25 January 2002 - 27 January 2002

The role of the United Nations in the 21st century: Peacekeeping and the Security Council

Chair: Lord Hannay of Chiswick GCMG

Over a stormy and drenching weekend on 25-27 January we took a second look at the role of the United Nations in the 21st Century. Having examined the scope of the UN and institutional issues a year ago, we looked on this occasion, at how Peacekeeping has changed and how the Security Council might better fulfil its role. We were helped in this by the wide range of experience and expertise around the table which included many of those who had worked in the field on peacekeeping missions as well as those who had authorised and helped to organise such missions in new York and capitals.

Before looking in detail at the Security Council and its peacekeeping missions we recognised that the world had changed considerably in terms of the environment in which such operations took place. The demise of ideological blocks and "Empires" had resulted in a greater propensity for states to collapse or fragment, a process which had been described by one commentator as "greater global anarchy". Originally the UN had been concerned with peacekeeping and peacemaking. This had now been enlarged into at least four types of peacekeeping, peacebuilding in several forms with an expanding cast of actors, both civil and military, on the stage. The changing nature of the challenge was an additional complication. International terrorism was the most recent manifestation but a large increase in criminality, even to the extent of the state itself becoming a criminal phenomenon, weapons of mass destruction, refugee crises etc all added to the complexity of the new international security scene. The scale and pace of conflict had also changed dramatically. Violence could now occur frighteningly rapidly and was instantly "visible" around the globe, and added one participant, the IT revolution had given great power to ad hoc alliances. President Estrada of the Philipines had effectively been deposed by groups of young people coordinating their actions by mobile telephone.

Against this background we considered the Security Council's role in international peace and security, the principles and resources devoted to UN peacekeeping and reform of the Security Council itself.

We agreed that the events of 11 September, and subsequent military action in Afghanistan, had refocused attention on Failed States which had faded from attention since Somalia in the early 90's. The problems of failed states raised enormous problems for the UN in coordinating a response. Should the aim be simply to restore peace or do more? We acknowledged that no other organisation had proved adept in finding an effective way of bringing together the military and civilian elements of a peacekeeping, or a peacebuilding, operation. A strong plea was, however, made to involve those agencies and NGOs which would be dealing with the humanitarian side of peacekeeping with the military planners and commanders from the outset. We looked briefly at the procedural possibility of dealing with failed states under the aegis of the UN Trusteeship Council but thought this would be impracticable. However the idea that one person should be entrusted with control of an operation did commend itself to us bearing in mind the difficulties in Kosovo but with East Timor as an encouraging example of what could be done. We asked ourselves if preventive action could be taken at a point when a state appeared to be failing but before it had completely failed. Clearly the costs to the international community would be greatly reduced, not to mention the costs to inhabitants of the states themselves. But the problems of timing, access with the permission of the state ("sovereignty", a word we returned to frequently during our discussions) and willingness to take responsibility for such operations, left us pessimistic about the chances of preventative action, even though, as had been shown in Macedonia, the returns from early action could be great.

We looked at the advantages of UN commanded "Blue Beret" operations compared with "Coalitions of the Willing" or actions by single states, both the latter being approved by the UN. Coalitions of the Willing had a better public reputation since they had real advantages in speed of deployment and robustness of action. Blue Berets took more time and appeared more bureaucratic in the way they acted - the 10 days needed to get agreement to change the rules of engagement in East Timor was cited as an example. But, argued one participant, there was no reason why troops operating in Coalitions of the Willing should not also wear Blue Berets as a sign that they too were acting with UN authorisation and were part of a wider vision of global peace and security. Their success would rub off onto other UN operations to the general benefit. Some of us drew the general conclusion that the UN might be presented as a partner but not the sole custodian of peacekeeping, with a series of options which included Blue berets, coalitions of the willing and other alternatives. The UN had a comprehensive range of capabilities which went much wider than the rather misleading term "peacekeeping" might imply. And, added another participant, not only did the UN have legitimacy it was the sole authority for the actions we had been discussing.

We asked ourselves if the lessons of the growing number of UN operations were being learned, particularly from mistakes such as those in Rwanda. The general view was that the international community had indeed learned a good deal. The need, inter alia, for clear mandates, adequate resources and clarity about the details of how the operation would be commanded and controlled, was now understood even if not yet fully implemented. Some suggested that the Secretary General should be prepared to refuse to take on mandates which he considered were impracticable and there were signs that this was happening. We were left with the intriguing thought that through refusing to accept more powers in Afghanistan, Special Representative Brahimi, had actually increased his influence.

