Thank you so much, Simon, for chairing this panel. Let me begin by thanking Foreign Minister Koenders for convening this meeting and for his significant personal efforts over a lifetime, in a variety of roles, to strengthen the institution of UN peacekeeping. I’d also like to recognize the Netherlands for leading by example in encouraging European countries to return to a greater role in UN peacekeeping missions. It’s hugely welcome – and needed.
I’d also like to thank Ambassador Gasana for co-chairing this meeting, and of course for Rwanda’s tremendous leadership not only in shaping the Kigali Principles and conceptualizing this effort from the outset, but in working tirelessly with his team to persuade fellow troop- and police-contributing countries to support and implement them. I also would note that, for Eugene, this is a deeply personal exercise. And we’ve see when crises have transpired here over the last few years, when there is a chance for Rwanda to step up and play a role in civilian protection, along the lines of what he’s described in his remarks, Eugene is always at the forefront in urging UN Member States to contribute and to step up, and also in communicating with his president who has been remarkably responsive, again, when time is of the essence for people in need – particularly in the Central African Republic, as was mentioned. I thank the President of the General Assembly for lending his presence to this event and this initiative, and it’s great to be up here on the stage with Ian Martin who will forget more about peacekeeping than most of us will ever know, and so I’m really looking forward to hearing his comments which I’m sure will be both thoughtful and provocative – as they should be.
As we all know, the Kigali Principles are so named because they were released at the conclusion of an international conference held in Rwanda’s capital a year ago. But the Principles are named symbolically for Rwanda’s capital which – like Srebrenica, in Bosnia – has come to stand for the horrific consequences that can result when UN peacekeepers are deployed to places that are dangerous, with vague mandates and little clarity on whether or not they are authorized to use force to protect civilians.
When the killing in Rwanda started in April of 1994, the UN force commander, Major General Romeo Dallaire, cabled UN headquarters in New York with a simple message: “Give me the means,” he wrote, “and I can do more.” In places like the Amohoro Stadium, where 10,000 civilians had sought protection under UN cover, General Dallaire saw that it didn’t actually take many UN soldiers to protect gatherings of terrified people from the Hutu militia who were threatening them. But as we all know, General Dallaire was not given the means to do more, despite his appeals. On the contrary, as the killing ramped up, peacekeepers were drawn down. And in just a hundred days, 800,000 men, women, and children were massacred – most of them killed not with firearms or sophisticated weaponry, but with machetes, knives, spears, and clubs studded with nails.
And yet the name of the Kigali Principles is not only a reminder of the human stakes when peacekeeping fails to stop terrible wrongs, it also honors the role that Rwanda has played in UN peacekeeping since the genocide; going from a country that hosted and was let down by peacekeepers, to a major peacekeeping contributor, whose soldiers and police have demonstrated that standing up, rather than standing by, can save lives when civilians are in peril.
The service of peacekeepers like the Rwandans has been part of genuine improvements in UN peacekeeping over the 22 years since the genocide in Rwanda. Back then, it’s worth recalling, not a single peacekeeping operation had an explicit mandate to protect civilians; today, 98 percent of peacekeepers serve in missions that do, and they are explicitly authorized to use force if necessary to fulfill their mandates. UN peacekeeping has also strengthened its planning, its command-and-control, and its oversight, among other key areas of reform.
But we have to remember where we started. Strengthening is not enough. What matters is overall performance and effectiveness, and we continue to see reports of UN peacekeepers failing to protect civilians.
The reporting mechanism from missions to the Security Council, or even back to troop- and police-contributing countries from the field, are not very transparent. So it’s hard to know what’s actually happening in many missions around the world. And I know that’s a source of frustration for most Member States, who come at this from a very different angles, but share a desire to know what’s actually happening. But a 2014 report from the UN’s internal oversight office found that in 507 attacks against civilians from 2010 to 2013, peacekeepers virtually never used force to protect those under attack. We continue to see units retreat from towns they are supposed to protect, rather than standing their ground as armed attackers approach. And we continue to see units that, despite receiving desperate calls from civilians under attack in nearby villages – or desperate text messages these days – units that stay on their bases instead of going out and trying to perform a rescue role.
The Kigali Principles are designed to address these and other persistent shortfalls. The Principles are not a panacea, obviously, but they’re also not an abstract set of values; they are meant to be a concrete blueprint aimed at shaping the practices of peacekeepers in volatile situations, particularly with respect to the protection of civilians. To give just one example, the Principles call for troop-contributing countries to empower the military commander of a peacekeeping contingent to use force – because if a commander has to wait hours and hours for guidance from capital, it may mean not being able to react in time to repel a fast-approaching attack on a nearby village. If properly implemented, there is little doubt that the Kigali Principles would make peacekeeping missions more effective, improve security, and save lives.
