28 March 2018: The UN Security Council held a high-level open debate on improving UN peacekeeping operations. Over 70 speakers shared their perspectives on UN peacekeeping, with many highlighting the importance of shared responsibility and identifying synergies with UN reform efforts.

The Netherlands convened the high-level debate in its capacity as the President of the Council for the month of March. Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte chaired the meeting.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reflected that UN peacekeepers are “often under-equipped, under-prepared and unready,” which makes them vulnerable and targeted for attack. Guterres called for focusing on three key areas: refocusing peacekeeping with realistic expectations; making missions stronger and safer; and mobilizing increased support for political solutions and well-equipped, well-trained and well-structured forces. He urged support for the UN’s ‘Action for Peacekeeping’ initiative, stressing the need for a “quantum leap in collection engagement” and underscoring the importance of all Member States and partners in supporting peacekeeping efforts. Guterres concluded by urging the Council to streamline mandates and calling for Member States to push for inclusive peace processes.

African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, who spoke via teleconference, called for closer cooperation between the UN and the AU. He supported the partnership between the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council, suggesting that the AUC and the UN Secretariat increase joint site visits at the highest possible level. Mali highlighted the importance of regional organizations in enhancing the success of peacekeeping operations.

The EU said discussions on peacekeeping operations’ effectiveness should be considered within the wider UN reform context, including initiatives on the development system, management and the peace and security pillar. Sweden, on behalf of the Nordic countries, expressed support for the Secretary-General’s reform agenda and its emphasis on prevention and sustainable development. He said gender disaggregated data and a gender perspective are important in ensuring informed decisions on peacekeeping.

Norway, on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, supported a gender-sensitive and whole-of-system approach to ensure sustainable and peaceful settlement of conflict, such as through conducting independent reviews of missions. Germany supported the Secretary-General’s reform proposals to sustain peace, and advocated for strengthening the safety and security of peacekeepers. Indonesia, on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that reforms in UN peacekeeping should prioritize people on the ground and enhance performance and capabilities.

The Maldives called for integrating the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into peacekeeping operations, urging a greater focus on poverty alleviation and inclusive and economic and social development. Ethiopia supported an incremental approach to reform. Venezuela supported a holistic approach to peace and security, saying this objective must be supported by a comprehensive, parallel and inclusive political process. Kuwait emphasized the importance of coherence and coordination in peacekeeping challenges, and supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to address obstacles that hinder the full implementation of mandates.

Thailand supported the management of missions’ environmental footprint as a step in ensuring operations are fit for purpose while also supporting cost efficiencies, improving troop safety and delivering on the peacekeeping mandate. The EU also called for reducing the environmental impact of peacekeeping operations.

Slovakia said South Africa and Slovakia, as co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Security Sector Reform, plan to organize a high-level round table on security sector reform and sustaining peace on 23 April to better position such reform within the broader sustaining peace agenda, including the UN General Assembly’s high-level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, on 24 and 25 April.

A number of Member States supported greater delegation of power to field personnel, including Estonia and ASEAN. Member States also addressed issues related to accountability, budget and financing for peacekeeping operations, and language training, among other topics. [UN News Story] [UN Meeting Summary] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of UN reform processes]