INTERVIEW: ‘Climate of division’ creating more challenging environment for UN peacekeeping
The MINUSMA mission in Mali, which has been ongoing for 10 years, is currently in the process of winding down as it approaches its December deadline to depart.
During his address to the United Nations General Assembly this September, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombohe, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, urged for the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, from the nation.
The main attention of peacekeeping operations is still on Africa due to the high number of missions and personnel that have been sent there.
Mr. Lacroix met with UN News to talk about the current situation of peacekeeping in Africa.
How is the withdrawal process progressing in Mali, where you recently visited the MINUSMA mission that is currently closing?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix: The reduction of our presence is progressing significantly. Over 10,000 of our colleagues have departed from Mali, out of a total of just over 13,500. We are on track to finish this reduction by the planned date of December 31st.
I visited Mali to express gratitude to our colleagues for their exceptional efforts in ensuring the safety of civilians. In my numerous trips to the areas where our MINUSMA colleagues were stationed, the local community consistently gave positive and appreciative feedback. In fact, they often requested for us to continue our efforts and increase our support.
Is now the appropriate time to depart?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix stated that the decision to endorse the UN mission in Mali was made by the Malian authorities and approved by the Security Council. It is crucial for a UN mission, whether it be for peacekeeping or another purpose, to have the support of the host government in order to operate effectively.
So, it had to happen, and I think that the key challenge was to make sure the withdrawal would happen in a way that would ensure the safety and security of our personnel.
What is the current situation of the peacekeeping missions in sub-Saharan Africa? Will they remain in operation?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix believes that our peacekeeping missions are facing increasingly difficult political and security circumstances. He suggests that the increase in crises and divisive attitudes among Member States is hindering our operations, as political efforts are not yielding enough progress in this tense and divided environment.
Therefore, the conflicts that exist on a global scale are also evident on a local scale. Nevertheless, the safeguarding of innocent civilians remains a top priority; our peacekeeping forces are relied upon by hundreds of thousands of individuals on a daily basis for their safety and well-being.
There are obstacles and occasional issues with the host government. We may experience frustrations due to the high expectations placed upon us in regards to our mandate of protecting civilians.
Due to the circumstances on the field and the limited resources at our disposal, we may not always be able to meet these expectations.
The UN has been dealing with financial challenges in addition to political and security concerns in their peacekeeping efforts. Recently, you attended a biennial meeting in Ghana that specifically addressed peacekeeping. Were you able to obtain the desired support from the Member States?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix: Definitely, the meeting in Accra was a great success as it was the first of its kind in Africa. We received generous commitments from Member States that align with our requirements. This shows that UN peacekeeping has strong support from our Member States.
I think it is likely one of the most widely endorsed tasks within the UN as many of the Member States are involved, whether as countries contributing troops or police, serving on the Security Council or General Assembly, or having a vested interest in the specific situation where our peacekeepers are stationed.
I believe there was an acknowledgement of the increased worth of our peacekeepers and the realization that without their presence, the conditions in those nations and areas would likely be considerably more dire.
The UN announced that the security situation in Africa is evolving quickly. How is the UN adjusting its peacekeeping strategies in response to this change?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix expresses the significance of acknowledging the role of peacekeepers in reducing the effects of widespread insecurity in various parts of Africa. When considering places such as Darfur where peacekeepers are no longer present, it prompts us to reflect on the value they bring.
The challenges of safety and security are growing and it is imperative that we take immediate action to address them. There are various methods we can utilize, such as enhancing involvement and fostering trust within communities.
It is crucial to clarify our actions and purpose, and effectively carry out our responsibility to combat the rise of false information and deceit. This is necessary because there are parties with ulterior motives who do not support our accomplishments, or may even want peacekeeping efforts to fail.
They have a vested interest in preserving chaos as it benefits them and their associated groups.
Can you express your level of worry about the potential recurrence of insecurity, violence, and chaos in Darfur once UN peacekeepers withdraw from the region or country?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix has expressed concern about the current situation. The best scenario would be for a peacekeeping mission to end once a political process has been successfully completed and a lasting political resolution has been attained with the assistance of peacekeepers. We depend on the backing of the Security Council, Member States, regional and subregional organizations, and other entities.
Are you not receiving it at the moment?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix stated that in the past, they have achieved durable solutions in many countries with the assistance of peacekeepers. The list of African countries is extensive and includes Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia.
However, attaining these goals has become increasingly challenging due to the lack of unified and dedicated support for political initiatives, particularly from our divided Member States. This is a significant challenge that we must address.
Can we discuss the splits within the Security Council?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix: The Security Council is divided, and this division is also reflected in the membership and international community, causing ripple effects in the various regions where our peacekeeping forces are stationed.
Could you elaborate on how you envision this scenario unfolding in the future? If this division persists, what impact will it have on peacekeeping efforts?
Jean-Pierre Lacroix: It is important to clarify that the United Nations’ responsibilities extend beyond peacekeeping and also encompass peace and security. The success of these efforts relies heavily on the dedication, assistance, and collaboration of Member States.
We should continue to strive to enhance the effectiveness of our peacekeeping missions and our operations in the field regarding peace and security. However, it is crucial to communicate to our member states that our success heavily relies on their united support.
Our Member States must possess an inclination and dedication towards implementing multilateral solutions for addressing crises.