Given the real-life implications, which Ambassador Gasana and Minister Koenders have spoken to, the United States urges the UN – the institution of the UN – to attach considerable weight to a country’s commitment to implement the Kigali Principles when it is selecting units for peacekeeping operations – particularly those operations deployed to volatile environments with these civilian protection mandates. The surplus of troops and police – which is new for the UN – the surplus generated at last September’s Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping should give the UN a much greater capacity to align the demands of a particular peacekeeping operation with what different countries’ military and police units are willing and able to do. It is incumbent on the UN to take advantage of this, to select units that are trained, equipped, and prepared to protect civilians.
And we know, of course, that the United States and other advanced militaries have an important responsibility in helping support TCCs and PCCs who move out into these incredibly dangerous environments. And we intend to work with you to make sure that we are delivering on that responsibility adequately.
To be clear, I think the United States is now adopting a similar approach to the one we’re calling for the UN to adopt as we think about our support to these peacekeeping operations. Last September, President Obama directed the U.S. government to prioritize peacekeeping support for those troop- and police-contributing countries that, as he put it, “have demonstrated the will to implement UN Security Council mandates, including those for the protection of civilians.” And in that spirit, again, as we continue to implement programs to train, equip, and build capacity – and we’ve heard the demand signals from so many of the countries here in the UN – we will look increasingly to work with partners who support the Kigali Principles and who are making good faith efforts to implement them responsibly out in the real world.
As we meet today, as Ambassador Gasana has indicated, 29 countries have so far announced support for the Kigali Principles. That accounts for more than 40,000 troops and police who serve in UN peacekeeping operations; or, put another way, well over one-third of the uniformed personnel who are out there. And I want to just pay special thanks to the permanent representatives at the missions who have signed onto the Kigali Principles. Any of us who have gone through the process of seeking the support of our capitals for these Principles know that these processes are never short, they’re never without complication. And I think it is very fair to say – not knowing each of your individual sagas – but that it was truly the support of individuals here in New York who put this issue on the map in their capitals.
And of course there are a lot of people in capitals who are extremely supportive of this agenda, but it takes someone lobbying and the use of action-forcing events like today’s panel to get commitments like this across the finish line. And so I really want to pay tribute – on behalf of everybody up here – to those of you who made that effort and the members of your team who did so as well. And I want to pay additional tribute to those who are still trying, and I know there are quite a few of you out there who had hoped to be with us today and who we look forward to recognizing at a future event.
Give what I’ve just said, I’m especially pleased to announce that the United States is among those countries supporting the Principles, as expressed in a note verbale to the government of Rwanda. We are very proud to be a member of this group. We are also humbled. We know and tip our hats to the countries who are providing huge numbers of peacekeepers – whether infantry, or police, or engineering, or aviation – out in really dangerous environments. And we really, again, are just humbled and proud to be a member of this ever-expanding club.
We know that, again, there are countries that are still studying the Principles and assessing the implications of supporting them for their units who are out there in harm’s way. And even though we have very few uniformed personnel in UN peacekeeping, this process for us required a lengthy and careful analysis. And we know that for some countries as well, actually signing onto these Principles would require a shift in the approach that has been taken in terms of military doctrine or tactics in peacekeeping missions. And so, again, we have the greatest respect for those who are pursuing this commitment.
We welcome the seriousness, we welcome the long overdue discussions that are now happening on various and varied approaches to UN peacekeeping. And, again, we look forward to more countries announcing their support for the Principles, and the positive effect that’s going to have in the real world, on real lives of people who count on us and, as Minister Koenders said, count on that flag as meaning something.
Let me conclude where I started, in a way, back to Rwanda in 1994. In one of the many chilling incidents that comprised this horrific 100 days for the people of Rwanda, approximately 2,000 Rwandans, including 400 kids, took shelter in the so-called ETO, the École Technique Officielle, in Kigali, under the protection of 90 UN peacekeepers. Outside the school’s gates, armed militiamen waited – drinking beer, chanting, and threatening the civilians inside. Yet despite being able to see and hear the mob that awaited those civilians, the UN peacekeepers were withdrawn from the school, as they were in so many other places in Kigali and across Rwanda. As the peacekeepers pulled out – and some of you have seen the footage to this effect in various documentaries – several of the civilians in the ETO chased after the jeeps, screaming, “Do not abandon us! Do not abandon us!” And shortly afterwards, as you all know, nearly all of the civilians in that school were killed.
The Kigali Principles are designed to make sure that civilians are not abandoned by the international community again. It’s sort of that simple. And we look forward to seeing the Kigali Principles used to inform future peacekeeping missions, to make transparent debates that are really important about how to go about protecting civilians – because Lord knows it’s not easy, and these environments are extremely difficult for the brave men and women who are out there in the field. And we hope that more countries will make this set of Principles part of their practice. And I thank you.
