Kigali Preparatory Meeting: Protecting Those at Risk, Early Warning and Rapid Deployment

Meeting Summary
Kigali, Rwanda, 29-30 August 2017

The Kigali Preparatory Meeting was hosted by the Governments of Rwanda and The Netherlands from 29-30 August 2017. The meeting was organized at Canada’s request in preparation for the Vancouver Ministerial on 14-15 November 2017. The meeting comprised of military and civilian personnel from 25 Member States, as well as the African Union, European Union and the United Nations.

The goal of the Kigali Preparatory Meeting was to prepare insights and potential pledges related to the Vancouver Ministerial themes of Early Warning and Rapid Deployment and Protecting Those at Risk. The discussions served as an opportunity to further explore remaining gaps and challenges on these themes, and to shape Member State options for responding to them through the development of concrete deliverables and pledges to be announced at the Vancouver Ministerial. The UN’s August 2017 Uniformed Capability Requirements paper outlines the pledges being sought.

The meeting was divided into four thematic sessions, with each session comprising of presentations by panel members, followed by break-out working groups focused on discussion questions in the concept note. All delegates were assigned to a working group and were responsible for presenting their conclusions during a plenary session. Discussions were also informed by an academic paper commissioned by Canada.

Session 1: Protecting Those at Risk

  • As civilians are increasingly the direct targets of attack and United Nations peacekeeping operations are mandated to protect civilians, their success in doing so is often the yardstick by which missions are judged.  Implementing protection of civilian (POC) mandates is a mission-wide responsibility and requires collaboration at all levels between military, civilian and police components in taking preventive and pre-emptive action. At times, physically protecting civilians may bring missions into conflict with the host state. Conversely, when the deliberate targeting of civilians is ignored, grievances grow and political solutions may become more elusive and the credibility and acceptance of the mission is jeopardised.
  • Missions that operate without a parallel and interlinked political effort risk becoming mired in dealing with the consequences, not the causes, of conflict. In so doing, missions risk losing the political initiative; they can no longer shape or influence events, including those related to civilian protection.
  • Force Commanders are tasked to manage the difficult relationship between the capabilities they have and the size of the population to be protected in their often vast area of operation and within challenging terrain. They are often confronted with serious security challenges, including intra-state armed conflicts, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, public disorder, violent criminality, and widespread human rights violations.

Key discussion points and recommendations:

  • POC mandates are central to UN peacekeeping, with nine of the 15 current UN peacekeeping operations currently mandated to protect civilians. There is no lack of policy tools and guidance on POC for UN peacekeepers, yet POC is still not consistently implemented, leading to incidents such as in Juba in 2016.
  • The Kigali Principles illustrate the best practices for POC for troop/police contributing countries (T/PCCs), and Member States were encouraged to endorse the Principles. The 18 Kigali Principles on Protection of Civilian cover crucial areas such as training, use of force, national caveats and wording of UN Security Council mandates. These principles are designed to support the protection of civilian guidelines laid down in UN Peacekeeping manuals and to reduce frequently observed failures to POC. However, it was noted that endorsement of the Kigali Principles must be backed by Member States’ political will.
  • Underperforming leadership and personnel in the field due to a lack of training has also led to failures to protect civilians. Greater visibility and mobility of peacekeepers would improve POC mandate implementation. T/PCCs must train their troops and police in a ‘proactive protection of civilians mind-set’ so that UN peacekeepers are willing to respond robustly to protect civilians.
  • The implementation of POC mandates in UN peacekeeping operations has been difficult, and has often failed primarily due to a lack of political commitment from Member States to create realistic and clear mission mandates as well as the existence of national caveats for T/PCCs. Better synchronization and communication between the political and military levels in capitals and New York may help improve new mandates and mandate renewal. Addressing the use of national caveats, where these may hinder POC, is also key.
  • Member States should make use of the comprehensive training package developed to provide guidance on the various UN mandated tasks in respect to protection, including POC, but also child protection and conflict-related sexual violence in both pre-deployment and in-mission training.
  • Firm action is needed to hold commanders and personnel accountable in cases where UN peacekeepers fail to protect civilians, including through the new POC Accountability Policy that has been developed by the UN Secretariat and which focussed on senior leadership in UNHQ and in peacekeeping missions. The policy sets out the key responsibilities of those leaders for the implementation of POC mandates and expects them to ensure effective performance by their subordinates, within the limits of their authority. The policy establishes a new reporting and review requirement that allows the early articulation of existing and foreseeable challenges.

Session 2: Gender Perspectives in Peacekeeping

  • Women and children often bear the brunt of any protracted conflict. In conflict settings women are subject to heinous human rights violations, including sexual violence.
  • Structural obstacles continue to exacerbate the risks to women in conflict settings, where they are most at risk. The best way to protect and support women at risk is to help women help themselves, by preventing risk. In peacekeeping there is no protection without participation. However, women at risk cannot be fully protected when there is no avenue for their participation.
  • One way in which to ensure that peacekeeping missions are more responsive to the needs of women is to increase the number of female peacekeepers.  Women peacekeepers have a vital role to play in engaging with the local population and in broadening the outlook of how a military headquarters plans and conducts operations. However, this is not a panacea and must sit within a broader impetus to include women’s perspectives in planning, response and dialogue,
  • Women military peacekeepers are also a force multiplier; they can contribute to more sophisticated protection of civilians’ strategies, foster trust between the local community and the UN, act as role models for indigenous women and even convey an unstated message to the men in the community. The goal of achieving 15% female military peacekeepers by December 2017 has been firmly set, and the UN Office of Military Affairs is supporting Member States in achieving this objective.

