Peace First at the Horseshoe Table

Germany brings diplomatic weight to the UN Security Council, to which it was elected on 8th June. The German government should use this advantage to support mediation and peace processes as priorities of its two-year membership. It should focus on three central instruments in this regard: refining sanctions, accountability of troop contributing countries, as well as the organization of more flexible visiting missions by Security Council diplomats.

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This text was first published on the PeaceLab Blog. It is also available in German.

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at UN Headquarters after Germany’s election to the UN Security Council for 2019/2020, 8 June 2018 (c) UN Photo.

Every eight years, Germany joins the playing field of major powers at the United Nations. Newly elected members to the UN Security Council like Germany have to prove themselves vis-à-vis the five permanent members every time anew. In the midst of political quarrels about the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the daily management of peace operations, the attention on the core purpose of the Council, to maintain international peace and security, gets lost all too easily. Germany should thus strive to strengthen peace processes and mediation efforts through the Security Council.

Germany is an unusually resourceful non-permanent member

Non-permanent members of the Security Council only have limited influence. The veto power of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the USA is not the only reason for that. Those countries also possess continuous experience in the negotiations, issues, and countries that shape the Council’s agenda. In this game of major powers, smaller members might at most be able to build bridges, improve working methods, or make small substantial suggestions.

As fourth largest financial contributor to the UN’s regular budget and, despite deficits, an important actor on the diplomatic floor, Germany needs to aim higher. In a number of countries on the Security Council’s agenda, German diplomats already play a substantial role. In those cases, the German government should use its membership in the Council as an additional diplomatic forum, whose approaches and instruments have their own benefits. Together with its European partners Germany can, for example, promote the maintenance of the nuclear agreement with Iran, demand humanitarian access and accountability for war crimes in Syria, prepare a peace operation in Ukraine, support the negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and shape the reconstruction of liberated areas in Iraq. Germany already has a leading position in all these contexts due to its existing channels and contacts – this should be reflected in the Security Council.

Peace operations need to be guided by a political strategy

Reaching consensus among its members on the overarching political objectives that should guide its crisis management is probably the biggest challenge for the Security Council. The High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) already demanded in its seminal 2015 report that peace operations should always follow a political strategy. Otherwise they run the risk of being driven by military considerations, and of falling prey to the diverging interests of the conflict parties. In fragile contexts such as Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo or South Sudan, there are incessant threats to the civilian population that can justify international protection measures, as the former UN staff member Ralph Mamiya observes. Yet without a political process, there can be no structuring priorities that could guide the strategic deployment of scarce resources and a foreseeable withdrawal of international troops.

Naturally, there are manifest reasons for the lack of political strategies in the UN Security Council. For one thing, these are genuinely difficult questions without obvious and easy solutions. Moreover, the work of the Council relies on hard-fought compromises, which result in frequently vague or complicated language. Furthermore, in some situations, such as in South Sudan, there is no functioning peace agreement that could guide the actions of a peace operation.

Germany should encourage strategic thinking in the Security Council

Germany cannot remove these structural deficits in two years. Neither does it have the diplomatic capacities to work out a strategy for each situation on the Security Council’s agenda . The German government thus needs to set clear priorities. German diplomats can encourage the Security Council to think more strategically. The more interactive and informal the discussions before the proper negotiations are, the more fruitful the latter  are in many cases.

The German government could take its cue from Sweden, which, together with Peru, organized a retreat for all ambassadors in the Security Council this year. The Permanent Mission in New York can also organize events at the sidelines of official meetings and informal briefings in line with the Arria formula. This would bring the perspectives of civil society organizations of affected countries as well as experts on current mediation and negotiation processes to Manhattan. Lastly, Germany could organize a thematic debate on the contribution of the whole UN system to peace processes during one of its two monthly presidencies of the Security Council. This debate should address the limitations of the Security Council head on and tackle its cooperation with other UN entities such as special envoys, special rapporteurs, and the UN Development Program.

Using clear listing criteria for targeted sanctions

The improvement of the Council’s working atmosphere and quality of discussion aside, Germany should focus its “peace first” attention on three core instruments of the Security Council: refining targeted sanctions, the accountability of troop contributing countries, as well as the organization of more flexible visiting missions by Security Council diplomats.

The Security Council maintains 14 sanctions regimes, some of which explicitly aim to support peace and transition processes, for example in South Sudan, Mali, or Libya. Theoretically, such sanctions should not primarily punish individuals, but incentivize them to participate in peace processes in a constructive manner through travel bans and asset freezes. In reality, the restraints of those sanctions are often too slow and too backwards-oriented to actually influence mediation efforts substantially. Germany has contributed to the reform of UN sanctions since the late 1990s. As a member of the sanctions committees (and chair of some of them), it should promote the implementation of clear listing and delisting criteria in every single case.

Vetting troop contributing countries

Hardly anything is as damaging to the reputation of UN peace operations as incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), as well as a lack of readiness to act decisively to protect civilians  at risk in their vicinity. Secretary-General António Guterres has already introduced important reforms in this area. Yet, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, when asked about his plans to tackle the issue in the Security Council at a recent event in New York , could only think of the inclusion of more women in troop contingents. However, a more stringent and systematic vetting of all troop contingents regarding their previous human rights records in domestic settings, would be more important in this context. The deployment of 49 non-vetted Sri Lankan soldiers in Lebanon this year demonstrated that the current UN procedures are not sufficient.

Using its increased credibility as troop contributor in Mali, Germany should promote stronger accountability of all troop contributing countries. Based on an existing Security Council resolution, the UN secretary-general should ban states that do not sufficiently investigate allegations of sexual exploitations and abuse against their soldiers from future missions until they improve their procedures. Similarly, performance assessments of troop contingents, such as the ones requested by the Security Council for the UN Mission in South Sudan after a special review, should also be conducted for  all other missions.

Make visiting missions more flexible and geared towards crisis management

German diplomats like to point out that they would prioritize conflict prevention in the Security Council. Rarely do they go into the details of the Council’s added value in political crises – and where it might be counterproductive. One important instrument for early crisis management are visiting missions of Security Council diplomats. Under the leadership of up to three members, representatives of all 15 member states fly to a region to talk to the relevant actors on the ground.

