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  • Author: Rebecca Brubaker, Akhilesh Upadhyay
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: UN political engagement in Nepal between 2002 and 2018 has long been considered a successful example of sustained and innovative support to a critical peace process. Many governments in the broader region, however, have largely eschewed international assistance in resolving conflicts, perceiving it as an unnecessary infringement on state sovereignty or a threat to regional balances of power. This paper looks at lessons the UN could learn from its political presence in Nepal. It summarizes the four periods of the UN’s involvement, highlights best practices, and reviews the challenges faced and how they shaped the range of actions available to the UN. It concludes with eight lessons for the UN: Foster relationships with key conflict parties before there is a need for an active UN political role; Use indirect means to keep the regional players positively engaged, when direct means fail; Draw on or generate high-quality, fast, actionable, and representative conflict information; Design UN missions according to context; Manage a mission’s (perceived or real) footprint in order to maximize leverage; Build a dedicated communications strategy to help set and manage expectations regarding what a mission can and cannot do; Consider using human rights monitoring as the groundwork for conflict resolution; and Be willing to make unpopular decisions, if they are the right decisions for sustaining the peace.
  • Topic: Human Rights, United Nations, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Nepal
  • Author: Albert Trithart
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) have been on the UN’s agenda for more than twenty-five years. Many of the earliest developments took place in the UN human rights mechanisms and Human Rights Council. Increasingly, however, UN agencies, funds, and programs are also integrating SOGIESC into their policy and programming. This paper explores what these UN entities have been doing to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. It looks at how the UN’s work on SOGIESC has intersected with its work on human rights, global public health, development, humanitarian affairs, peace and security, and gender. It also assesses what has been driving forward policy and programming on SOGIESC and the barriers that have held back further progress. The paper concludes with recommendations for the UN Secretariat, UN agencies, funds, and programs, supportive UN member states, and LGBTI activists across five areas: Building the human resources needed to institutionalize the UN’s work on SOGIESC; Making the UN a safe and accepting workplace for LGBTI people; Mainstreaming and coordinating work on SOGIESC; Strengthening partnerships between the UN and other actors; and Continuing to expand policy and programming on SOGIESC into new areas.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, United Nations, Inequality, Sustainable Development Goals, LGBT+, Peace, Transgender
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Forti
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: The UN’s transition in Sudan started out in 2014 as a process to close the African Union–United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in the face of waning international support and overwhelming pressure from an autocratic regime. But in 2019, Sudan’s revolution and ongoing political transition radically transformed how the UN engages with Sudan. UNAMID’s closure in December 2020 and the start-up of a new special political mission, the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), now constitute one of the most complex reconfigurations the organization has ever attempted. This paper examines the ongoing UN transition in Sudan, focusing on the establishment of UNITAMS and UNAMID’s exit from Darfur.The paper evaluates the transition across four themes pertinent to the transition of UN peace operations: the creation of a shared political vision for the transition, national engagement in the process, efforts to comprehensively plan the transition, and the dynamics of international financial support and partnerships. In order to sustain the UN’s reconfiguration in Sudan while supporting Sudan’s own political transition, the UN should consider the following: Articulating a forward-looking political compact with Sudan to guide UN support to the political transition; Rapidly expanding support for urgent peacebuilding and protection priorities in Darfur; Continuously evaluating the UN’s operational presence and substantive impact outside of Khartoum; Encouraging the Sudanese government to provide regular updates on the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement and its national protection of civilians plan; Providing frequent, detailed assessments of UNAMID’s drawdown and liquidation; Undertaking a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of UNITAMS; and Considering additional reforms to the UN’s peace and security pillar on mission planning processes. In addition, to support the efforts of the UN and the Sudanese transitional government, UN member states could consider the following: Increasing financial support to coherently address Sudan’s peacebuilding and development needs; Maintaining a close relationship between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council on Sudan; and Sustaining international attention on Sudan’s transition and maintaining UN support.
  • Topic: United Nations, Peacekeeping, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Catherine Turner, Aisling Swaine
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: The protection of women in armed conflict and their participation in peace and security activities are central pillars of the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda. Overall, however, the WPS agenda has overlooked the relationship between participation and protection. This perpetuates a false binary between the participation of women as leaders with agency and the protection of women as victims of conflict. It also misses the gendered, context-specific, and conflict-related protection risks that accompany women’s participation. Finally, it overlooks the critical link between the harms women experience and their low levels of representation. This paper considers the intersection between women’s participation and protection in the context of Northern Ireland. While often assumed to be free of “global policy” concerns such as WPS, Northern Ireland starkly illustrates the intrinsic connections and tensions between women’s leadership and protection in conflict and post-conflict situations. After providing an overview of these connections and tensions more broadly, this paper examines the participation and protection of women in Northern Ireland since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. It draws from twenty-five semi-structured interviews with women in leadership positions in Northern Ireland. The paper concludes that gender inequalities and gendered insecurities intersect with sectarianism, the legacy of violence, and political crises arising from power-sharing arrangements under the peace agreement. These, in turn, intersect with emerging technologies such as social media to stymy women’s participation across all areas of post-conflict political life. While these findings underscore the continued relevance of the WPS agenda, they also signify that deeper engagement with gendered protection issues is required if the agenda is to substantively advance women’s equality and participation in the longer term.
