement its mandate. "
Police Unit Not Affected
"Failures identified with the military contingent are not reflected by the performance of the police contingent from the Republic of Congo, also deployed with MINUSCA," the statement said. It will be retained. "Nonetheless, the Republic of Congo authorities have been requested to urgently inform the United Nations of accountability measures they have taken regarding the one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse involving a Republic of Congo police personnel."
11 April 2017: SG: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is recommending in a new report to the Security Council that the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) be wound down by 15 October and replaced with a new force oriented to supporting security and sustainable development.
That transition is possible because "Haiti reached a major milestone on its path to stabilization, with the peaceful conclusion of the electoral process and the return to constitutional order on 7 February 2017." The Secretary-General hopes the "return to constitutional order and a continued period of political stability will allow Haiti to move from economic fragility to sustainable growth, with the help of significant international assistance."
Transition Plan: As the country will require longer-term support to address the cholera outbreak and the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew, the report suggests the development of transition plan to be rapidly implemented following the decision of the Security Council on a future United Nations presence. The report recommends that "the mandate of MINUSTAH be extended for a final period of six months during which its military component of 2,370 personnel would undergo a staggered but complete withdrawal. The Mission’s civilian tasks would also be reduced in a phased manner.
Successor Mission: A successor mission, with a new name would work in an integrated manner with the United Nations country team in addressing residual stabilization needs in the country. It would be "a smaller peacekeeping operation focused on rule of law and police development." The good offices and advocacy role of the mission leadership at the political level would remain at the core of its mandate to support political stability, good governance, including electoral oversight and reform, the rule of law and human rights with gender principles holistically mainstreamed.
The new mission would be headquartered in Port-au-Prince, from where it would also monitor and exercise an early warning function for conflict prevention, human rights and rule of law issues at the local level through the use of mobile teams. It would have 7 formed police units, reduced from the current 11, deployed to five regional departments to safeguard the fragile security gains of the past years though the provision of operational support to the national police and through a robust deterrence posture. The number of formed police units would be adjusted downward and harmonized with the gradual build-up of the national police within a two-year time frame.
Police Development: A complement of 295 individual police officers, reduced from the current 1,001, would play a key role in the implementation of the priorities contained in the strategic development plan of the national police for the period 2017-2021, in line with international human rights standards. The individual police officers would be responsible for supervisory mentoring and for providing strategic advice to senior-level officers assigned to the police academy, departmental directorates, main commissariats, specialized units and the office of the Director General of the national police.
The technical advisory programme would require the identification of highly qualified individual police officers, supported by a number of civilian posts, to provide training on the national police’s administrative capacity, such as strategic planning, procurement, budget, payroll and fuel management. Government-provided corrections personnel would be reduced from the current level of 50 to 38, with an approach focusing on more fully engaging the national police in efforts to strengthen the management of the Directorate of Prison Administration.
Innovative Approach: The report stresses the need for an innovative approach to the rule of law, planned, led and implemented by Haitian counterparts. In addition to addressing the challenges of criminal justice, promoting rule of law reform and anti-corruption efforts, the new UN effort would seek to improve the commercial law framework and provide incentives to attract greater foreign investment in Haiti.
That will require increased capacity-building, "including through community approaches in fragile communities, and mutual accountability with the Government supported by the successor mission’s strong good offices."
6 April 2017: Mali has been one of the most dangerous locations for UN peacekeepers but you would not know why from reading the reports submitted by the Secretary-General or from listening to the Security Council debates . (watch video of today's debate and read the latest Report of the Secretary-General on Mali.)
Both the debate and the report point to generic failures that lie behind the Security Council's inability to come to grips with a situation precipitated by a political coup in 2012 and prolonged by a Salafist Sunni insurrection in a Shia-majority State. There is no information on such important aspects of the situation as the origin of the drugs trafficked through the region and the identity of suppliers. Nor is there any mention of the mechanisms used to fund the terrorist forces. These shortcomings are typical and explain why the Security Council has been so abject a failure in its main Charter function of maintaining international peace and security.
