UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) marked the completion of UNIPSIL with ceremonies in Sierra Leone. He met with President Ernest Bai Koroma, right. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)
The closing of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) on March 31, 2014 was a celebrated milestone in the UN’s work in the small West African country. The UN took over from the Economic Community of West African States in 1999 as a result of the Lome Peace Agreement, and helped end a long civil war; 15 years later, the UN reports that Sierra Leone has shown remarkable achievements in the strengthening of institutions and in safeguarding stability and promoting democracy.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used Sierra Leone as an example of one of the most successful post-conflict recovery, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding processes in recent years. UNIPSIL showed that steady engagement, assistance in the development of capacities, and engagement with local and national leadership can effectively support peacebuilding in a country. Thus, the withdrawal of the mission is an important indicator that the process is increasingly less in the hands of external actors and more in the hands of Sierra Leone nationals. And for that, there is still a lot of work to be done, as Sierra Leonean actors themselves recognize.
In a previous paper, Cedric de Coning, Leslie Connolly, and I presented some ideas on how external actors can support and contribute to resilience in peacebuilding processes. In that paper, we argued that the peacebuilding environment can be supported by stimulating the development of institutions that are sufficiently resilient, in a process that should be inherently led by national actors. And in this context, we stated that it is important to recognize that peacebuilding is often an irregular process; thus, external actors should identify ways in which to deal with the complexities of its non-linear nature.
A UN police training officer demonstrates how to subdue a criminal suspect using non-violent methods during a training session with Liberian National Police recruits, Unification Town, Liberia. (UN Photo/Staton Winter)
Sectarian violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has left at least 2,000 dead and over 700,000 displaced since December last year. The United Nations is now preparing to deploy a major peacekeeping mission to CAR, in which the UN police will play a critical role in deterring further attacks on civilians, restoring order, and rebuilding local police and gendarmerie as part of the effort to re-establish the wider rule of law. How United Nations police will stabilize and help to rebuild CAR and other conflict-torn countries such as Mali and South Sudan will be the subject of a major international meeting in Oslo this week, March 19-21.
Convened by the Police Division in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, police and government representatives from over 50 UN member states as well as international and regional organizations will discuss how international police can contribute to developing police institutions in the conflict-torn countries where peacekeeping missions are deployed. The meeting will aim to further flesh out specific areas outlined in the first comprehensive Policy on UN Police in Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions, which formally took effect on February 1, 2014, after more than 5 years in development.
Although peacekeeping operations are still widely perceived as military affairs, the reality is that over time they have become progressively more complex and ambitious. The role of police in peace operations has concurrently undergone a quiet but highly significant shift. Today, international police are essential for stabilization and, along with civilian experts, critical for peacebuilding and statebuilding in conflict-affected states hosting a peacekeeping mission.
The role of women and girls was not prominent enough in the UN Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, said Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, and any post-2015 development agenda should have both a stand-alone goal for women and girls and specific roles for them in the broader agenda.
“In all other goals, whatever they are, it should be clear that there can be a specific role or a specific issue for women and girls,” Ms. Ploumen said in this interview. These are top priorities for the Netherlands in the post-2015 framework, she added.
Ms. Ploumen said, “one of the main strategies that we should now look into is to make sure that not only the voices of those women are heard in the meeting rooms of the UN, but they themselves can be represented.”
As an example, she said, “The most powerful thing to move things forward is to have a girl herself talk about what happened to her when she was forced into an early marriage. So, I think we should work with civil society and the UN to make even more room for the voices of women and girls themselves.”
Ms. Ploumen also discussed how the Netherlands supports women in peace processes. “In South Sudan, we're working through the FLOW [Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women] funds—but also through NGOs like Cordaid—to encourage young women to take up leadership positions in their communities, to organize themselves. ”
“I think women can be a force for good. They are a force for change, but they also need our support to make that happen, and I'm very proud that we are able to do so,” she said.