When we looked at the principles and resources available to the UN to conduct peacekeeping operations we noted that, increasingly, military forces were expected to perform tasks which did not fall into our previous understanding of "defence". We also noted that there was a general acceptance of the UN's role as the legitimator of the use of force. The US Administration had recognised this in going to the UN after 11 September, an act which had helped in building a wide coalition for their actions in Afghanistan and against international terrorism.

We looked at some of the principles or guidelines which might influence those deciding on peacekeeping operations and agreed that there was no universal blueprint. Flexibility was the key. Different operations would require different capabilities to perform different tasks. Some took the view that UN-commanded operations might, for the time being, focus on performing Chapter VI tasks leaving the higher intensity Chapter VII tasks to coalitions of the willing. Such coalitions might include peace-enforcement contingents from other countries which did not have the experience or resources to mount such operations on their own and needed to gain experience. The UN, when sanctioning such operations should take a broad and integrated approach with all components of an operation aware of the need for reconstruction. We also needed to bear in mind the continuing need for the UN to remain impartial, cautioned one participant. In thinking about funding, the suggestion was made that instead of relying on the target of 0.7 of GDP which was rarely achieved, the UN might seek to raise money for specific operations on the basis of a clear and targeted appeal.

In looking at what progress had been achieved, we noted that there had been encouraging moves to implement the Brahimi report although there was still some way to go, in particular the failure to provide an international information and planning capability. It was an advance that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had been increased to 420 posts and should soon reach 600. This would give the UN and the Secretary General a greatly enhanced capability to direct operations. Agreement on Standard Operating Procedures would help avoid the appearance of a crisis whenever an operation was launched. We noted the importance of tactical and strategic intelligence for peacekeeping and the impressive use that had been made of tactical intelligence in East Timor. But the problem still remained that those who had intelligence assets were reluctant to give wide access to their output for fear of compromising their sources. Equally, those who received the intelligence in the Security Council were concerned that it might be slanted to reflect the view of the country providing it. An answer might be a small oversight committee whose impartiality was accepted and whose views would help to allay any suspicion of bias.

Given the increasing range of situations in which UN troops could find themselves, we agreed that they needed to be of high quality with good leadership and operate, to the extent possible to common standards and with a common doctrine. Command and control of large complex operations also posed a serious difficulty. We were told that currently only NATO, and possibly the EU, had HQs with such capabilities. We thought that rapidly deployable teams of civilian specialists should be earmarked by Governments to join operations from the outset. We also noted, given the increasing threat of organised criminal activity in the vacuum that sometimes followed military operations, the importance of ensuring that adequate and properly trained police should rapidly be made available. They should preferably be provided in contingents rather than singly and it might be necessary to explore the use of highly vetted private companies, given the present scarcity of police in UN member states willing to serve abroad. We also considered the increasing numbers and role of NGOs with some critical comments on their representativeness, aims and activities which had at times appeared to have had as much to do with enhancing the standing of the NGO as with their contribution to the overall purpose of the operation. This was tempered in further discussion, as was the distinction which had been made that "delivery" NGOs were useful and "advocacy" NGOs a hindrance. Advocacy had played an important part in drawing attention to grave abuses of human rights. We were, however, agreed that a better way should be found to coordinate and interact in the field with participating NGOs.

In looking at the possibility of reforming the Security Council there appeared to be general agreement that, at least in the near future, Charter amendment leading to institutional reform of the Council's membership would not happen. We concentrated therefore on the principles that might inform any eventual enlargement and interim measures that might increase the Council's efficiency.

In looking at enlargement of the Council we acknowledged that its present composition was a reflection of a situation at the end of World War II. There were, for example, no permanent members from the three continents of the developing world. But most of us thought that there was little point in enlargement for its own sake. Geographical expansion would not necessarily add to the Council's collective responsibility. Although it might be desirable, as one participant argued, for members of the Council to reflect not only their national interests but also the general interests of the world community, others maintained the probability was that big regional countries would reflect their national, not regional, interests. It was suggested that permanence was a bad principle and that adding more permanent members would only make matters worse. The recommendation was, however, made strongly that joining the Council should be regarded as a responsibility rather than a privilege or a status symbol. Suitability for Council membership might be measured against a country's willingness to undertake the tasks of Council membership, including the provision of resources such as troops and money for peacekeeping tasks.

