Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Masood Khan, took part in a Security Council meeting this week that debated the role of drones in U.N. peacekeeping operations worldwide. His comments came just hours before a U.S. drone strike killed 13 suspected militants in North Waziristan late Wednesday and Thursday morning, the first such strike orchestrated by the CIA-led program since December of 2013. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately condemned the strike, saying that such actions are a violation of the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, a position the government of Pakistan has always held.
The Security Council debate, organized by interim Council President Vitaly I. Churkin of the Russian Federation, was comprised of nearly 50 speakers from 40 countries, including the Russian Federation, China, Japan, Pakistan, the European Union and the U.S. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon provided the keynote address. He noted that peacekeeping operations undertaken by the United Nations must be in full compliance with humanitarian law and international human rights and he recognized the asymmetric and unconventional threats that U.N. peacekeepers increasingly face.
Drones in surveillance roles have already been used on a trial basis by United Nations peacekeepers. In December of 2013, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) employed unarmed surveillance drones to keep track of militant activity in the forested areas near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda. An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was deployed by an Intervention Brigade of infantry, reconnaissance units and artillery specifically organized to protect civilians from Congolese militants operating in the region. The ongoing mission has been successful in protecting civilian life, in large part due to the intelligence provided by the surveillance drone.
During the debate, Sylvie Lucas, president of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and Ambassador to Luxumbourg, praised the surveillance role of UAVs in the Congo, saying that the U.N. vehicle was able to obtain information essential for safeguarding civilians. Asoke Kumar Mukerjii of India, however, struck a more cautious tone, saying that the entire approach of MONUSCO was “interventionist” and counter to the principles of impartiality, consent and non-use of force in the U.N. Charter. Such approaches, he argued, expose peacekeepers to greater dangers in internal armed conflicts.
The position of the U.S. was presented by the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N, Jeffrey DeLaurentis. He argued that MONUSCO proved the benefit of force in some circumstances for peacekeeping operations and that the Council should review use-of-force rules since force is almost never used by U.N. peacekeepers when civilians come under attack. The decision to deploy UAVs and other new technologies should be made by the missions themselves and not by the Security Council.
Regarding the role of drones for peacekeeping operations, Ambassador Khan of Pakistan noted the benefit UAVs had in protecting civilians and increasing the security and safety of U.N. peacekeepers under MONUSCO. During the debate, he called for greater cooperation between the Security Council, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat. Pakistan is one of the largest troop contributors to the United Nations, having provided more than 150,000 personnel in 41 peacekeeping operations since 1960. Pakistan’s ambassador added that the use of drone technology by United Nations peacekeepers should be “selective and sensitive to the concerns of the host country and neighboring states.”
By Steven Killings