Moroccan peacekeepers serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in Bangui. (UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina)

A high-level United Nations move to strengthen peacekeeping: what’s not to love? Secretary-General António Guterres’ Action for Peacekeeping initiative (A4P) draws on a plethora of existing reviews and recommendations and is intended to yield a declaration of shared government commitments to UN peacekeeping operations at the UN General Assembly in September. The A4P process doesn’t introduce fresh proposals, but Security Council members can make good use of it to review their expectations of existing UN peace operations, and to revamp the mandating process.

A pledge of stronger engagement to advance political solutions to conflict dominates the draft Declaration of Shared Commitments (“the Declaration”). Under the Declaration, states will pursue complementary political objectives and integrated strategies, including at national and regional levels. A Security Council Presidential Statement in May noted that political solutions should guide the design and deployment of UN peacekeeping operations, articulating a clear end state with a pathway to achieving sustainable peace. For this mantra of political solutions to become the driving force of UN peace operations, the Security Council and the secretary-general must expect the leadership of every peace operation to articulate a coherent political strategy, including its national and regional elements, partnerships, and assumptions.

Past practice suggests that some mission strategies have been overly-focused on security, influenced by third-party state preferences, drawn ahistorically from experiences in quite different settings, or barely articulated at all. At a recent think-tank discussion on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), one speaker acknowledged that “we could have given more attention to the political dimensions of the crisis.” This should be an ongoing activity, not a one-off as a mission starts up. Read more