The Report of the Secretary-General gives a pointillist picture of the current situation iacing the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The number of attacks claimed by violent extremist groups has almost tripled, rising from 28 in 2015 to 85 in 2016. Insecurity has spread in the central regions as threats to civilians have multiplied. Attacks against Malian, French and UN forces "have become more sophisticated, complex and lethal, employing tactics such as suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, remote-controlled explosive devices, small arms fire and indirect fire.
These types of attacks almost doubled in frequency from 2015 to 2016. The number of incidents involving improvised explosive devices increased from 110 in 2015 to 210 in 2016. The number of casualties has tripled from 15 in 2015 to 52 in 2016. The attacks against the Malian forces were perpetrated increasingly close to city centres, indicating an increase in the confidence and operational capacity of the perpetrators. In total, 49 members of the Malian forces were killed and 75 injured in the attacks, compared with the 15 killed and 33 injured in the previous reporting period.
Against that backdrop of attacks by violent extremists, terrorist and criminal groups, the leaders of the sub-region have agreed on joint initiatives to counter the threats. A 6 February summit meeting in Bamako, Mali of the Group of Five for the Sahel decided to establish a joint force, noting that mandates from the African Union Peace and Security Council and the Security Council would be required to ensure interoperability, coordination and potential support.
On 8 March, following a two - day meeting of the Group of Five with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the European Union, the United Nations, the French forces and others, the strategic concept of operations for the joint force was agreed. It foresees a 5,000-strong military, police and civilian force to be deployed along the borders of the five States during the first phase and to internal areas in the second phase.
New Terrorist Force
The report recounts a number of violent incidents and the formation of a new "Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims" which has claimed responsibility for the bloodiest attack. The formation of the group was announced on 2 March; it subsumes Al Mourabitoun, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Eddine and the Front de libération du Macina. The report does not mention that the groups are all Sunni and Salafist in a Shia majority country, and that they consider their co-religionists "idolators."
Organized Crime and Drugs
Transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in Mali and the sub-region have continued to have an impact on the peace process. "Recent trends of increasing trafficking of drugs, financing of terrorism through illicit trafficking and the more frequent use of trafficking routes for illegal migration point to a greater nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism in the sub-region. During the reporting period, the Malian authorities seized 3,416 kg of trafficked drugs at the airport in Bamako and in the Gao and Kayes regions and recorded cases of trafficking of weapons, counterfeit medicines and other goods, including at the southern border with Burkina Faso." There is not a hint in the report of where the drugs are coming from or where they are headed.
Human Rights Situation
The human rights situation remained of serious concern to MINUSMA. The UN documented 74 cases of human rights violations and abuses, involving at least 204 victims, including 14 children, compared with 104 cases and 235 victims in the previous period.
The cases included 4 instances of summary execution, 2 of enforced disappearance, 9 of ill-treatment, 3 of deliberate attack against peacekeeping personnel, 10 of recruitment and use of children by armed groups and 23 of unlawful detention. Members of the Malian defence and security forces continued to be the main alleged perpetrators. Violent extremist groups and non-signatory armed groups were responsible for five incidents, including three attacks against peacekeeping personnel.
The humanitarian situation remains "deeply concerning, with people affected by the conflict continuing to struggle to gain access to food, water, health care and education. "Humanitarian actors continued to deliver assistance, playing a vital role in meeting the basic needs of vulnerable people in a context of limited Sta te presence and infrastructure.
Nature of UN Failure
Overall, the report -- and the debate in the Security Council -- were disengaged from the reality of what was happening in Mali. The factual detail in the report did not illuminate what was happening in the country but served rather to hide questions such as why the situation was deteriorating and who was profiting from it. The failure to look at the larger picture is evident in every single Report submitted in the name of the Secretary-General to the Security Council.
4 April 2017: Over 300 experts from 76 Member States participated in the 2017 Working Group on "Contingent Owned Equipment" (UNese for national equipment used by peacekeepers). Those attending represented countries collectively contributing over 90 per cent of the military and police personnel in peacekeeping missions and over 90 per cent of the annual financial requirements for peacekeeping.
In the wake of the scandals involving peacekeeper sexual abuse of women and children and the introduction of cholera to Haiti by the UN mission there, the meeting was much concerned with the conduct and training of national contingents. The "critical components of the architecture in which troop/police contributors participate in United Nations peacekeeping missions" was discussed. So were "ethical standards and environmental norms."
