Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the high‑level meeting on Action for Peacekeeping, in New York today:
It is a pleasure to welcome you to this high-level meeting on Action for Peacekeeping, that also marks the seventieth anniversary of United Nations peace operations.
Last year, I visited Bangassou in the Central African Republic and laid a wreath in memory of the Moroccan and Cambodian peacekeepers who were killed there. It was a humbling experience. I feel a personal responsibility for the loss of every peacekeeper. Many of you here today have taken part in similar ceremonies. You understand the pain of every loss. Let us now stand and observe a moment of silence for the fallen in the line of duty.
[Moment of Silence]
When I arrived at the United Nations last year, I was faced with tragically high numbers of peacekeeping fatalities. I immediately commissioned the Cruz Report on improving the safety and security of our peacekeepers.
In March this year, I launched the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, which sets the recommendations of the Cruz Report into a broader context.
Peacekeepers face complex conflicts with multiple adversaries, peace processes that have stalled, transnational terrorism and organized crime.
But I understood that they face one overarching challenge: the gap between aspiration and reality.
Expectations for peacekeeping have far outstripped its resources.
Action for Peacekeeping aims to bridge that gap in three ways: by refocusing peacekeeping with more realistic expectations; by making our missions stronger and safer; and by mobilizing greater political support for solutions and for well-equipped, well-trained forces.
I am extremely heartened that 146 Governments, including those of many host countries past and present, as well as four regional and international organizations, have endorsed the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations. I urge all those who have not yet endorsed to join.
We are already making Action for Peacekeeping a reality.
We have carried out independently-led reviews of our missions to determine how we can better deliver on our mandates.
Our missions are projecting a more proactive posture. They are strengthening security and leadership, increasing accountability, and addressing shortfalls in performance.
We are taking innovative approaches on training and equipment, including triangular partnerships and co-deployments.
We are starting to see encouraging results, but we must remain vigilant in the face of high risks.
We are also taking active steps to strengthen the role of women in peacekeeping. More women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping.
And we are responding more quickly to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. We are providing more support to victims, and we are more effective in seeking justice.
Peacekeeping’s achievements go far beyond keeping the peace. Blue helmets are protecting millions of displaced people and supporting the delivery of life‑saving humanitarian aid. I have seen this for myself on my visits to Mali, the Central African Republic and in Uganda, where I met refugees from South Sudan. I spoke to people who owed their lives to United Nations peacekeepers.
In my former position as High Commissioner for Refugees, I saw the reassurance United Nations peacekeepers provide. Their presence sends a powerful message of international solidarity with the most vulnerable. Action for Peacekeeping aims to strengthen the two core aspirations of our peace operations.
First, we must all do more to push for political solutions. Peacekeepers are deployed to create the conditions for their own departure; that is why the relationship between a peacekeeping mission and its host country is vital. Over the past 70 years, United Nations peacekeepers have successfully completed their missions and left countries including Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Angola, Croatia and Sierra Leone. Our missions in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia closed recently. I am pleased to see His Excellency President [George] Weah and His Excellency Vice‑President Daniel Kablan Duncan here today.
Second, protecting civilians is an essential duty for United Nations peacekeepers. We can never forget the tragic consequences of our failures. My predecessor Kofi Annan, a former chief of Peacekeeping Operations, faced up to these failures, especially in Rwanda and Srebrenica, and dedicated himself as Secretary‑General to making sure they could never happen again. I intend to take up the torch. I thank His Excellency President [Paul] Kagame ‑ together with the Netherlands, and many of you ‑ for championing the effective implementation of protection-of-civilians mandates.
Partnerships with regional and sub-regional organizations are instrumental to achieve our political and operational objectives. And when there is a need to engage in counter-terrorism or peace enforcement, African peace operations, including those mandated by the African Union, are playing a critical role. I call on you to support these operations, including through predictable, adequate and sustainable financing.
Seventy years after the first United Nations peacekeepers were deployed, let us work together to make peacekeeping missions fit for the future. I thank you all for your support to United Nations peacekeeping: as contributors of troops, police and funding; as managers of peacekeeping mandates; and as Governments hosting peacekeeping missions.
All of us in the peacekeeping community have an important part to play. The Declaration provides a clear agenda for us to achieve that together. We must now translate our commitments into action and I ask you all to join me in this task.
Thank you very much.