“I admire the courage of all those women and girls that are there to stand up in their own community, give a voice to their sisters, their neighbors, their nieces, their daughters. We should be there with them.”
The interview was conducted by Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Policy Analyst at the International Peace Institute.
Andrea Ó Súilleabháin: At the start of the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands. On March 11th, Minister Ploumen joined me to discuss the Netherlands’ priorities on development, its relation to peace and security, and ensuring sustainable development for women and girls.
The 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), happening at the UN this week, focuses on the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. Looking ahead, what are the Netherlands’ priorities for the post-2015 framework, and ensuring it reaches women, especially those in conflict-affected states?
Lilianne Ploumen: We have a few priorities that we would like to see on the agenda. To start with, we advocate for a stand-alone goal on women. I think many people would agree that the Millennium Development Goals were a wonderful tool if you wish to bring about lots of political and public support to development. But many of those people would also agree that the role of women and girls has not been too prominent in many of those goals. So a stand-alone goal in what will come after the Millennium Development Goals I think would be a key priority for us.
The second would be that in all other goals, whatever they are, it should be clear that there can be a specific role or a specific issue for women and girls. We are also advocating for a separate goal on peace and security—or peace and stability, if you wish—because we feel that without development there can't be peace and without peace there cannot be development.
A child held by her mother at a gathering to celebrate International Women's Day in El Fasher, North Darfur, Sudan, March 8, 2010. (UNAMID/Albert Gonzalez Farran)
2015 will bring the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of which focused specifically on promoting gender parity: Goal 3. This week, delegates from the around the world are gathering at UN Headquarters to discuss the challenges and opportunities all eight goals have provided for women and girls—and how they could be addressed post-2015. That is the focus of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), running from March 10th to 21st.
Last week, I spoke with Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, about what she thinks the priorities and obstacles are when it comes to empowering women and girls and achieving gender parity. What follows is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.
Ms. Puri, as the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women gets started, what do you see as the gaps and achievements in implementing the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls?
This is really the opportunity for the international community to identify how the MDGs worked or did not work for women and girls on the ground; what was in the MDGs for women and girls, even in terms of the targets and indicators; and therefore, what lessons do we take from that.
If you take the key messages from this inquiry, one is that it pays to have a separate goal on gender equality and women's empowerment, because it focuses your attention—you prioritize it. At the same time, the lesson is that what is in that goal is unfinished business. There is good progress, but there is also mixed progress.
Illiteracy is still much higher amongst girls than amongst boys. Secondary and tertiary education is still a challenge for girls. Similarly, there is only 20 percent representation of women in parliaments if you take the global average, and only in 30 countries have they exceeded 33 percent. So, it's unfinished business, even if you look at the limited number of targets and indicators that you had in MDG 3 and in other goals.
So, what does that mean? It means that we must take MDG 3 forward but in a more structurally transformative way, and we must also address the root causes of inequality and structural barriers to equality and discrimination. And that's why we are now looking to use this CSW 58 as a platform for really getting a consensus on what that next generation of gender equality, women's empowerment, and women's rights goal should be.
Protestors demand an end to lawlessness in Tripoli, Libya, December 2011. (UN Photo/Iason Foounten)
The international community’s failure to respond in a timely and decisive fashion to the crisis in Syria has been widely described as a failure of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). It is not hard to see why: the UN Security Council has fallen well short of adopting “timely and decisive” measures as approximately 120,000 people have been killed and close to nine million displaced. Syria thus stands as a test for RtoP that most commentators believe it has failed.
One of the principal explanations for this apparent failure is the political fallout from the NATO-led intervention in Libya.
The Security Council’s failure to adopt a timely and decisive response to the situation in Syria is often attributed to the political backlash from NATO’s controversial intervention in Libya.
Voting patterns and statements offered in the Council’s Syria debates as well as the Council’s wider practice since 2011 provide little evidence of a direct link between the two cases.
The Council’s failure on Syria more likely stems from complexities and geopolitics associated with the Syrian case itself.
