posted on Thu 23 Jun 2016 4:51 PM
Meeting on the Potential for Complementarity between UN Counter-Terrorism Bodies and Peacekeeping Operations

Tomorrow (24 June), the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations will hold a meeting on the potential for complementarity between counter-terrorism bodies and peacekeeping operations. Renata Dwan, chief of the Policy and Best Practices Service of the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, and Weixong Chen, Deputy Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), are expected to brief Council members.

The meeting is expected to focus on the potential synergies between peacekeeping operations deployed in contexts where violent extremist groups are active, and other tools within the Council’s purview, such as the Counter-Terrorism Committee and CTED. There is interest in CTED’s work in assessing the implementation of resolutions 1373 and 1624—focusing on prohibiting the financing of terrorism and the incitement to commit terrorist acts respectively—as this implies engagement with host states of peacekeeping operations deployed in volatile and non-permissive contexts where terrorist groups are present.

Fragile states hosting peacekeeping missions, such as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali, exhibit several risk factors for terrorism. As the CTED’s 18 January global implementation surveys of resolutions 1373 and 1624 highlight, porous borders, weak governance and high poverty levels, limited control over territory, long-standing local disputes, inter-state rivalries and socioeconomic challenges provide terrorist groups with fertile ground upon which to increase their ranks, spread their messages, and undermine recognised state authorities.

A concept note circulated by Senegal ahead of the meeting covers how UN peacekeeping can contribute to addressing violent extremism. The note acknowledges that this does not include offensive or sustained military means, referring to the same point made in the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and the Secretary-General’s subsequent implementation report. However, the note argues that peacekeeping operations can play an effective counter-terrorism role by denying terrorists the means to carry out attacks, serving as a deterrent to attacks against civilians and building the capacity of national law enforcement agencies. The Secretary-General has repeatedly emphasised how the mandate to protect civilians irrespective of the nature of the threat or its origin constitutes a core obligation for peacekeepers, and how peacekeepers must be capable of operating effectively and as safely as possible even in non-permissive environments.

The concept note highlights how the mainstreaming of a framework to counter/prevent violent extremism can be helpful in delivering on key mandated tasks such as security sector reform or disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. It also lays out the challenge of maintaining the political space for UN good offices and mediation tasks in an environment of violent extremism, including engagement with some of these groups on humanitarian issues and dialogue regarding these groups’ (and their supporters’) political motivations. In this context, Council members might be interested in learning of effective community engagement strategies conducted by peacekeeping operations to communicate their work better and to gather information, hence contributing to the overall protection objectives of their missions.

Nonetheless, the focus of the working group on “peacekeeping operations”, instead of “peace operations” more broadly, may prove a limitation in discussing these issues given how significant the impact of violent extremism is in contexts where special political missions are deployed (e.g. Iraq, Libya, Somalia).