Germany should prepare and lead such a mission if the opportunity presents itself. Potential destinations could be Sudan or South Sudan, where Germany has supported dialogue and mediation processes. At the same time, Germany should strive for more flexible mission formats, which could deploy a small delegation of the Security Council and key UN officials more quickly.

Stand up for peace and prevention

A stronger focus on the promotion of peace and transition processes in the Security Council will meet resistance. China, Russia, and a number of member states from the Global South are quick to refer to state sovereignty in the context of international mediation efforts in authoritarian states. The Trump administration in the United States undermines diplomatic processes on Iran and Syria and moves to cut the budget of UN peace operations even in places where violence and conflict are on the rise as in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As former colonial powers, the UK and France hold back on Cameroon, while the conflict about the Anglophone areas is escalating.

With its ambition to promote peace and conflict prevention, Germany must not shy away from conflicts in the Security Council. At the same time, it should rely on stable partnerships and frequent exchange with its European partners as well as countries like South Africa. The latter will also be a member of the Security Council from 2019 and started pursueing more multilateral solutions under President Cyril Ramophosa.

At the end of its membership in the Council, the German government should order an independent evaluation of its diplomacy around the horseshoe table. The objective: learning lessons for its next candidacy to join the playing field of major powers.

Protecting civilians as a common endeavour: DGVN expert workshop in Braunschweig

https://www.flickr.com/photos/monusco/20867077294/in/album-72157656405149364/
(c) MONUSCO/ UN Photo

I wrote this piece as a summary of our expert workshop and network meeting on “Protection of individuals from harm as a system-wide challenge for the United Nations” that took place in Braunschweig in July 2016. It first appeared on the Junge UN-Forschung Blog.

Securing access to besieged areas of Aleppo, increasing patrols around UN House in Juba, or ending refugee maltreatment in Australian detention centres in Nauru: the protection of civilians from immediate harm is one of the core tasks of the United Nations system. There are few issues for which UN actors are so frequently in the news. Senior UN officials routinely criticize state authorities and non-state actors responsible for violence against civilians. Too often, the UN are in the spotlight themselves because they failed to live up to the expectations and responsibilities related to the protection of civilians, for example at the protection of civilians site in Malakal, South Sudan in February this year.

Research on how to better protect civilians from harm is essential in order to enable the UN to fulfil their charter-based mandate: creating a safer, fairer and more prosperous world for all. In this vein, we organized an expert workshop and network meeting on the common theme „Protecting civilians as system-wide challenge for the United Nations“, which took place from 15 to 17 July at the Technische Universitaet Braunschweig, Germany. It brought together around 20 junior scholars from Germany, Europe, the United States, and Brazil in order to facilitate academic exchange and build a network of scholars around the topic. The workshop was designed to take into account perspectives from three major policy fields: humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights. It took place in the context of the German Association of the United Nations and its working group on young UN research.

At a public panel discussion, a dedicated break-out session and the presentation of our own preliminary research, we discussed the distinction between the three policy fields of humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights, as well as open questions and debates within those fields. As the workshop itself took place under Chatham House rules, we only quote from the public panel discussion, and provide a general sense of the discussion during the rest of the event.

Discussing the results of the breakout session
Discussing the results of the breakout session

Humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights perspectives

The official definition of protection approved by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) for humanitarian action is much too broad for practical purposes. A tiered, increasingly ambitious understanding of protection is more helpful in that regard: ensuring access to humanitarian aid is the most basic definition of humanitarian protection, followed by ensuring access to protection services. More contentious are the roles humanitarian agencies can play in putting a stop to on-going rights violations, or even in furthering international criminal justice through witness statements and the collection of evidence. For Médecins Sans Frontières, protection frequently equates to really taking the principle of doing no harm seriously, said the director of the agency’s German chapter, Florian Westphal, at the panel discussion. Providing aid to displaced persons must not help armed groups locate them. The public and private advocacy that humanitarian organisations like MSF engage in always needs to make sure that people are actually better protected, even when the agencies want to ensure that they are not being seen as complicit with violations because of their (public) silence, Westphal argued.

UN peacekeeping is a highly political undertaking, even if senior UN officials and member states don’t always recognize it as such, claimed Peter Schumann, former chief of staff of the UN Mission in Sudan and long-term UNDP staff member. As the UN peace operation in South Sudan showed, too often member states create over-ambitious mandates without sufficient resources and political backing to meet the high expectations that the mission will actually protect the population from immediate threats of violence. UN peacekeeping operates largely according to a short-term logic: creating physical security for civilians, responding to their immediate needs. This may sit uncomfortably with the long-term requirement to develop a political strategy, for which the military can create space and which helps the warring parties move to a peaceful way to settle their disputes. Moreover, rhetorical commitments to the effective protection of civilians and national policies of member states in the Security Council as well as of individual troop contributing countries may differ significantly. Germany’s recent evacuation of its police personnel that was supposed to protect women and children as part of the UN Mission in South Sudan was one example mentioned at the workshop.

Human rights agencies have the most long-term perspective of the three policy fields. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), for example stresses not only that states have a primary responsibility to protect their populations from harm (as do humanitarian and peacekeeping actors). The methods OHCHR lists in its most recent management plan aim to enable rights-holders exercise their rights and to build the capacities of duty-bearers to guarantee fundamental human rights. Someone is always bound by human rights, and someone else is always entitled, as the break out group on human rights protection put it. However, some actors put themselves deliberately outside the international legal system, such as the so-called Islamic State or North Korea. Protecting those who defend human rights on the ground is an important, concrete task for international actors such as peace brigades international, said Christiane Schultz, who founded the organisation’s German section. The Committee on enforced disappearances can issue urgent measures, for example, and conduct country visits to raise individual cases and instigate structural change.

Over the three-day workshop, it became clear that protecting populations from harm is a hugely ambitious and complex undertaking. In all policy fields, there are gaps between rhetorical commitments and implementing promises on the ground. There can be differences between individual mandate-holders, national peacekeeping contingents, missions, institutions, and policy fields.

