Turning to the south: civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict.

Author:de Coning, Cedric
Position:GLOBAL INSIGHTS - Developing countries - Essay

SINCE THE END OF THE COLD WAR, THE UNITED NATIONS HAS EXPERIENCED a massive quantitative increase in the number of peacekeeping operations as well as a qualitative shift from military intervention toward state- and peacebuilding support. In their September 2010 submission to the Special Committee on Peacekeeping (the Committee of 34, or C-34), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) and Department of Field Support (DFS) noted that "peacekeeping has evolved from a primarily military model of observing ceasefires and separating forces to incorporate a mix of military, police, and civilian capabilities to support the implementation of comprehensive peace agreements and help lay the foundations for sustainable peace and legitimate government." (1) UN peacekeeping has become multidimensional and integrated, aimed at assisting countries recovering from conflict and at laying the foundations for peace- and statebuilding. (2) Currently, ten out of a total of fourteen UN peacekeeping operations are multidimensional in nature and have been mandated by the Security Council to perform a broad range of peacebuilding activities. (3) In addition, there are thirteen UN special political missions performing a range of functions in prevention, peacemaking, and postconflict peacebuilding. (4)

With the change in mandates and focus on peacebuilding, the role of civilians has shifted from a peripheral support role to that of military peacekeepers; civilians are now at the core of peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. Today, civilians have responsibility for many of the mandated tasks in peacekeeping missions. For instance, the UNDPKO and DFS Operational Concept on Protection of Civilians provides for (1) protection through political process; (2) protection from physical violence; and (3) establishment of a protective environment. Whereas uniformed peacekeepers have a key role to play in protection from physical violence, civilian peacekeepers are primarily responsible for protection through political process and the establishment of a protective environment. With this shift in roles, the demand for specialized civilian capacity and expertise has increased significantly. (5)

However, these significant and substantive changes in the mandates and tasks of UN peacekeeping and special political missions have not been adequately reflected in how the UN system approaches the recruitment, deployment, and management of its civilian capacity or in how the UN's peacekeeping and special political missions are funded. (6) The effectiveness of the UN has been constrained by its traditional and conservative approach to human resources management. The Secretariat in New York was originally set up for conference management, and member states have been slow to adapt to the changing needs of the UN system. As a result, today's peacekeeping and special political missions suffer from high vacancy rates and slow rates of deploying civilian staff to the field.

In this article, we argue that there is a need for a new focus on Southern capacity. Due to the financial crisis, capacity delivery from the North has basically reached its maximum. In contrast, many countries in the Global South, especially some of the emerging powers, have continued to grow at impressive rates. Steady economic growth in many countries of the South means that a new generation of civilian experts is now available from which the UN and other actors may draw. In addition, as many of these countries themselves have undergone dramatic changes in the past few decades (e.g., through conflict and transformation), the civilian expertise they may offer is particularly relevant. Moreover, as the increasingly specialized tasks of UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions often require unique expertise specific to a country, the need for staff with contextual understanding has become more pressing. More efficient use and development of national capacities is also vital for ensuring long-term sustainability and local ownership in countries emerging from conflict.

Also important are more sustainable and long-term modalities, emphasizing secondments from neighboring states in mentoring and twinning schemes. Experts from the South may have more relevant experience due to experiences from developing institutions in their own countries and because geographic, cultural, and historic proximity can facilitate South-South capacity transfer. In this move from the North to the South, there is also space for more responsibility to be taken by emerging powers. As these countries grow in strength and influence, they will be expected to play a larger role in global peace and security, including through the provision of civilian expertise--whether by supplying their own expertise or by supporting triangular partnerships.

We offer here a brief overview of the status quo on civilian capacity challenges and reform initiatives, with a particular focus on emerging initiatives aimed at ramping up capacity from member states in the South. This attention is valid due to the focus given to Southern capacity and South-South partnerships in current reform efforts, and the growing recognition of the importance of such partnerships among member states in general.

Civilian Capacity: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

At the end of November 2012, the UN was engaged in fourteen peacekeeping missions and fourteen political missions around the globe. (7) These missions involve, in all, 12,631 police and 24,060 civilian staff members, of which 6,656 are international professionals, 15,117 are local staff, and 2,287 are UN Volunteers (UNVs). (8) About 30 percent of the UN's civilian peacekeeping and special political mission staff members are women, although most member states do not have such a high percentage of women in their national capacities. Moreover, several thousand civilians work in peacebuilding-related tasks for other UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international financial institutions (IFIs), regional organizations such as the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU), and donor agencies. Still, the UN deploys more civilians in peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding roles than all of the other multilateral institutions combined. At the beginning of 2013, the EU had deployed approximately 2,000 civilian personnel, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) approximately 3,000, and the AU approximately 70 in its operation in Somalia.

A highly significant development is the transformation from military- to civilian-focused peace operations. With UN peacekeeping missions becoming increasingly oriented toward peacebuilding, the role of civilians has become more central, the number of civilian functions has increased, and the role of civilians has shifted from peripheral support to the core of peacekeeping missions today. (9) Civilian components make vital contributions to the restoration or extension of legitimate state authority, including the provision of security, the establishment of the rule of law in a wide sense, and the delivery of basic services at national and local levels.

Between 2005 and 2008, the average vacancy rate of international civilian staff for UN operations was around 22 percent. For some missions the figures have been much higher, especially during the start-up phases. The UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) had a 56 percent vacancy rate in 2008, and the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) had a 40 percent vacancy rate in 2005. (10) The vacancy rate for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, one composed almost entirely of civilians, has always been high--with a 40 percent vacancy rate in 2010 after almost ten years. (11)

Insufficient civilian capacities--both quantitatively and qualitatively--in UN peacekeeping and political missions have been noted in various reviews and reports in recent years. (12) For instance, the Secretary-General's 2009 report Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict points out that "a review needs to be undertaken that would analyse how the UN and the international community can help to broaden and deepen the pool of civilian experts to support the immediate capacity development needs of countries emerging from conflict." (13) The report also emphasizes the need to map the supply of civilian capacity within and outside the UN against a realistic assessment of demand, to improve coordination and interoperability, and to better mobilize capacities of women and those from the Global South. (14) Subsequently, in 2010, the Secretary-General appointed an independent Senior Advisory Group, headed by former under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, to undertake a review of the UN's civilian capacity needs. Its report (hereafter Guehenno Report) was shared with the Security Council and General Assembly in May 2011, and the then under-secretary-general for field support, Susana Malcorra, was charged with taking forward the recommendations of the report. (15)

In general, there is now a better understanding of the need to make more effective use of civilian capacities from the country or region in question. Due to the geographical proximity to the host country, "cultural and linguistic similarities, similar value and administrative systems, and knowledge of local and regional conditions," capacities within the region are often better positioned to provide relevant expertise and to respond to the needs on the ground. (16) Both the Guehenno Report and the subsequent report of the Secretary-General underscore the important role that the Global South and especially the emerging powers can and do play in mobilizing civilian capacity for peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. (17)

The emerging powers need to reflect their strengthened position in the world community through increased engagement in peace and security issues. Although these countries have traditionally contributed...

To continue reading