IPI Vienna Seminar Debates Prevention, Politics, and Peace Operations


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Session 1 | Session 3 | Session 4 | Session 6

The 46th annual IPI Vienna Seminar took place on June 1-2, 2016 on the theme “Prepared for the Future? Adapting Peace Operations to a Changing World.” The meeting reflected on the ongoing UN review processes, including recent reports of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), the Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) on the Peacebuilding Architecture, and the Global Study on the implementation of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

The seminar, which was held in the Austrian National Defence Academy, was opened by Bernhard Bair, the Deputy Chief of the Austrian Defence Staff, and Michael Doyle in his first official function as the new Chair of IPI’s Board.

Session one looked at how to transform the emerging new vision for peace operations into reality. Arthur Boutellis, Director of IPI’s Center for Peace Operations, reviewed the main recommendations of the HIPPO report and outlined synergies between the three major reviews of peace operations. He stressed the need for implementation. He also emphasized the underlying themes of prevention and “sustaining peace” which are gaining increased support and profile within the UN.

Michael Doyle noted the remarkable broad consensus on the vision for the future of peace operations within the UN, but bemoaned the lack of strategy to implement it. In terms of priorities, Doyle emphasized the need to enable states to consolidate stability and development, and establish a legitimate monopoly on the use of force.

Session two focused on the issue of prevention. Participants underlined how the United Nations was created seventy years ago “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (as it says in the Charter). Therefore, prevention should be one of the UN’s highest priorities. Youssef Mahmoud of IPI noted that prevention should not always be seen in relation to something negative–like conflict prevention or the prevention of violent extremism–rather it should be pursued as an end itself. He stressed the need to think in terms of positive or sustainable peace. This involves development, good governance and justice that can strengthen the resilience of states. In this respect, several speakers highlighted the importance of Sustainable Development Goal number sixteen as a way of linking peace and justice to development.

Using his annual Global Peace Index as an example, Steve Killelea, the founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, explained how peace can be quantified and that data analysis can expose leading indicators of state fragility and, conversely, peacefulness.

The High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Astrid Thors, explained how her institution carries out preventive diplomacy. She highlighted the need for early action to prevent tensions from erupting into conflict. She, like other speakers, highlighted the importance of education and effective participation as key factors to enable stable and pluralist societies.

Session three focused on strengthening the global military network. Rory Keane, head of the UN Liaison office for peace and security in Brussels, highlighted partnership between the European Union and the UN, as well as triangular cooperation between the latter two and the African Union. He underlined the potential of regional organizations as rapid response capacities to fast-breaking conflicts. He also highlighted niche capabilities of groups like the EU, as well as their support functions like providing airlift capacity and specialized technological expertise.

Aleška Simkić, the Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), described the unique characteristics of the mission, as well as the challenges of managing an operation of 700 unarmed civilians in a dangerous environment.

Wolfgang Wosolsobe, former Director General of the European Union Military Staff, recalled past cooperation between the UN and the EU (like in Mali), and highlighted some of the EU’s operational advantages in the field. He stressed the need for further deepening such partnerships on the basis of a shared understanding of objectives.

During the discussion, participants noted the trend towards making more use of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter (on regional arrangements). The challenge of inter-operability between units from different parts of the world was highlighted. The return of European countries to peacekeeping was also discussed.

Session four focused on the protection of civilians. Several speakers noted that this should be the main focus of the UN’s work, observing with concern the spread of violence, extremism and crime which is putting civilians in the cross-fire.

Helen Durham, Director of International Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross, stressed the importance of putting the needs of people at the core of peacekeeping operations. She called for greater respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and said that peacekeepers should be standard bearers of IHL. She underlined the need for improved training, and more effective communication between military and humanitarian actors (particularly in the field).

Rudolf Müller, Director General a.i. of the UN OCHA in Geneva, presented a number of figures to show the current shortfall in humanitarian assistance. Like others, he echoed the main finding of the HIPPO report on the importance of prevention and the primacy of politics. He stressed that protection is closely linked to democracy, and the lack of protection is therefore a warning of wider instability.

Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, former Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), called for a more robust approach to protecting civilians. He said that there may be times when protecting civilians means attacking those who threaten them, and this should be an accepted part of a peacekeeper’s job. Anything else would be dereliction of a peacekeeper’s duty. However, he noted that this is currently not the norm and that more must be done to motivate peacekeeping personnel to this end.

Session five discussed how to strengthen the role of women in preventing conflict, securing and maintaining peace. Bineta Diop, the African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace, and Security said that there are enough resolutions on this issue, the key is implementation. She highlighted current efforts by the Africa Union (particularly its first female chair) to prioritize women’s issues. She stressed the need for women to be engaged in transitional processes as a matter of course. She also highlighted the need for more female mediators. Several speakers cited an IPI study that concluded that peace processes are more likely to be successful if they involve women’s participation. Several speakers identified concrete examples.

Alaa Murabit, the founder and president of The Voice of Libyan Women, said that young women’s voices need to be heard more. She also said that more needs to be done to explain resolutions like 1325 (on women, peace and security) in ways that make sense to those most affected. She cited abuse of women’s rights as a leading indicator of wider ills in a society.

Marriët Schuurman, NATO Special Representative on Women, Peace and Security, said that she hoped that panels on gender issues as well as gender advisers would soon be a thing of the past and that gender equality would become accepted as normal and considered everybody’s business. In particular, she stressed the need for more women in senior posts.

The sixth and last session looked at “the primacy of politics”. The chair, Alexander Marschik, Director General for Internal Affairs in the Austrian Foreign Ministry, asked how to move from paper to practice, and how to get political buy-in and sustained attention at the highest level.

Ertuğrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, described the challenges of deploying and operating a civilian mission in a war zone. He stressed the importance of being present to deter and reduce conflict, but highlighted the risks of operating in such an environment. He praised the “brave” work of the more than 700 monitors. At the same time he stressed that a field operation needed to complement a political process rather than substitute it.

Ameerah Haq, Vice Chair of the HIPPO and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, stressed the need to focus on the people. She underlined the need to tailor mission mandates to particular circumstances on the ground, and to enable peace operations to adapt to changing conditions. She highlighted the recommendation from the HIPPO report on creating a new post of Deputy Secretary-General for Peace and Security, not least to break down some of the silos within the current bureaucratic UN structure.

Lamberto Zannier, the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) noted that building consensus through a regional organization can sometimes be faster and less cumbersome than at the UN level. He therefore called for making more effective use of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. He remarked that in crisis situations it is “sometimes easier to do things than to decide to do things” and said that there are times when it helps to start moving in a certain direction and get support as you go. He highlighted the OSCE’s rich range of preventive tools and opportunities for early warning and early action. He highlighted the need for a strong link between the political and the operational warning that mandating an operation with tasks that have not been decided at the political level is a recipe for disaster.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd explained the work of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, of which he is the Chair, and the challenge of making the UN “fit for purpose.” He stressed the need for high-level buy-in to create a more effective UN, but also emphasized the need for making the UN more relevant for “we the peoples,” not least through more effective communications. He also said that the UN needs to demonstrate to member states its relevance to deal with the crises of the day, like refugee and migration issues and the “sick global economy.” When asked how states could live up to the challenge of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, Rudd stressed the importance of unlocking the massive potential of private capital in supporting bankable development projects.

In the discussion, several speakers encouraged more innovation in order to adapt to rapid and inter-connected challenges. There was a call for more effective leadership, and to connect short-term national priorities with long-term global strategies.

The Vienna Seminar is annually co-organized between IPI and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence and Sports and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.

Related Coverage (in German):
Bundesheer, June 2, 2016