On October 22 and 23, the Nepal Army (NA) organized a crucially important program to reflect on Nepal’s contribution to UN peace operations (PO). One of the several activities of the celebration was a seminar titled “Emerging capability requirements for UN Peace Operations and way forward” on October 23 at the NA headquarters where UN Under Secretary General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix virtually addressed the gathering. Chief Secretary of the Government of Nepal, NA Chief, and Military Advisor of the Secretary General of the UN and Nepal delegation head General Birame Diop were the other key persons to address the august gathering.
There were four presentations (3 from UN and 1 from NA) where I was also invited to make comments on presentations of two UN officials—“Developing and deploying capability needs for protection mandates” by Oliver Ulich (Deputy Representative UNHQ) and “Recommendations for TCCs like Nepal for generating and deploying suitable capabilities in UN Peace Operations” by Major General Hugh Van Roosen (retired).
The NA deserves special appreciation for organizing this very timely and highly relevant seminar and reflecting on our contribution to global peace, security and stability. It is equally important to critically look at what Nepal gained from this engagement and whether it is equitable compared to its contribution. Are we able to exhaust the potential for positioning Nepal as a champion of peacekeeping at the global level? What do we have to do to maximize our leverage and potential in this context and what should the UN think regarding the existing provisions of Troop and Police Contributing Countries (TPCC) in general and Nepal in particular?
Being a Nepali, I am very proud of the great contribution of our peacekeepers to maintaining international peace and security, one of the very foundational reasons of establishment of the UN in 1945, immediately after the Second World War by 51 countries.
That a Nepali peacekeepr accompanied the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for the UN in 2001 is evidence of the importance of Nepali peacekeepers in the UN and the contribution of Nepal to the UN peace mission.
Nepal has gained unique experiences by engaging in achieving stability and peace in highly unstable countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, DRC, Yemen, Libya, the Central African Republic, Syria, Israel, Western Sahara, South Sudan and many others, thereby providing us with a powerful negotiation tool with the UN for expanded engagement in the future.
According to a recently (on the seminar) unveiled coffee-table book about Nepal’s contribution to the UN by the NA, more than 140,000 Nepali troops have engaged in 43 UN peacekeeping missions around the world so far. At present, about 5,623 Nepali men and women are serving in 12 peacekeeping missions in different parts of the world.
Further, Nepal is one of the only two TPCCs that have formed military units in all protection of civilian (POC) missions. This also shows the commitment of Nepal toward the global peace and stability mission of the UN.
So far, Peace Operation (PO) of the UN is largely guided by narrow, top-down headquarters, and the burden loaded on TPCCs (for example, capability needs for protection mandates to be arranged on their own), which needs to be changed to become more relevant. Nepal being the second largest contributor to UN peacekeeping, this is a direct concern. Capabilities for protection should not limit to training, units and equipment, and personnel which UN is advocating but also include commitment of international support. Only then can it be termed “Whole-of-Mission Approach” and it should always cover all four protection mandates (protection of civilians, child protection, conflict-related sexual violence, and human rights).
Even though the three tiers of POC concepts—dialogue and engagement; physical protection; and establishment of protective environment—are pragmatic, it is essential to add security governance and civil military relations in the third component ‘establishment of protective environment’, to enhance trust, ownership and gain local support.
One of the weak concepts used in the UN military component about responsibilities at the strategic level is ‘Do No Harm’, which is a contextual operational concept developed by Mary Anderson in 1999 in the conflict-affected development context. The UN PO must strategically expand it to “Do Good” as the POC mandate itself is for doing good. Though the Action for Peace+ of the SG emphasizes on “Systemwise Digital Transformation Strategy” as a capacity tool for protection mandate, incorporating early warning and forecasting digital system deserves further consideration.
Based on the experiences of more than six decades of engagement of the NA in UN peace missions, it is the right time to holistically review and address the concerns raised in this paper.
The Government of Nepal must expand its engagement with the UN for maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights, a very foundational aim of creation of the UN. It will be a win-win result for both Nepal and the UN. The following are some of the possible ways forward.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) must focus on expanding its sphere of influence for which we have three major potential areas.
First, Nepal has a great scope of positioning itself as a champion of global climate change debate because glacier melts and related crisis in the Hindukush Himalayas are global concerns. Hence, Nepal must globally and proactively engage on the issues of climate change and related insecurities.
Second, we have Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Nepal’s meaningful and strategic proactive engagement with Buddhist countries will provide a large number of tourists to Lumbini to noticeably enhance our economy. These two issues are not direct concerns of this paper and I am not going to discuss it further.
The third and the most important one is expanding Nepal’s engagement in UNPO by a) increasing total number of troops aiming to be the top TPCC, b) providing a higher number of female peacekeepers, c) ensuring more officers in senior positions (eg force commanders) and d) sending civilian experts (eg on rule of law, justice, human rights, women empowerment, ceasefire monitoring, post conflict reconstruction, etc).
Achieving these points will not be easy. The MoFA must send capable UN representatives with a higher profile, better negotiation skills, full commitment and a desire to work hard to achieve them. It may require continuous, proactive and meaningful dialogue and negotiation with the UN Secretary General, Security Council and its members, members of General Assembly, and UN representatives of other countries.
- Similarly, the Ministry of Defense must work hard to create a favorable domestic environment for achieving the points listed above. The NA has already offered to send 10,000 troops and must be ready and it must be realized as soon as practically feasible. By expanding our peacekeepers, Nepal will gain more experiences and expand the zone of influence in international peace and stability.
- The Ministry of Finance must ensure financial provisions for armored personnel carriers (APCs) and other logistics on par with the standard of other TPCCs.
- The NA must make sure that the police and soldiers deployed in French and Spanish-speaking countries get language training before their deployment.
- The UN in general and UNSG and Department of Peace Operations in particular should categorize member countries into groups regarding the PO:
- Troops and Police Contributing Countries (TPCCs) (who are providing a large number of troops),
- Capability Contributing Countries (CCC) who are not providing a significant number of troops. They have to be responsible for capabilities and logistics (like airlifting planes, armored vehicles, training, information and technology, and so on).
- Regarding the contribution of peacekeepers from Nepal, there is no representation of senior officials proportional to the troops (there are only 6 Force Commanders so far). Therefore, the UN must seriously rethink it and make sure that recruitment of senior officers is commensurate with peacekeepers (also necessary for equity). Nepal has proved and gained international repute as a country committed to upholding the principles outlined in the UN Charter and the UN must, therefore, consider this concern.
In conclusion, the UN as well as the member states, especially resourceful countries who have the responsibility to maintain international peace and stability as per the UN Charter, have to rethink PO in the changing global context and ensure fairness to TPCCs, recognize the contribution of certain countries like Nepal in fulfilling objectives of the UN to keep international peace and stability. Hence, Nepal must provide space to increase peacekeepers, senior officials and civilian officials.