Last Thursday, I published a grumpy post over on the blog of the Takshashila Institution, an excellent Indian think-tank. Why was I in a bad mood?
On Friday, India will use its month-long presidency of the United Nations Security Council to convene a discussion on the state of peacekeeping. This is timely, as UN operations have been through a turbulent year, navigating crises in Côte d’Ivoire and Sudan. There is talk of a new mission in Libya. But this meeting is likely to be a bore.
And why did I think that the debate would be a snooze-fest? Demonstrating a remarkable degree of foresight, I guessed that “Security Council diplomats will be thinking of how to beat the traffic from New York to Long Island’s beach resorts once the debate is finished.” Er, no. With Hurricane Irene almost literally on the horizon, everyone was probably wondering when they could go and stock up on bottled water and black truffles, or whatever ambassadors consume during hurricanes.
The debate was also overshadowed by the tragic attack on the UN offices in Nigeria. Nonetheless, a quick read of the summary of the discussions suggests that they were every bit as tedious as I had predicted. Let’s get a quick taster:
Most speakers in the ensuing discussion stressed the continuing importance of United Nations peacekeeping and the need for increased engagement by the partners involved. In that context, many welcomed more regularized consultations with troop- and police-contributing countries and urged continuous improvement in cooperation among all stakeholders. Many also called for innovative thinking in closing resource gaps, particularly in supplying such enablers as helicopters, and in implementing the recommendations of previous peacekeeping reviews.
Enough already! When multiple speakers are highlighting the importance of “implementing the recommendations of previous peacekeeping reviews”, you know that “innovative thinking” is probably in short supply. I’m afraid that I fault the Indian conveners for not shaking up the discussions:
A background paper prepared for the Security Council’s meeting contains a solid but all-too-familiar litany of diplomatic statements about how peace operations are resourced and managed. It fails to grapple seriously with the hardest cases facing the UN or offer a serious framework for resolving them.
As I’ve argued before, peacekeeping is an issue on which New Delhi can show global leadership, but holding debates in New York in which everyone says more or less exactly what they’ve always said isn’t the way to achieve that.