India launches ‘Group of Friends’ to promote accountability for crimes against peacekeepers
United Nations: India has launched a ‘Group of Friends’ to promote accountability for crimes against peacekeepers, with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar announcing that New Delhi will soon have a database that will record all crimes against the Blue Helmets.
India, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Morocco and Nepal are co-chairs of the ‘Group of Friends to Promote Accountability for Crimes Against Peacekeepers’ launched on Thursday during India’s current presidency of the UN Security Council.
“UN Peacekeeping today has become more challenging than ever before. Peace operations are also being conducted in an ambiguous and complex environment,” Jaishankar said in his keynote address at the launch of the Group of Friends.
“Today’s peacekeeper is not mandated to keep the peace but to take on robust mandates in extremely hostile conflict zones. The involvement of armed groups, terrorists and transnational organised crime has adversely impacted their operations,” he said.
Jaishankar said that the Group of Friends represents the “political will” of member states, particularly of the troop and police contributing countries, to champion the implementation of the provisions of UN Security Council resolution 2589, which was adopted in August last year under India’s Presidency of the Council.
Resolution 2589 had called upon member states, hosting or having hosted United Nations peacekeeping operations, to take all appropriate measures to bring to justice perpetrators of the killing of, and all acts of violence against United Nations personnel, including, but not limited to, their detention and abduction.
The resolution had also called on member states to take all necessary measures to investigate such acts and arrest and prosecute perpetrators of such acts in line with their national law, consistent with applicable international obligations, including under international humanitarian law.
Jaishankar said the UNSC resolution was co-sponsored by more than 80 member states and unanimously adopted by the Council.
“It is, therefore, very befitting that this ‘Group of Friends’ being launched today under India’s ongoing Presidency of the UNSC, will seek to promote accountability in practical terms both within and outside the UNSC,” he said.
He noted that technology can be a force multiplier in achieving these goals. Comprehensive databases and analytical tools for recording and assessing crimes against peacekeepers will be key to addressing impunity.
“India has facilitated the launch of a database that will record all crimes against UN peacekeepers. I am glad to note that it will soon be ready for launch as well,” he said.
Jaishankar said that upholding accountability for crimes against UN peacekeepers is a “multi-stakeholders” task.
It is also a fact that in some cases, the host States do not have the political will or the necessary capabilities to ensure such accountability when crimes are committed against Peacekeepers.”
Jaishankar cited data that shows that in the last three years alone, 68 peacekeepers belonging to 20 countries have lost lives for the cause of peace.
India, among the largest troop-contributing countries to UN peacekeeping, has lost 177 of its peacekeepers in the line of duty, the largest by far from any troop-contributing country.
Jaishankar also voiced concern that disinformation campaigns about peacekeeping missions and their mandates have also led to an increase of risks for peacekeepers.
“All these factors have seen an exponential increase in the number of crimes committed against peacekeepers in recent years,” he said.
“Peacekeeping is one of the key tools available with the Security Council to maintain international peace and security, to practically stabilise conflict zones and move towards peace building.
“Peacekeepers from across the world contribute to this endeavour. They venture forth into hostile conflict zones to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. As those member states, who send them in that cause, it is our solemn duty to ‘Protect the Protectors’,” he said.
A concept note on the Group of Friends said that it will seek to facilitate the promotion of accountability for all acts of violence against United Nations peacekeepers; seek facilitation of capacity building and technical assistance to the host state authorities.
It will actively engage and share information with the Secretary-General and assist the member states hosting or have hosted peacekeeping operations, in bringing to justice the perpetrators of such acts; serve as an informal platform at the United Nations to exchange information, share best practices and mobilise resources directed at facilitating accountability for crimes committed against peacekeepers; and monitor progress on bringing accountability for crimes against peacekeepers.
The Group of Friends will convene two meetings of its members per year, organise and host one event per year involving Permanent Missions and other stakeholders, designed to inform and galvanise support for promoting accountability for crimes against peacekeepers; and organize and hold other meetings, briefings, and events as needed, based on the annual work plan and developments relevant to safety and security of peacekeepers.
The Group will convene and be moderated by representatives of the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Egypt, France India, Morocco and Nepal as co-chairs and include all interested Member States and United Nations partners.