High-level Seminar and Expert Symposium at UN Headquarters

High-level Seminar and Expert Symposium at UN Headquarters

High-level Seminar and Expert Symposium at UN Headquarters

Preparing and Building for the Future: Pathways Towards more Nimble, Adaptive and Effective Peacekeeping

In conjunction with the International Day of Peacekeeping 2024, the GCSP in cooperation with the United Nations Department for Peace Operations, Permanent Missions of Ghana, Switzerland, Norway, and India to the United Nations, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, United Service Institution of India, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, and Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network, co-organized a High-level Seminar and Expert Symposium at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Amid geopolitical shifts and a complex web of interlocking trends and challenges impacting global peace and security, there is an urgent need for multilateral responses that are relevant, responsive, and impactful. How can United Nations peacekeeping evolve to become more flexible, adaptive and effective in addressing these demands? Building on the momentum of the New Agenda for Peace, and in the lead-up to the Summit of the Future, peacekeeping leaders and experts from around the world met in New York on 31 May to make progress on “Preparing and Building for the Future: Pathways Towards more Nimble, Adaptive and Effective Peacekeeping.” The day of deliberations provided a space for an open and forward-looking policy dialogue, bringing together a global group of peacekeeping experts, and from across a wide range of disciplines, to share actionable ideas on how best to prepare UN peacekeeping operations for current and future challenges. 

UN peacekeeping has been, and remains, an expression of global solidarity and of multilateralism in action, building on strong Member State consensus. It is a partnership in the service of global peace. Its success requires collective action to respond to threats to peace and security and ensure impact and effectiveness. However, recognizing the growing complexity of the conflict environment, the absence of viable political processes, and the divisions in the Security Council, all of which have weakened the political weight and leverage of peacekeeping operations. To meet these challenges, a common theme throughout the day was that peacekeeping must adapt and innovate; peace operations need to be nimble, flexible, multi-disciplinary, and fit-for-purpose.

The opening session was facilitated by Professor Cedric de Coning, Research Professor at NUPI, while Ambassador Thomas Greminger, Executive Director of the GCSP welcomed participants on behalf of the co-organizers and raised the key issues to be addressed during the day. The Permanent Representative of India, Ms Ruchira Kamboj, and the Under Secretary General for Peace Operations, Mr Jean-Pierre Lacroix, shared their perspectives on what they saw as some of the key challenges facing UN peacekeeping and what they hoped that the day would generate.

The second session focused on Current and Emerging Challenges: Adapting Peacekeeping for the Future. The panel and participants canvassed the horizon, exploring what impact new technologies have, mis- and disinformation, consequences of climate change, and the evolving role of regional and sub-regional organizations are likely or may have on future peace operations. Moderated by the Permanent Representative of Ghana Mr Harold Agyeman, speakers included Dr Solomon Dersso, Founding Director of Amani Africa, Ambassador Ahmed Abdel-Latif, Director General of CCCPA, Dr Lotte Vermeij, Senior Expert on UN Peace Operations and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence at NORCAP, and Ms Nathalie Ndongo-Seh, Director of the Western Africa Division at DPPA-DPO.

The following session focused on Nimble, Adaptive and Effective Peacekeeping: What Lessons from UNTSO for Future Peacekeeping? This panel discussion put a spotlight on observer missions and was kicked off by the launch of a GCSP led (Annika Hilding Norberg) Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network (EPON) Study on the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). In addition to assessing the role, relevance, function and utility of UNTSO itself, recommendations were offered to build on UNTSO’s innovations for the development of future mission models. The Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN, Ms Merete Fjeld Brattested, moderated the session. Speakers were Ms Annika Hilding-Norberg, Head of GCSP Peace Operations and Peacebuilding, and EPON study team leader and lead author, Maj Gen Dr AK Bardalai (rtd), former Deputy Force Commander at UNIFIL, and EPON study team member; Lt Gen Robert Mood (rtd), former Head of Mission of UNTSO and UNSMIS, and EPON study team member; Maj General Cheryl Pearce, Acting UN Military Advisor; Maj Gen Patrick Gauchat, UNTSO Head of Mission, and Mr Darko Mocibob, Director DPPA-DPO Middle East Division.