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I am honored to be here today to co-chair, together with Minister Gasana of Rwanda, this important discussion on the present and future of civilian protection in peace operations. We are a new movement, establishing our credentials today
Last year’s UN peace and security reviews on Peacekeeping, UNSCR 1325 and Peacebuilding call for a people-centered approach. They call for action, leadership and reforms. Protection of civilians is an essential part of this ‘package deal’.
“So what are you going to do about it?”, Major General Patrick Cammaert would say. A simple question he uses in scenario based training for peacekeepers all over the world. A question that does not allow any room for jargon; it calls on the responsibility to act. It calls on all of us to answer those who have put their hopes in the UN, its blue flag and helmets.
Each individual state has the prime responsibility to protect its citizens. But what do we do if men and women cannot lead their lives save from threats? The appeal by the Secretary-General and the President of the ICRC, in October 2015 is loud and clear: Act effectively, decisively and in a timely manner to protect civilians in conflict. In this respect, I welcome the important resolution adopted last week on the protection of health care workers in armed conflict. The Netherlands was among the more than 80 co-sponsors of this important text. The Council should follow implementation closely.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands considers it crucial that civilians under threat are protected. Let me highlight three key areas to act:
People and communities under threat, with nowhere to go, need to know the UN will do anything within its scope to provide protection. They need to know what to expect and not to expect from the mission. What I have to say on this is very brief: Just read, sign and implement the Kigali Principles. This set of action-oriented principles were agreed during the conference on Protection of Civilians organized by Rwanda in the run-up to last year‘s Leaders Summit on Peacekeeping. I am proud the Kingdom of the Netherlands was one of the first signatories, and am pleased to notice many more countries are joining, following our collective outreach. Let us now start implementing them, systemically, and jointly.
My country looks forward to continuing the collaboration with Rwanda and the US on comprehensive capacity building of civilian and military staff; training people on how to deal with protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations is essential. The Netherlands is committed to doing this, and preparing a curriculum in close cooperation with the UN, Rwanda and the US. This is also a way of implementing the Kigali Principles. As is the zero tolerance on sexual violence, as is the need to organize missions around intelligence, implementation and a mandate that puts Protection of Civilians at the heart of our actions.
Whereas peacekeepers and civilian staff need to act decisively and coordinated to protect civilians under immediate threat, during the peacebuilding process PoC becomes a long-term strategy aiming for the state and its security sector to take on the responsibility to protect their population. This makes security sector reform a key linking pin to find lasting solutions for protecting civilians during post-conflict peacebuilding processes. The ultimate aim remains the same; to improve citizen security.
PoC can only be incorporated in a meaningful way if SSR is people-centered. Perceptions, needs and expectations of communities with regards to their security ought to be the basis of inclusive security sector reforms. The UN can play a conducive and continued role when UN Country Teams work closely with the missions during the peacekeeping phase and continue supporting national processes during post-conflict peacebuilding.
“You will only see it once you get it”. This is one of less known expressions of late soccer legend Johan Cruijf. If the empowerment and protection of women and girls is merely an afterthought in our peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities, it means we didn’t get it. How can we talk about people-centered approaches without putting 1325 at the core? Isn’t that what inclusiveness means? If we implement the women, peace and security systematically and strategically, we will be armed to our teeth with the strongest instrument: prevention.
One of the preventive measures is to deploy more women in peace operations. The Kingdom of the Netherlands supports UN Women’s female military officers course, which by now has trained female officers from over 40 countries with the aim to be deployed. I am pleased to say some of them are ready to be deployed. The Office of the Military Advisor is using this roster of trained female military officers in their force generation efforts. Missions with more female personnel, diverse missions so to say, have the opportunity to increase engagement with local women and men, which may enhance the comprehensiveness of obtained intel, and signal early warning of threats to civilians. A powerful preventive tool!
Ladies and gentlemen, it is simple. The blue UN flag needs to stand for protection, for upholding human rights and rule of law. This implies that each staff member needs to be held accountable for abiding by the UN code of conduct. No exceptions. Sexual violence, abuse and exploitation do not belong in the UN! Accountability and pursuit of justice is of key importance.
The Netherlands, as your partner in peace, justice and development, stands ready to put the protection of civlians at the center of peace operations. I look forward to our debate on the Kigali Principles, and hope to be inspired by all contributions in order to make sure the UN can perform these tasks.
President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft,
Our distinguished panelists,
It is an honor to be with you today for this one-of-a-kind event that allows us to reaffirm our commitment to protecting civilians in armed conflict through the endorsement of the Kigali Principles.
I first would like to welcome my co-chair, H.E Bert Koenders. Foreign Affairs Minister of the Netherlands. Thank you very much for your commitment to these principles, from the active engagement of your Permanent Representative, Karl to yourself. Your past experience leading the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali undoubtedly provide us with an important partner who grasps fully the essence of the Kigali Principles and its importance when we talk about bringing peacekeeping into the 21st Century.
