The international community must do everything possible to preserve the space for United Nations peacekeeping operations — a visible expression on the ground of an operating multilateral system, the United Nations senior peace operations official told the Security Council today.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, briefed the 15-member organ in the context of its resolution 2378 (2017) on peacekeeping reform, underscoring the difficult environments in which peacekeepers are deployed. “We face the largest number of violent conflicts since 1945,” he noted, adding that peacekeepers face unprecedented risks as they work to prevent the spread and escalation of war, protect civilians, participate in national capacity-building, promote human rights and help bring communities and countries together.
Although the United Nations has made significant progress to be more proactive, agile and flexible since the ministerial meeting on peacekeeping operations in Seoul last year, he noted that, in 2021, the number of deaths due to malicious acts increased from 13 to 25, and this year, by the end of August, 21 peacekeepers have died due to malicious acts. Underscoring the need to ensure personnel safety and security, he called for Member States’ support to fully address the recommendations related to peace operations’ response to threats from improvised explosive devices.
As the accountability of peacekeepers remains a critical priority, the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse has established a project in South Sudan to offer psychosocial, medical and legal support, he said, citing other initiatives. To counter the surge of disinformation and misinformation, the United Nations is proactively communicating on the tangible impact of peacekeeping in a compelling and human-centred way.
Highlighting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping as a key priority, he pointed out that females now account for 21 per cent of military observers and staff officers, 31 per cent of individual officers, and 43 per cent of justice and corrections Government provided personnel. He called on the Council to address remaining gaps in uniformed gender parity and advance the political efforts of peace operations.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed concern about the complex challenges to the important role that peacekeeping missions play, underscoring the need to provide necessary equipment and training to ensure peacekeepers’ safety and security. Several members echoed calls for more concise and focused mandates, while others stressed the need to place political solutions at the centre of all peacekeeping.
India’s representative said the success of United Nations peacekeeping ultimately depends not just on weapons and equipment, but on the moral force that Council decisions command and the political process used to resolve conflicts. Peacekeeping missions must be given clear and realistic mandates, matched with adequate resources, she added. Effective mission communications strategy and coordination with a host Government can help address misinformation and disinformation against peacekeepers and enhance their safety and security.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, in a similar vein, called on the Council to refocus political processes that produce sustainable solutions, and “reject the tacit acceptance of managing — instead of resolving — conflict”. Designing better mandates requires strengthened cooperation among the Council, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat; between peacekeeping missions and host communities; and between these actors and regional organizations, especially in Africa, she added.
China’s representative pointed out that the unchecked growth of mandates at times interferes and undermines the mutual trust between a mission and the community it serves. Missions must build good relations with and listen to the countries concerned. Indeed, partnerships must be strengthened, and stakeholders mobilized to advance the work of peacekeeping missions, he said, underscoring the important role of regional organizations.
The representative of the Russian Federation emphasized that the number of secondary and non-specialized tasks given to peacekeepers must be reduced, particularly those in human rights, social and gender areas. Getting distracted by robust mandates could undermine the neutral status of blue helmets and transform them into active participants to a conflict, he warned. To improve peacekeepers’ safety and security, their material and technical supply, as well as professional training, must also be improved.
The representative of the United Kingdom highlighted that his country trains thousands of peacekeepers each year. As a top contributor of extra‑budgetary funds — donating more than $3.5 million in 2021 — it supports key reforms in peacekeeping intelligence, situational awareness and tackling sexual exploitation and abuse. Noting the increasing threat posed by disinformation campaigns, numerous restrictions on freedom of movement and violations of status-of-forces agreements, he called on the United Nations to address rising levels of distrust through better strategic communication and on host Governments to uphold their responsibilities.
The representative of the United States said all United Nations personnel must meet performance and conduct standards, and those who do not — especially in the context of sexual exploitation and abuse — must be held accountable. Noting that “accountability is a two-way street”, he said all stakeholders must abide by status-of-forces agreements, and the cooperation of host nations is critical to ensuring that peacekeepers have full access and freedom of movement to achieve their mandated tasks safely and effectively. He also called on the Council to support integration of strategic communication into the efforts of such missions.
Gabon’s representative highlighted the efforts of United Nations peacekeeping operations that have “made a real difference” in more than a dozen countries, However, in many other cases, United Nations peace efforts have fallen far short of expectations, he said. The tools used to approach crises must be updated, he said, underscoring that Africa — which hosts the majority of peacekeeping operations — has never enjoyed a full, legitimate place at the table. He called on the United Nations to “reinvent itself” and provide answers that meet security challenges, and on the Council to ensure that peace operations are adapted to realities on the ground.
Mexico’s representative, spotlighting a specific reality on the ground, said studies have shown that post-traumatic stress is significant among staff working in peacekeeping operations. He underscored Member States’ and the Council’s obligation to all aspects of peacekeepers’ challenges, whether physical or mental, stressing that better training is needed to quickly recognize the conditions that could impact the mental health of peacekeepers. A culture of care must be promoted to ensure personnel are given the necessary psychosocial support, he said.
Source: United Nations