The ougoing Head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous noted the "challenging context in which peacekeeping operations are deployed today." He said that "force generation and rapid deployment" remained areas of concern. The Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System, established in July 2015, was "a platform by which Member States can register capabilities and pledge to deploy them at short notice."
An unprecedented 104 issue papers were before the meeting, including 26 issue papers prepared by the Secretariat and 78 issue papers by Member States that included data on costs from 45 contributing countries. Also unprecedented was the nature of new issues before the Working Group. They included "Force protection equipment" and coverage for equipment abandoned under hostile action.
The former, the report of the Working Group explained, is "meant to enhance UN units’ force protection and allow them to confront the new techniques and procedures used against UN personnel and facilities. Current threats include the use of remote control improvised explosives devices (IED), infiltration and direct attack against UN facilities. Force protection equipment might include, but not be limited to, portable or vehicle-mounted Electronic Counter Measure (ECM) jammers, closed-circuit television, motion detectors and various types of movement sensors."
The report contains recommendations to the General Assembly's Fifth (Budget) Committee, including the rates of reimbursement for equipment. Download report
15 September 2016: An independent panel appointed to review the 2014 abuse of children by French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic has turned in a searing indictment of how UN officials responded. Those blamed include top tier officials in New York and Geneva, most prominently, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General.
The report details how an initial attempt to ignore and bury the scandal was followed by an attempt to victimize the Director of Field Operations at the High Commissioner’s office in Geneva who made public what had happened.
The Head of MINUSCA (the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central African Republic) and the Head of the Human Rights and Justice Section under him are tagged with “abuse of authority” during the first phase. The Chef de Cabinet to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened meetings in New York at the request of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that affected the denouement. The facts of the case and the findings of the panel are as follows:
Between May and June 2014, a Human Rights Officer working for MINUSCA, together with local UNICEF staff, interviewed six young boys. The children reported that they had been subjected to sexual abuse by international peacekeeping troops or that they had witnessed other children being abused. In most cases, the alleged perpetrators were from the French Sangaris forces, operating under authorization of the Security Council but not under United Nations command. In exchange, the children received small amounts of food or cash from the soldiers. All of the incidents occurred between December 2013 and June 2014, near the M’Poko camp for internally displaced persons, in Bangui. In some cases, the children also reported detailed information about the perpetrators, including names and certain distinguishing features such as tattoos, piercings and facial features.
The panel notes that the reports indicate that the violations were not isolated incidents. Some of the children described witnessing the rape of other child victims (who were not interviewed); others indicated that it was known that they could approach certain Sangaris soldiers for food, but would be compelled to submit to sexual abuse in exchange. In several cases, soldiers reportedly coordinated with each other in bringing a child onto the base where civilians were not authorized to be, or by calling out to children and instructing them to approach, indicating that the perpetrators did not fear being caught.
“The manner in which United Nations agencies responded to the allegations was seriously flawed.” The children received no medical attention or counseling; the UNICEF official in charge handed the matter over to a local NGO, which did nothing more than fill out some forms. Neither thought it necessary to look into other violations. The panel notes that information about the allegations “was passed from desk to desk, inbox to inbox, across multiple United Nations offices, with no one willing to take responsibility to address the serious human rights violations. Indeed, even when the Government of France became aware of the allegations and requested the cooperation of United Nations staff in its investigation, these requests were met with resistance and became bogged down in formalities.” Staff were “overly concerned with whether the allegations had been improperly ‘leaked’ to the French authorities, and focused on protocols rather than action. The welfare of the victims and the accountability of the perpetrators appeared to be an afterthought, if considered at all.
The head of MINUSCA “failed to take any action to follow up on the allegations; he neither asked the Sangaris forces to institute measures to end the abuses nor directed that the children be removed to safe housing. He also failed to direct his staff to report the allegations at a higher level within the United Nations. The panel observes that those failures were a total abdication of his responsibility to uphold human rights in the implementation of the MINUSCA mandate.
