India - one of the largest troop contributing countries in the world to UN peacekeeping missions - has said that the success of such missions should be judged on their ability to sustain peace by enabling political solutions, in the face of rising troop casualties.
Systemic shortcomings relating to the lack of clarity of mandates, mismatch with resources available to peacekeepers, lack of focus on political solutions to building and sustaining peace, are all well-known through a series of reports and analyses, India's Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin said.
"We do not think the success of UN peacekeeping should be judged merely by the ability of peacekeepers to secure themselves, by arming themselves. It should be judged by the capability of missions to sustain peace by enabling political solutions through integrated responses," Akbaruddin told the UN General Assembly during an open debate on peacekeeping operations.
"However, a coherent approach to jointly address these continues to elude us, even as we tend to focus on concepts for enhancing efficiency, effecting savings, improving logistics, expanding availability of troops and their rapid deployment," he said.
The level of casualties among peacekeepers, in the last five years, is the highest in any five-year period since the UN began "keeping the peace," he said.
"As a country which has sacrificed perhaps the largest number of its nationals in support of international peace and security, we view this with concern," he added.
No major political breakthroughs appear to be in sight, despite longstanding history of deployment in most of the missions, the top Indian diplomat said.
UN peacekeeping operations are primarily in intra-state situations, often with the involvement of non-state actors, he said.
In such circumstances, it is often proposed that a more 'robust' UN peacekeeping approach can deliver better.
"With little international investment in conflict resolution, this is tantamount to 'arming without aiming'," he added.
Noting that adapting to high-risk environments is not only about military capabilities and posture, he said implementation of "robust" mandates is a much more complex task with serious inherent risks and less than certain outcomes, while possibly impacting the perceived impartiality of the UN.
"We, therefore, need to also examine what are the limits of large stabilisation missions that are now undertaken. We need to consider whether there are other models that may entail investing in political engagement at all levels and implementing better non-security approaches," Akbaruddin said.
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