This is dry reading, just saying upfront. It’s important, though, for those who want to understand the big picture a bit better, getting an overview. Sorry, I took out all fancy things, as they are internal and I would need to get authorization for putting it here. Not that I would not get it. But it’s for a later stage. These are simply all facts that everybody can look up. I just compiled it, using my own words. If you managed to stay tuned reading on peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and conflict prevention, you will be rewarded with something putting it together with less dry words, soon. It’s like when I read one of my beloved books about quantum physics: The theoretical explanation sucks (my brain works differently, which is a nice excuse for that I was mostly like Calvin&Hobbes) but sometimes I need to hang in there…
Here you go.
General aspects of conflict and mandates for SPM
Right at it’s beginning, the HIPPO report maps the continuum of UN peace operations as of today: It ranges from peacekeeping operations to special political missions, good offices, and mediation initiatives. The report identifies four essential shifts, one of which being that the full spectrum of peace operations must be used more flexibly to respond to changing needs on the ground1.
In order to understand the interrelationship between peacekeeping operations PKO and special political missions SPM, a look into the normative framework of both is necessary. The Capstone Doctrine2 aims to define the nature, scope and core business of UN PKO, whilst putting them into the larger continuum of peace operations. It’s guiding effect as a top-level policy document is limited to PKO. Peacekeeping is defined as a technique designed to preserve the peace, however fragile, where fighting has been halted, and to assist in implementing agreements achieved by the peacemakers. The Capstone Doctrine identifies “Conflict Prevention”, “Peacemaking”, “Peace enforcement”, and “Peacebuilding” as further building blocks within a range of activities undertaken to maintain peace and security. The Capstone Doctrine also identifies “grey areas3” between these topical subjects.
Relevant to Special Political Missions, the grey areas between peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding become visible: SPM can be mandated anywhere except in the field of peacekeeping. The Capstone Doctrine elaborates the necessity of taking the interrelationship between peacekeeping and other forms of activities into account, but it does not provide guidance within those respective areas themselves, thus it does not provide guidance on SPM. This chapter’s relevance stems both from the fact that SPM can precede or succeed peacekeeping operations, or even coexist4 with PKO.
In terms of historical development of what is, since the 1990s, known as Special Political Missions SPM, the SG’s first thematic report on SPM to the UN General Assembly as of July 29, 2013 is a core reference5. And right at the beginning, the SG begins with stating that “at the heart of conflict, more often than not, are political issues.” This recognition is sitting at the heart of the HIPPO report of 2015, too. In the form of political missions, SPM go back in UN history to the early time of 1948, like peacekeeping operations do. In his report as of 2013, the SG describes the time between the late 1960s until the end of the Cold War (late 1980s) as a period of relative inactivity, and the following time until now as a “period of rediscovery post-cold war.” The report puts these missions into the areas of conflict prevention, peacemaking, and peacebuilding. The report also indicates that SPM over the two decades post-cold war grew significantly in number, size and the complexity of their mandates. Thus, as the SG’s report as of 2013 states itself, SPM and PKO followed a similar trajectory. The relevance for their interrelation, like seen in the graph from the 2008 Capstone Doctrine, becomes evident. This includes SPM development towards multidimensional mandates. Subsequently, the SG states that the SPM’s common reason of existence, preventing and resolving conflict, as well as helping Member States and parties to a conflict to build a sustainable peace is what defines these missions as “political”. It can be said that this does not establish a delineation to peacekeeping, taking into account the inherent political nature of those missions as well. It points towards the larger question of where contemporary SPM differentiate, at their political core, from contemporary PKO and points into the direction why the deployment of UNPOL, following a unified policy framework for their assistance, has become so relevant. One way or the other, the increased utilization of UNPOL in SPM testifies for the overall relevance of policing matters within UN efforts related to peace and security.
SPM exist in three main categories: special envoys; sanctions panels and monitoring groups; and field-based missions. The deployment of UNPOL into field-based SPM is a relatively young development, therefore, a narrative of SPM will only take this period into account. Contemporary SPM can serve (a) to promote reconciliation; (b) conducting mediation; (c) maintaining a sustained political dialogue; (d) provide electoral assistance and supporting efforts to prevent election-related violence; (e) coordinating donor assistance and mobilizing resources; (f) strengthening national capacities and supporting national priorities that are critical for a successful peacebuilding process, such as rule of law, security sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and mine action. Whilst the role of UNPOL expertise is obvious within category (f), there are other categories in which the expertise of UNPOL plays out being an important factor as well.