Similarly, the actions of the head of the Human Rights and Justice Section of MINUSCA showed “an outright disregard for his obligations.” He “appears to have been preoccupied by the political sensitivity of the allegations. Indeed, he encouraged the Special Representative for the Central African Republic to keep the allegations quiet, rather than taking steps to ensure that the French authorities would halt any ongoing abuse.” His actions were “directly contrary to his duty to protect civilians and to report, investigate and follow up on the violations.”
Overall, the response of the United Nations in Bangui was fragmented and bureaucratic, and failed to satisfy MINUSCA’s core mandate to address human rights violations.”
In New York and Geneva
The responses were no better at UN headquarters in New York and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
At the end of June 2014, the Human Rights Officer in Bangui who had interviewed the victims e-mailed a compilation of her notes to OHCHR in Geneva. The notes were passed on to the Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner. Shortly thereafter, the Director advised the Permanent Mission of France about the allegations and provided it with an unedited copy of the notes. Seven months later, he was accused of improperly leaking confidential information. At the request of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Deputy High Commissioner met with the Director and asked him to resign, which he declined to do.
“In March and April 2015, high-level meetings were held at the request of the High Commissioner and facilitated by the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General. The participants in the meetings included the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, the Director of the Ethics Office and the Under-Secretary-General for Human Resources Management. Subsequent to these meetings, the High Commissioner requested that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) open an investigation into the Director.”
“In the Panel’s view, the High Commissioner demonstrated a single-minded determination to pursue an investigation into the Director’s conduct. This was based on a preconception that the Director must have been motivated by some undisclosed personal interest when sharing the information with the French authorities. Further, in convening the two high-level meetings to discuss the Director’s conduct in March and April 2015, the High Commissioner undoubtedly put other senior officials in a difficult position where their independence and the independence of their offices were at risk of being compromised.” The Panel does not accuse the High Commissioner with abuse of authority, noting that however questionable his actions, the officials whom he requested to take action were all of comparable rank able to act independently.
“Similarly, the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General should have known that convening high-level officials to discuss the conduct of the Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division would prompt speculation that a conspiracy was afoot.” She should also have known that inviting the OIOS Under-Secretary-General to the meeting would compromise her position and that participation of the Director of the Ethics Office in the meeting would create a conflict of interest. While the Chef de Cabinet’s conduct was ill considered,” the Panel says, it “does not rise to the level of “abuse of authority.”
The participation of the Director of the Ethics Office, who administers the UN whistle-blower protection program, and the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services in the high-level meetings “raise greater concern.” While the purpose of the first meeting — to discuss the conduct of the Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division — may not have been clear at the outset, it must have become clear as soon as it was raised. At that point, it was incumbent on both those officials to recuse themselves from the meetings. Because the Director was not responsible for making any decisions in this case the Panel does not consider that she abused her authority.
“The Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, however, not only attended the high-level meetings convened by the High Commissioner, but also initiated an investigation into the Director’s conduct subsequent to those meetings. In particular, the Panel finds that the decision of the Under-Secretary-General to bypass the established protocols of her Office and to initiate an investigation into the Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division on her own is cause for considerable concern. In assessing whether or not to advance the High Commissioner’s complaint to a final investigation, the Under-Secretary-General failed to undertake an independent process and did not ask obvious and important questions which should have caused her to consider whether an investigation was appropriate. Ultimately, the Panel concludes that the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services failed to preserve the appearance of objectivity and independence required to maintain the credibility of her Office and the investigation process. She failed to meet her duty to conduct a careful and methodical examination of the circumstances before initiating an investigation. The negative consequences for the Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division are obvious.”
In New York, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict failed to follow up with UNICEF to obtain details on the allegations, or with the French authorities to learn the outcome of their investigations and to assess whether they had taken appropriate measures to prevent further abuses. Despite the fact that the sexual abuse of children in the context of armed conflict falls at the core of her mandate, she took no steps to find out what was being done by the United Nations to address the allegations until the spring of 2015, when the allegations were being reported by international media.