  • Topic: Security, Gender Issues, Women, Peace
  • Political Geography: Europe, Northern Ireland
  • Author: Damian Lilly
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: Since seizing power in a coup on February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military has launched a violent crackdown against anti-coup protesters—a campaign of terror that may amount to crimes against humanity. With violence spreading, there are fears that the country is slipping toward full-scale civil war and state collapse. The international community has appeared almost powerless to respond to this human rights crisis, reflecting a broader weakening of its resolve to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes over the last decade. This policy paper analyzes the human rights crisis created by the coup in Myanmar and assesses the response of the UN, within the context of broader international efforts, when viewed against the many commitments that have been made to protect people from atrocity crimes. The first section outlines the different elements of the human rights crisis and the violations that have been occurring. The second section places the events in Myanmar in the context of international commitments, including by the UN, to address atrocity crimes. The third section reviews the human rights tools that are at the disposal of the UN to understand what works and what does not and to highlight innovative ways to address such a challenging situation. The paper concludes with proposals for what an agenda for protection in Myanmar might entail, building on the ambitious Call to Action for Human Rights launched by the UN secretary-general in 2020. The unfolding tragedy in Myanmar is one of the first major tests of the secretary-general’s initiative, and so far, the UN’s response—both as an intergovernmental body of member states and as a system of operational entities—has been woefully inadequate. While there is no simple recipe for halting the atrocity crimes, the UN could take a combination of measures at several levels: Grounding the response in a political strategy; Increasing capacity for human rights monitoring and quiet diplomacy; Providing clear leadership that encourages a less risk-averse approach; Devising a whole-of-system approach to the UN’s response; Scaling up protection services; and Supporting existing nationally or locally-led protection efforts.
  • Topic: Human Rights, United Nations, Coup, Civilians, Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Damian Lilly
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: In contrast to recent transitions, the next wave of UN peacekeeping transitions is set to occur in contexts where civilians continue to face threats of physical violence. These transitions are likely to have major implications for the protection of civilians (POC), which should be a key consideration for the UN when planning these missions’ exit strategies. As the mandate of a UN peacekeeping operation draws to an end and the UN reconfigures its presence, the strategic goals of POC will evolve. To ensure sound exit strategies, missions should revise their protection priorities and approaches as countries move from crisis management toward peacebuilding. This requires shifting from a military-dominated to a civilian-led approach to POC in coordination with humanitarian, development, and other peace actors. It also requires defining the target end state for POC—a difficult task due to political sensitivities and the technical challenges of assessing ongoing threats to civilians. In addition, exit strategies need to focus on enhancing national ownership and leadership of POC, as states ultimately have the primary responsibility for protecting their civilian population. Beyond these strategic considerations, the UN also needs to reconfigure its operational approach to POC both during peacekeeping transitions and after a mission’s closure. Under tier 1 of the UN Department of Peace Operations’ (DPO) POC concept (protection through dialogue), the UN needs to prioritize political engagement with host states and ensure that the mission’s followon presence continues to address POC in its political strategy and has adequate capacity in areas such as human rights monitoring. Under tier 2 (provision of physical protection), transferring tasks to host-state authorities without falling off a “physical protection cliff” requires delicate negotiations and significant capacity building. Finally, tier 3 (establishment of a protective environment) increases in importance as the strategic goals of a mission shift toward enhancing national ownership of POC and addressing the root causes of threats to civilians. Twenty years on from the Security Council first mandating a UN peacekeeping operation to protect civilians, the UN’s approach to POC is entering a new phase in which missions are being called upon not only to respond to threats to civilians but also to plan for their exit and a shift toward peacebuilding. To avoid the premature departure of UN peacekeeping operations when civilians continue to face threats, the UN should develop a system-wide strategy to ensure smooth and sustainable peacekeeping transitions.
  • Topic: Human Rights, United Nations, Peacekeeping, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Lisa Sharland
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: Peacekeeping mission mandates now routinely include language on women, peace, and security (WPS). Despite this progress, negotiations in the Security Council on the inclusion of WPS language in mandates have at times been contested, and it is not always clear that more detailed or “stronger” language on WPS in mandates translates to changes in peacekeeping missions. The language included in mandates can even perpetuate stereotypes, including the assumption that every uniformed woman is responsible for implementing a mission’s WPS mandate. This paper explores the different elements of the WPS agenda that are included in peacekeeping mandates, assesses the factors that influence the inclusion of language on WPS, examines the drivers behind the implementation of the WPS agenda in the field, and assesses the impact that mandate language has on uniformed women peacekeepers. It concludes by considering how the Security Council and other stakeholders could advance the WPS agenda through mission mandates, including by: Proposing WPS language early in the Security Council’s mandating process; Facilitating engagement between country experts and WPS experts in member states’ permanent missions to the UN; Using informal consultations to understand the needs of women affected by conflict; Including language in mandates that reflects the contributions of both women and men to operational effectiveness; and Ensuring that approaches to WPS in the Security Council consider the full spectrum of gender.