The main impediment to better protection are not the differences about the meaning, methods and objectives of protection per se – they are the natural and inevitable consequence of varying mandates and contexts. Rather, it is the lack of mutual understanding that leads to gaps in the protection architecture. It also misses out on opportunities to jointly tackle common challenges and recognise each other’s complementarity, in full recognition of their distinct mandates. Thus, there is much to learn from each other. Academic and policy exchange on the theme of protecting civilians from harm needs to intensify (for example here).

Protecting Civilians Through UN Peace Operations

Co-authored with Philipp Rotmann at GPPi. It appeared in German in Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte on 7 March. This is the English translation.

Joint operation against ADF in Beni

Under the flag of the United Nations, more than 125,000 civilian experts, police officers and soldiers are currently deployed in 16 missions worldwide to give peacebuilding efforts a better chance of success. In most cases, these efforts take years. Even as politicians and military leaders negotiate, fighting and assaults against civilians continue. Given this context, the UN Security Council as well as the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic expect UN peacekeeping operations to do their best to reduce the suffering of civilians and to protect as many of them as possible. According to the mandates of the Security Council, these are in fact the most important objectives of the vast majority of UN peacekeeping missions. Prioritizing civilian protection until it sits at the core of peacekeeping operations is a painful learning process that remains far from complete.

Difficult Learning Process

Since the early 1990s, the tasks of UN peacekeeping missions have significantly expanded alongside the increasing international awareness of intrastate conflicts. These missions formerly comprised just hundreds of UN military observers wearing their iconic blue helmets – a familiar sight during the Cold War. Now they are complex, sprawling organizations with thousands of political experts, police officers and soldiers who cover a wide range of tasks: political analysis, institution building, the monitoring of ceasefires, the protection of human rights and the use of military force to protect civilians.

The double failure of the UN and national governments to adequately respond to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica plunged the peacekeeping system into a crisis of credibility. The UN overcame this crisis only at the end of the decade by, among other strategies, committing itself to the improvement of civilian protection in armed conflicts. From the outset, this constituted a balancing act between inactivity and excessive demands. Blue helmets are not supposed to be a global SWAT team that uses superior force to suppress violence against civilians; this is neither feasible nor politically desirable. At the same time, however, peacekeepers learned from the UN failures of the 1990s that they must not simply stand by as massacres that they could have prevented, even by military force, unfold before their eyes. In 1999 the UN Security Council authorized, for the first time, peacekeeping forces in Sierra Leone “to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence” within their “capabilities and areas of deployment.”

The following year, an expert commission led by Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi urged UN missions to hold fast to the goal of protecting civilians, despite the failures of past attempts. In fact, missions must be equipped adequately and the rules of engagement adapted accordingly to “allow ripostes sufficient to silence a source of deadly fire that is directed at United Nations troops or at the people they are charged to protect.”

The peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan in the 2000s barely lived up to the demands of the Brahimi report. While the Security Council and member states set high normative standards for themselves (including “the responsibility to protect”), the actual means deployed and the risk tolerance of troop-contributing countries fell substantially short of these self-imposed expectations. As a result of deficiencies in planning and management, commanders on the ground often lacked clear guidance about when the use of military force for protection purposes was justified. In the absence of guidance, most commanders ended up hiding behind maximum caution. For instance, the former UN mission commander in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indian general Bipin Rawat, stated in 2008, “We have very strict rules against collateral damage. If I kill one civilian, there is no one to hold my hand.”

Instead of dealing with these critical but politically sensitive issues, the UN secretariat’s further conceptual specification in subsequent years has confined itself to emphasizing a mission’s diverse civilian resources dedicated to civilian protection. According to this work, a mission’s responsibilities involve not only military patrols and the use of force against “imminent threats,” but also the demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, the training of capable security forces, demining and destruction of weapon stockpiles, the protection of children and the prevention of sexual violence. But the main questions concerning the benefits and limitations of military force remain unanswered.

Protection by Military Force

Peacekeeping missions like those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or in Sudan’s Darfur region are deployed amidst armed groups that operate in shifting alliances and terrorize the civilian population, frequently with support from government forces or neighboring states. In this context, the effective protection of civilians in conflict areas is often impossible without the use of force. Nevertheless, military force has achieved only limited success thus far.

The controversy over the use of force touches upon traditional, core principles of UN peacekeeping that remain valid to this day: consent of the parties, impartiality and non-use of force except in self-defense or in defense of the mandate. The military fight against any “party” (regardless of its diplomatic classification as a conflict party or not) limits a mission’s impartiality and may harm its freedom of action and movement in the contexts of political mediation, human rights monitoring and institution building. Meanwhile, the local population is often ambivalent: while most victims of armed conflicts appreciate the fight against violent rebel groups, others hold the UN responsible for civilian fatalities that are incurred as a result of UN military operations.

The balance ultimately struck by a peacekeeping mission depends critically on the contingent commanders, the senior mission leaders and the rules of engagement of troop-contributing governments. For example, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) conducted offensive operations as early as 2005. The mission, armed with combat helicopters, destroyed weapon caches and supported the Congolese forces in their fight against rebel groups. Such operations often lead, at the very least, to a short-term decline in attacks on civilians.

Despite those operations, incidents in which peacekeeping troops have failed to intervene in nearby massacres have cropped up time and again. In November 2008 approximately 150 people died in Kiwanja, most of them by the hands of the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) rebels, one of the largest armed groups in the Congo at the time. A UN base with 120 soldiers was less than one kilometer away from the scene of the massacre. But they did not intervene because they had only a few armored vehicles and were concentrating their capacities on the protection of humanitarian aid workers and internally displaced persons who had fled to the UN base.

In 2012 MONUSCO was strongly criticized yet again, having failed to prevent a rebel invasion of Goma, a provincial capital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, by the armed group M23. Six months later, the Security Council took action, not least to avoid a unilateral military intervention by the Southern African Development Community. South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi contributed 3,000 men to the establishment of a Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), equipped with artillery, combat helicopters and surveillance drones. The Security Council explicitly authorized the brigade to “neutralize” armed groups that threaten civilians. Under the leadership of Martin Kobler and Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz – the German head of mission and the Brazilian commander of MONUSCO, respectively – the brigade successfully evicted M23 from the mountains of Goma.

