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C2 policy for peacekeeping operations | Mr. Jonathan Robinson (USA Civ), UN Headquarters New York



Jonathan Robinson is a UN international civil servant with over twelve years of field experience in peace operations, including assignments with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Office of the High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN Mission in Liberia and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq. Since 2013, Jonathan has been assigned to UN Headquarters in New York in the Office of the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations. His responsibilities include policy development and training in strategic planning. Jonathan recently led a review of the UN Policy on Authority, Command and Control (AC2) in partnership with C2 expert Major General (ret) Robert Gordon. He visited UN peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Lebanon and South Sudan to review C2 practice and formulate policy recommendations to strengthen C2 in UN peacekeeping. Jonathan has an MA in international politics from City University in London and studied languages at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia.

In this presentation, Mr Robinson focused on authority and command and control (AC2) arrangements in UN peacekeeping, while including some C2 elements in the context of partnerships with regional organizations, drawing on examples from the Mali theatre of operations.



Mr Robinson started his presentation by putting UN peacekeeping in context in terms of where peacekeeping operations are conducted, what peacekeeping operations are mandated to achieve, how peacekeeping operations are structured from an AC2 perspective, what is unique to this structure and what is required for effective AC2 at mission level. He went on to express the importance of partnerships with national security forces.


Today’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security, but also to facilitate political processes, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, support constitutional processes and the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights, and assist in restoring the rule of law and extending legitimate state authority.


Peacekeeping operations receive their mandates from the UN Security Council, their troops and police are contributed by Members States, and they are managed by the Department of Peace Operations and supported by the Department of Operational Support at UN Headquarters in New York. Fourteen UN peacekeeping operations are currently deployed and a total of 71 have been deployed since 1948.


United Nations peacekeeping missions vary in size and scope and are configured in different ways, ranging from missions that bring together civilian, military, and police personnel with a civilian Head of Mission (HOM) to missions focused on military tasks, with the Force Commander as HOM. The structural configuration of a peacekeeping mission reflects specific requirements, circumstances and mandates and is tailored to the context. These operations are different from any other bilateral or regional intervention in conflict-affected countries because they are typically (though not always) civilian led, and have military, police, and civilian components that operate with different specialized roles but nevertheless within the same AC2 framework. UN peacekeeping arrangements are designed to provide a high level of operational and tactical autonomy for missions, with a light backstopping structure at HQ. When military forces are working together with UN civilian personnel, challenges can arise due to differences in civilian and military cultures and different interpretations of tasking arrangements for military enabling assets (i.e. aviation, engineering and medical). Furthermore, C2 practice may differ between national militaries and in terms of the specific arrangements in place for UN peacekeeping operations.


Peacekeeping management arrangements involve multiple levels of decision making and implementation, responsibility, oversight and accountability within and between HQ and the field.


“Command” elements comprise the powers that are delegated from the Secretary-General to the departmental leaders and, in turn, to their subordinates while “control” concerns the capacity to implement the leadership direction.


This system underpins peacekeeping implementation and departmental strategic direction, management and support for those in the field. Military in origin, the C2 concept is applied more broadly though less appropriately to UN peacekeeping, where the primacy of the political process is a distinctive feature.


The different tasks and responsibilities in the UN peacekeeping organization were subsequently explained. The Under Secretary-General (USG) for Peace Operations also directs policy development and approves guidance materials related to the planning and conduct of peacekeeping operations based on Security Council mandates and General Assembly resolutions.

The Mission Chief of Staff (COS) is responsible for ensuring coherence across the organizational units of the mission so that the directives of the HOM are executed. To this end, the Mission COS is responsible for the coordinated and efficient running of the key integrating structures within mission HQ and may establish and convene other coordination mechanisms, as required. The Mission COS’s core focus is on mission management and specific functions and structures that allow the Mission Leadership Team (MLT) and senior leadership to understand the situation, develop and consult about options, make their intent known, execute decisions and adapt operations to circumstances. The Mission COS supports the accomplishment of the HOM’s management and control functions; this includes planning, organizing, and budgeting to accomplish mandated objectives and tasks.


The Joint Operations Centre (JOC) is an integrated entity supporting mission decision makers in the provision of situational awareness, coordination of operations and operational planning and support to crisis response.


The Mission Support Centre (MSC) is a joint civilian/uniformed unit within the Operations and Resource Management (ORM) pillar of the Mission Support Division. It provides an interface for integrated and logistical support to the mission. The Chief MSC reports to the Chief ORM and manages the coordination and tasking of all requests for logistics and support, on behalf of the D/CMS. The Chief MSC exercises tasking authority over all personnel assigned to the MSC.


The Joint Mission Planning Unit is responsible for strategic and operational planning. It consists of substantive and non-substantive civilian and uniformed personnel.


The Head of Police Component (HOPC) is a seconded police commander from a national police service. The HOPC exercises “UN operational control” over the Police Component of the mission. This includes all United Nations Police Officers, Formed Police Units (FPUs) and civilian staff serving in the Police Component. The HOPC established the police chain of command. This may include the creation of police regions with subordinate police commanders.



Mr Robinson explained that peacekeeping operations are different from any other bilateral or regional intervention in conflict-affected countries because they tend to be large, multidimensional operations that incorporate civilian, military and police tasks and work in an integrated manner with the UN Country Team. A more flexible interpretation of AC2 and its practical application to UN peacekeeping operations may therefore be required.



Questions and Answers

What is the role of private companies in the AC2 policy for peacekeeping operations and how is the UN working together?
Mr Robinson’s reply: The primary responsibility for the security and protection of UN personnel rests with the host government. However, on an exceptional basis and to meet its obligations, the UN may use private companies to provide armed security services when threat conditions warrant it. The engagement and use of such services is governed by an accountability and responsibility framework.


How are ROE used in UN operations?
Mr Robinson’s reply: ROE are applicable for military and police forces. At the commencement of a mission, a directive is issued by UN Headquarters to the uniformed components. This directive provides the specific authority that can be exercised by individual members of these components in the use of armed and unarmed force to safeguard and implement the mandate of the mission. For military members of national contingents assigned to the military, the directive is known as the “Rules of Engagement” (ROE) and for the police component it is known as the “Directive on Detention, Searches and the use of Force” (DUF).


How do national caveats affect AC2 UN peacekeeping operations?
Mr Robinson’s reply: National caveats have to be recognized and discussed with UN troop and police contributing countries. It is important to avoid all caveats which have a detrimental impact on mission mandate implementation and performance, as caveats can have a detrimental impact on C2, particularly in crisis situations. Caveats should be declared and any change in status in caveats should be communicated by troop or police contributing countries to the UN Secretariat.


How is the information flow in an operation?
Mr Robinson’s reply: The information is reported in the chain, up and down. Other reporting structures are used but the daily reports of the Joint Ops Centre and Joint Mission Analysis Centre, as well as the daily Significant Action (SIGAC) snapshots of security incidents, constitute the main structure.


Key take-away

C2 arrangements for UN peacekeeping require the efforts of a number of entities and resources for the purpose of achieving a common objective or goal. C2 arrangements for UN peacekeeping are therefore characterized by a decentralized, “flat” command structure under a primarily civilian/political leadership, combining uniformed and non-uniformed components.


The current AC2 framework defines the relationship between uniformed and non-uniformed components, but exhibits gaps with respect to C2, coordination structures and the integration of uniformed personnel within civilian structures in UN peacekeeping operations.



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