Peacekeepers forum pledges better protection of civilians

Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) to UN peacekeeping missions should strive to better prepare and equip their forces prior to deployment, constantly engage the UN Security Council, and use force where necessary to protect civilians, delegates at Kigali’s conference on peacekeeping have resolved.
Some of the security personnel participants at the conference in Kigali. (Timothy Kisambira)
Some of the security personnel participants at the conference in Kigali. (Timothy Kisambira)

Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) to UN peacekeeping missions should strive to better prepare and equip their forces prior to deployment, constantly engage the UN Security Council, and use force where necessary to protect civilians, delegates at Kigali’s conference on peacekeeping have resolved.

The resolutions are some of eighteen principles that about 200 delegates gathered in Kigali agreed on yesterday at the end of the two-day International Conference on the Protection of Civilians.

The conference brought together the top 30 troop and police contributing countries to the UN peacekeeping missions, the top 10 financial contributing countries to the missions, and other stakeholders to talk about how to effectively implement UN mandates to protect civilians in conflict-torn regions.

Among other resolutions, which have been dubbed ‘Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians’, include a pledge by TCCs to contribute the enabling capabilities such as helicopters to peacekeeping operations and avoid undue delay in protecting civilians.

The Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians also requires TTCs to always demand clarity from the UN and mission leadership on the rules of engagement, including under which circumstances the use of force is appropriate.

Under the principles, the TCCs also pledged to be vigilant in monitoring and reporting any human rights abuses or signs of impending violence in the areas in which personnel serve and take disciplinary action against their personnel if and when they fail to act to protect civilians when circumstances warrant such action.

The delegates recommended that the principles be endorsed on a voluntary basis by troop contributing countries and that the signatories meet once each year to discuss how to further improve the implementation of the protection of civilians mandate in UN peacekeeping operations.

Delegates at the conference said the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians will be a reference point at the UN High Level Summit on Peacekeeping Operations that will bring together several heads of state in New York, in September.

“It is our hope that the next step will be the endorsement, on voluntary basis, of the Kigali Principles that have just been read out. We believe these Kigali Principles will be the basis for our next discussions on the protection of civilians, particularly the September 2015 High Level Summit on Peacekeeping Operations,” the Minister for Defence, Gen James Kabarebe, said in remarks to close the conference.

Key tool for upcoming summit

Hilde Johnson, a former special representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan, also agreed that the resolutions from the Kigali summit will be useful for the UN High Level Summit on Peacekeeping Operations in September.

“We hope that these principles can be endorsed by many other troop contributing countries because they will carry weight. I think the very important way that the principles can help is that they can also feed into the process of the summit in September,” Johnson said.

José Ramos-Horta, a former President of Timor-Leste and current chairperson of the UN-commissioned High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, said the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians will be considered in his report to the UN secretary-general.

“I think the recommendations are so important that I am going to take a look with my colleagues and see how we can incorporate those recommendations in our draft and report to the secretary-general. The report is extremely important because we were mandated by the UN Secretary General to make recommendations on how to improve the peace and security architecture of the UN,” Ramos-Horta said.

The International Conference on the Protection of Civilians was organised by the Government of Rwanda, which is the fifth largest contributor of peacekeepers worldwide and maintains over 5,000 peacekeepers in different UN missions around the world, including in conflict-torn Central African Republic, Darfur and South Sudan.

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