The FIB has since been regarded as a new model of offensive peacekeeping. But the Congolese case also reveals the risks and challenges of this approach. As the FIB only takes action in conjunction with official Congolese government forces, the UN mission has de facto given up its principle of impartiality by supporting the Congolese government in its fight against other conflict parties. Congolese forces, moreover, have also been responsible for serious violations of human rights, despite long-lasting international training and support. As a result, the UN mission introduced a policy on “human rights due diligence.” Subsequently, all other UN peacekeeping missions adopted the policy as well.

Another concern raised by the FIB is that large military offensives with artillery and combat helicopters, as used by the brigade in its 2013 fight against M23, may be effective only if rebel groups engage in conventional warfare. The M23, a group of Congolese soldiers who had deserted from the Congolese armed forces, was one such case. However, many other rebel groups in the Congo and other areas of UN peacekeeping missions operate underground, carry out single attacks on military units and local populations, and then withdraw once more.

Despite the UN’s recent willingness to authorize robust missions that carry out offensive operations against armed groups, a UN investigation in 2014 showed that military force is rarely used to protect civilians even in cases of severe threats. The reasons are many: troop-contributing countries differ in their views of what constitutes being “under imminent threat of physical violence”; troop-contributing governments want to minimize risks for their soldiers; and, for reasons of impartiality, mission leaders are often reluctant to prevent atrocious human rights violations by taking action against not only rebels, but also national armed forces, even if the mission’s mandate would allow them to do so.

Political Analysis, Conflict Management and Human Rights Work

The dispute over the role of military force should not obscure the fact that civilian instruments such as early warning, civilian conflict management and human rights work are also crucial factors in the effective protection of civilians. Neither preventive, deescalating political interventions nor military operations can be effective if missions lack necessary information on local conflict dynamics. Where are armed groups primarily active? Who supports them, and for what reasons? How do they obtain weapons and other supplies? Countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Mali are huge and have only very limited infrastructure, making it impossible even for large missions to protect all threatened communities effectively. Moreover, the military units of peacekeeping missions often lack the knowledge of regional languages and geography needed to properly communicate with the local population.

MONUSCO was a pioneering mission in this regard. The mission boasts more than 200 Community Liaison Assistants (CLAs), Congolese citizens who are posted with military units or in nearby villages. By maintaining constant communication with the local population through telephone calls or personal visits, they receive crucial information on current risks and conflict dynamics. MONUSCO was also the first peacekeeping mission to deploy drones for tactical reconnaissance in remote areas.

UN missions can use the information obtained to support local efforts in civilian conflict management. They can organize roundtable events with members of local communities, offer logistical support to convene key figures in dialogues and organize workshops with local elites to familiarize them with conflict management methods.

Furthermore, all larger and multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations have their own human rights divisions. They monitor and report on human rights violations, help victims understand their rights and urge the appropriate authorities to punish violations and implement legal reforms. However, the UN’s efforts to ensure fair trials for criminals and murderers in accordance with the rule of law sometimes encounter local resistance. For example, Cuibet in South Sudan lacks judges of sufficient qualifications who can deal with capital crimes. As a result, trials are sometimes delayed for months, increasing tensions in the local community. “Justice delayed may cause acts of revenge,” a representative of a women’s association warned at a roundtable event on the implementation of a peace agreement in June 2015. “The relatives of a murder victim may take the law in their own hands.”

Protection From the Protectors

The credibility of UN missions has suffered not only from doing too little in response to violence. Too often, blue helmets are the ones sexually exploiting or abusing civilians. For more than 10 years, the fight against sexual exploitation and abuse has been a core element of reform efforts by two UN secretary-generals.

Much progress remains to be made. The core problems persist: troop-contributing countries retain disciplinary responsibility for their military units flying the UN flag; troops enjoy immunity in their host country; and troop-contributing countries rarely initiate investigations. Even when perpetrators are convicted, victims are not informed of the outcome. Many troop-contributing countries, according to an independent study, are “reluctant to admit the misconduct of their peacekeepers, especially where such misconduct can be traced back to inadequate training, and would rather sweep allegations under the rug.” Reported allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse have declined since 2007 while the number of UN troops increased, but plateaued at a constant level of about 60 accused per year since 2012. These numbers should be viewed with caution, for many victims do not dare to report such incidents and certainly would not approach the UN mission.

The allegations of sexual abuse that emerged in April 2015 demonstrated that the need for essential changes within the UN secretariat persisted even after Kofi Annan’s reforms of 10 years prior. French soldiers of the UN-mandated Operation Sangaris, which is not a blue helmet mission under orders of the secretary-general, allegedly lured children in the Central African Republic into sexual acts in exchange for food. The reaction of the UN mission and secretariat was highly problematic, as confirmed by an independent investigation set up by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Information about the allegations was “passed from desk to desk, inbox to inbox, across multiple UN offices, with no one willing to take responsibility to address the serious human rights violations.” The UN officials who dealt with the allegations were primarily concerned with technical and procedural questions. In the meantime, French authorities initiated investigations, but they have yet to make any convictions. While Ban took the unprecedented step of dismissing the head of the UN mission in the Central African Republic, the highly symbolic move did not put a stop to the problem. Since then, more and more similar accusations against soldiers of the UN mission in the same country became public.

Comprehensive Political Strategies

Alan Doss, head of MONUSCO from 2007 to 2010, claims that “the use of force must be anchored in a political strategy to end armed violence.” Too often, UN missions fight only the symptoms of violence, not their root causes. In its 2015 report, the High-Level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations also emphasized the importance of political action. But what may seem like an intuitive recommendation faces serious resistance in practice: “It’s far easier for the Security Council to send peacekeepers to a trouble spot than to agree to apply pressure on political leaders whom some members of the council invariably view as allies,” argues James Traub, a long-time UN expert.

