2015 Leaders' Summit on U.N. Peacekeeping
October 5, 2015 (IN10370)
Matthew C. Weed, Specialist in Foreign Policy Legislation (firstname.lastname@example.org, 7-4589)
Luisa Blanchfield, Specialist in International Relations (email@example.com, 7-0856)
On September 28, 2015, President Obama chaired the 2015 Leaders' Summit on U.N. Peacekeeping, part of his
participation at the opening session of the 2015 U.N. General Assembly in New York. The summit outcome, as well as
the President's new pledges for and guidance on U.S. support for U.N. peace operations, might elevate ongoing
congressional interest in several policy issues related to U.N. peacekeeping, including U.S. assessed and voluntary
contributions to U.N. peacekeeping costs, and concern over recent incidents of violence against civilians and sexual
exploitation and abuse perpetrated by U.N. peacekeepers. These new developments could prove important to Congress
as it conducts oversight regarding U.N. peacekeeping generally, any reform efforts undertaken by the United Nations,
and possible budgetary effects of the President's new pledges to support U.N. peace operations.
U.N. Peacekeeping Missions
Operating under the authorities and principles set out in Chapters VI and VII of the U.N. Charter, U.N. peacekeeping
forces undertake a multitude of activities related to cessation of armed conflict and assistance to societies emerging
from such conflicts. "Peacekeeping" has been traditionally defined as operations in support of an existing agreement
between warring parties to cease hostilities. Many U.N. peacekeeping missions operate, however, in situations where
armed conflict is still occurring, or where humanitarian needs are great. Currently there are 16 U.N. peacekeeping
missions worldwide, involving over 120,000 military, police, and civilian personnel.
Peacekeeping Issues and Reform Efforts
Policymakers, including some Members of Congress, have long raised questions about the effectiveness of U.N.
peacekeeping, inefficient bureaucratic structures, and perceived mismanagement. Recent instances of violence against
civilians and sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by U.N. peacekeepers have been met with calls for increased
accountability for personnel who commit crimes. As these perceived problems have been identified, some have
contended that current funding levels are not sufficient to meet the broad mandates of U.N. peacekeeping operations.
Others, however, maintain that current funding levels are sufficient, and that inefficiencies in the U.N. peacekeeping
system must be remedied. Since 2000, the United Nations has undertaken a number of initiatives to reform U.N.
peacekeeping in order to meet the challenges faced by U.N. peacekeeping missions and to improve their effectiveness.
Most recently, in October 2014, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the High-Level Independent Panel on
Peace Operations (the "Panel") composed of independent experts to assess the state of current U.N. peacekeeping
operations and future needs.
In July 2015, the Panel issued an assessment of U.N. peace operations and recommended reforms and improvements,
Reemphasizing conflict prevention and mediation;
Expanding civilian protection capabilities;
Clarifying peace operations' authorities to manage ongoing conflict and use military force;
Sustaining supervision of peace agreements implementation and societies emerging from conflict;
Crafting clear, achievable peacekeeping mandates;
Improving U.N. peacekeepers' speed, capability, and performance;
Strengthening partnerships with regional organizations, such as the African Union;
Following through on policies to improve mission leadership and gender diversity;
Holding U.N. peacekeepers accountable for violence against civilians and sexual exploitation and abuse, and
improving consultation with host governments and local populations;
Improving structural management and support of peace operations, including a more robust leadership structure
within U.N. headquarters, and focusing administrative authority in the field; and
Increasing resources for missions whilst improving pre-mission resource planning and linking continued
resourcing to results-based mission assessments.
2015 Leaders' Summit on U.N. Peacekeeping
Over 50 U.N. member states participated in the 2015 Leaders' Summit on U.N. Peacekeeping, held on September 28,
2015. With the recommendations of the Panel as guidance, participating countries produced a declaration at the end of
the Summit stressing the need for greater resources, reform and improvement of peacekeeping structure, organization,
planning, leadership, training, and capabilities, zero tolerance and discipline for U.N. peacekeepers who perpetrate
sexual exploitation and abuse, and protection of civilians as well as improved security for U.N. peacekeepers. At the
Summit, over 50 countries made new pledges to support U.N. peacekeeping, including over 40,000 additional troops
and police, 40 helicopters, 15 engineering companies, and 10 field hospitals. Significant pledged increases in support
came from a number of European countries, as well as China, which pledged to create an 8,000-troop standby force and
a permanent police unit.
New U.S. Pledges and Guidance for Support to U.N. Peacekeeping
At the summit, President Obama announced expanded U.S. support to U.N. peace operations. The President stated that
the United States would
double its current contribution of 80 military officers;
increase airlift, sealift, and other logistical support;
provide technology to aid logistical and operational shortfalls, including force and civilian protection;
make engineering support available to build infrastructure for new missions; and
develop civil-military command exercises with the United Nations, and provide pre-deployment and in-mission
training and mentoring, including counter-IED training.
In addition to and in connection with these pledges, the President issued a memorandum containing broad new guidance
for U.S. government agencies, and indicating U.S. intentions to help implement the Panel's July 2015
recommendations. Stating that support for U.N. peacekeeping aligns with U.S. national security interests, including
countering terrorism and preventing regional instability where conflicts occur, the memorandum identifies three new
key areas of guidance:
1. Building partner capacity to support U.N. peace operations;
2. Contributing U.S. diplomatic support, enabling capabilities, and personnel; and
3. Leading and supporting efforts at the U.N. for systemic reform.
The memorandum requires the Departments of State and Defense, as well as the U.S. Mission to the United Nations to
submit a plan to implement the new guidance to the National Security Council.