The SG’s thematic report as of 2013 points to another emerging area relevant to UNPOL, which holds true both for SPM and for PKO: According to the report, the operating environment of SPM is often affected by the instability coming from the effects of transnational crime and drug trafficking. Some SPM have mandates related to address transnational organized crime. It holds true for contemporary PKO too, and is well recognized. This important aspect of current and future challenges for UNPOL will be addressed in a separate chapter, looking at drivers of conflict, and threats to missions and their mandate implementation from serious and organized crime, corruption, violent extremism, and terror. But it points already at this stage towards the increasing role, and relevance, of United Nations international policing; the need to generate appropriate resources; provide a coherent normative framework; address the nexus between countries affected by conflict and regional dimensions; and partnerships with other international stakeholders.
The majority of all field-based SPM are deployed into Africa.
SPM and UNPOL
The contemporary environment in which many SPM find themselves in is very similar, often the same, as is the reality for PKO. In his 2015 report6 on special political missions, the SG does refer to the same source of examination of peace operations, the HIPPO-report. He also sets the stage by using a narrative that holds true for both mission types: “The international peace and security landscape has deteriorated rapidly. Following two decades of consistent decline, the number of active civil wars increased almost threefold between 2007 and 2014. Today, the number of battle-related deaths and major civil wars is back at the level at which it was in the mid-1990s. The number of refugees and internally displaced persons around the world has reached a peak of 60 million people, and global humanitarian needs for 2015 are close to a record-setting $20 billion.” The cutting edge development, taking most recent developments into account, indicates also a sharp increase in the worldwide effects of violent extremism and terror, and the interrelation of civil war and terror with an unprecedented surge in migration.
The Department of Political Affairs currently maintains twenty-three field missions with the status “Special Political Missions” SPM worldwide. According to the Department’s website7, political missions are part of a continuum of UN peace operations working in different stages of the conflict cycle. In some instances, following the signing of peace agreements, political missions overseen by the Department of Political Affairs during the stage of peace negotiations have been replaced by peacekeeping missions. In other instances, UN peacekeeping operations have given way to special political missions overseeing longer term peace-building activities.
The data available on UN websites is, as far as UNPOL deployments into SPM is concerned, inconsistent, and only partly available. Current UNPOL deployment into SPM is not documented on the DPKO website. According to a factsheet8 maintained by the Department of Political Affairs, currently 293 uniformed personnel are deployed into SPM. On this factsheet DPA documents police deployments into UNAMA (4), UNAMI (0), UNIOGBIS (12), MENUB (0), UNSMIL (2), and UNSOM (5). This data is outdated, stemming from 2014.
Whilst DPA’s definition of SPM includes, inter alia, Special Envoys, the SPM UNOAU, or the United Nations Office to the African Union, is not mentioned on the DPA factsheet documentation of SPM. Rather, it features on the list of political missions of the Department’s main website9.
UNPOL deployment into SPM in some more conceptual detail
In order to understand the interrelationship between UNPOL aspects within PKO and SPM to the extend necessary on a strategic level, some more detail needs to be given to specific deployments, in alphabetical order of the Mission acronyms.
The United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic was mandated to (1) support the implementation of a transitional process in the CAR; (2) support conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance; (3) support the extension of CAR State authority; (4) support the stabilization of the CAR security situation; (5) promote and protect human rights. As of April 10, 2014, BINUCA was subsumed in the UN PKO MINUSCA, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. The reason for this sat with the significantly deteriorating situation in the CAR throughout 2012 and 2013, leading to atrocities against the civilian population on a large scale, and fears of an imminent genocide. During the existence of the SPM BINUCA, the International Communities’ engagement included the establishment of an AU peace support operation MISCA, the bilateral military engagement of the French government, through the Operation SANGARIS, and the EU military crisis management operation EUFOR CAR. This paved the way for the United Nations decision to create MINUSCA, and to subsume the activities of BINUCA through MINUSCA. Thus, BINUCA did not only provide the political platform of engagement of the UN’s conflict prevention diplomacy, but at later stages was also used as the political and operational platform to deploy a large PKO including military, police, civilian, and political engagement in the CAR through peacekeeping. MINUSCA emerged from BINUCA, but at the same time had to re-hat the military and police capacities and capabilities of the AU’s MISCA.
The United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi started it’s operations on January 01, 2015, closing at the end of the same year, according to public UN documentation11.
Since October 2002 until today, UNAMA is including a small UNPOL contingent. UNAMA is a Special Political Mission providing political good offices in Afghanistan, working with and supporting the government, supporting the process of peace and reconciliation, monitoring and promoting human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict, promoting good governance, and encouraging regional cooperation.
In its long-standing contribution to UNAMA, UNPOL has witnessed the early stages of the International Communities’ large, and very diversified response to support to establishing Afghan institutions in the field of the police. Both the international engagement and the development of the ANP and other security actors have been extremely complex. Afghanistan has seen large scale capacity building efforts for policing embedded into the US-led military fighting coalition, and into NATO efforts of civilian capacity building within a large military fighting force which partly co-existed, and later followed on to US-led coalition efforts. Bilateral efforts through States contributing to the implementation of the so-called “Petersberg Agreement” were following a concept of “lead-nations” responsible for the coordination of efforts in the field of security and justice. Reality saw challenges in relation to coordination, bilateralism included. In addition to this, the European Union established a police mission in the context of the EU’s civilian crisis management, EUPOL Afghanistan. This Mission began 2006 and is still ongoing.