To protect civilians from massacres and persecution in war and conflict regions, all actors involved must come together – that is, the political leadership of missions on the ground, the UN Security Council and its permanent members (United States, France, Great Britain, Russia, China), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York, the UN secretary-general, various UN agencies, funds and programs, and the relevant member states, whose bilateral relations with conflict parties are particularly important.

The US is a telling example in this regard. As long as it came to Rwanda’s defense, despite its support for rebel groups in Eastern Congo, it impeded MONUSCO’s activities. Therefore, an important signal was sent to the FIB’s offensive when the US eventually froze its military aid to Rwanda in response to Rwanda’s support for M23.

The UN system has increased its efforts to incorporate the issue of human rights protection into its operating procedures. The “Human Rights up Front” initiative established by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in 2013 has contributed to a gradual change in the organizational culture, which has so far been marked by bureaucratic silos and turf wars between its humanitarian, security and development arms. The UN has begun to attach greater importance to coordination in the areas of early warning and crisis response, and it frequently convenes relevant UN actors on the ground and in its New York headquarters to better understand the different risks and benefits perceived by their colleagues. But there is still a long way to go before a consistent policy on the protection of civilians is established at all levels of the UN.

Notwithstanding these reform efforts, the experiences of UN peacekeeping missions to protect civilians underscore the need for transparent management of expectations, clear communication with all stakeholders and an appropriate degree of humility about what the international community can do. Even in the most fragile states, large peacekeeping missions are no panacea. The presence of thousands of soldiers and well-paid civilian employees from different cultures is bound to disturb the local economy; in the worst case, it may even lead to further crimes committed against the local population. Host country institutions remain the most important actors in the prevention of violence against civilians. They cannot be released from this fundamental responsibility, no matter how well equipped or politically backed a peacekeeping mission might be.

 

Fragiler Schutz

Bei der UN-Friedensmission im Südsudan

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Dieser Beitrag erschien zuerst auf dem Blog Junge UN-Forschung.

Gedrungene, dunkelgrüne Bäume sprenkeln die weite Ebene unter uns, die sich kaum zu einer Ansammlung verdichten, welche die Bezeichnung Wald verdiente. Nur selten tauchen strohbedeckte Hüttenrunden in dem Muster auf, begleitet von weißen Punkten: Kühe sind das Ein und Alles hier: Lebensunterhalt, Statussymbol, Konfliktanlass.

Ich bin im Südsudan, dem jüngsten Staat der Erde. Den weißen Nil immer im Blick befinden wir uns im Anflug auf Bor, die Landeshauptstadt von Jonglei, dem bevölkerungsreichsten Bundesstaat des Landes. Im weißen UN-Helikopter sitzen sich Offiziere und Zivilisten aus Indien, Australien, der Schweiz und anderen Ländern gegenüber. Meine beiden Kollegen und ich wollen in den kommenden Tagen herausfinden, wie die UN Mission im Südsudan (kurz UNMISS) zur Bearbeitung lokaler Konflikte beiträgt. Dafür besuchen wir zivile Teams an drei Standorten; Bor ist unser erster Stopp.

Sanft setzt der Hubschrauber auf dem planierten, nicht geteerten Rollfeld auf. Kaum ausgestiegen begrüßt uns Erik, ein gut gelaunter Endfünfziger aus Schweden, der uns in den kommenden Tagen auf vielen Treffen begleiten wird. Die Vereinten Nationen haben ihr Camp direkt gegenüber vom Flughafen errichtet. In immer-gleichen weißen Containern arbeiten und schlafen die Mitarbeiter der Mission. Um die Büros und Wohneinheiten herum haben die militärischen Kontingente ihre Lager aufgeschlagen. Neben Offizieren und kleineren Einheiten aus vielen verschiedenen Ländern sind das vor allem vier Länder: ein indisches und ein äthiopisches Bataillon, eine koreanische Ingenieurseinheit und ein sri lankisches Militärkrankenhaus. Insgesamt sind im dem Land, das ungefähr so groß wie Frankreich ist, über 11.200 Soldaten für die Vereinten Nationen stationiert, dazu etwa 2.300 zivile Mitarbeiter und 1.100 Polizeikräfte.

Seit der Unabhängigkeit im Juli 2011 hatte der Südsudan kaum Zeit, zur Ruhe zu kommen. Insbesondere in Jonglei fanden wiederholt Kämpfe zwischen bewaffneten Gruppen und Regierungseinheiten statt. Bewegungen von Militäreinheiten sind dabei weitgehend auf die vielleicht viermonatige Trockenzeit begrenzt. Wenn es anfängt, dauerhaft zu regnen in dieser sumpfigen, flachen Gegend, werden weite Gebiete überschwemmt. Der Boden wird derart zäh, dass kein landgetriebenes Fahrzeug durchkommen kann. Selbst mit Gummistiefeln bleibe man häufig stecken: im Grunde könne man in solchen Situationen nur barfuß laufen, hatte uns ein ehemaliger UN-Mitarbeiter in Berlin erzählt.

Das gesamte Land stürzte in eine tiefe Krise, als am 15. Dezember 2013 ein Machtkampf zwischen dem Präsidenten Salva Kiir und seinem langjährigen Weggefährten und ehemaligen Vizepräsidenten Riek Machar außer Kontrolle geriet. Binnen kürzester Zeit nahm der politische Streit eine ethnische Dimension an, da Kiir und Machar unterschiedlichen Volksgruppen angehören und diese innerhalb der Regierungsarmee mobilisierten. Im Zuge dessen töteten Einheiten, welche der Gruppe des Präsidenten angehören (Dinka), Zivilisten der Nuer in Juba, welche sie der Sympathie mit dem als Putschisten geschassten Machar beschuldigten. Innerhalb weniger Tage weitete sich der Konflikt auf andere Teile des Landes aus; Gegenden, in denen viele Nuer leben, wurden zur Basis der bewaffneten Opposition unter Machar. Auch in Bor fanden heftige Kämpfe statt. Die Stadt wechselte die Kontrolle zwischen Regierung und Opposition viermal innerhalb weniger Wochen.

