Vancouver conference delivers 46 new pledges to bolster UN peacekeeping missions

Pictured (L to R): Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Minister of Canada; Harjit Singh, National Defence Minister of Canada; Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operation; and Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support. Photo: M. Wells/UN News

15 November 2017 – Dozens of new pledges of military equipment and expertise to make United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world more efficient, effective and reactive, were made at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference, in Vancouver, Canada, on Wednesday.

A total of 79 Member States sent delegations of ministers and defence chiefs to Vancouver, which hosted around 550 delegates to discuss the ever-more dangerous and complex challenges faced by peacekeepers and support staff in the field, across 15 UN missions.

Many new 'smart pledges' were made, designed to fill specific gaps and deficiencies, such as helicopters and armoured personnel carriers for the UN's most dangerous peacekeeping mission in Mali, known by its French acronym, MINUSMA.

Canada, which hosted the event, announced that 54 countries would sign on to the 'Vancouver Principles' on the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers in peacekeeping operations.

The long-standing aim of increasing the level of women peacekeepers and police officers also received a major boost with 26 countries pledging to integrate gender perspectives and increase women's participation.

An international military-led gender champion network led by Canada, the United Kingdom and Bangladesh was also formed.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the closing session the concrete pledges had “demonstrated there is a collective engagement, a collective commitment to peacekeeping; to supporting us, to make our action more effective, with one key objective, which is to protect civilians and help restore peace.”

For his part, the Under-Secretary-general for Field Support, Atul Khare, told delegates he had a dream, to see a world without peacekeeping, which was at peace with itself.

“Until that day dawns, we must continue to meet” he stressed, thanking the delegations and other contributors, which had made new peacekeeping pledges.

Earlier in the day, as morning sun finally pushed through the heavy rain clouds over Vancouver harbour, Angelina Jolie, the Special Envoy for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), gave a powerful keynote speech debunking what she called the “three myths” of gender-based violence in conflict, saying that there is never an excuse for sexual abuse.

She thanked the ministers and top military personnel for the “new and very important pledges” made in Vancouver saying that she hoped “they will be just the beginning.”

“In this work, we will not only strengthen our societies and improve peacekeeping, but you will play your part in showing that no perpetrator is above the law, and no survivor is beneath it,” she said, adding that she was “here, determined to do anything I can, to work alongside all of you.”

We […] will work tirelessly to make UN peacekeeping more effective and more efficient UN peacekeeping chief Lacroix

At the opening of the Conference Wednesday morning, Mr. Lacroix told the gathered delegations that the UN could not overcome the challenges of peacekeeping reform alone.

“We need you, we need your support, we need the support of troop-contributing countries […] and outstanding leaders who can help us in defence and in support of the UN,” he said.

“We at the UN will work tirelessly to make UN peacekeeping more effective and more efficient,” pledged the Under-Secretary-General.

In a major policy speech on the future of Canadian peacekeeping, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the first 'smart pledges' of the day, and unveiled the new Vancouver Principles – agreed already by 55 countries – to try and prevent child soldiers from ending up in the world's conflict zones through an array of initiatives and programmes.

“We believe in peacekeeping” Mr. Trudeau, as he passionately described its ability to transform the world for the better.

“We know there is no greater gift that we can leave our children than true and lasting peace. So let's be bold, let us innovate – let us try new things,” he told the ministers and defence chiefs from 79 countries.

“Let us be the change we need, to build a more peaceful world together.”


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