On March 28 this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the UN’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) agenda. At the heart of the initiative lies an urgent call to mobilise support for peace operations, which are increasingly faced with a wide-array of complex challenges.

Operating in some of the most difficult environments and intractable conflicts on the planet, UN and multilateral peace operations today are dealing with a host of issues and unrealistic expectations by the international community in the various missions’ ability to complete the tasks assigned to them. To address some of these challenges, UN Secretary-General Guterres highlighted a number of proposed areas for reform as part of the A4P agenda.

For example, the Secretary-General requested that so-called Christmas tree mandates in peace operations should be sharpened and streamlined. A mandate defines the priorities of a peace operation. However, some missions have mandates resembling long shopping lists of priorities set by various UN member states, which can both confuse and deflect focus from what should be the key priority of any peace operation, namely to stabilise peace to allow a political solution to the conflict to develop. In his March 28 speech to the UN Security Council, the Secretary-General pointed out the absurdity of one such Christmas tree mandate for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which contains 209 tasks to be implemented by the mission.

Another example of the UN’s A4P agenda is responding to concerns for the safety and security of personnel in peace operations. Recognising the tragic loss of 59 peacekeepers in UN-led peace operations in 2017, the Secretary-General highlighted a number of improvements that A4P proposes to bring in areas such as training, personnel capabilities and funding mechanisms to enhance the security and performance of peace operations.

There are many other areas of the UN’s A4P agenda, including strengthening partnerships with peace operations led by regional organisations such as the African Union, and to ensure active consent and cooperation for the peace operation from the state hosting the mission. These and other initiatives in the A4P agenda will be deliberated on by UN member states later this year.

What role then for the International Forum for the Challenges of Peace Operations (Challenges Forum) in this process? And what is Challenges Forum’s advantage compared to, say, discussions in the various committees on peacekeeping at the UN in New York?

The answer to that is the informal platform provided by Challenges Annual Forum, where all 49 Challenges Forum partners from 22 influential states in peace operations are gathered in one location together with key peace operations stakeholders including the UN. The Swedish partners of the Challenges Forum including the host of Challenges Forum Secretariat, Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), in cooperation with the Swedish Armed Forces, the National Police Authority and the National Criminal and Probation Service, have discussed how to further the dialogue on A4P and support the UN Secretary-General’s initiative.

Challenges Annual Forum in Stockholm this November  is a perfect opportunity to assist key UN member states in identifying common understandings, possible solutions and elaborate on recommendations for how to implement the A4P  reforms.

Far away from the political positions and interventions at the UN in New York, Challenges Annual Forum 2018 can provide the necessary space for Challenges Forum’s unique network of practitioners, academia and policy-makers to reflect and discuss the A4P agenda. The aim will be to provide considered, methodological and evidence-based solutions and recommendations to address the complex issues facing peace operations outlined above. This platform for partners is very much at the core of Challenges Forum, and one of the many ways Challenges Forum partners work to improve the overall effectiveness of peace operations.