Peace Support Operations
Let me start by welcoming our foreign guests to Turkey for this important conference jointly organized by Bilkent University and the Centre for European Security Studies. I am grateful for the opportunity to address this gathering of eminent academicians and senior officials. The subject matter of the deliberations today and tomorrow is a critical issue for the international community as a whole; how to conduct effective peace support operations in the 21st century, at a time of growing demands for international action in the face of instability and conflict in many parts of the world. I am especially pleased that the conference will have the benefit of the presence and active contribution of our friends from Groningen; an ancient city with a university dating back to the beginning of the 17th century.
There has been a substantial amount of academic and policy activity over the past decade to identify the best means for conducting an increased amount of peace support activity with essentially limited military and financial capabilities. Peacekeeping is a delicate and expensive undertaking, requiring a robust mandate, adequate force protection, deployment of scarce military capabilities and sustained political engagement. The major international organizations with specific responsibilities in this area, such as the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have all invested a considerable effort to review and revamp their procedures for executing their respective, and often complementary, field activities.
Naturally, Turkey fully supports these efforts. As Director General, in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for international organizations, I have daily oversight of all UN activities in this respect. We are confident that the establishment of the UN Peace building Commission, the restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the formation of a separate Department of Field Support will serve to provide the international community with a higher-quality service. It has been 61 years since Winston Churchill called for equipping the United Nations with an international armed force, in the famous Iron Curtain speech. The world organization certainly has some military clout now; it is conducting 17 operations with more than 100.000 personnel.
Turkey is keen to sustain and enhance her contributions in this respect. The UN’s own data, as of September 2007, declares that Turkey is the 25th largest contributor to UN operations, with nearly one thousand troops on active duty, while, in terms of police contributions, we are ranked 14th among UN member states. We are, of course, also taking part in all NATO operations, with some 2.500 troops, and a further 2.750 troops on call in the NATO Response Force. We have commanded ISAF twice, and still have some 1.200 troops in Afghanistan, as well as a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Furthermore, we have supported the development of the European Security and Defence Policy from the outset and taken part in every EU operation to which we were invited. In fact, we are the leading non-EU European ally in terms of contributions to ESDP missions.
I see that there is an impressive congregation of experts here to deliberate the important topics on the agenda of the conference. Perhaps I should briefly touch upon one of those topics, namely national approaches to peace support operations, as Turkey has collected a considerable amount of experience in this field. As I said, we led ISAF twice; once as a UN operation and again as a NATO-led force. We also currently have nearly a thousand troops in UNIFIL in Lebanon. This body of experience makes it possible for me to make certain observations, especially with regard to political engagement between the peacekeeping force and the host country. This is a critical relationship for the success of any mission, in terms of ensuring force protection for our men and women on active duty in foreign lands, allowing timely exit from the host country and preventing a subsequent recurrence of hostilities.
The first of these observations is that the task of securing and maintaining the trust of our hosts is the most crucial aspect of peacekeeping work. Naturally, military planners will insist on the right mix of combat and support elements and the availability of critical enablers, but without this mutual trust, the endeavor will almost certainly fail in attaining its objectives. Experience has shown that remaining equi-distant to the ethnic and religious groups in the host country is essential. The Turkish military commanders and personnel also avoid any involvement in the domestic affairs of the country. Transparency in dealings with all local leaders, whether in government or not, helps to sustain a constructive two-way dialogue. Full respect for the customs, cultural values and religious beliefs of the local population is also essential.
We would probably all agree that local ownership of the responsibility for peace and stability is highly desirable. However, this will not be possible if local officials, community leaders and military commanders do not have a culture of working together, as is often the case. This may well be due to a lack of trust among those players because of past behavior. The commanding officers of a peacekeeping force will find it easier to persuade their local counterparts to cooperate with each other and thus facilitate the establishment of a broad-based national consensus in the host country, if they have already won their confidence and respect.
Friendly patrols on foot, rather than an excessive use of armored vehicles driven at high speed, are likely to win the hearts and minds of the population. Sensitive treatment at control posts, for example by ensuring that women are only searched by female officers, is also essential. Joint patrols with local forces or police officers may remove any grounds for suspicion by the population and government officials as to the activities of what is essentially a sizeable and well-armed group of foreigners. Conspicuous display of arms and weapons should be discouraged. Where such simple practices are not followed, the peacekeeping force may quickly resemble an army of occupation.
Regarding the composition of peacekeeping forces, I note that roughly ten percent of uniformed personnel in current UN peacekeeping forces is made up of police officers. This trend should be encouraged further, as the evolving nature of peacekeeping tasks requires a greater amount of conventional police work in post-conflict societies. We should also endeavor to get the right ratio of combat troops and support personnel, as many countries prefer not to provide combat forces or critical enablers like transport assets or intelligence units, which are all in short supply.
As a final remark, I would like to emphasize the need to integrate the political and socio-economic dimension of peace building into our peace support operations, in order to create societies that can sustain peace on their own long after peacekeeping forces depart their country.
 The text of a statement made by Ambassador Hasan Göğüş, Director General, Multi-lateral Political Affairs Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the conference on “Peace Support Operations” organized by Bilkent University and CESS of Netherlands on 12-13 November 2007.