We spent some time on two other issues, the Veto and so called "no-go" areas. While actual use of the veto by a P5 member of the Council was relatively rare, it was claimed that the indirect threat of its use was far more pernicious, as was the habit of P5 members engaging in deals which had the effect of putting some issues off the agenda for discussion. Kashmir and the Middle East were cited as two of the biggest threats to peace, yet there had been no proper discussion in the Council. Some claimed that it was this perceived unequal treatment that served to undermine the legitimacy of the Council and stirred resentment of the UN to the extent that Blue Beret soldiers were sometimes now regarded as representing the "enemy" and had, in some quarters, become legitimate targets for attack. As far as the veto was concerned we thought that the P5 might be persuaded to agree to a self-denying ordinance under which they would pledge to abstain from using the veto in cases of humanitarian intervention unless their own national territory was directly affected. To this was added the suggestion that in cases of humanitarian intervention 2 or 3 vetoes would be required to override, say, 12 positive votes.

In the absence of institutional reform a number of measures were proposed with the aim of increasing efficiency. These measures were principally aimed at achieving greater transparency, consultation and accountability. For example, the Council should be more open to the views of other UN members and more prepared to consult in order to bridge the gap between the Council and the Assembly. The Counter Terrorism Committee was thought to be a good example of such a process even though some warned of dangers ahead when the consultative process had reached a point where action against one or more Member States might be urged by, for example, the USA. We considered the question of advice to the Council, particularly military advice. The Military Staff Committee was not thought to be the way forward and other sources were suggested including the Secretary General's Military adviser whose views might be coordinated with, or supplemented by, national military advisers. More use might be made of special representatives. They might sound out those most concerned in particular situations and report back to the Secretary General who was held in high regard for his pragmatic and sensible approach towards the major issues on the UN's agenda. It was suggested that the Council might benefit from an audit of its work including financial auditing but going further. We thought that if reforms on these lines could be instituted they should have the effect of making Council members more aware of the views and needs of the rest of the world. It could also have the effect of changing perceptions of the Council itself as responsive and credible, rather than as unresponsive and ineffective as had sometimes been the case. While some thought this was unlikely others thought that a process of minor incremental changes could indeed make a major difference to the way the Council was viewed and thus to the legitimacy of its decisions. From this point of view the most important change, among those discussed, would be voluntary agreement to set limits on the use of the veto by members of the P5.

At various times during our discussion we turned to the question of the USA's attitude to the UN. Improvements before 11 September were noted as well as rhetorical opposition to multilateralism, notably in Congress. We agreed that the UN had shown itself to be a useful instrument in achieving wide support for the anti-terrorist coalition following the attacks in New York and Washington but there remained considerable uncertainty and concern around the table in Ditchley about whether this might prove to be à la carte multilateralism or something more lasting. We were advised to wait and see what stance the USA took towards the Financing for Development conference in Monterey in March and, later in the year, towards the environment conference in Johannesburg. All, however, accepted that the USA was essential to the flexible and successful evolution of the UN. Grumbling and complaining would not help, suggested one participant. A more productive course would be to reform the UN to show that it could indeed continue to be a partner in achieving some of the wider goals of peace, development and security that the USA and many others desired.

Having noted that the Security Council was enjoying a period of popularity and that criticism of it by members of the Assembly had diminished following its rapid action in passing Resolution 1373 after 11 September, we were warned that cyclical swings had occurred in the past. In the early nineties a similar phase had occurred when Russia had cooperated in the P5 before falling away again after 1995. It was suggested that the intensity of cooperation among the P5 correlated closely with the level of popularity of the Security Council. But this cooperation did not depend solely on events in New York. It was part of a wider relationship between the P5 countries and whether they treated each other with respect around the world.

In a final look at the problems of national interests preventing discussion of important security and humanitarian issues in the Security council, which it had been claimed, in relation to the Middle East, had affected the attitude of many Muslims towards the UN, we were urged to take a wide definition of national interest and not just a short term narrow definition which could contribute to the sort of problems which had arisen. We were warned, however, that great powers would always prove angular, difficult partners. In the context of taking a wider view, it was suggested that we should think about development and security as two sides of the same coin - development was essential for security and security was essential for development.