The DPKO website data is documenting UNPOL deployment into the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq between August 2012 and April 2015, with a maximum of four police officers, including a Senior Police Adviser. The operating political environment, and especially the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, led to ceasing the deployment of UNPOL in 2015.
The engagement of the UN through field-based activities of DPA in Guinea-Bissau is long-standing. The United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau UNOGBIS began its work in 1999. In 2009, it was succeeded by the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau, UNIOGBIS. This SPM has a multidimensional mandate, inter alia rendering police capacity building assistance, including in the field of serious and organized crime. Due to the specific country situation and political, military, and crime-related history, UNIOGBIS’ activities in relation to policing have multiple links with other UN Missions. UNIOGBIS closely works in partnership with PKO such as UNMIL, UNOCI, or previously with UNIPSIL and participates in activities that combine the different strengths of DPKO, DPA, UNODC, Interpol, and others.
The case of UNIOGBIS demonstrates the expansion of multidimensional UN mandates, requiring a very high degree of police expertise; the need, and emerging reality, of mission-based activities embedded into regional inter-mission cooperation and collaboration with a multiplicity of different actors; and the increasing and important role of UNPOL to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.
The United Nations Support Mission for Libya is a SPM established in 2011. It is mandated to manage the process of democratic transition; to promote the rule of law and protect human rights; to restore public security, including through provision of appropriate strategic and technical advice and assistance to the Libyan government; to counter illicit proliferation of arms, and to coordinate international assistance.
For the purpose of this documentation, the highly complex situation in Libya, following the ending of 42 years under Qadhafi’s regime including through a coalition based military intervention, and the first free elections replacing the National Transitional Council, can not be described. Like in the above cases, both the specific situation in the country emerging from conflict, and the assistance by the International Community at large, bear similarities and carry country- and situation-specific differences. UNPOL, within UNSMIL’s mandate, contributed to rendering advice how to contribute to synergy and complementarity of action.
It was the deterioration of the political and security situation in Libya beginning in 2013 which led to both a relocation of large parts of UNSMIL, including the police component, outside the country itself, and to strategic adjustments which took the evolving situation into account. Due to the developments in the Region, the political process is fluid and, currently, fragile at best.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) was established in 2013, providing the United Nations “good offices” functions and a range of strategic policy advice in support of the Federal Government’s peace and reconciliation process. This SPM coexists with the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM, a logistical field operation to the African Union Mission in Somalia. The AU deploys AMISOM, a multidimensional Peace Support Operation. AMISOM includes a strong military fighting force, in order to reduce the threat posed by Al Shabaab and other armed opposition groups12, and conducting a range of mandated tasks including assisting the Federal Government of Somalia in establishing conditions for effective and legitimate governance across Somalia. For this, AMISOM is also including an AU police component.
The United Nations UNPOL component within UNSOM is part of a larger unit which is strategically addressing the needs of Somalia within the field of security and the rule of law. The police components within UNSOM and AMISOM, on basis of a jointly defined understanding, cooperate closely, and in collaboration with Somali counterparts and consultation with the larger International Community.
The case of collaboration and attempting to deploy coherent assistance, between UNSOM and AMISOM, or the UN and the AU in Somalia, stands positively out. Whilst it is too early to gauge results, in a demanding, often deteriorating, very dangerous security environment, it is clearly an important step into the right direction.
Conclusions on SPM, and UNPOL
Simply looking at the reference made above to the structure of peace operations as mapped out in the Capstone Doctrine, and the mirroring statements within the SG’s reports on SPM since 2013, the requirement for an overarching conceptual framework policy on what UN international policing should bring to the table is becoming clear. The documentation of previous and current UNPOL activities, and the inter-relationship of UNPOL work in SPM with the respective work in PKO, adds. The conceptual clarity is maintained by the developing Strategic Guidance Framework, which is an extensive and labor intense work of the Police Division within DPKO, collaborating in the further development, amongst other, with DPA. It will be subject to a later chapter.
1 HIPPO Report, executive summary, pg viii
2 United Nations Peacekeeping Operations – Principles and Guidelines, DPKO/DFS 2008; http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/documents/capstone_eng.pdf
3 Capstone Doctrine, pg. 19
4 Such as, for example, the PKO MONUSCO and the UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region
5 Report of the SG on overall policy matters pertaining to special political missions: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/N1341359.pdf
Last access January 18, 2016
6 2015.09.30 Report of the SG on overall policy matters pertaining to special political missions: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=a/70/400
Access January 17, 2016
A factsheet is available under http://www.un.org/wcm/webdav/site/undpa/shared/undpa/pdf/ppbm.pdf