According to Gareth Evans, one of RtoP’s progenitors, “Consensus [about RtoP] has simply evaporated in a welter of recrimination about how the NATO-led implementation of the Council’s Libya mandate…was actually carried out. We have to frankly recognize that there has been some infection of the whole RtoP concept by the perception, accurate or otherwise, that the civilian protection mandate granted by the Council was manifestly exceeded by that military operation.”
Has the “infection” of RtoP stymied the chances of consensus on Syria? Would the Security Council’s response to Syria have been different without Libya and RtoP? Despite the ubiquity of the association between Libya and Syria in public commentary, evidence of a clear link between the two cases is surprisingly thin.
First, Russian and Chinese explanations of their own (shifting) positions on Syria have not been consistent in emphasizing the legacy of Libya. In fact, China has yet to raise Libya in its formal comments on Syria addressed to the Security Council. The place of Libya in Russian thinking on Syria has been inconsistent at best. In explaining its first veto on a draft Syria resolution, in October 2011, Russia railed against NATO’s actions in Libya but added a series of other, pragmatic arguments to support its case. Five months later, Russia vetoed a second resolution on Syria but made no reference to Libya in explaining its position. Then, as the previously endorsed Annan-plan unraveled later in 2012, Russia cast a third veto and ramped up the rhetoric on Libya to new heights.
A UN police officer (right) on a monitoring visit to a police station, Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan. (credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret)
Stronger and more comprehensive mandates from the Security Council have helped to move human rights into a central position in peacekeeping operations, according to Richard Bennett, former chief of human rights in UN missions in South Sudan and Afghanistan. In an interview with the Global Observatory, Mr. Bennett said that while human rights work used to be the preserve of human rights officers, today “it's expected that everyone in a peacekeeping mission is doing human rights work.”
“It felt like a real battle to get human rights taken seriously at the level of senior management,” Mr. Bennett said of his first mission in Sierra Leone in 2000. With an increase in resources, expertise, and integration in UN missions, “human rights is now in our DNA,” he said.
As such, human rights officers serve as the “eyes and ears of the mission,” according to Mr. Bennett, making monitoring and reporting the bread and butter of human rights work. “Human rights officers should not be sitting behind their desks most of the time. They need to be out getting reliable information,” he said.
For example, when more than 1,000 civilians were killed in fighting in Jonglei State in South Sudan in December 2011 and January 2012, Mr. Bennett was able to put together a team to conduct an investigation on the ground and publish a report, he said.
However, for their work to be effective, “it's critical that the reports that human rights officers produce are unimpeachable,” Mr. Bennett said. Any questions or discussions about these reports should not be “about the accuracy of the report, but about what to do about its conclusions.”
Ultimately, sensitivities can arise when human rights reports could affect the peacekeeping mission’s working relationship with the host government. “Many of us advocate that most human rights reports should be made public,” he said, but that can be uncomfortable because “they raise difficult issues for the government and sometimes for nongovernment entities in the countries concerned.”
He said the new dual reporting structure for human rights components in UN missions—reporting to both the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights—has helped overcome this challenge. The SRSG and the High Commissioner can play different, complementary roles in this regard, according to Mr. Bennett. Since the former “live[s] in the country and deal[s] on an ongoing basis with the senior authorities of that country,” and the latter visits on more temporary bases, there is now greater leeway when it comes to reporting on human rights. “The head of human rights components has the opportunity to manage this to the benefit of all,” he said.
The interview was conducted by Warren Hoge, Senior Adviser for External Relations.
Warren Hoge: I'm in the Global Observatory today with Richard Bennett, who has served with the United Nations in senior human rights posts from 2000 until April, 2013. In particular, he has headed the human rights components of peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. I say “in particular” because I want to ask Richard about human rights functions in peacekeeping missions at a time when they have grown in number and size to the point where human rights components are now central to delivering Security Council mandates.
Richard, you bring the kind of information that I, as a former journalist, most treasure, and that is information directly from the field. How has this growth I just cited changed things on the ground for you as a human rights official from when you began this in 2000 to when you just finished up doing it in 2013?