The panel suggests meaningful organizational change to implement a zero-tolerance policy. It says the United Nations as a whole — including troop-contributing countries — must recognize that sexual abuse perpetrated by peacekeepers is not a mere disciplinary matter, but a violation of the victims’ fundamental human rights and, in many cases, a violation of international humanitarian and criminal law. It says that whether or not the peacekeepers are under direct United Nations command, the welfare and protection of victims must be the priority concern. “In particular, the United Nations must recognize that sexual violence by peacekeepers triggers its human rights mandate to protect victims, investigate, report and follow up on human rights violations, and take measures to hold perpetrators accountable. In the absence of concrete action to address wrongdoing by the very persons sent to protect vulnerable populations, the credibility of the United Nations and the future of peacekeeping operations are in jeopardy.”
10 September 2016: The UN Security Council has agreed on a draft resolution to authorize the UN mission that will oversee implementation of the "Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Long Lasting Peace" in Colombia."
The agreement was concluded on 24 August between the country's government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). It will end a conflict of over 50 years that has been consistently reported as ideological but in reality was fueled by drug trafficking. Decades of military effort to defeat the insurgency were futile but less than a year after the United States levied a massive punitive fine on the giant HSBC bank for its money laundering activities, FARC-EP sued for peace.
The UN mission will deploy 450 unarmed observers and a civilian component to 40 widely dispersed locations. (Colombia is about a third of the size of India, with a population around 48 million.)
The Council will approve the Secretary-General's recommendation that UN observers be grouped in a national headquarters, eight regional centers, 23 transitional local zones for normalization (TLZNs) and eight transitional local points for normalization (TLPNs).
17 August 2016: The United Nations has admitted through a spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the Organization is responsible for the cholera epidemic that has killed over 9000 people in Haiti and sickened hundreds of thousands since 2010. Reversing an incomprehensible and widely condemned policy, the spokesman said in an email to The New York Times that the United Nations was studying how it could redress the current situation. Since 2010, the water borne disease has spread to the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
The worst cholera epidemic in recent history was brought to Haiti by a contingent of peacekeepers participating in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH in the French). It spread along the Artibonite River from a tributary into which untreated fecal waste was released from the MINUSTAH camp. After initially accepting responsibility, the UN reversed itself when the spreading epidemic led to riots.
The current reversion to the earlier stance seems to have occurred as the result of a strongly worded paper sent to Mr. Ban by Philip Alston, a Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council.
Security Council Adds 4000 Troops to UNMISS Despite South Sudan Govt Objections
12 August 2016: Following intensified fighting in the South Sudan civil war, the UN Security Council decided to override objections from the country's government and add 4000 troops to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). That will raise the troop strength of UNMISS to 17000.
Peacekeeping Sex Abuse Whistleblower Quits
June 2016: Anders Kompass, the Swedish UNHCR official who blew the whistle on the sexual abuse of children by UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic has decided to call it quits. His resignation comes after he won exoneration from attempts to smear him by senior UN officials.
“The complete impunity for those who have been found to have, in various degrees, abused their authority, together with the unwillingness of the hierarchy to express any regrets for the way they acted towards me sadly confirms that lack of accountability is entrenched in the United Nations,” Kompass told Obie Anyadike of IRIN, the independent non-profit agency that was formerly the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks. “This makes it impossible for me to continue working there.” (See full IRIN story here.)
Kompass acted after a report detailing the 2014 abuses of women and children as young as eight was received in Geneva and was effectively buried. The report said that UN troops had traded food for sex and contained documented proof of a number of soldiers sodomizing boys. UN top brass responded by suspending Kompass – he was escorted out of his office by Security Officers – and launching an investigation by the Organization’s Office for Internal Oversight Services.
Under pressure from governments outraged by that progression, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also appointed a 3-member independent panel to look into the matter. Both investigations exonerated Kompass, with the independent Panel further finding that UN managers had abused their authority and criticizing the Organization for “gross institutional failure”
In February, the Secretary-General submitted a review of sexual abuse cases by peacekeepers and other mission personnel to the UN General Assembly (see below). Inexplicably, the nationality of the troops Kompass had revealed does not feature in the report.
SG Reports on Sex Abuse by Peacekeepers
There were 99 allegations of sexual abuse against uniformed and civilian members of UN missions in 2015, up from 80 in 2014. Sixty-nine of them occurred in nine current and one closed peacekeeping missions; 15 involved staff members or United Nations Volunteers; 38 involved members of military contingents or United Nations military observers; and 16 involved United Nations police officers, members of formed police units and government-provided personnel.