Key discussion points and recommendations:

  • All participants agreed that integrating gender perspectives into all policies and plans for UN peacekeeping operations is a net benefit for all peacekeeping stakeholders. Integrating gender perspectives to ensure that the implications of UN policies and programs on men and women on the ground, peacekeepers and civilians alike, are fully understood.
  • Female peacekeepers increase the operational effectiveness of UN peacekeeping missions, and greater engagement and deployment of women by T/PCCs is ultimately a question of the leadership and social equality of Member States.
  • Female participation in peacekeeping operations was noted as progressing but there continues to be challenges, such as in female representation in leadership and command positions. One suggested solution was that the UN prioritise pledges with higher numbers of female officers for progression and deployment in the PCRS, including at the Rapid Deployment Level (RDL).
  • In addition to an increase in deployments of female peacekeepers, the importance of training and deploying gender-sensitive male peacekeepers and building gender perspectives into all aspects of planning and response was also underscored.
  • Member States must certify and ensure that the personnel that are being deployed have not had misconduct violations. It was also noted that the issue of SEA is a conduct and performance issue and not a gender issue. Member States were encouraged to provide voluntary contributions to the SEA Trust Fund.

Session 3: Progress Made on Standing up of a UN Rapid Deployment Capability

  • There are significant challenges in rapidly deploying new missions or rapidly reinforcing existing operations. It requires contingents to be maintained at a high level of readiness, reliable strategic lift arrangements, and the ability to sustain forces, once deployed. A number of factors that contribute to delays in deployment, including the low level of readiness of uniformed units or time lags in the force generation process, as well as political obstacles in the host countries or transit countries.
  • Guidelines that detail the registration, approval, verification, deployment and reimbursement of units to the RDL have been finalised and are available now. The Vanguard Brigade concept is for an integrated military force of up to 4,000 to be rapidly inserted into a new mission area or to reinforce an existing mission. The Vanguard Brigade would come from the units placed at the RDL. Member States with units on the RDL might be requested to participate with their contingent commanders in one command post or mission rehearsal exercise that is certified and evaluated by the UN, should support be available to fund such an exercise each year.  

Key discussion points and recommendations:

  • The UN is encouraging Member States to pledge units, particularly enablers, to the RDL for 2017-18 and 2018-19 which requires units to be deployable within 60 days of a UN request. Member States requested that the UN to provide clear milestones and timelines for internal reform to support rapid deployment.
  • The UN is engaging with regional organizations such as the African Union and the European Union to partner-up on peacekeeping operations in an effort to improve rapid deployment and shorten mission start-up times.
  • The importance of the validation process for units at RDL was also emphasized by the UN and Member States.  It was agreed that it would be critical to ensure that units pledged to RDL are in fact capable of deploying rapidly.

Session 4: Progress Made and Ongoing Gaps in the Areas of Information Gathering

  • During the second day’s deliberations, the need for innovative approaches, capacities and technologies to improve early warning, analysis and planning in support of mission start up and conflict prevention were addressed. The discussion dove into a broader discussion on the need for military commanders to have the best possible peacekeeping intelligence, and that female peacekeepers are critical to peacekeeping environments in which women and children are disproportionately affected by conflict. A key lesson learned from the All Source Information Fusion Unit (ASIFU) in MINUSMA, was importance of the “human factor” to inform peacekeepers of the actors, factors, imminent threats and risks and opportunities a mission can undertake to succeed in the implementation of its mandate.
  • Participants discussed the changing nature of threats facing peacekeeping operations – both transnational and asymmetric. They emphasised that peacekeepers have to be prepared to deal with sophisticated and emerging threats and this includes accepting a higher level of risk and an expectation that peacekeepers will be lost. They noted that there is a need for clear and credible mandates, Rules of Engagement and increased use of new technology.
  • Participants expressed their determination to ensure their peacekeepers have the capability to meet the challenges and acknowledged the need to better address asymmetric threats. They expressed the requirement for the appropriate training and equipment, as well as intelligence capabilities and proper language capacity.
  • It was reinforced on several occasions the importance of gaining and maintaining the support of Host States, which without peacekeeping operations are considerably constrained.

Key discussion points and recommendations:

  • The UN is taking the implementation of peacekeeping intelligence capabilities very seriously following the release of a “Peacekeeping Intelligence Policy” in May 2017 which sets out why and how UN peacekeeping operations acquire, collate, analyze, disseminate, use, protect and manage peacekeeping intelligence in support of peacekeeping operations in the field.
  • The policy also establishes a framework that articulates a consistent and principled approach to peacekeeping intelligence; ensures the most effective utilization of available resources; establishes a robust regime of oversight, accountability and continuous improvement; and enacts mechanisms to enable an effective, integrated and secure whole-of-mission approach.
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