Better Prevention, Mediation, Peacebuilding Can Reduce ‘Unrealistic and Dangerous’ Demands on Peacekeepers, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

20 September 2017

Better Prevention, Mediation, Peacebuilding Can Reduce ‘Unrealistic and Dangerous’ Demands on Peacekeepers, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Security Council high-level open debate on “Peacekeeping Operations Regarding the Reform of United Nations Peacekeeping:  Implementation and Follow-Up”, in New York today:

I thank this month’s Presidency of the Security Council, Ethiopia, for being such a steadfast contributor to peacekeeping.  Your personnel are on the front lines in some of our most challenging missions, and we are extremely grateful for that commitment.  Today, we gather to fortify this flagship United Nations activity.

Every day, peacekeepers create conditions for lasting peace.  They protect civilians, such as the hundreds of thousands in South Sudan and the Central African Republic who have sought refuge.  Across the years and across the globe, 55 peacekeeping operations have successfully completed their mandate.  Many political missions have done the same.  Four missions are downsizing or closing soon, their job completed, and the strategies of being able to ensure a smooth transition in these situations are absolutely crucial.

Peacekeeping remains a highly cost-effective instrument.  The people of Haiti and Côte d’Ivoire enjoy brighter futures thanks in part to support from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (ONUCI).

I pay tribute to the many peacekeepers who have paid the ultimate price in carrying out this vital work.

Despite the obvious successes, peace operations, at times, may disappoint, seem short of perspective, or be unable to put an end to commitments of several decades.

This should lead us to reflect on our objectives, the means we have and our capacity to implement complex mandates and satisfy the many expectations.  Peace operations are deployed in challenging environments, where the United Nations is sometimes the only one ready and able to act.  Our operations are subject to considerable expectations, perhaps too heavy, because they must respond to emergencies while contributing to long-term solutions.  Finally, peace operations often face situations of such complexity that it is illusory to hope to solve them in a few years.

The High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, whose recommendations remain at the heart of our efforts to advance collective security, called for four critical shifts.  My reform efforts aim in part to bring them about.

First, we must recognize the "primacy of politics" so that peace operations are deployed in support of active diplomatic efforts, not as a substitute.  My proposals for the Secretariat peace and security architecture seek to strengthen the link between political strategies and operations — and between peace and security and the development and human rights pillars of our work.  If we can do better on prevention, mediation and peacebuilding, we can reduce the unrealistic and dangerous demands on our colleagues in uniform.

Second, peace operations should be properly equipped.  It is time to fill critical gaps in technology, transportation and situational awareness.  More mobility, better equipment, enhanced training and intelligence would allow us to do a better job and eventually with smaller numbers.

Third, peace operations must embody United Nations values.  Since the earliest days of my tenure, I have sent strong signals of my determination to stamp out sexual exploitation and abuse.  In one important sign of progress, Member States are now certifying, prior to deployment, that none of their personnel has a history of misconduct or human rights violations.  The Secretariat also vets certain senior personnel.  We have just appointed the first-ever Victims’ Rights Advocate, and we are taking other strong steps to promote accountability.  And in keeping with an Organization-wide plan to achieve gender parity, I am making a push for more female officers and troops in our operations.  More women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping.

Fourth, we must build stronger partnerships.  The Joint United Nations‑African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership signed in April of this year is a crucial step.  Beyond their troop contributions, African States have assumed important responsibilities for peace and security on the continent.  All across Africa, we are working closely with regional and subregional partners — from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Group of 5 States (G-5) in the Sahel to the Multinational Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad Basin.

I call on the Security Council to enhance its support, including through the clarity of mandates and predictable funding, in particular to the G-5 in order to operationalize the force in the Sahel, and to the Multinational Joint Task Force battling Boko Haram.

Our partnership with the European Union is also crucial, and I look forward to signing a framework agreement with the European Union, and to exploring the possibility of establishing trilateral collaborative mechanisms.

These partnerships are especially important given the multiple tasks that are being undertaken.  We now face the needs of peace enforcement and counter‑terrorism and the precarious environments in which they take place require an additional effort.  It is clear that peacekeeping forces are not supposed to do peace enforcement or counter terrorism.  We need to take profit of the complementarity that needs to exist between the United Nations and regional and other organizations.

I appeal again to the Security Council to ensure in that regard clarity of mandates, as well as adequate funding.

Over the next few months we will be making progress in implementing these reforms, which will enable us to be better in what we do.  For the time being, I have asked that a review be carried out to see how our current operations can best respond to the many challenges they face.

With your partnership and support, we can adapt peace operations to meet old and the new tests alike to be more effective and more cost effective.

For information media. Not an official record.