21 Nov 2018 14:13 IST

Peacekeeping strategy headed for tragedy: India warns at UN

This is a day after an Indian peacekeeper in DRC was wounded in an attack

Voicing concern over inadequate resources available for implementing peacekeeping mandates, India has warned that asking peacekeepers to “do more with less” is a strategy that is “setting us all up for a tragedy“.

A day after an Indian peacekeeper deployed with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) was wounded in an attack, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin highlighted during a Security Council debate that peacekeeping missions in Africa are operating in vast environments.

Drawing the attention of the Council to what MONUSCO peacekeepers are facing while deployed in sensitive areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Akbaruddin said the central sector of the country constitutes more than 500,000 sq kms of a total area of 2.34 million sq kms, with more than 11 million people of a total population of 81.5 million.

For this vast area, four battalions of UN peacekeeping operations, totalling only about 3,000-odd troops, are responsible for the area of operations. This comes to one soldier per 158 sq km, he said.

“If in such a scenario, we task the troops deployed to enforce protection of civilians, without even providing enabling air assets for rapid reinforcement operations, it is obvious that the size and scale of UN deployment are insufficient for the tasks entrusted. The strategy of peacekeepers, needing to do more with less, is setting us all up for a tragedy,” he said Tuesday at the debate on ‘Strengthening Peacekeeping Operations in Africa’

According to the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO), a member of the Indian Formed Police Unit was “lightly wounded” in an attack launched Friday evening by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements in the area of Boikene, close to Beni in North Kivu Province.

In the attack, a civilian was reportedly wounded, and two homes and a civilian vehicle were destroyed. The injured peacekeeper was a Border Security Force personnel and is “out of danger”. Peacekeepers from Tanzania and Malawi were killed last week while serving the peacekeeping in MONUSCO.

Akbaruddin further said that given the multi-dimensional peacekeeping mandates, the UN needs to resist the temptation of adding disproportionate mandate components and aim at prioritisation of mandates. This would help in judicious allocation of meagre resources available for implementing the mandates, he said.

Predictable and sustainable financing is also a pre-requisite for all peacekeeping operations to succeed, he said adding that India supports the UN secretary-general’s recommendation that African peacekeeping operations, authorised by the Security Council, should be considered for assessed contribution.

He also pointed out that troop contributing countries are working out arrangements for deployment with the most number of caveats when deploying in Africa.

“This results in unfair work distribution among various troops on the ground and thereby affecting the missions’ performance. It is time we do away with such practices,” he said.

With Africa collectively contributing the largest number of personnel to UN peacekeeping operations, Akbaruddin said it is time to look at how UN member states can support this through mechanisms of soft coordination.

He added that India’s partnership with Africa is based on building instruments of empowerment that would enable Africa to find solutions to its problems.

“We urge that the UN also look at longer-term efforts for expanding African capacities and enhancing collective cooperation. India is ready to walk along this path of political and diplomatic engagement of partnering African states and entities, in line with their own articulation of needs and requirements of a continent in the throes of change,” he said.