In den umkämpften Gebieten fürchteten viele Menschen um ihr Leben. Ihre eigene Regierung wandte sich gegen sie. Wo würden sie noch sicher sein? Die blaue Fahne der Vereinten Nationen versprach Rettung. Zu tausenden strömten Menschen im Dezember 2013 zu den Lagern der UN-Mission. Vor die Wahl gestellt, verantwortlich für die Versorgung von tausenden von Menschen zu sein oder zuzusehen, wie diese vor ihren Augen abgeschlachtet würden, ordnete die damalige Leiterin von UNMISS, die Norwegerin Hilde Johnson, an, die Tore zu öffnen. Auch das Lager in Bor öffnete seine Tore. „Am ersten Tag kamen 2.000, am zweiten waren es bereits 16.000 Menschen auf unserem Gelände“, erzählt uns ein UN-Mitarbeiter an unserem ersten Abend. „Wir waren nicht dafür ausgerüstet. Wir hatten kein Essen, keine Unterkünfte für diese Menschen.“ Wegen der Kämpfe wurden gleichzeitig viele Mitarbeiter von Hilfsorganisationen evakuiert: „Wir waren auf uns selbst gestellt in den ersten Tagen“, sagt er.

Anderthalb Jahre später sind viele Flüchtlinge immer noch da. Mittlerweile versorgen die Vereinten Nationen etwa 130.000 Menschen auf dem Gelände ihrer Stützpunkte im Südsudan (in Bor sind es noch etwa 2.400). Nie zuvor in ihrer Geschichte hat die Organisation so viele Personen über so einen langen Zeitraum direkt geschützt.

Straße zwischen Bor Town und den UNMISS Lager. Hier kam der gewaltsame Mob am 17. April 2014 entlang.

Am nächsten Morgen fahren wir mit Erik die breite Straße runter in die Stadt. Kühe säumen den Weg, Büros von internationalen Hilfsorganisationen und verlassene Villen lokaler Größen. Die meisten Einwohner von Bor wohnen in traditionellen Lehmhütten, die über ein weites Gebiet um die Hauptstraßen verteilt sind. Im Zentrum brummen Marktstände mit Leben, deren Auswahl allerdings auf wenige Güter wie Reis, Bohnen, Mehl, Tomaten, Zwiebeln, Okraschoten und weitere weitgehend importierte Güter beschränkt ist. Dazu kommt die hohe Inflation – ein kleines Bündel Zwiebel kostet schon mal 25 südsudanesische Pfund, über zwei Euro.

Wir treffen einen Minister der Landesregierung, der zum Einstieg betont, es gäbe keine Konflikte mehr in Jonglei, nur noch ab und an kriminelle Aktivitäten. Ja, die Rebellen kontrollieren einen erheblichen Teil im Norden von Jonglei, aber im Grunde ginge es dabei nur um politische Macht in der Zentralregierung in Juba. „Wir wollen Botschaften des Friedens im gesamten Land verbreiten“, sagt er. Wie ernst er es damit meint, bleibt unklar.

Die Wunden sitzen tief, gerade hier in Bor. Die Regierungsarmee vertrieb die Opposition aus der Stadt, was Flüchtlingen anderer Ethnien und nationaler Herkunft erlaubte, das UN-Lager zu verlassen. Nur die Nuer, welche der gleichen Volksgruppe wie die Rebellen angehören, blieben, weil sie Übergriffe von Regierungskräften gegen sie fürchteten. Die Beziehung zwischen der überwiegend von Dinka bewohnten Stadt und den Flüchtlingen blieb angespannt: Nuer wurden regelmäßig belästigt und angegriffen, wenn sie das Lager verließen. Als Berichte in Bor eintrafen, dass Nuer-Flüchtlinge in einer nördlichen Stadt des Landes dessen Eroberung durch die Opposition gefeiert hätten, griff die Stimmung über.

Ein UN-Bericht detailliert, was am 17. April 2014 geschah: Morgens sammelte sich eine aufgebrachte Menge von hundert bis dreihundert jungen Männern, die sich mit Gewehren und Stöckern ausgestattet in einem Zug von der Stadt auf das UN-Lager zu bewegten. Sie umrundeten das Lager und gelangten zur der Seite, wo sich das Flüchtlingslager befand. Etwa zwanzig Männer überwanden den Zaun, Graben und Stacheldraht-bewehrten Wall, übermächtigen die Wache schiebenden UN-Soldaten und ließen mehre Dutzend weitere Männer herein. Die Angreifer gingen von Zelt zu Zelt, raubten die Insassen aus, schlugen sie und raubten Frauen. Sofern sie ihre Opfer nicht an den für Nuer typischen Gesichtsnarben erkannten, fragten sie ihre Opfer, welcher Volksgruppe sie angehörten und droschen auf sie ein, wenn diese nicht in Dinka antworten konnten. Der Angriff ebbte erst ab, als etwa eine halbe Stunde später eine schnelle Eingreiftruppe der UN einrückte.

47 Menschen starben in Folge dieses Angriffs innerhalb des UN-Lagers, und dass, obwohl sie „umgeben von Panzern“ waren, wie uns der hagere Vorsitzende des Flüchtlingsrats innerhalb des Lages später erzählt. Wieder einmal waren die Erwartungen auf Schutz und Sicherheit durch die blaue Flagge der Vereinten Nationen aufs Bitterste enttäuscht worden. Bis zum heutigen Tag ist keiner der Täter zur Rechenschaft gezogen worden.

Gut ein Jahr später gibt es jedoch auch Zeichen der Hoffnung. Ein lange schwelender Konflikt zwischen einer bewaffneten Gruppe einer dritten Volksgruppe, den Murle, konnte letztes Jahr beigelegt werden. Erst vor kurzem gab es eine weitere politische Annäherung auf Landesebene mit einem hochrangigen Treffen von Vertretern der ehemaligen Murle-Rebellen und der Landesregierung. Während in anderen Bundesstaaten des Südsudan sich die Opposition um Machar und die Regierungsarmee gerade Gefechte liefern, ist es in Jonglei relativ ruhiger. In einigen Gebieten mit traditionell gemischter Dinka-Nuer Bevölkerung scheint es vorsichtige Annäherungen zu geben. Die Vereinten Nationen unterstützen diese Prozesse nach Kräften. Ihr Zugang zu den Rebellengebieten ist allerdings sehr begrenzt.

