UNITAR NYO Delivers Peacekeeping Workshop with Sweden Sponsorship

UNITAR NYO Delivers Peacekeeping Workshop with Sweden Sponsorship5 December 2016, New York, USA – The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) New York Office, with generous sponsorship from the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations, held a briefing on the status of United Nations peacekeeping operations. The course was instructed by Dr. Roy S. Lee, former Assistant Secretary-General for legal affairs at the United Nations and a veteran of the United Nations legal system. He currently teaches at Yale University’s School of Environment and Forestry, and previously taught at Columbia Law School. This is his second course in this series supported by Sweden; his first, Multilateral Negotiations, took place in October.

Mr. Marco Suazo, Director of the UNITAR New York Office gave brief opening remarks outlining the course and thanked participants for attending a briefing on such a pertinent, important topic. Dr. Lee opened the course with a broad overview of the peacekeeping operation landscape at the United Nations. He detailed the number of different missions that are currently deployed around the globe, emphasizing different types of missions, their respective mandate structures and what countries supply the majority of troops for certain operations. He then made the participants do a broad round of introductions. This provided a unique window into the wide-range of peacekeeping backgrounds present at the course. Almost everyone in attendance represented a different United Nations Permanent Mission, and many of them were either in charge of peacekeeping issues at their respective missions or were Military Advisers. Dr. Lee had many participants from troop contributing countries and countries heavily involved in peace operations discuss their understanding and roles in United Nations peacekeeping operations, and utilized these small introductions to curtail the information he provided to suit the curiosities of participants. He also briefly went over the importance and difficulties surrounding impartiality, one of the key concepts and pillars of any peace operation.

After a short break, Dr. Lee focused on the structure of peace operations both at headquarters and in the field. Drawing a quick bubble diagram, Dr. Lee used the visual aid of the structures of peacekeeping operations to highlight some of the issues surrounding funding mechanisms, bureaucracy and the inability to deploy operations occasionally due to Security Council objections. He also discussed in this section of the course the role of sovereignty and host country consent, and how that can be a crucial make-or-break aspect of whether or not a peace operation is a) able to deploy and b) whether or not it is successful. He also contemplated with the participants whether or not peacekeeping should incorporate elements of counterterrorism, and if so, how they would go about doing that. After he finished discussing structural elements and issues of peacekeeping operations, Dr. Lee opened the floor to a question and answer section. Participants were largely inquisitive, most notably asking many questions regarding the difference between Special Political Missions and peacekeeping operations.

UNITAR NYO Delivers Peacekeeping Workshop with Sweden SponsorshipThe course concluded with a post-lunch session on protection of peacekeepers and, in turn, the protection of civilians from peacekeepers and sexual exploitation and abuse scandals. Dr. Lee highlighted the marked change in the peacekeeping landscape from the traditional missions that were thought up decades ago. He noted the presence now of missions where peacekeepers do not have a peace to keep, and are instead tasked to mitigate conflict. In this section, he also discussed preventative measures that can be taken by peacekeepers to prevent natural disaster and epidemic-type situations. He and the participants discussed the cholera outbreak in Haiti as a case study. Finally, they discussed the unfortunate presence of sexual exploitation and abuse cases surfacing particularly in a few of the missions in Africa recently. Dr. Lee outlined the prosecutorial jurisdiction issues involved with bringing such perpetrators to justice. 

Photos: Panelists and participants of the workshop