General Assembly Security Council

UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Peace Operations and Human Rights



Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations

7 July 2020

We thank Germany, the President of the Security Council for this month, for convening today’s Open VTC meeting on “Peace Operations and Human Rights”.

2. Over the last seven decades the UN peace operations have evolved as an important tool for the international community to respond to armed conflicts that threaten international peace and security. 

3. The mandates of the UN peace operations have become increasingly complex over the years. UN missions are progressively called upon to facilitate political processes through promotion of dialogue and reconciliation, protection of civilians and their human rights, and by assisting in restoring the rule of law. Such robust mandates call for greater calibration of their terms of engagements in the field, availability of adequate resources, as well as a clear and unambiguous recognition of the threats they face while performing their duties. 

4. It is well recognized that all UN peace operations contribute to promoting respect for and protection of human rights through fulfillment of their respective mandates. We need to understand the linkage between UN peace operations and human rights in the context of the specific mandate they are entrusted with. It is, therefore, all the more important that the mandates of peace operations, whether with explicit human rights component or not, remain context-specific.

5. Protection of civilian mandates in peace operations envisage working with the host government and humanitarian actors to identify threats to civilians, implementing existing prevention and response plans, and strengthening civil military cooperation and joint planning. While the Council has been proactive in giving such mandates, a lot remains to be desired in terms of clarity of the terms of engagements and resource allocation for field operations. 

6. It goes without saying that all United Nations peace operations are conducted with full respect for human rights. There should be zero tolerance for human rights abuses by United Nations  personnel.

7. UN personnel engaged in peace operations must be adequately trained and prepared to respond appropriately to human rights violations and abuses in accordance with their mandate and their competence. Use of force must be in accordance with necessity and proportionality, and above all, without endangering the cardinal principle of impartiality. 

8. Observing these principles come with obvious operational challenges, especially in situations where the non-state actors do not follow any principles, least of human rights rules and norms. The UN Security Council, therefore, must be doubly careful in entrusting responsibilities to the peace operations. Overloading of mandates runs the risk of compromising their effectiveness and credibility. ‘Protecting the protectors’ is a key aspect that should be accorded due importance. 

9. India has been a major contributor to UN peacekeeping operations over last several decades. We wish to highlight the following points based on our experience as a major Troop/ Police Contributing Country :

  • Firstly, on the aspect of training, Centre for UN Peacekeeping in New  Delhi is imparting pre-deployment training to all personnel prior to their induction, covering various aspects of human rights pertaining to the mission environment.  These training modules are as approved by Integrated Training Service (ITS) of the Department of Peacekeeping Operation of the UN. 
  • Secondly, detailed screening of personnel is carried out to confirm that they have not been involved in any kind of misconduct.
  • Thirdly, “In mission training” on human rights issues are being conducted in the field, focusing on the practical aspects of conducting peace operations keeping in view the human rights perspectives. 

10. It has been our experience that military peacekeepers’ knowledge of different aspects of ‘fieldcraft’ is critical in assessing, observing and responding to human rights violations by armed actors across the spectrum. The Indian contingents and military observers are engaged in sharing information and escorting human rights teams. Contingents are  maintaining “area domination” to facilitate unimpeded functions  of humanitarian agencies, while the observers are undertaking joint field verification and reporting, in accordance with their mandates.

11. The presence of military peacekeepers in the field and access to local armed forces provide them with a unique comparative advantage and makes them a key partner in recording relevant human rights information. Their task, however, becomes extremely challenging if there are competing and multiple sub-components of the mandate with limited resources.

12. Going ahead, to maintain credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness of UN peace operations,  we would also like to highlight some gaps which need to be addressed:

  • While adequate pre-deployment training is already being provided to the troops and experts, there is a requirement of a more focused situation-based “In Mission Training” once deployed, given the dynamic nature of peacekeeping missions.
  • Effective coordination must be established both at strategic and tactical levels between human rights components and their civilian and uniformed colleagues.
  • There is need to re-prioritize mandates after assessment of ground situations and adequate resources must be provided to support all components in a mission.  

13. Respecting and protecting human rights in UN peace operations is non-derogable. It is not a question of ‘whether’ but ‘how’. We need greater understanding of the operational challenges at the Council, to enable the UN peace operations to deliver their mandates that seek to promote human rights.

I thank you.