Die Vereinten Nationen haben eine große Verantwortung übernommen für die Flüchtlinge, die direkt in ihren Lagen leben. Sie versprechen ihren Schutz, aber greifen teilweise nicht entschieden genug ein, wenn es darauf ankommt. Mittlerweile bindet der Schutz der eignen Lager und der angeschlossenen Flüchtlingslager über drei Viertel der militärischen Ressourcen und einen Großteil der humanitären Hilfe – dabei leben die allermeisten Flüchtlinge und Hilfsbedürftigen außerhalb der Lager, häufig in schwer zugänglichen Gegenden. Schwierige Entscheidungen stehen bevor.

Leise schlägt der Regen auf die Fensterscheiben. Wir fliegen zurück nach Juba, unsere Zeit in Bor ist zu Ende. Die Soldaten, Offiziere, humanitären Helfer und zivilen Mitarbeiter der UN Mission werden jedoch noch lange bleiben müssen.

Dieser Text gibt ausschließlich die Meinung des Verfassers wieder und entspricht weder notwendigerweise der Einschätzung der Vereinten Nationen noch von GPPi.

“Für eine faire Partnerschaft” – der deutsche Beitrag zur UN-Friedenssicherung

UNIFIL field
UNIFIL German peacekeeper on the ship- May 3 2007 UNIFIL photo Jorge Aramburu

(c) UN Photo/Jorge Aramburu

Der Beitrag erschien zuerst auf dem Blog Junge UN-Forschung.

Deutsche Außenpolitik, betonen Entscheidungsträger gern, sei „Friedenspolitik“– so auch Außenminister Westerwelle bei dem Festakt zur 40jährigen Mitgliedschaft Deutschlands in den Vereinten Nationen. In diesem Sinne setzte er sich auch vehement für eine Reform des UN-Sicherheitsrats und einen ständigen deutschen Sitz ein, zuletzt bei seiner jüngsten Rede während der UN Generaldebatte in New York. Der deutsche Beitrag zur UN-Friedenssicherung gilt dabei beständig als wichtige Rechtfertigung für diesen Anspruch.

Demgegenüber wurde Deutschland bei der Podiumsdiskussion zu diesem Thema bei der DGVN-Fachtagung ein eher schlechtes Zeugnis ausgestellt. Die Diskussion konzentrierte sich insbesondere auf das fundamentale Ungleichgewicht zwischen der Bereitstellung von Finanzmitteln und Personal durch Deutschland. Während Deutschland 7,14% zum aktuellen Haushalt für Friedenseinsätze beiträgt (ca. 538 Mio. US-Dollar, Platz 4), trägt es lediglich 0,26% zum Personal bei (251 Polizisten, Militärexperten und Soldaten, Platz 41). Während die aktuelle Arbeitsteilung zwischen Ländern des globalen Südens (Personal) und OECD-Ländern (Finanzmittel) in der Tat problematisch ist, verfehlte die Diskussion jedoch andere wichtige Aspekte von Prävention, Diplomatie und Analyse ausreichend anzusprechen, bei denen Deutschland leichter einen größeren Beitrag zur UN-Friedenssicherung leisten könnte.

Lernerfolg und weiterer Nachholbedarf bei den Vereinten Nationen

Dass manches Problem nicht angesprochen wurde, lag sicher nicht an dem Input-Referat von Thorsten Benner, Direktor des Global Public Policy Institutes in Berlin (wo ich auch arbeite, full disclosure), in dem er die aktuelle Situation und wichtige Herausforderungen in der UN-Friedenssicherung breit und präzise herausarbeitete. Benner strukturierte seinen Vortrag anhand von drei zentralen Thesen.

Erstens habe die UN wichtige Lehren seit dem Brahimi-Bericht vor dreizehn Jahren gezogen. Missionen werden langfristiger angesetzt, das Sekretariat sei besser und professioneller aufgestellt, Einsätze sind „robuster“ und haben häufiger den Schutz von Zivilisten im Fokus. Regionale Kooperationen spielen zunehmend eine größere Rolle, z.B. in Somalia oder Darfur.

Die höheren Anforderungen an Friedensmissionen führten jedoch zweitens zu einem erheblichen Nachholbedarf in einigen Bereichen. Mangelhaft ist die Bereitstellung von Transport- und Logistikkapazitäten, Fähigkeiten zur Aufklärung, auch durch Drohnen und Satellitenbilder. Das Personalwesen bietet häufig keine ausreichenden Karriereanreize für einzelne „Friedenssicherer“. Ein weiteres Problem machte Benner bei den Sondergesandten des Generalsekretärs aus, welche gleichzeitig diplomatisch erfahrene als auch politisch scharfsinnige Persönlichkeiten sein müssen, diesen Anspruch aber nicht immer einlösen könnten. Zuletzt seien der Bereich der Krisenprävention und das bereits angesprochene Ungleichgewicht der Truppensteller  nicht zufriedenstellend.

Letztlich könnten mehr Kapazitäten und bessere Technologien jedoch auch nicht die großen politischen Spannungen bei der Friedenssicherung lösen, so Benners dritte These. Beim Institutionenaufbau sei die internationale Gemeinschaft auf nationale Eliten angewiesen, die Vereinbarungen tatsächlich und glaubwürdig umsetzen können. Wie das Beispiel der DR Kongo zeigt, sind diese jedoch häufig selbst an massiven Menschenrechtsverletzungen beteiligt. Die lokalen Begründungen für Gewaltanwendungen im Bürgerkrieg, die oft im Zusammenhang mit Themen wie Landansprüchen, Ressourcenverteilung oder Mitspracherechten stehen, bilden häufig einen Kontrast zur Makroebene von Gewalt und nationalen Friedensbemühungen zwischen regionalen Regierungen und den von diesen unterstützten Rebellengruppen. Alle am Konflikt beteiligten Parteien müssen in eine mögliche Lösung eingebunden werden. Dazu bedürfe es ausreichender politischer Aufmerksamkeit, um im Zweifel Druck auf die Konfliktparteien auszuüben. Hier müsse die internationale Gemeinschaft aber auch offen mit dem eigenen Versagen in einzelnen Konflikten umgehen und die begangenen Fehler aufarbeiten.

