United Nations: India has expressed its strong dismay at the lack of accountability and transparency in the framing of peacekeeping mandates by the UN Security Council, saying this "failing" by the world body is resulting in rising casualties among peacekeepers and civilians.
"We are dismayed at the opaque manner in which the Security Council continues mandate peace operations, without any accountability or transparency," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Asoke Mukerji said at a debate in the UN General Assembly here yesterday on peacekeeping operations.
Mukerji said the human costs of "this failing" are evident in both the rising number of casualties among UN peacekeepers, as well as an alarming growth in the number of civilians, now reaching 60 million, whose lives are being disrupted by the conflicts that an "ineffective Security Council is powerless" to resolve.
Mukerji called for prioritising an early reform of the Security Council during the current 70th session of the Assembly "in order to bring hope to these millions of ordinary men, women and children."
In the report titled 'The report of the United Nations Peace Operations: Implementation of the recommendations of the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations', the Secretary General has recommended that sustained dialogue between the Council, the Secretariat and contributors is essential for shared understanding of appropriate responses and their implications for the mandate and conduct of a peace operation.
Mukerji said India strongly supports the Secretary General's statement that this dialogue should begin before the establishment of the mission.
He added that the report also rightly recognise that "a United Nations peace operation is not designed or equipped to impose political solutions through sustained use of force" and that UN peace operations are not the appropriate tool for military counter-terrorism operations.
"We endorse this recommendation, as UN peacekeepers are not deployable for targeted offensive action against armed militias, non-state actors and terrorists," Mukerji said.
He stressed that the international community should not abandon the cardinal principles of UN peacekeeping of consent of the parties, impartiality and the non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate.
He also urged a review of the current allocation of resources within UN peace operations to ensure that the growing resource constraint faced by UN peace operations is considerably mitigated.
Mukerji said UN peacekeepers are not only the UN's boots on the ground, but also the organisation's eyes and ears, adding that the Security Council can only benefit from the ground level assessments which troop contributing countries can provide in direct interaction between member states.
India is the largest cumulative troop contributor to UN peace operations, with over 185,000 troops having served in 48 of the 69 missions mandated so far.
The country has repeatedly called for the Security Council to consult troop contributing countries before drawing up peacekeeping mandates given that troops now have to function is increasingly difficult and hostile conflict situations across the world's hot-spots.
On allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse faced by a "small minority of UN personnel", Mukerji said allegations shame the organisation and there must be "zero tolerance" of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.
"Such abuse scars the lives of men, women and children. We take such cases with utmost seriousness. The United Nations must apply one standard, that of zero tolerance, while dealing with all cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in all its field operations, whether these be peacekeeping, peacebuilding or others," he said.
Mukerji noted that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proposed three pillars for conducting UN peace operations with a renewed focus on prevention and mediation; stronger regional-global partnerships; and new ways of planning and conducting peace operations to make them faster, more responsive and accountable to the needs of countries and people in conflict.
He said of these, primacy must be given to the pacific settlement of disputes as the core objective of UN peace operations that will enable every peace operation to have a clear implementation timeframe.
During the peacekeeping summit held at the world body on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a 10 percent increase of India's troop contribution to existing or new operations, an additional three police units with higher representation of female peacekeepers, a commitment to provide critical enablers, deployment of technical personnel in UN Mission and additional training for peacekeepers in facilities in India and in the field.
"These commitments show that India is willing to walk the talk when it comes to supporting UN peace operations," Mukerji said.