Public Symposium
"20 Years of Peacekeeping Operations for the UN and Japan
– Taking on New Challenges"

November 5, 2012

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the United Nations Information Center in Tokyo hosted a Public Symposium "20 Years of Peacekeeping Operations for the UN and Japan –Taking on New Challenges" on 5th November, 2012, at the United Nations University in Tokyo. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Japan's participation in UN Peacekeeping operations, as well as of the creation of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) within the UN Secretariat. Against this backdrop, the symposium was held with a view to discussing some important issues surrounding UN Peacekeeping: What role has been played by UN peacekeeping during this period?; What challenges are being faced by peacekeeping in today's drastically changing world?; and, In what ways is the UN trying to tackle these challenges? More than 300 people, including representatives of the diplomatic corps in Tokyo, NGOs, mass-media, and students attended the symposium as audiences.

1. Opening Remarks by Mr. Koichiro Gemba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba delivered the opening remarks for the symposium, in which he expressed the view that during the past 20 years Japan has made substantial contribution to UN Peacekeeping Operations in various ways, including by dispatching highly trained personnel, providing financial support, and actively participating in discussions on UN Peacekeeping reform, among others. He also pointed out that the expansion of UN peacekeeping operations, the diversification of mandates and lengthening of missions have produced new challenges to be addressed, and that Japan should keep on contributing to UN peacekeeping by dispatching personnel of high quality so as to achieve efficient and effective operations within limited resources.

2. Executive Summary of the Symposium

In Session 1, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations delivered a keynote speech on the theme "The recent 20 years of Peacekeeping: A perspective from the UN Headquarters". In Session 2, the Japanese Government reported on "Japan's Footprints in UN Peacekeeping in the Past 20 years", and in Session 3, prominent practitioners and scholars from Japan, the UN and other states engaged in a lively panel discussion on the theme "Future Challenges for UN peacekeeping."

(1) Challenges surrounding UN peacekeeping

  1. a) Diversification of mandates and functions: Some participants observed that in the past years, missions given to peacekeeping operations have evolved, as the nature of conflicts and the needs have varied. It was pointed out that one particular mission was mandated to execute more than 40 tasks, whereas in some cases peacekeepers are required to operate under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions like in the recent case of Syria.
  2. b) Protection of civilians: Participants stressed that protection of civilians is one of the untraditional tasks which have become more important in peacekeeping operations. As seen in the experience in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), peacekeeping missions have faced various difficult situations on the ground that challenge the traditional principles of impartiality, consent and restraint. In this context, some participants argued that addressing the issues of by which means, to what extent, and what can be done for protection of civilians, is of high importance.
  3. c) The needs of prompt deployment and articulate exit strategy: Participants pointed out an existing serious imbalance in contribution of troops or police between the global North and the South: major uniformed contributions come from South Asia and Africa. In some cases UN peacekeeping operations are not very successful and appropriate exit strategies should be considered.

(2) How to take on the challenges

  1. a) The integrated UN model: One panelist presented a view that the integrated UN model could help us in tackling the various challenges and harness the full range of the UN's civilian, police, and military capacities by combining them with the support from development actors that are critical to sustaining peace. Others emphasized that cooperation between UN missions and NGOs can be an effective tool for improving operation of missions (e.g. Japanese Self Defense Forces' successful collaboration with NGOs in realizing engineering projects in Haiti.).
  2. b) Improving capability of missions: One panelist stressed that in dealing with new challenges, it is vital to advance a "capability-driven" approach to bolster interoperability, and to convene mission-specific and scenario-based training. It was also noted that attention should be paid to new technologies such as Unmanned Aerial Systems in order to improve ability to anticipate, deter, and respond to threats. The need for a more efficient and cost-effective field support through the Global Field Support Strategy was also pointed out.
  3. c) Filling the North-South gap of contribution: Some panelists discussed that the imbalance can be redressed, considering the services of high quality provided by contingents of countries of the North. Activities of Japanese engineering units in Haiti and South Sudan, which have enjoyed a high reputation, are mentioned in this content.
  4. d) Ensuring Security: One panelist pointed out that ensuring security of personnel of missions have become even more important, given that deploying peacekeeping missions to dangerous regions become more frequent with diversification of tasks. Participants pointed out that ensuring security is essential also in gaining the understanding of potential troop/police contributing countries. .
  5. e) Division of labor between PKOs and SPMs: Some participants argued that division of labor between Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions become more important as mandates diversify. They discussed that in some cases like in Post-Gaddafi Libya, peacekeeping might not be useful but in other cases like the post-election crisis in Cote d'lvoire, only peacekeeping operations could cope with the situation. At the same time, in the case of Syria, it is unclear which one can deal more effectively with the situation. Participants concluded that the UN should have flexibility in choosing apparatus for dealing with conflicts depending on their nature and situations.
  6. f) Cooperation with regional institutions: Some panelists mentioned cooperation with regional institutions. There are cases in which UN peacekeeping mission executed tasks in collaboration with regional institutions, such as in the case with the AU in Darfur. In the case of ECOWAS, the UN is assisting in the planning of an ECOWAS-led military mission to be deployed in Mali. On the other hand, it might be contentious whether it is possible and appropriate to attempt the similar collaboration with ASEAN, LAS, OAS, and the SCO.

[For reference]
Program of the symposium:

Opening Remarks:

Mr. Koichiro GEMBA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan

Session 1:Keynote Speech "The Recent 20 years of Peacekeeping: A perspective from the UN"

Speaker: Mr. Hervé LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping
Operations, United Nations (TBC)
Commentator: Prof. Takahiro SHINYO, Vice-President, Kwansei Gakuin University

Session 2: Special Report "Japan's Footprints in UN peacekeeping in the Past 20 years"

Presenter: Mr. Reiichiro TAKAHASHI, Director-General, International Peace
Cooperation Headquarters Secretariat, Cabinet Office
Commentator: GEN (Ret.) Ryoichi Oriki, Special Advisor to the Minister of Defense (Former Chief of Staff, Joint Staff)

Session 3: Panel Discussion "Future Challenges for UN peacekeeping"


  • Mr. Hervé LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, United Nations
  • Prof. Richard GOWAN, Center on International Cooperation, New York University
  • Dr. Shinichi KITAOKA, President, International University of Japan / Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies
  • LTG Kishiro Tanabe, Vice President of the National Defense Academy (Former Commanding Officer, 3rd Engineer Group in Timor-Leste)
  • Ambassador Tsuneo NISHIDA, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations

Moderator: Prof. Toshiya HOSHINO, Osaka University

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