Richard Bennett: I think in three ways. Firstly, the mandates for human rights from the Security Council are stronger and more comprehensive, and the mandates themselves, as well as the people on the ground, have helped to move human rights into the central position in peacekeeping operations and, as someone has said, human rights is now in our DNA.
Second, with those mandates have come more resources. I'm certainly not going to say there are enough resources, but there are significantly more. For example, when I started in Sierra Leone, in one of the, I would say, most serious crises that peacekeeping has experienced, in March-April 2000, I think we had about eight human rights officers. In many missions now, including in the one that I recently left in South Sudan, there can be up to 100 posts; I think in some, even more than 100. So that's a growth.
Most reporting on the nuclear agreement with Iran has tended to generalize about the types of sanctions and the impact of the deal on these various measures, so it would be easy to assume that United Nations sanctions are being eased or lifted, but this is not the case. The deal primarily eases unilateral sanctions by the United States and the European Union against Iran, leading to what is estimated to be around $7 billion in sanctions relief.
UN sanctions against Iran—found in resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803 and 1929—will only be assessed at the six-month mark, with an eventual goal (the so-called “comprehensive solution”) of lifting them within a year. In the near term, the only commitment with regard to UN sanctions is that no new nuclear-related UN Security Council sanctions be imposed.
This raises an important issue: how should UN sanctions be approached in the meantime?
Under Article 25 of the UN Charter, member states remain obligated to give effect to Security Council measures. The new deal with Iran has not altered the obligation to implement sanctions. But on this front, work remains to be done. Gaps in the implementation of UN sanctions against Iran, which have been in place since 2006, are pervasive. Dual-use items, such as goods, software, and technology that may be used for both civilian and military purposes, have been a particular problem. Interpretation of resolution language and implementation of general terms in specific contexts have also led to implementation problems. Finally, because information on sanctions busters can involve classified information, states are very careful about what they share and with whom they share it.
Peacekeeping is far less costly than war—the 2012-13 United Nations peacekeeping budget was less than half of one percent of the world military expenditure in 2010. Already with 15 peace operations around the world, UN peacekeeping continues to be in high demand. Yet, as economies struggle to fully recover from the global financial crisis, countries that pay more of the peacekeeping budget have let the UN Secretariat know that it will have to “do more with less,” meaning the number of missions and tasks for peacekeepers will increase, but without a commensurate increase in resources.
Comparatively little research has been done on key questions of peacekeeping finances, such as, how is peacekeeping funded? Which countries foot the bill, and how does that affect peacekeeping policy? And importantly, in a time of great demand for UN peacekeeping, are the peacekeepers currently being forced to “do more with less?”
How is peacekeeping funded, and how does that affect peacekeeping policy?
The UN peacekeeping budget is estimated at $7.3 billion for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which is less than half of one percent of world military expenditure in 2010. As of June 30, 2012, the most expensive missions as a percentage of the total UN peacekeeping budget are UNAMID (22.9%), MONUSCO (20.1%), MINUSTAH (10.8%) and UNMISS (9.2%).
While troop contributions to UN peacekeeping missions are purely voluntary, all member states must pay assessed contributions. UN peacekeeping is financed by a scale of assessments reviewed every three years. The peacekeeping scale of assessments is based on a complicated formula that takes into account the relative economic wealth of member states and roles in the UN Security Council, among other things. Discounts are provided to developing states, the costs of which are then absorbed by a surcharge on the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5). The P5 are required to pay this premium because of their “special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.” The Security Council’s P5 are all among the top ten financial contributors.
States such as the US, Japan, and the UK are traditionally classified as “financial contributors” as they provide higher assessed contributions to the total UN peacekeeping budget (and not necessarily many troops). The assessment level for the United States, at 28.3626% in 2014, around US$2.1 billion, is the highest. States such as Nigeria, India, and Pakistan are often classified as “troop contributors,” providing larger troop and police contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, are assessed at a lower assessment rate (some major troop contributors are assessed the minimum rate of 0.0001%).
