I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
Respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law is essential to ensure sustainable peace and security. As underlined in the SG Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative: “lasting progress in strengthening security, national reconciliation, the rule of law, human rights and sustainable development needs to occur in parallel”.
The UN Security Council has an extensive set of tools at its disposal to promote the respect of human rights, including through peace operations, but also commissions of inquiry, judicial mechanisms, visiting missions and sanctions. The EU calls on the Security Council to make full use of these tools in order to create and support the conditions for international peace and security.
UN peace operations
The EU welcomes that most missions created or authorised by the UN Security Council have human rights tasks in their mandates. By monitoring compliance, reporting violations and abuses, protecting and offering assistance to people in vulnerable situations or building the capacity of state institutions, missions can effectively contribute to the realisation of human rights. It is therefore crucial to ensure that human rights components are sufficiently funded and have the capacity to undertake their tasks.
We commend the concrete impact of human rights components, such as the work of the human rights component of UNAMA in Afghanistan, which was instrumental in creating the conditions for a dialogue with all parties. In Kosovo*, UNMIK contributed to reconciliation efforts, notably by helping establish a missing persons resource centre, bringing together for the first time representatives and families of missing persons from all communities.
As part of an integrated approach, aimed at building long-term peace, the UN’s peace and security instruments must work in tandem with development, human rights and humanitarian efforts from the outset of a mission. Human rights violations and abuses can be drivers of conflict and restoring respect for human rights will often contribute to addressing root causes and to sustaining peace.
Despite these positive examples, the EU regrets that peacekeepers often remain ill-equipped to identify and respond to human rights threats and to promote respect for international law. The analysis of best practices and lessons learnt shows that efforts are needed on several strands to ensure that individual peacekeepers have the necessary skills and institutional support to respect and protect human rights:
Training: human rights and international humanitarian law training are part of the pre-deployment training of all EU Troop Contributing Countries to sensitise peacekeepers to rules and obligations under international law, codes of conduct and cultural awareness. The EU would welcome efforts to standardise this practice for all Troop Contributing Countries and to develop a more applicable training to enhance the operational human rights readiness for all blue helmets. The EU stresses the importance of the selection process of troop contribution, which includes the certification of vetting relating to international humanitarian and human rights law as well as human rights screening.
Human rights-based threat assessment: monitoring and reporting undertaken by human rights components in peacekeeping operations should feed into threat assessments and strategies for protection of civilians. Forward-looking threat assessments, including on human rights violations and abuses, can enable missions to prevent violence before it occurs or mitigate its impact. Such assessments also contribute to stronger mandate implementation, improve civilian protection capacity and support transitional justice processes.
Gender Mainstreaming: Measures to advance gender equality must be mainstreamed, including at the early stages of operational planning. We welcome the UN Department of Peace Operations’ recent initiative to track progress and gaps on key Women, Peace and Security outcomes as enshrined in DPO’s gender policy (2018), A4P commitments and mandated mission tasks, with the use of 15 WPS indicators that were institutionalised by all 9 missions.
Child protection: well-trained child protection focal points and the allocation of adequate resources are essential to ensure effective monitoring and reporting of grave violations and abuses, including through the speedy deployment of senior child protection advisors and their teams. This is particularly important to prevent under-reporting of certain trends and patterns of violations and abuses, and ensure the implementation of the Security Council- mandated Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on children and armed conflict.
Modern technology at the service of the protection of civilians: if properly applied and integrated into UN peace operations, modern technology has the potential to change the face of peacekeeping with enhanced capabilities to detect threats, identify targets and improved situational awareness. The use of modern technology should take into account challenges in the areas of signal intelligence, cyber defence, information fusion and big data, and ensure full compliance with human rights, including the right to privacy.
Integrated assessment on human rights: the importance of an integrated assessment on Human Rights with the aim to join every Mission component in a comprehensive HR approach cannot be overstated.
Organisation culture: The way gender is represented, and violence and abuse understood within the key institutions warrants increased attention. The harmful structures of power ought to be examined and dismantled in order to prevent and fight against the institutionalization of impunity. Enhanced data collection and reporting on misconduct as well as actions against those who breach the agreed rules and guidelines are essential measures.
