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United Nations: Peacekeeping Operations

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the UN troop contributor Governments on the conduct of troops on UN missions, including their treatment of women. (204329)

We believe strongly that UN personnel must uphold the highest standards of behaviour. The vast majority of UN peacekeepers uphold those standards while doing important work in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

The UN is responsible for tackling any individual allegations of misconduct with troop contributing countries. We have therefore not raised this with Governments, but we do pursue the issue with the UN. The UK played a key role in the 2006 negotiations that established a model Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the UN and troop contributing countries, which lays out the actions that will be taken if any troops fall short of prescribed standards of conduct. We were also involved in negotiations last year which made the MoU more robust. We support the UN Secretary-General’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel and we press for language supporting that policy, and call for troop contributing countries to take appropriate preventative action, to be included in all UN Security Council resolutions on peacekeeping missions. The peace support operations training that the UK provides for troops of other countries also covers matters of conduct, including the importance of protecting civilians (including women) in accordance with international law.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts at the United Nations on human rights training for troops seconded to UN missions. (204333)

It is critical that UN peacekeepers uphold the highest human rights standards. Troop and police contributing countries, with UN support, are responsible for training their peacekeepers appropriately. Government officials regularly discuss with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) how to improve its training, including in human rights. The Government supports DPKO's training programmes with funding.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had on a treaty on the prosecution of allegations of sexual abuse made against UN personnel, including peacekeepers. (204338)

We believe strongly that UN personnel must uphold the highest standards of behaviour. The vast majority of UN peacekeepers uphold those standards, while doing important work in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

The UN has mechanisms in place to investigate, and take action, against allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, and the UN Secretary-General has a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards such behaviour. The UK played a key role in the negotiations that established those mechanisms and we work with partners to strengthen the UN's arrangements in this area. We support the UN Secretary-General's ‘zero-tolerance’ policy and we press for language supporting that policy, and call for troop contributing countries to take appropriate preventative action, to be included in all UN Security Council resolutions on peacekeeping missions. The UK also provides financial support to the Conduct and Discipline Unit within the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to help them prevent sexual abuse by peacekeepers.

We have not discussed a treaty.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by his Department to improve the UN's capacity for the rapid deployment of troops for peacekeeping and peace-enforcement missions. (204362)

Improving the effectiveness of the UN in tackling conflict is a key objective, as set out in recent speeches by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The UK believes that UN peacekeepers play a vital role. The Government work closely with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), including financial support from our Department's Conflict Prevention Pool on capacity building projects. In 2007-08 the UK provided over £4 million to support the training of peacekeepers.

The UK supports DPKO's proposed rapid deployment model—the Enhanced Rapidly Deployable Capacities. The critical rapid deployment capacity, for UN or other operations, will remain with nation states and regional organisations. The UK is working with international partners to develop this capacity, for example with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's Response Force, the EU Battlegroup Concept and the African Union's Standby Force. The UK makes a very significant contribution, including rapidly deployable capacities, to UN-mandated operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan.