Speech by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the UN Security Council session on reforming UN peacekeeping, New York, September 20, 2017
First of all I would like to express condolences to the people and Government of Mexico in connection with the loss of life and destruction caused by powerful earthquakes.
I would like to thank the Secretary-General, the Chairperson of the African Union and the Chair of the High-Level Group for their reports on the issues discussed today.
We welcome Ethiopia’s initiative to conduct a meeting on reforming UN peacekeeping.
In June 2014, the Russian Federation also held an open meeting on this issue during its Security Council presidency. It was already obvious at that time that UN peacekeeping activities needed to be adapted to modern international realities.
Much has been done since then – the reports of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and several reports of the UN Secretary-General were prepared, and the peacebuilding architecture was reformed
At the same time, new peacekeeping tasks require comprehensive discussion by the member states and the Secretariat with a view to elaborating consistent and balanced approaches, overcoming the fragmented character of the political and legal foundation, developing relevant doctrines and timely preparing normative instruments on the basis of past experience.
Russia’s position of principle is that all conflicts should be primarily settled by political means with the emphasis on national dialogue. Peacekeeping operations should help create the necessary conditions for this. The first basic principle of UN peacekeeping is that blue helmets can only be deployed with the consent of the parties to the conflict.
The second pillar of UN peacekeeping is impartiality. It is unacceptable to have peacekeepers side with this or that party to the conflict under some pretext.
We are very cautious about “augmenting” the mandates of peacekeeping missions. Blue helmets can use force only for self-defence and defence of their mandate. The available experience of giving peacekeepers additional powers to use force, for instance, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali, has not yet convinced us that the higher casualties caused by peacekeepers during coercive operations are justified by the results achieved on the ground. Mandates to use force, if this option is preserved ,should be carefully calibrated for each individual case.
We welcome the intellectual efforts underway in the Secretariat to reform peacekeeping. The Secretary-General has certain latitude in making administrative decisions, including those on institutional changes in the structure of the Secretariat and UN missions. However, when the matter deals with the political dimension of peacekeeping, it is necessary to receive approval of any changes from competent intergovernmental bodies.
This applies, in particular, to sensitive issues concerning the sovereignty of states. So-called “peacekeeping intelligence” has recently become a fashionable trend that is being actively promoted by the Secretariat and its “support group” from among a number of countries. Naturally, peacekeeping operations are carried out primarily by military units that are deployed in regions where there is a threat to security. Of course, in this case they cannot do without performing reconnaissance of the area, although it is still critical to determine how this information will be controlled and whether it will remain confidential.
However, we do not accept the broad interpretation or “flexible” use of intelligence methods. The information needed for peacekeeping operations can only be acquired with the permission of the host government and for clearly specified and limited legitimate purposes, such as to protect the safety of peacekeepers and civilians. This approach was approved by the member states when they coordinated the Report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations to the UN General Assembly. We consider the arbitrary interpretation of the member states’ requests to the Secretariat as unacceptable. This is damaging the UN authority and will have a negative impact on peacekeeping operations.
True partnership between members of the international community is crucial for maintaining peace and security. We welcome the efforts of regional and sub-regional organisations operating in the zones of their responsibility in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.
We point out the considerable achievements of the African Union towards creating a continental architecture of peace and security. We are convinced that only active efforts by Africans themselves will help settle the existing conflicts on the continent. We urge everyone to help the African states play a key role in determining ways to restore peace and security in keeping with their own formula, “African solutions to African problems.”
In addition to internal problems and conflicts, African countries are facing an unprecedented growth of the terrorist threat, which has increased dramatically as a result of opportunistic military operations in the Middle East and North Africa.
The fighters’ southward movement via Libya and into Mali, Niger and Chad has created numerous terrorist threats in the Sahara-Sahel Region. ISIS has developed ties with Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Al-Mourabitoun has become more active in northern Mali and Niger and is trying to rally all the extremist groups in Mali, Niger and Mauritania. Al-Shabaab remains active in Somalia.
Russia has consistently advocated more active support to build up the African countries’ counterterrorism potential. We are ready to share our experience in the area of counterterrorism with our African partners. Hundreds of African peacekeepers and police officers are trained at Russian educational institution every year.
African countries have raised the issue of material and financial support for their efforts to maintain international peace and security, including within the framework of partner relations between the UN and the African Union. We are ready to help work out mutually acceptable agreements.
Cooperation between the UN and the OSCE has great potential. An opportunity of this is offered in the Russian initiative for a UN Support Mission to Protect the OSCE SMM in south-eastern Ukraine with a view to facilitating a strict and comprehensive implementation of the Minsk Agreements on the settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis. As you know, these agreements were unanimously approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202. Attempts to sidestep their implementation are unacceptable.
Peacekeeping is a key area in the UN activity that is of huge practical significance for millions of people. All member states are contributing to this activity, primarily the countries that dispatch their military contingents. We propose that all general matters related to peacekeeping be discussed within the respective formats – the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the Fifth Committee. I believe that the synergy of efforts within the UN General Assembly and Security Council will effectively ensure the universal nature and unique legitimacy of the UN peacekeeping.