A High-Level Luncheon was hosted by Switzerland on the seminar theme Pathways to more Nimble, Adaptive and Effective Peacekeeping. USG Peacekeeping Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Swiss Deputy State Secretary for Security Policy Pälvi Pulli gave keynote remarks. Annika Hilding Norberg, GCSP, facilitated the session including an interactive conversation with luncheon participants.

In the afternoon, three parallel roundtables were held under the overall theme of Nimble, Adaptive and People-Centered Peacekeeping Models. Roundtable one moderated by Dr Emma Birikorang, Acting Deputy Director at KAIPTC, explored how peacekeeping operations can become more nimble, adaptive and effective. How can systemic issues that prevent change be addressed whilst building on existing strengths and new capacities, leverage data and evidence-based decision making, and harness the role of technology?

The second roundtable facilitated by Dr Andrew Tchie, Senior Researcher at NUPI, explored practical approaches for peacekeeping operations to become more people-centered, examining what this means in practice and why it matters. The discussion focused on the implementation of human rights mandates and the importance of engaging effectively with local communities, especially women and youth.

Roundtable three, was moderated by Dr Dawit Yohannes, Project Manager and Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies Addis Ababa, and addressed how peacekeeping operations can help rebuild trust in the rule of law as a foundation for peace and security. Vision, actionable strategies, and models for the future of UN Rule of Law efforts, particularly in the area of police, justice and corrections were explored. Keynote ignite speaker was the UN Police Adviser Faisal Shahkar. A second GCSP publication, a compendium on the theme Ideas Notes 2030: Strategic Reflections for the Future of UN Policing, was shared and referenced by a number of speakers. A number of the Ideas Notes in the publication fed into and others were generated as a result of the UN Police Division Leadership Team Retreat convened by the UN DPO and supported by the Swiss Federal Department for Foreign Affairs, GCSP, and SWISSINT in Stans in February 2024. The compendium contains co-authored Ideas Notes from a global group of experts from Global South and North, women and men, on a diverge range of topics related to UN policing.

Wrapping up the day, a plenary session was moderated by the Permanent Representative of Switzerland Ms Pascale Baeriswyl. Looking towards the Summit of the Future and the Peacekeeping Ministerial to be held in Germany in 2025, the concluding session discussed the take-aways from the day in general and the roundtable discussions in particular. A final focus to operationalize ideas and recommendations shared, was by participants considering how political space for future deployments amid geopolitical shifts could best be fostered. Closing remarks were provided by Maj Gen Richard Addo Gyane, Commandant at KAIPTC, Maj Gen BK Sharma (rtd), Director at USI India, and Ms Flavia Minelli, Head of Peacekeeping Best Practices, Division of Policy, Evaluation and Training, United Nations Department for Peace Operations.

During the seminar, reflecting on the peacekeeping journey over the last 76 years, the critical and valued role that peacekeepers have played was recognized. Serving peace in increasingly turbulent times can be difficult politically and challenging operationally. However, despite the challenges, peacekeeping is still a much-needed tool and resource. It requires Member States’ solid and authentic commitment.

The New Agenda for Peace speaks to the benefit of building partnerships and strengthening cooperation. The high-level seminar and expert symposium was one such initiative – aimed at galvanizing collaboration and building bridges to further common understanding and inspire collective action. Participants reflected on the limitations and obstacles facing current missions. The seminar also provided an opportunity for offering solutions and pathways towards building better missions, adaptive and agile, ready for the future. A conference report will be made available in due course, also on this website.

We extend our thanks to our committed and forward leaning UN, Swiss and other Partners in co-hosting the event. We are also most thankful to our equally engaged Partners contributing to the two reports on UN military observers and UN police respectively, which were launched during the day. For full acknowledgements of all, kindly see the reports.

Concluding, we salute all the women and men peacekeepers who have or are serving peace often in the most harsh and demanding environments.  We pay tribute to our fallen friends and to military, police and civilians, who through hard labor, have dedicated their hearts and minds to working in the cause of peace.