UNITED NATIONS – Rapid missions, in which the political takes precedence over the military, and realistic mandates must be integral to United Nations peace operations, according to an expert group created by the organization to promote reforms.
The Committee, chaired by the former President of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jose Ramos-Horta, presented on Tuesday the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, a report with recommendations to suit deployments of “Blue Helmets” into the 21st century.
The review is the first in 15 years and comes at a time when the United Nations has deployed about 125,000 troops worldwide, the highest in its history, and in increasingly dangerous conflict zones.
According to the experts, peacekeeping missions should prioritize political solutions over military ones.
They say the United Nations should strengthen its work in prevention of conflicts, especially with the Security Council playing a more active role during threats to peace.
Ramos-Horta, in a press conference, said currently it takes up to 9 months for a mission to be approved until it is ready for ground deployment.
The experts also recommended the United Nations not to participate in counter-terrorism military operations as they do not possess the necessary skills.
Last year, 126 peacekeepers died in United Nation missions, 41 of them in Mali, where international forces are fighting jihadi groups.
Experts have also called for more resources to enable the “Blue Helmets” to protect civilians in conflict situations.
They also recalled the organization’s “failure” in places like Rwanda, where peace workers were unable to stop the genocide.
The report presented to Ban also proposes measures against repeated sexual abuse by personnel from peacekeeping missions, an issue that has made headlines in recent months following reports of several cases.
“Zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse must mean exactly that: zero tolerance. Immunity must not ever mean impunity,” Ramos-Horta said.
In the case of United Nations civilian personnel of the United Nations, the experts urged the organization to act as soon as there is credible evidence, with authorities of the country where suspects are deployed, and investigate and prosecute the offender like anyone else.
“This is what has to be very clear. You commit a barbarity. You have no protection whatsoever; you are subject to the laws of the country where you are in operation. You cannot hide under the United Nations’ roof,” warned the former president of East Timor.
He also called for implementing effective programs to help victims and children born of sexual abuse.
In addition, the committee made clear that troops from countries that appear in United Nations’ reports of violence against children and sexual violence in armed conflicts, will have no place under the United Nations flag.