UN putting peacekeepers at risk; use of force for protection urged: Report

Published: 23 January, 2018 17:09 IST | IANS | New York

Armed groups are able to mount attacks on the long, slow supply convoys along roads in very bad conditions

UN peacekeeping missionRepresentational Picture 

The UN has been accused of putting peacekeepers at risk through "lack of will, determination, and accountability" - in a scathing report that urged them to "not fear to use force when necessary". The report by a panel that looked into the rising fatalities in UN operations, and was released on Monday, said, "The blue helmet and the United Nations flag no longer offer 'natural' protection" and called for changes to adapt to the new threats.

In its most significant recommendation, the report urged a vigorous and proactive approach to the use of force by peacekeepers when they face threats and criticised some leaders and countries for being risk averse. "Unfortunately, hostile forces do not understand a language other than force," the report said. "To deter and repel attacks and to defeat attackers, the United Nations needs to be strong and not fear to use force when necessary."

Those who are risk averse when it comes to using force "have failed to understand projecting strength is more secure for uniformed and civilian personnel," it said. The panel appointed last year by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was headed by retired Brazilian Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, a veteran of UN operations. The recommendations were accepted by the UN and its Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support announced a time-bound Action Plan to implement them.

The report said that since 2013 the number of casualties of violent incidents have spiked, claiming the lives of 195 peacekeepers. Seven of them were Indians killed in South Sudan. This was more than during any five-year period in history since peacekeeping operations were launched in 1948, it noted. In all 161 Indian peacekeepers have been killed in 49 missions.

"Fatalities are rising in United Nations peacekeeping operations because the United Nations and the Member States are failing to adapt and take measures needed to operate securely in dangerous environments," the report said. "This indicates that a lack of will, determination, and accountability among the United Nations and Member States continues to put personnel at risk."

The adversaries the peacekeepers face, the nature of the conflicts and the conditions they have to operate in have changed very dramatically but UN and troop contributors have not adapted to them, the report said. "Peacekeeping environments now feature armed groups, terrorists, organised crime, street gangs, criminal and political exploitation, and other threats," the report said.

"If the United Nations and T/PCCs (troop and police contributing countries) do not change their mindset, take risks and show a willingness to face these new challenges, they will be consciously sending troops into harm's way," the report warned. At the level of framing the mandates and implementing them, the report criticised the "overstretched deployment without a clear objective" spread over large geographic areas.

Armed groups are able to mount attacks on the long, slow supply convoys along roads in very bad conditions, it said. Some missions dedicate about 90 per cent of their operational capacity to escorting convoys, it added.

The panel criticised the peacekeeping operations' collection and use of intelligence. While they have the high-tech resources to gather intelligence, "they lack the basics, especially human intelligence, networks of informants, situational awareness, and capacity to communicate with the population," the report said. The report said that troops should not be sent into missions without the necessary equipment. In some missions critical gear like vehicles with protection against mines and specialised weapons and ammunition are lacking, it said.

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