In a final comment on failed states we were left with the intriguing thought that in our globalising world all states were failing. There were more and more issues which individual states were unable to cope with on their own and had therefore to seek wider partnerships and remedies. A thought for the coming century, perhaps, and for the UN in particular.

I am grateful to the many participants who came to this conference, some from a considerable distance, for contributing so richly to our discussions and to Lord Hannay for chairing the Conference so expertly. It is to be hoped that some of the ideas and suggestions made may prove valuable to the further development of an institution which increasingly occupies such a central place in international affairs.

This report reflects the Director's personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.


Chairman: Lord Hannay of Chiswick GCMG
British Government special Representative for Cyprus formerly Permanent Representative to the United Nations

Dr Lorraine Elliott

Fellow, Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University; Visiting Fellow, Balliol College, College

Ambassador Paul Heinbecker

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations

Vice-Admiral James A King CMM CD
Canadian Military Representative to NATO Military Committee in Permanent Session

Dr David M Malone
President, International Peace Academy
Professor Ernie Regehr
Co-founder, Project Ploughshares, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Ontario

Mr Nicolas Chibaeff

Deputy Director, Political Affairs, United Nations and International Organistions, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr Guillaume Parmentier
Head, French Center on the United States, IFRI

Mr Bernd Mützelburg

Director General for Global issues, United Nations Human rights and Humanitarian Aid, Foreign Office, Berlin

Dr Edgar Buckley

Assistant Secretary-General for Defence Planning and Operations, NATO
Mr Mark Laity
International Staff, NATO

HE Mr Shaharyar M Khan

Formerly Foreign Secretary; UNSG's Special Representative to Rwanda

Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani

Permanent Representative of the Republic of Singapore to the United Nations

Dr Nicola Brewer

Director of Global Issues, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr Neil Briscoe
UN Programme Manager, Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department, Department for International Development, St Antony's College, Oxford
The Rt Hon Menzies Campbell CBE QC MP
Liberal Democrat Frontbench spokesman on foreign affairs and defence; a governor, The Ditchley Foundation
Mr Jeremy P Carver CBE
Clifford Chance LLP: Partner & Head of International Law Group
Professor Malcolm Chalmers
Professor of International Politics, University of Bradford; Chair, Board of Trustees, Saferworld
Professor Michael Clarke
Director, Centre for Defence Studies, King's College, University of London
Mr Robert Cooper CMG MVO
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr Stewart Eldon CMG OBE
Deputy Permanent Representative, UK Mission to the United Nations, New York
Sir Marrack Goulding KCMG
Warden, St Antony's college; formerly Under Secretary-General, Political Affairs, United Nations, New York
Mr Nik Gowing
Main presenter/anchor, international TV new service, BBC World; a Governor, The Ditchley Foundation
Mr Ian Martin
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, UN Mission in Ethiopia/Eritrea (2000-2001)
Sir Michael Quinlan GCB
Formerly Permanent Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence
Professor Adam Roberts
Montague Burton Professor of International Relations and Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford
General Sir Michael Rose KCB CBE DSO QGM
Formerly Commander, UN Protection Force, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Mrs Barbara Smith
The Economist: Middle East and Africa Editor; writer on the Middle East and UN
Mr Simon Webb CBE
Deputy Under Secretary, Policy, Ministry of Defence
Sir John Weston KCMG
Formerly Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations; a Governor, the Ditchley Foundation
Dr Michael C Williams
Special Adviser to the Foreign Secretary

Mr Sam Daws

First Officer, Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General

Mr Jean-Marie Guéhenno
Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping, United Nations, New York
Mr Shashi Tharoor
Interim Head, Department of Public Information, United Nations
Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello
Special Representative of the Secretary General and Transitional Administrator, UNTAET Dili

The Hon Richard N Gardner

Professor of Law and International Organization, Columbia University and Counsel, Morgan Lewis LLP; Vice-President and Member, Board of Directors, The American Ditchley Foundation.
Dr Edward Luck
Director, Center on International Organization, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Mrs Wendy W Luers
Founder and President: The Foundation for a Civil Society; Advisory Council and Program Committee, American Ditchley Foundation
The Hon William H Luers
Chairman and President, United Nations Association of the United States of America
Ambassador Thomas R Pickering
Senior Vice President International Relations, The Boeing company; formerly Permanent Representative to United Nations
Mr Richard H Stanley
Chair, The Stanley Group of companies; Chair and President, The Stanley Foundation

Mr John Clark

Lead Social Development Specialist, The World Bank