There were 41 adult victims and 22 minors; in a number of cases the victims could not be identified. By 31 January 2016 17 investigations had been completed; 7 allegations were substantiated and 10 found to be groundless.
Of the total number of allegations 38 (55 per cent) involved the most egregious forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, with 23 allegations of sexual activities with minors (33 per cent) and 15 allegations of non‑consensual sex with persons aged 18 or older (22 per cent). Those allegations originated in eight peacekeeping missions: MINUSCA (15 of 22), MONUSCO (10 of 16), UNMIL and UNOCI (each 4 of 6), UNAMID (2 of 2), the single allegation for UNFICYP, MINUSMA (1 of 5) and MINUSTAH (1 of 9). All allegations referring to sexual activities with minors are classified as sexual abuse.
Paternity claims were associated with 15 allegations, 9 of which were of sexual exploitation and originated in MINUSTAH (6), MONUSCO (2) and MINUSMA (1), whereas 6 paternity claims involved reported instances of sexual abuse and originated in MONUSCO (4) and MINUSCA (2).
In reporting all this to the General Assembly in February 2016, the Secretary-General noted that the increase in the number of incidents in 2015 was "deeply worrisome." He identified "two sets of factors" that were considered particularly responsible. The first were "associated with the situation in the Central African Republic, with the high level of sexual violence associated with the conflict, extreme poverty, the displacement of vulnerable populations and women and girls being forced into prostitution." The second set of factors were associated with "the re-hatting of troops" (i.e. when regional forces deployed prior to UN involvement were made part of the new mission by donning blue helmets). Such troops often lack training prior to deployment and in the most problematic cases involved undisciplined individuals who had been in the area too long under strenuous conditions. They were also in camps not properly separated from the local population.
Has Peacekeeping Lost its Rationale?
December 2015: Despite growing evidence that UN “Peacekeeping” seems to have lost its way and perhaps even its rationale, the United Nations now spends significantly more on “peacekeeping” than it does on regular budget activities. In theory, the $8.5 billion budgeted for peacekeepers (some 128,000 at last count) is meant to finance the transition out of regional conflicts but in reality most UN missions now are policing long-standing political stalemates or trying to survive amidst vicious guerrilla wars.
The “Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali” and the “African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur” do little more than defend themselves against everything from snipers and improvised explosive devices to armed groups and criminal organizations. Meanwhile, peacekeepers in several UN missions drew global attention in 2015 by several score incidents of sexual abuse, with a number of children among the victims.
In an overview report to the General Assembly (A/70/749) the Secretary-General says that the operating environment for peacekeeping operations has evolved significantly over time and is now more insecure and complex. He estimates that at the end of 2015 approximately 43 per cent of the peacekeeping operating environment was classified as substantially, highly or extremely dangerous, up from 25 per cent in 2011.
Targeted and asymmetric attacks were persistent, with 28 per cent of 121 fatalities in 2015 resulting from malicious acts, a figure that is now much higher than it was at the beginning of the decade. The report also indicates that missions are now more remote, with the majority of personnel being supported in landlocked or hard –to-reach areas, and the supply lines for most large missions exceeding 1,500 km between a port and mission headquarters.
Contemporary missions are also now in existence for longer periods of time, with the median duration of missions established after 2000 being approximately 5.5 years, compared with 3.4 years for missions fielded before 2000.
UNTSO UN Truce Supervision Organization established: 1948; the Security Council authorized this first UN operation without a termination date or asking the SG for reports.
UNMOGIP UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. Est. 1949; the Security Council did not think to set a termination date or ask for periodic reports
UNFICYP UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. Est. 1964.
UNDOF UN Disengagement Observer Force. Est. 1974.
UNIFIL UN Interim Force in Lebanon. Est. 1978.
MINURSO UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara est. 1991
UNMIK UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. Est 1999
UNMIL UN Mission in Liberia. Est. 2003.
MINUSTAH UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Est. 2004 SG report March 2017*
UNOCI UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire established: 2004. SG: Final report
UNAMID African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur established: 2007
MONUSCO UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Dem. Republic of the Congo. Est. 2010.
