UN Chief launches initiative to improve UN peacekeeping ops

NEW YORK, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres kicked off an initiative on Wednesday during a Security Council high-level debate on collective action to improve United Nations peacekeeping operations, in New York.

During the meeting, called for feasible mandates, political solutions, and warned of unrealistic expectations costing lives.

“I thank the Kingdom of the Netherlands for organizing this important debate and I thank you, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, for presiding over it. I have addressed this Council several times over the past year on peacekeeping reform. It is now time to take action together,” Guterres said.

“At its best, United Nations peacekeeping is a remarkable enterprise of multilateralism and international solidarity,” Guterres added.

“From Sierra Leone to Cambodia, Timor Leste, Namibia, El Salvador and elsewhere, United Nations peacekeeping has helped countries move from war to peace and supported the work of civil society activist, like Ms. Fatima Toure, who is with us today,” Guterres said.

“It is inspiring to see C?te d’Ivoire represented here today in the Council.

Three United Nations peacekeeping missions have completed their mandates and left, after a job well done, that is our aim, for every mission,” Guterres added.

But we all know that United Nations peacekeeping faces serious challenges, particularly in four of our largest deployments, in Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, the UN chief noted.

Put simply, peace operations cannot succeed if they are deployed instead of a political solution, rather than in support of one, Guterres said.

And United Nations peacekeeping missions now operate in far more dangerous, complex and high-risk environments, the UN chief said.

“They are under threat from armed groups, criminals and terrorists, who have access to powerful modern weapons.

United Nations peacekeepers are often underequipped, underprepared and unready for the dangerous environments in which they now operate.

There are gaps in command and control, in culture, in equipment and in training,” the UN chief explained.

Our peacekeepers are vulnerable, and they are targeted for attack.

Last year, we lost 59 peacekeepers through malicious acts, a sharp increase since 2016, when the figure was 34.

“I pay tribute to the fallen, we will never forget their sacrifice, these figures are unacceptable and weigh on us all,” Guterres added.

“That is why I will spend Peacekeepers’ Day this year in Mali, where our Mission sustained the highest casualties last year,” Guterres said.

“We are damaging the instrument of peacekeeping, and indeed multilateralism itself, in creating unrealistic expectations. Lives and credibility are being lost,” Guterres noted.

“These challenges require strong, collective action. We should focus our efforts in three areas, first, to refocus peacekeeping with realistic expectations; second, to make peacekeeping missions stronger and safer, and, third, and to mobilize greater support for political solutions and for well-structured, well-equipped, well-trained forces,” Guterres said.

The United Nations Secretariat has set change in motion, based on the Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on sustaining peace, the (Carlos Alberto dos) Santos Cruz report, and other reviews and reports over recent years.

Meanwhile, on another front, the UN Chief said “the overall goal of the reforms is to improve our capacities to prevent conflict and sustain peace.

These efforts are critical, but action by the Secretariat alone is not enough to meet the challenges we face.

Our chances of success increase dramatically when we work together with Member States and share burdens, risks and responsibilities,” Guterres said. “We urgently need a quantum leap in collective engagement. This is why I am launching a new initiative, (Action for Peacekeeping), aimed at mobilizing all partners and stakeholders to support the great enterprise of United Nations peacekeeping, Guterres said.

“As peacekeeping marks its seventieth anniversary, I hope we can develop a set of mutually agreed principles and commitments to create peacekeeping operations fit for the future,” Guterres said.

“These will be elaborated with our partners, including at a high-level side event on the margins of the General Assembly in September. I hope we can reach a formal agreement by the end of the year.

“I thank the Netherlands and C?te d’Ivoire for moving this effort forward, and I encourage all Council members and all our partners for peace to join,” Guterres said.

“As we build this agreement together, I have six immediate requests for Member States,” Guterres said.

“First, I urge Security Council members to sharpen and streamline mandates.

Please put an end to mandates that look like Christmas trees. Christmas is over, and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan cannot possibly implement 209 mandated tasks.

By attempting too much, we dilute our efforts and weaken our impact. I hope our mission reviews will help to end this mandate inflation.

Second, I call on Member States to sustain your political engagement and push for political solutions and inclusive peace processes, including through bilateral diplomacy and sanctions if necessary, Guterres added.

“A peacekeeping operation is not an army, or a counterterrorist force, or a humanitarian agency.

It is a tool to create the space for a nationally owned political solution,” said Guterres said.

Source: Kuwait News Agency