Es lohnt sich, die UN-Friedenssicherung stärker zu unterstützen

Tobias Pietz von der Analyseabteilung des Zentrums für Internationale Friedenseinsätze (ZIF) ging näher auf die Gründe für die niedrige Zahl von UN-Friedenssoldaten aus OECD-Ländern ein. Noch vor zwanzig Jahren hätten diese etwa zwei Drittel des Personals gestellt, während es jetzt weniger als 8% seien. Diese Entwicklung läge an drei wichtigen Entwicklungen: dem Trauma des Versagens in den Konflikten der 1990er Jahren (Somalia, Ruanda und Bosnien), gerade auch aus Sicht der Weltöffentlichkeit; den teuren und personalintensiven Interventionen im Irak und in Afghanistan sowie dem stärkeren Engagement für Missionen im Rahmen der europäischen Gemeinsamen Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik (dies betrifft vor allem die Polizei).

Warum ist ein stärkerer europäischer oder deutscher Beitrag zu UN-Friedensmissionen dennoch wichtig? Die Aufgabenteilung zwischen Truppenstellern und Finanziers ist zunehmendem Druck ausgeliefert, wie auch Manfred Ertl, Militärberater im Auswärtigen Amt, anerkennen musste. Ertl sah die derzeitige Arbeitsteilung bereits auf einem guten Weg zu einer „fairen Partnerschaft“, da es ja schließlich auch auf die Qualität der bereitgestellten Truppen ankäme. Während seiner Zeit im UN-Sekretariat wäre es nie ein Problem gewesen, ein Infanteriebattalion zu bekommen, allerdings hätte er schon eine Mission wegen eines fehlenden Flugleitoffiziers schließen müssen. Es wurde aber in seinen Ausführungen auch die Doppeldeutigkeit solcher Einschätzungen deutlich. Während viele große Truppenstellerstaaten eben keinem größeren öffentlichen Druck ausgesetzt seien („mit der Pressefreiheit“ sei das ja auch nicht so weit her dort, so Ertl), verlange die „Fürsorgepflicht“ des (deutschen) Staates für seine Soldaten, dass annähernd die gleichen Standards wie im Heimatland gewährleistet würden. Zu Recht verwies Benner hier auf die ebenfalls existierende (zumindest moralische) Pflicht gegenüber den Soldaten aus anderen Truppenstellerstaaten und den Bevölkerungen in den Ländern der Friedensmissionen.

Aus meiner Sicht gibt es  aber noch gewichtigere Gründe für ein erhöhtes deutsches Engagement. Die Legitimität der gesamten UN-Friedenseinsätze kann langfristig erodieren, wenn sich der Eindruck bei den Staaten Südasiens und Sub-Sahara-Afrikas festsetzt, dass sich westliche Regierungen hinter ihren finanziellen Beiträgen verstecken, während die Söhne und Töchter anderer Länder für die von ihnen im Sicherheitsrat gesetzten Ziele bereit sind zu sterben. Umgekehrt kann der politische Wille, eigene Soldaten den Vereinten Nationen bereitzustellen, ein positives Signal auch an andere Staaten senden, diesem Schritt zu folgen. Demgegenüber verweisen deutsche Entscheidungsträger gern darauf, dass sie in ihrem Wahlkreis kaum vermitteln können, warum deutsches Personal im Sudan tätig sein sollte.

Multilateralismus braucht Führungsfähigkeit, auch in Deutschland

Wenn deutsche Außenpolitik sich jedoch wirklich um Multilateralismus und Friedenssicherung sorgen möchte, sollte sie politische Führungsfähigkeit beweisen. Es genügt nicht, nur darauf zu verweisen, welche Anfragen zur Bereitstellung von Truppen für Friedensmissionen vorliegen oder auch nicht. Sogar bei der Frage des Personals könnte Deutschland eine Vorreiterrolle einnehmen. Zu ersterem schlug Benner vor, Deutschland könnte sich bereit erklären, 10% des aus Afghanistan abrückenden Personals fortan für multilaterale Missionen zur Verfügung zu stellen – immerhin gut vierhundert Soldatinnen und Soldaten. Die Bundesregierung könnte bei den europäischen Partnern für ähnliche Schritte werben. Es müsse ja auch nicht gleich die Interventionsbrigade sein, die mit überaus robustem Mandat an vorderster Front im Kongo kämpft, – Stabsoffiziere in Kinshasa können unter Umständen auch schon helfen.

Letztlich geht es jedoch um weitaus mehr als um die fast schon leidige Frage des Personals: Die politischen Rahmenbedingungen müssen stimmen. Wenn die Bundesregierung sich dazu bereit erklärt, UN-Friedensmissionen zu unterstützen, sollte dies ein Gesamtpaket sein – einschließlich erhöhtem zivilen Personal für die Mission, aber auch für die deutsche Vertretung vor Ort. Die Analysefähigkeiten für zivile Krisenprävention und Frühwarnung bei Konflikten seien in deutschen Botschaften in Sub-Sahara-Afrika häufig stark unterentwickelt, wie Benner darlegte. Das Auswärtige Amt erlaube es noch nicht einmal seinen Diplomaten, freiwillig als zivile Kräfte an UN-Friedensmissionen teilzunehmen und dabei wichtige Felderfahrung zu sammeln. Dabei legt die Bundesregierung (gleich welcher Couleur) gern wert auf die zivile Ausrichtung ihrer Außenpolitik und verweist auf Aktionsprogramm, Ressortkreis und Beirat zivile Krisenprävention. Gerade anlässlich eines Jubiläums wie dem der Mitgliedschaft Deutschlands in den Vereinten Nationen ist es Zeit, diese Versprechen mit Glaubwürdigkeit zu füllen.