In August 2018, the UN Secretary-General invited Member States to endorse the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations, a set of mutually-agreed principles and commitments that the Secretary-General hopes will make peacekeeping “fit for the future.” The Declaration is the first of its kind, with over 150 Member States and four regional organizations committing to affirm the primacy of politics in conflict resolution and UN peacekeeping operations. In light of these developments, the Capstone team was tasked to research the extent to which the five Permanent Members (P5) have reflected UN Security Council (UNSC) peacekeeping resolutions within their respective bilateral and multilateral engagements.

The Capstone team first identified key contextual and normative changes that have influenced the UN peacekeeping operations over time—including global balance of power, the increased involvement of regional actors and the armed groups—and the challenges in defining and supporting political processes in relation to two different visions of ‘peace’. Then, the Capstone team focused on analyzing the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA). On 06 February 2019, in Bangui, the Government of the CAR and the 14 main opposition armed groups signed the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in CAR. The team examined the different policy means with which the P5 sought to support the Initiative, and how bilateral P5 policies show both convergence and divergence from the principles in the Initiative and the MINUSCA mandate.  

In addition to CAR, the team explored the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The team observed how the Mission mandates through 2016 to 2019 have indicated broad support to push the implementation of the 2016 Political Agreement, by facilitating the electoral process. At the same time, member states have also identified different priorities in sustaining peace within the country. While some member states continued to emphasize the need for transparency and accountability in the political process, others instead prioritized the need to maintain stability and to provide assistance without violating the country’s sovereignty. The team made note of areas of convergence and divergence between the UNSC decisions and the P5’s respective bilateral engagements with the DRC.

The team also considerd how the P5 rhetoric and actions on both bilateral and multilateral platforms are indicative of efforts to put together a WOG approach in their respective foreign policy stance towards CAR and DRC. The P5 policy rhetoric and processes highlighted a desire to ensure a level of foreign policy coherence. However, the team remained cognizant of how the P5 may still be hindered by inherent bureaucratic challenges in their efforts to pursue and maintain a WOG approach.

The team observed that implicit in the UN state-centric structure is a presumption that individual Member States like the P5 will pursue their national interests through their participation in the UNSC. In both CAR and the DRC, the team acknowledged that the P5 have unique national levers of power that at times have been effectively applied as pressure points for political resolution. The team also noted that differences between the P5 in the UNSC are a limiting factor for the pursuit of the common good.  As such, the team proposed several considerations for ways in which Member States can better align their bilateral engagements with the work of the Council and the UN, in order to better support political processes in peacekeeping, including ways to strengthen convergence and correct divergence.