  • Topic: Security, United Nations, Women, Conflict, Peace, UN Security Council
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Laura Cuzzuol, Welmoet Wels
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: The intersection between the protection of civilians (POC) and gender has been addressed in Security Council resolutions on POC and on women, peace, and security (WPS) since the late 1990s. Nonetheless, understanding how POC and gender converge, and translating this convergence into implementable action plans, are challenging tasks for peacekeeping missions. One challenge is that neither UN policies on POC in peacekeeping nor UN policies on making peacekeeping gender-responsive focus on the intersection between POC and gender. Likewise, the language in peacekeeping mandates does not always include firm and clear language related to gendered POC threats. At the mission level, POC strategy documents vary greatly in the extent to which they mention gender mainstreaming, and few provide concrete guidance. Accordingly, most missions do not undertake a structured, gendersensitive analysis of threats. When they do, they often focus on sexual and gender-based violence against women, with less attention to other gendered POC threats or POC threats to men, boys, and girls. Moreover, many missions do not systematically disaggregate POC-related data by sex, age, and other relevant demographic factors. Another challenge is the lack of coherence within the UN and between the UN and other stakeholders in conceptualizing and responding to gendered POC threats. While there are conversations on gendered POC threats within missions, and, to some extent, with interlocutors outside of missions, these usually amount to a relatively shallow form of coordination. To ensure the sustainability of their efforts to address gendered POC threats, missions also have to work with national and local actors. While there are many examples of missions grounding their POC work in local structures, it is difficult for missions to sustainably address gendered POC threats that are culturally grounded. To address these challenges, UN peacekeeping missions could consider developing “safeguarding frameworks” on the intersection of POC and gender. These frameworks could provide more detailed guidance that challenges the conflation of “gender” and “women” and the association of gender-related protection primarily with sexual violence. They could also dictate that missions need to assess the gender aspects of every threat and could help move missions from coordinating to integrating their work on POC and gender.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, United Nations, Peacekeeping, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Masooma Rahmaty, Jimena Leiva Roesch
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: Youth movements have played an increasingly prominent role in calling for action to address climate change. Many youth-led organizations are also engaged in initiatives to build peace in their communities. In global policymaking fora, however, youth remain sidelined. The sidelining of youth peacebuilders and climate activists can be attributed to four main factors. First, there are widespread misperceptions of youth grounded in age and gender stereotypes. Young men are often seen as perpetrators of violence, while young women are seen as passive victims. These misperceptions can lead policymakers to adopt a securitized approach to youth, peace, and security and overlook the efforts of young peacebuilders. In some cases, the perception that young activists are a threat to national security can also put them at risk. Second, global policy frameworks on youth are outdated and piecemeal. While the UN Security Council has passed three resolutions on youth, peace, and security since 2015, there is no comparable framework for youth and sustainable development or climate action. Moreover, there is no overarching global framework on youth that links the youth, peace, and security and youth climate action agendas. Third, youth organizations and activists are underfunded. Much of the work that young people do is voluntary. While there are some initiatives to direct more funding toward youth-led organizations, funding largely remains ad hoc, and many organizations lack the capacity to meet the onerous application and reporting requirements. Finally, youth have weak institutional links to global governance fora. There are some mechanisms for consulting and involving youth, including the secretary-general’s global envoy on youth, the UN-coordinated Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security, and the Youth Constituency of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, youth have no direct decision-making role in the work of the UN and its member states, and engagement is often ad hoc. To build peace and tackle climate change, governments and multilateral institutions must shift toward inclusive governance systems that involve and empower youth. They must also consider the synergies between youth, climate, and peace.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Governance, Youth, Peace
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Agathe Sarfati
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: The UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) currently manages twenty-five special political missions (SPMs) that have a field presence. Nonetheless, research and guidance on UN transitions has mainly focused on peacekeeping operations. This paper takes a first step toward filling that gap by exploring transitions from SPMs to UN country teams (UNCTs). Focusing on the programmatic and political aspects of transitions, this paper explores the particular challenges of transitioning from an SPM to a UNCT by studying the closure of four missions: the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) in 2011, the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) in 2014, the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) in 2014, and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) in 2020. After presenting the main characteristics of SPMs, it discusses some of the challenges and characteristics of SPM transitions based on the four case studies. These four case studies show that the drawdown of special political missions with a field presence shares several features with the drawdown of peacekeeping missions, but some aspects are specific to SPMs. In the coming years, the UN will need to develop a more comprehensive picture of the key elements to take into consideration during SPMs’ lifecycles and transitions, as well as specific guidance on the transition of SPMs. This could help the UN deliver a “continuum of responses and smoother transitions” while supporting national priorities.
  • Topic: United Nations, Peacekeeping, Transition
  • Political Geography: Global Focus