We have a special opportunity today to shape the future of UN peacekeeping by adhering to 18 principles that hold our efforts to the highest standards as troop and police contributing countries, as peacekeepers, as mission leadership and as protection of civilian stakeholders. The failures of our past should not dictate our future but rather should inform us of what we can do better.
The 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda blatantly took the lives of over a million Rwandans and impressed upon us the conviction that we must take every measure necessary to secure the lives of civilians. This conviction coupled with our history fueled our desire to contribute to peacekeeping in a profound way. We currently have over 6,000 troops and police serving in numerous peacekeeping missions and we aspire to contribute even more.
Our troops and police live by the guiding words of these Kigali Principles. They receive extensive pre-deployment training on the protection of civilians, believe in identifying threats to civilians, are prepared to use force when necessary and consistent with the mandate, and possess an unwavering determination to deliver on their responsibility to thoroughly protect.
Almost a year after the inception of the Kigali Principles, we have troop and police contributing countries from different regions of the world endorsing them. I thank the following countries for their resolute commitment to protecting the lives of civilians: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Italy, Netherlands, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Uruguay whom have been with us since the very beginning, and the new endorsements by Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Estonia, Finland, Ghana, Guinea, Ireland, Malawi, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States and Zambia.
The reality is that conflicts are escalating in number and changing in nature at levels and speeds that are unprecedented. We must meet these challenges head on by adapting and modernizing our ways of old. This includes having robust and proactive peacekeeping that closes the gaps on what is asked of us to protect civilians and what we actually provide. What is most at stake is not our reputation or the legacy we intend to leave behind but rather the lives of those civilians that have involuntarily been absorbed in conflicts and wars that have taken their loved ones, endangered their lives and stolen their livelihood.
The report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and the subsequent report of the Secretary-General called for meeting the needs on the ground to proactively and effectively protect civilians. The Kigali Principles answer these calls and they seek accountability for the way forward. Just earlier this year, the Kigali Principles were included in the C-34 Report for the 2016 substantive session, a growing testament to their relevance.
But more can be done.
The UN, the body that brought us together in 1945 to secure peace and security for all generations to come, has an essential role to play in advancing the principles.
It can assist us in invoking the principles in all the areas in which they are vital to, from the pre-deployment training standards the UN enforces to the materialization of a rapid deployment component that can swiftly aid the UN when a crisis hits.
The Secretary-General’s endorsement of the principles can contribute to further institutionalize the principles, leading the charge towards a Secretariat that can deliver on operational standby and rapid deployment arrangements that meet at least the 30 day target for a traditional mission, and 90 day target for a complex mission.
The Kigali Principles can also enforce the numerous policies and frameworks the Office of Military Affairs and other similar departments are supplying to troop contributing countries to better guide their efforts on the ground. As H.E. President Paul Kagame has poignantly stated, we must ensure that the “necessity to protect civilians does not get lost in ideological debates,” which are void of action and do nothing to save lives.
I therefore ask those member states present here today that have not endorsed the principles to deeply consider them and their contribution to peacekeeping. Lets commit to making a difference on the field and fulfill the implementation of the protection of civilian mandates we have been tasked with. At very core of our efforts is one fundamental task: the protection of any and all civilians.
The way forward must be guided by a collective effort from each of us that strengthens our present peacekeeping efforts and sets the foundation for future pursuits of peace and security.
Today, we have the opportunity to write a narrative that matches our innate desire to save the lives of those civilians entangled in armed conflict. Ambassador Samantha Power has been writing the pages of this narrative, working fervently to secure the United States’ support for these principles. She has witnessed first hand the terrible plight civilians continue to endure and felt at the most profound levels the responsibility to do more to better protect the civilians when she went to the Central African Republic, to Mali and to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her unrelenting leadership in advancing the protection of civilians has made us all reexamine our own contributions to peacekeeping and fortified the important role peacekeepers play in protecting civilians and keeping peace at the same time. Ambassador Power, thank you for your tireless efforts, your invaluable contribution to these principles does not go unnoticed.
I would also like to thank the experts that have worked day in and day out to seeing the materialization of these principles unfold. Thank you Gideon Maltz from the US Mission, my own team at the Mission from Col Vincent Nyakarundi to his successor , Lt. Col Raoul Bazatoha; and Col Nortbert Moerkens, and Eran Nagan from the Netherland Mission for all your hard work and through you all the to other colleagues who have been involved in this process. You have been the impetus for the growing endorsement of these principles.
Let us leave here today with an even deeper conviction for saving lives and an equally profound understanding that what we choose to do or not does affect distant lands and unfamiliar faces that have far too often paid the highest cost in today’s conflicts. Join us in crafting a future that puts the lives of all civilians at the core of our efforts.