UN negotiations on peacekeeping increasingly divide along “troop contributor” and “financial contributor” lines, and the two groups have very little overlap – in 2013, not one top 15 financial contributor is also a top 15 troop-and-police contributor. This particular dynamic is said to have had a polarizing effect on peacekeeping policy negotiations, as these two groups may have different interests. China (19th largest troop-contributor country) and Brazil (20th) may be the member states with some claim to both categories, as they also pay the 6th and 26th highest assessment rates, respectively.
When women peacebuilders working in local communities wanted to bring in men to participate in gender-sensitive conflict resolution, no one listened at first, said Isabelle Geuskens, Executive Director of the Women Peacemakers Program. "We were not really listening, because we felt women's empowerment is about women!" But, she said, the women were concerned that "the men are dismissing [UN resolution] 1325 and gender as a women's issue."
"And men are still not understanding the gendered nature of violence and armed conflict," she said. "So, we started thinking about how can we get more men engaged. We started looking more deeply at the gendered nature of violence, and how masculinity plays a role in this. So, it’s really through the call from women that we started designing what could 'engaging men' mean. But also, what does a gender perspective on war and peace from a masculinities perspective look like?"
Ms. Geuskens said women peacebuilders are often able to avoid thinking in terms of win-or-lose. "They will go more easily into win-win," she said. "[They] don't see compromising as a failure," though she added that not all women bring in a new perspective.
But those who do, she said, "will not separate [peacebuilding] from everyday life issues. So, they will look at the economic factors. They will look at the political factors, of course. But also, do they have access to healthcare?"
However, Ms. Geuskens said good peacebuilding can cut across gender. "I have to say, people come with their hearts, their minds, their skills. They come with commitment. There are difficult conversations, but usually people are quite constructive, and I've seen empowerment happen on both sides... I think human beings tend to be quite alike, if we give them the chance to be."
About UN resolution 1325, which requires parties in a conflict to respect women's rights and to support their participation in peace negotiations and in post-conflict reconstruction, she said, "Implementation is very difficult, because I think we tend to look at change in a very instrumental way. We tend to want to make boxes that we can tick to add more women. But changing the cultures—I'm not just talking cultures in countries of conflict, but actually the cultures all over the world and in institutions that make decisions about war and peace. They haven't fundamentally changed."
"In the end, 1325 I feel is about more than adding women. It’s about the practice and working towards ending wars. And that is about asking critical questions about patriarchy and the way we are dealing with violent conflict."
The interview was conducted by Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Visiting Fellow at the International Peace Institute.
Andrea Ó Súilleabháin: I'm here today with Isabelle Geuskens, Executive Director of the Women Peacemakers Program in The Hague. Since 2002, the Women Peacemakers Program has provided non-violence training to 1300 people in over 24 countries, from Afghanistan to Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a focus on including women and men in their work toward gender-sensitive peacebuilding.
In addition to this work with peacebuilders around the world, Isabelle is involved in monitoring developments around the Security Council's women, peace and security resolutions and their global implementation.
Isabelle, you’ve said that women are among the first to cross the lines between divided communities. From your extensive work with women peacemakers, what do women add to peace processes in communities and on the national level?
Isabelle Geuskens: First of all, women bring a different perspective. Not always, because women can be patriarchal as well, but many women peace activists don't think necessarily in "win or lose." They will go more easily into win-win. [They] don't see compromising as a failure. I'm not saying here, now, that women are natural peacemakers, born like that, but I think there is something in women's socialization process that has contributed to these capacities in women. I think that could also be something for men, because it's obviously related to socialization.
What we've seen in our programs is that women have a much broader concept of what peace and security is. They will not separate it from everyday life issues. So, they will look at the economic factors, they will look at the political factors, of course. But also, do they have access to healthcare? They might even not distinguish so much between what's happening in a so-called peaceful country... they make the link between what happens to them in a peaceful country and conflict countries— so-called [peaceful], because women do experience domestic violence in peaceful countries. Women are afraid to walk the streets at night. So, I think women bring a whole different definition of what peace and security is.
