Reasons for UNAMID’s Failure

If we accept the fact that UNAMID is a failure, then we need to ask a number of questions as to why. Questions that produce answers that go beyond the obvious point that mandates are too convoluted and that peacekeeping is overstretched, and that produce useful lessons — for example, for the Security Council as it continues to consider authorizing a UN mission for Somalia.

I will touch on some of these, but first want to make the point that failure implies blame. Should Rodolphe Adada and General Martin Agwai be blamed for UNAMID failure? Obviously not at this point; they cannot be expected to deliver effectively on an ambitious mandate with only a third of their authorized peacekeepers on the ground. UNAMID points not so much to mission failure, but rather to a failure to deploy: To a failed force generation process; to failures in analysis and decision-making — not in El Fasher, but in New York City; and to the failure of UN member states to pony up what they promised. A number of reasons for UNAMID’s failure to deploy that have been bandied about over the past months, often together with apportionment of blame. Council and DPKO blame Khartoum for its obstructionism, Khartoum blames DPKO for not getting its act and its mission assets together, and DPKO blames member states for not proving helicopters and other mission enablers — and for pledging troop contingents that are not up to standard and that lack means of sustainment in the field. There is plenty of blaming being done, and there are plenty of excuses being made. However, the biggest failure is arguably that of the Security Council, especially, to implement a number of fundamental recommendations that were made years ago — and a failure of DPKO to insist to Council that these should be heeded.

I refer of course to the August 2000 Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, better known as the Brahimi Report. This report, which Bill Durch played a big role in producing, is the most definitive study of peacekeeping “lessons learned” ever produced, and contains the most practical and sensible recommendations ever made about how to improve peacekeeping. Many of the Brahimi recommendations have been ignored in the process of standing up UNAMID. However the following two that have obvious explanatory value for the failure to deploy the full mission in Darfur (within 90 days, according to Brahimi standards):

  • The Security Council and the Secretariat must be able to win the confidence of troop contributors that the strategy and concept of operations for a new mission are sound and that they will be sending troops and police to serve under a competent mission with effective leadership.
  • The Security Council should leave in draft form resolutions authorizing missions with sizable troop levels until such time as the Secretary-General has firm commitments of troops and other critical mission support elements, including peace-building elements, from Member States.

Peacekeeping is overstretched, but I do not think it is broken. There are too many missions currently deployed that are doing a good job. But the camel’s back must have a breaking point, and authorizing a mission in Somalia while ignoring past lessons and sound recommendations may well be the last straw.

Reasons for UNAMID’s Failure

If we accept the fact that UNAMID is a failure, then we need to ask a number of questions as to why. Questions that produce answers that go beyond the obvious point that mandates are too convoluted and that peacekeeping is overstretched, and that produce useful lessons — for example, for the Security Council as it continues to consider authorizing a UN mission for Somalia.

I will touch on some of these, but first want to make the point that failure implies blame. Should Rodolphe Adada and General Martin Agwai be blamed for UNAMID failure? Obviously not at this point; they cannot be expected to deliver effectively on an ambitious mandate with only a third of their authorized peacekeepers on the ground. UNAMID points not so much to mission failure, but rather to a failure to deploy: To a failed force generation process; to failures in analysis and decision-making — not in El Fasher, but in New York City; and to the failure of UN member states to pony up what they promised. A number of reasons for UNAMID’s failure to deploy that have been bandied about over the past months, often together with apportionment of blame. Council and DPKO blame Khartoum for its obstructionism, Khartoum blames DPKO for not getting its act and its mission assets together, and DPKO blames member states for not proving helicopters and other mission enablers — and for pledging troop contingents that are not up to standard and that lack means of sustainment in the field. There is plenty of blaming being done, and there are plenty of excuses being made. However, the biggest failure is arguably that of the Security Council, especially, to implement a number of fundamental recommendations that were made years ago — and a failure of DPKO to insist to Council that these should be heeded.

I refer of course to the August 2000 Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, better known as the Brahimi Report. This report, which Bill Durch played a big role in producing, is the most definitive study of peacekeeping “lessons learned” ever produced, and contains the most practical and sensible recommendations ever made about how to improve peacekeeping. Many of the Brahimi recommendations have been ignored in the process of standing up UNAMID. However the following two that have obvious explanatory value for the failure to deploy the full mission in Darfur (within 90 days, according to Brahimi standards):

  • The Security Council and the Secretariat must be able to win the confidence of troop contributors that the strategy and concept of operations for a new mission are sound and that they will be sending troops and police to serve under a competent mission with effective leadership.
  • The Security Council should leave in draft form resolutions authorizing missions with sizable troop levels until such time as the Secretary-General has firm commitments of troops and other critical mission support elements, including peace-building elements, from Member States.

Peacekeeping is overstretched, but I do not think it is broken. There are too many missions currently deployed that are doing a good job. But the camel’s back must have a breaking point, and authorizing a mission in Somalia while ignoring past lessons and sound recommendations may well be the last straw.

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