Academic journal article Global Governance

Review of the UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, Uniting Our Strengths for Peace: Politics, Partnership and People

Academic journal article Global Governance

Review of the UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, Uniting Our Strengths for Peace: Politics, Partnership and People

Article excerpt

Since its foundation in 1945, the United Nations has conducted an astonishing number of peace operations, commencing in Indonesia in 1948. To deal with the changing international security order, the organization has continuously adapted and transformed its approach to prevent violence, restore peace, and build sustainable security and development. But change has been slow. Despite some notable success stories, the UN's track record has not been grand. Too often the inappropriate behavior or ineffectiveness of peacekeepers has brought disgrace on the organization, while resistance to change from some member states as well as from within the various organs of the UN has hampered its agility and effectiveness.

The relative global stability that prevailed during the Cold War (in spite of the possibility of nuclear Armageddon) has been replaced by an era of greater uncertainty between states and increased intrastate and transnational violence. Security actors do not necessarily respect geographic borders, international law, or the neutrality of the United Nations. The challenges facing peace operations have been exacerbated by the increased threat of terrorism and organized crime as well as the impact of environmental degradation on human security. Increasingly, peace missions are being deployed to help prevent conflict or maintain security in insecure environments where there may be no peace to keep. Yet, as the Secretary-General reminds us, peace operations are the most visible face of the United Nations, on which the organization's reputation depends: "A profound uncertainty is emerging among our populations over the adequacy of global, regional and national institutions at a time when demands placed on them are greater than ever.... The limits of our engagement are reflected in United Nations peace operations, the most visible face of the Organization." (1)

By 2015, with more than 120,000 military and civilian personnel serving in thirty-nine missions and a peacekeeping budget of $8.2 billion per year, the report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO)--titled Uniting Our Strengths for Peace: Politics, Partnership and People--provides a timely reminder of the importance of UN peace operations and the monumental challenges they face. The panel was established by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 31 October 2014, with the challenging task of assessing the state of peace operations and recommending corrective measures. Chaired by the distinguished Nobel Laureate and former president and prime minister of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos Horta, it comprised an international group of fifteen experts. The panel delivered its report on 16 June 2015 (A/70/95-S/2015/446), and the Secretary-General's report on the implementation of its recommendations was delivered on 2 September 2015 (A/70/357-S/2015/682). The two documents warrant joint consideration.

According to one of the panel experts, HIPPO's deliberations were influenced by three overarching political realities that limited the UN's ability to consolidate peace. (2) These realities could diffuse or negate many of the panel's practical recommendations for reform, as had been the case with previous reviews. These limitations are (1) governments and regional groupings do not fully entrust the UN with sensitive issues such as preventive diplomacy and the negotiation of internal conflicts, (2) UN forces are a "pickup" team that makes them inefficient in situations of active hostilities, and (3) the UN continues to be a relatively minor player in the field of international cooperation and it is fragmented among a multiplicity of autonomous agencies. It is useful to keep these caveats in mind when future assessments of the implementation of the panel's recommendations are made.

Moreover, HIPPO was conducted simultaneously with two other major reviews that also need to be considered as part of the UN's ongoing reform agenda: the Advisory Group of Experts on the 2015 Review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture; and the High-Level Advisory Group for the Global Study on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace, and security. …

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