Delivering during a pandemic: How the UN is maximizing impact in peace operations

By Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations

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Last year, I was walking through a makeshift hospital ward in the remote town of Mandima in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Ebola outbreak there was adding to the myriad challenges that our peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, was already facing. Our peacekeepers still had a job to do — a very difficult job to do — but their efforts were now complicated by a public health emergency and a population struggling to cope with yet another challenge. Little did I know back then that all of our peacekeeping missions would be confronting a global pandemic today.

How do we continue delivering on the UN’s mandate when movement restrictions are in place? When UN personnel are as much at risk as the populations they serve? When protecting ourselves becomes a precondition to protecting anyone else?

To address existing and new challenges while improving overall performance, Secretary-General António Guterres launched the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative in March 2018. The new framework, applied across our 13 peacekeeping operations, covers key priorities and includes the introduction of new tools to evaluate performance, minimize risks and maximize impact.

I had the privilege to present the A4P initiative during a panel discussion at the Paris Peace Forum last year. This year, I am honored to present the Comprehensive Planning and Performance Assessment System (CPAS), a critical tool we have implemented to support our work, and which has been selected to be showcased at this third edition of the Forum for supporting the fight against COVID-19.

This nomination is not only a recognition of the important work our peacekeeping operations are delivering in the field, but also how impactful collaborative action can be.

CPAS was developed to better assess the impact of our work on the ground, so we can improve performance and efficiency as well as quickly respond to changes in local contexts. As a tool, its capacity is exceptional: for the first time, missions are being empowered to use data and the expertise of peacekeeping personnel from all components — military, police and civilian — to assess mission impact and identify how to more effectively deliver mandates.

CPAS’s flexible, integrated and impact-oriented approach is critical. The 95,000 women and men who serve in our operations conduct a wide variety of tasks ranging from conflict mediation to protection of civilians to strengthening the State’s ability to provide security in line with the rule of law. Access to centralised data and analysis, to identify bottlenecks, refocus efforts, or take corrective action, is what CPAS invaluably offers.

This capacity to adapt to ever-changing environments has proven essential to our ability to deliver during the COVID-19 pandemic. CPAS is helping missions track how the pandemic is affecting mandate delivery so they can adjust their objectives, and most effectively support local populations, including by helping to curb the spread of the virus.

Our peacekeeping operation in Mali, MINUSMA, for example, is using CPAS to track how COVID-19 is impacting the mission on the four priority areas identified by the UN, namely containing and mitigating the spread of the virus, supporting national authorities in their response, protecting personnel and helping protect vulnerable communities while continuously implementing mission mandates.

The System has supported the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) at a time when the country is confronted by multiple crises and resources are strained. CPAS helped UNIFIL adjust plans midway through the budget year in response to the pandemic, and to develop a coordinated civilian-military plan to support local authorities prevent and respond to the spread of the virus.

At a time when the UN System, Member States and partners are facing an unprecedented global crisis, CPAS is enabling us to help craft more targeted mandates and direct resources towards areas where peacekeeping operations can make the biggest difference. As the Secretary-General said at an event last December on peacekeeping performance: “we need budgets to follow mandates, not mandates to follow budgets.” If this is to be achieved, CPAS will help enable that to happen, so we can better serve some of the world’s most vulnerable.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

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Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations

Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix is the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations.

Mr. Lacroix brings to the position over 25 years of political and diplomatic experience, with a focus on multilateral organizations, and on United Nations activities and programmes.

Mr. Lacroix served from 2014 to 2017 as Director for United Nations, International Organizations, Human Rights and Francophonie at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

His previous appointments include Ambassador of France to Sweden, Chief of Protocol of France, Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations in New York, Deputy Chief of Mission at the French Embassy in Prague and First Secretary then Second Counsellor at the French Embassy in Washington.

He also served as Advisor at the Cabinet of the French Prime Minister.

Born on 2 May 1960, Mr. Lacroix holds BAs from the Institute of Economic and Commercial Sciences (ESSEC), the Institute for Political Studies — Sciences Po Paris and the National School of Administration (ENA), as a graduate of the Class “Michel de Montaigne.”

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