“There's no one single model of democracy, but we can all agree on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, adding that the modalities of applying the universal declaration "can be country to country adjusted according to the cultural diversity, the traditions of those countries.”
According to Mr. de Zayas, it’s not the label of democracy that is important. “What is crucial is this correlation between the will of the people, the needs of the people, and the governmental policies that affect them.”
He said he has a particular interest in the Switzerland model of direct democracy, “But since democracy is a concept that is new and in certain countries there's no tradition of democracy, you cannot impose it top down…you have to be patient; you cannot force it.”
“I think that all the African countries are making considerable progress toward democracy. It should not come from the West. I really object to the arrogance of some who think that we can export democracy. It must be homegrown so that you own it, so that you feel ‘this is us.’”
Mr. de Zayas believes democracy can help people hold governments accountable for how their national resources are spent. "One of the problems in many countries, unfortunately, is that national resources are being squandered, are being wasted in the military. Most African countries really do not need a large military. They certainly do not need state-of-the-art planes or state-of-the-art tanks and more weapons. It is really a crime to spend tax money instead of putting it into education, putting it into healthcare, to put this money into weapons. That fuels not only wars—that's evident—but it also fuels corruption...When government squanders money, and it does not use it for what the people want and what the people need, then these authorities should be made to account, and there should be no impunity."
Mr. de Zayas believes that the direct democracy model could be applied at a global level. “I believe that a world parliamentary assembly, or if you want, a United Nations parliamentary assembly could be established,” which he said could be linked to the UN charter as a consultative party.
He questioned whether the General Assembly is able to speak for the people. “The General Assembly is made up of a 193 states' members and observer members,” he said. “But who sits in the assembly? It’s governments. It's ambassadors. And to what extent do these 193 ambassadors really represent their constituencies?”
“You know and I know that there is a huge disconnect between power and the people,” he said. He pointed out that many countries are democracies in name but are essentially lobby democracies, “and they cater to special interests, cater to corporations, cater to the oil industry, etc, and they don't really cater to citizen A or citizen B."
"You have the opportunity once every two years or every four years to put a little cross on the ballot box, but democracy is not just the ballot box,” he said.
The interview was conducted by Priscilla Nzabanita, research assistant in the Africa program at the International Peace Institute.
Priscilla Nzabanita: Today on the Global Observatory we are pleased to welcome Mr. Alfred de Zayas, who is independent expert for the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order. Thank you, Mr. de Zayas for agreeing to have this interview with us.
So, my first question for you is that your mandate calls for a broad analysis of obstacles to a democratic and equitable international order. Can you describe what this mandate specifically entails?
Alfred de Zayas: As you know, it's a new mandate. It was created last year, 2012. I am the first mandate holder, so I'm giving it shape. It is a convergence of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Imagine promoting an international order that is more democratic and more equitable that entails everything. It is the most universal mandate that has ever been created. And I'm supposed to identify obstacles. I have done so in my first two reports to the Human Rights Council, and my separate, different two reports to the General Assembly.
Obstacles, of course, are multiple, and [at] the core of democracy. As I said in the discussion today, there's no one single model of democracy, but we can all agree on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And the modalities of applying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be country to country adjusted according to the cultural diversity, the traditions of those countries.
As far as advancing with democratic order domestically, whether it be in Asia or in Latin America or in Africa, it's not the label that is important. What is crucial is this correlation between the will of the people, the needs of the people, and the governmental policies that affect them. That's why I have particular interest in the model of direct democracy, which is the kind of government in Switzerland, for instance, where the population has the right of initiative. With a certain number of signatures, you can initiate legislation. Or you can test legislation that is, or rather a bill, that is before Parliament or even a piece of legislation has been adopted, you can have a referendum to abrogate it. You also have recall and impeachment. These are guarantees that the people are sovereign.
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