The U.N. Security Council is urging the use of unarmed drones in the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, but the government there says that could cause “disagreement and hostility” as a peace deal tries to take hold. The council on October 9, 2015 adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution requesting the U.N. secretary-general to “prioritize” the deployment of remaining troops, plus military helicopters and drones. The U.N. is exploring the use of drones in a growing number of peacekeeping missions after first using them in Congo in 2013. But deploying the drones — even getting them into South Sudan — needs government consent. “The mission requires the collaboration and cooperation from the host authorities for its operations, including air and aviation ones,” a U.N. official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Ambassador Francis Deng told the council that requesting drones without consulting his government is “to invite controversy.”
South Sudan’s rival sides signed a peace deal in August 2015, but numerous cease-fire violations have been reported. Each side blames the other for the violations. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 civilians remain sheltered in U.N. bases throughout the country. Thousands have been killed in the conflict fueled by the rivalry between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar. The council resolution also extends the peacekeeping mission’s mandate until Dec. 15 while supporting the implementation of the peace deal. The mission has more than 12,500 uniformed personnel on the ground.
Excerpts from UN Wants Peacekeeping Drones in South Sudan, Which Objects, Associated Press, Oct. 10, 2015
The United Nations will move more into the use of high technology including UAVs and EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) robots in peacekeeping operations to confront new challenges and offer the best value for funding in future. UAVs have been deployed by MONUSCO in the DRC since late last year (2013) to provide added eyes to UN forces there in an ongoing quest to protect civilians. There are currently over 116 000 UN military, police and civilian personnel from more than 120 countries serving in 16 peacekeeping missions worldwide.
One example of new technology being utilised beneficially came last month (May 2014) during a ferry accident on Lake Kivu. A UN Falco UAV spotted the craft in distress and UN personnel in the DRC were able to immediately despatch speedboats and a helicopter, rescuing 15 people. “From the second it spotted the sinking ship, the UAV stayed at the scene searching for survivors and providing situational awareness,” said Ameerah Haq, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support. “This illustrates the flexibility and the ability of UAVs to greatly enhance situational awareness and aid life-saving operations by the provision of real-time imagery to support reaction to incidents.”
The UN has also enhanced its use of thermal imaging, closed-circuit television, night vision abilities and GIS (geographic information systems) data to improve situational awareness to provide better for the safety and security for its peacekeepers. As part of the ongoing effort by the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and of Field Support (DFS) to take advantage of emerging technologies and innovations, a group of five experts is being tasked with advising on how best to use these capabilities.
Excerpts, New challenges spur UN peacekeeping to become a force for the future, DefenceWeb, June 3, 2014