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World: Integrating Human Rights into the Operational Readiness of UN Peacekeepers

Country: World Source: International Peace Institute Executive Summary The effectiveness of UN peace operations depends on the operational readiness of their personnel, which refers to the knowledge, expertise, training, equipment, and mindset needed to carry out mandated tasks. While the need to improve the operational readiness of peacekeepers has been increasingly recognized over the past few years, the concept of human rights readiness has received less attention. This refers to the extent to which consideration of human rights is integrated into the generation, operational configuration, and evaluation of uniformed personnel. Many missions have an express mandate to promote and protect human rights, sometimes alongside a mandate to protect civilians. Beyond these mandates, all peace operations and all UN personnel are legally obligated to comply with human rights standards and international humanitarian and refugee law and to uphold UN human rights principles. While numerous policies and guidance documents reinforce the centrality of human rights to peacekeeping, the UN has tended to focus on the compliance of its partners rather than on the preparedness of its own personnel. There are two areas where the UN could strengthen existing processes to ensure the human rights readiness of uniformed personnel. The first is in the force generation process. Troop- and policecontributing countries (T/PCCs) are requested to certify that the personnel they provide have not committed, or been alleged to have committed, criminal offenses or violations of international human rights or humanitarian law. However, this reliance on self-certification inherently limits accountability. To overcome this limitation, the UN has used an ad hoc process called screening plus to address human rights concerns in Sri Lanka and Burundi. Although this process is not used systematically, it has led the UN to take steps to bolster screening across T/PCCs. Nonetheless, robust screening remains constrained by limited capacity and resources, as well as political sensitivities. The second main area where the UN seeks to improve human rights readiness is training. Awareness of international human rights and humanitarian law is a foundational element of training for UN personnel, whether before deployment, during the in-mission induction, or on an ongoing basis during deployment. However, the quality of pre-deployment trainings varies widely among T/PCCs, and in-mission induction trainings are usually not well-tailored to specific missions. There is a widespread perception that existing training practices and methodologies are insufficient and fail to integrate the practical training needs identified on the ground. Moreover, pre-deployment training let alone in-mission training is often too late to introduce human rights principles. Both T/PCCs and the UN could take tangible actions in the generation and training of peacekeepers to strengthen their human rights readiness: Force generation: The UN should make human rights performance an integral part of the operational readiness of T/PCCs. It should better assess human rights concerns and human rights readiness as criteria in the selection of T/PCCs and request that they align their human rights screening processes with UN standards. The UN could also integrate human rights readiness into requirements for contingent-owned equipment and require T/PCCs to deploy experts in human rights, the protection of civilians, or international law to accompany uniformed personnel. Finally, the secretary-general should propose the establishment of a UN human rights screening entity with appropriate resources and capacities. Training: The UN should develop a human rights specific course for military trainers, as it has for police trainers, and ensure that the new generic training-of-trainers course adequately addresses human rights and protection issues. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should also expand its capacity to train peacekeepers, and peacekeeping training centers should make greater use of external human rights experts. Member states should provide additional funding and capacity to allow for additional training, and T/PCCs should ensure that outgoing battalion leaders share lessons with incoming leaders.


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