The EU is fully committed to these principles. The EU’s external action is guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.
The EU’s Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for 2020-2024, which is under consideration at EU level, foresees that a human rights due diligence policy will be developed to ensure that support to security forces is in compliance with the EU human rights policy and is consistent with the promotion, protection and enforcement of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Human rights mainstreaming forms an integral part of the mandates of the 11 civilian missions and 6 military missions and operations currently deployed by the EU. Human rights and gender considerations are addressed during the planning process for new missions and operations and assessed regularly through the strategic review processes. In addition, human rights and gender components are systematically included in the EU’s (pre-deployment) training courses.
The EU missions and operations engage on human rights and gender-related issues by supporting representative law enforcement, security forces and justice sector institutions, promoting the equal and meaningful participation of women in those sectors, addressing discrimination on any ground and sexual and gender-based violence, and promoting awareness and compliance with International Humanitarian Laws.
The EU military training missions (EUTM) in Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic all include human rights and international humanitarian law into their training programmes for the national armed forces of the host country and cooperate with UN peace operations on the ground in delivering training on human rights, protection of civilians and other related fields. EUTM Mali for instance has developed practical, gender-responsive scenarios for the application of human rights and has prepared a Train-the-Trainer Manual on international human rights and humanitarian law for the Malian Armed Forces.
The same goes for the EU Civilian Capacity-Building (EUCAP) Missions in Mali and Sahel Niger, which have developed training materials and modules on human rights, international humanitarian law and children’s rights and juvenile justice, that are regularly delivered to security forces.
In Kosovo*, EULEX has continued to support selected Kosovo rule of law institutions in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant international standards. In the context of its monitoring of criminal proceedings in cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse, the Mission has paid particular attention to the protection of the rights of child victims and witnesses, as well as to the effectiveness of referral mechanisms and of measures aimed at avoiding further victimisation. EULEX has also monitored the rights of children in conflict with the law in the criminal justice system and in the correctional system, providing advice to the relevant institutions with the goal of ensuring their reintegration and the primary consideration of their best interests.
The United Nations is best placed to play a leading role in coordinating the support provided by international and bilateral partners and the United Nations system to provide expertise, advice and training to the national security forces they support and to strengthen their capacity through human rights training.
Human rights are a central element of the EU-UN Strategic Partnership on Peace Operations and Crisis Management. Through this partnership, we have notably established a collaborative platform on Women, Peace and Security to enhance coherence and integration of gender perspectives throughout our cooperation. We have also agreed to intensify cooperation on policing, the rule of law and Security Sector Reform, as well as on the promotion of International Humanitarian Law and the protection of children and other persons in vulnerable situations in conflict and post-conflict areas.
This cooperation is leading to tangible results on the ground. In Somalia, UNSOM (Rule of Law and Security Institutions Group) and EUCAP Somalia have joined forces to support the efforts of the Somali Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development in promoting the role of women in the maritime sector. In the Sahel, the EU through the African Peace Facility supports the strengthening of peace and security structures of the G5 Sahel, including the Collège de Défense of the G5 Sahel. We are working closely with OHCHR to ensure that the curriculum of the Collège includes human rights and international humanitarian law modules to support G5 Sahel countries in preventing and responding to human rights violations.
The EU is strongly supporting national oversight institutions such as national assemblies and national human rights institutions and is working closely with local communities and civil society to inform all its actions and identify risks. We welcome that the Security Council is increasingly interacting with civil society representatives and human rights defenders. Discussions in the Council are better informed, mandates are more precise and decisions are more inclusive when civil society is involved.
Despite these successes, it is, however clear, that more needs to be done. We have learned, for instance, from the recent report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed conflict that during 2019 over 25 000 grave violations against children took place. Of these more than half were committed by non-State actors, and a third by government and international forces. Similarly Conflict-related sexual violence persists as a challenge. We must join efforts to work harder against the ongoing abuse of children and women, and for the respect of human rights of all. The ambitions and goals must be set higher for the years ahead.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.