UNMISS UN Mission in South Sudan. Est. 2011.
UNISFA UN Interim Security Force for Abyei. Est. 2011.
MINUSMA UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali established: 2013.
MINUSCA United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic established: 2014. SG "strategic review: in 2016
* MINUSTAH was wound up in September 2017
1. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus
2. Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region
3. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar
4. Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide
5. Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sudan and South Sudan
6. Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria
7. Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara
8. Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen
9. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for implementing Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) 10. United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions
11. Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Conflict Prevention, including in
Burundi Sanctions panels and monitoring groups
12. Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group
13. Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
14. Panel of Experts on the Sudan
15. Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
16. Panel of Experts on Libya
17. Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic
18. Panel of Experts on Yemen
19. Panel of Experts on South Sudan
20. Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team on ISIL (Da’esh),
Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities
21. Implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015)
22. Support for the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) 23. Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate
Security Council Permanent Members
% of budget 2015 2016 2017 2018 Reg. budget 2016-18
United States 28.3626 28.5738 28.4691 28.4344 22.000
China 6.6368 10.2879 10.2502 10.2377 7.921
France 7.2105 6.3109 6.2878 6.2801 4.859
United Kingdom 6.6768 5.7966 5.7753 5.7683 4.463
Russian Federation 3.1431 4.0107 3.9960 3.9912 3.088
Sub Total 52.0299 54.9798 54.7785 54.7116 42.331
Other Prominent States
Japan 10.8330 9.6800 9.6800 9.6800 9.680
Germany 7.1410 6.3890 6.3890 6.3890 6.389
Canada 2.9840 2.9210 2.9210 2.9210 2.921
Australia 2.0740 2.3370 2.3370 2.3370 2.337
Republic of Korea 1.9940 2.0390 2.0390 2.0390 2.039
Brazil 0.5868 0.7646 0.7646 0.7646 3.823
Mexico 0.3684 0.2870 0.2870 0.2870 1.435
Poland 0.2763 0.2523 0.2523 0.2523 0.841
Turkey 0.2656 0.2036 0.2036 0.2036 1.018
India 0.1332 0.1474 0.1474 0.1474 0.737
Source: A/70/331/Add 1 Report of the Secretary-General 28 December 2015
Advisory Committee Raps SG's Knuckles
The famously unforgiving Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) has pointed to the Secretariat's continuing lack of attention to "persistent managerial and structural issues" in peacekeeping operations. in a report (A/70/803) released just in time for the General Assembly debate on peacekeeping (10-11 May) the Committee notes that the Board of Auditors has refused to accept the Secretariat's contention that 33 of its 63 recommendations in 2013/2014 have been implemented; it has repeated 15 of the recommendations in its 2015 report.
The Committee "recalls its concern that the efforts made to redress the persistent managerial and structural issues previously identified by the Board of Auditors continued to fall well below what is deemed necessary and that little progress appeared to have been made towards the achievement of effective governance, management and operational arrangements". If the 15 unimplemented recommendations were to be excluded from the total of 33 recommendations, "the rate of implementation would fall to 28 per cent, which, in its view, is not satisfactory."
It adds that the General Assembly in resolution 69/249 B asked the Secretary-General to ensure full, prompt and timely implementation of the Audit Board's recommendations addressing "persistent weaknesses ... including budget formulation, non‑expendable property, procurement and contracting, and air operations." There are "systemic problems in the management of peacekeeping operations" that have remained unresolved over several financial periods. The Committee stresses the "need to reinforce internal control measures, to enhance monitoring mechanisms and to ensure stricter compliance with established rules and procedures."
It is particularly annoyed with budgetary "redeployments between different classes of expenditure, totaling $291.36 million during 2014/15," a level not much changed from that in 2013/14. Another annoyance is "that items valued at $4.57 million could not be found during physical verification in three missions (MINUSCA, MINUSMA and UNAMID)." That is up from $3.17 million of items "not found" in 2013/14.
If it is any consolation to the current members of the ACABQ, these slippages are a considerable improvement over the situation in the 1990s when one peacekeeping force supposedly ordered 800 Toyota Land Cruisers "by mistake."