Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council open debate on “peace and security in Africa: strengthening peacekeeping operations in Africa”, in New York today:
Peacekeeping is a remarkable exercise in global solidarity. United Nations peacekeepers are ready to pay the ultimate price for peace, and we are all in their debt.
Last week, eight of our peacekeepers, all from African countries ‑ Malawi and United Republic of Tanzania, were killed in the line of duty. Most were trying to prevent an attack on the town of Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo and create a safe environment for those working to end the Ebola outbreak there. I send my deepest condolences to their families, and to the families of all peacekeepers killed in the line of duty.
I dare ask you please if you could stand and observe a moment of silence for the fallen. [Moment of silence.]
I thank the Chinese presidency for convening this open debate on strengthening peacekeeping operations in Africa, and for China’s contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa and around the world.
Some 2,500 uniformed Chinese personnel, including well-trained and equipped individual and formed police units, are making an important contribution to multilateral efforts for peace. I welcome President Xi’s pledge to establish a Peacekeeping Standby Force and hope to build on the 13 units that have already been registered.
The African continent hosts seven of the 14 United Nations peacekeeping missions and more than 80 per cent of the United Nations peacekeepers. African countries provide nearly half of United Nations Blue Helmets deployed around the world, including almost two-thirds of all women peacekeepers, and the majority of United Nations police officers.
Nos missions de maintien de la paix sur le continent africain ont accompli des progrès encourageants, ces dernières années. Les mandats ont été menés à bien en Côte d’Ivoire et au Libéria et nos missions ont pu se retirer.
En République démocratique du Congo, au Mali, en République centrafricaine et au Darfour, l’Union africaine et l’Organisation des Nations Unies ont collaboré étroitement pour appuyer les processus politiques, les dialogues nationaux et les efforts de médiation dans la région, ce qui a désamorcé les tensions et ouvert la voie à des accords de paix et à des élections.
Au Soudan du Sud, nous avons travaillé avec l’Union africaine en soutien de l’Autorité intergouvernementale pour le développement ou IGAD afin de parvenir à la signature de l’Accord revitalisé sur le règlement du conflit.
Ces dix dernières années, l’Architecture africaine de paix et de sécurité de l’Union africaine a été considérablement renforcée et l’un de ses piliers essentiels, le Fonds pour la paix, est en cours de mise en œuvre. A ce jour, les contributions des Etats membres de l’Union africaine s’élèvent à 60 millions de dollars sur les 400 millions de dollars requis d’ici l’année 2021. Ceci est très encourageant. Je félicite le Président de l’Union africaine, le Président Kagame, ainsi que le Président de la Commission de l’Union africaine, Moussa Faki Mahamat, de tous leurs efforts.
Peacekeeping in Africa continues to present some of our greatest challenges. United Nations missions are carrying out complex operations with multidimensional mandates in extremely dangerous environments. Transnational crime, non-state armed groups and terrorist groups pose serious challenges, sometimes targeting our peacekeepers directly.
Against this backdrop, our partnership with the African Union and African Member States is vital to our collective efforts for peace, and we must continue working to strengthen it.
There is excellent cooperation at the highest levels. African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and I have signed two Joint United Nations-African Union Frameworks, on Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security and on the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These frameworks are already promoting coherence, efficiency and effectiveness in our common action.
The Deputy Secretary-General and senior officials from the African Union have undertaken several joint visits to the continent. The Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations and the Commissioner for Peace and Security, that we have with us today, at the African Union have conducted joint visits to the Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan. The role of women in peace and security was at the heart of their recent visit to South Sudan.
I am also encouraged by African support for my Action for Peacekeeping initiative. This aims to mobilize all partners and stakeholders to first refocus peacekeeping around more realistic mandates; second, to make our missions stronger and safer; and third, to mobilize greater collective support for political solutions, and for well-equipped and well-trained troops.
More than 150 Governments have signed the Declaration of Shared Commitments in support of Action for Peacekeeping, including 42 on the African continent. Partnerships with troop-contributing countries, with regional organizations, particularly the African Union, and with host Governments are critical to the success of this initiative - which is already showing results.
The Action for Peacekeeping initiative was also informed by the recommendations of the Santos Cruz Report on improving the safety and security of our peacekeepers. This also led to the development of an Action Plan to address the performance and security of United Nations peacekeepers.
Our operations are now taking a more proactive posture to make these improvements. We are adopting innovative measures to train and equip our troops and undertaking independent reviews of our missions to determine how we can better fulfil our mandates. We will continue to remain vigilant and review the results of these steps.
At the same time, our reforms of the United Nations peace and security architecture will improve performance by providing more integrated analyses and stronger country and regional strategies. Closer integration of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding will allow us to put sustainable development at the heart of our work.
Increasing the numbers of women in peacekeeping at all levels is another way to improve the effectiveness of our operations. I am taking steps to ensure that my gender parity strategy is implemented across all our peacekeeping missions, and to increase the numbers of female troops and police.
We are also mobilizing to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse in our ranks, including our peacekeeping missions, putting the rights and dignity of victims front and centre. We are providing more support to victims, and more effective capacity in seeking justice. We have stepped up training and improved investigations.
Dozens of world leaders have joined the Circle of Leadership in support of measures to implement a zero-tolerance policy, and 100 countries have signed voluntary compacts with the United Nations to tackle these issues. The era of silence and taboos around this issue is over. The era of accountability has begun.
The United Nations and African Union are cooperating more closely than ever before. African peace operations, including those mandated by the African Union, have played a key role in maintaining peace and security on the continent. They deserve predictable systems of support.
Chairperson Faki and I will soon sign a Joint Communiqué guiding the work of the Secretariat and the African Union Commission in strengthening United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa, paving the way for more adequately-supported African peace operations.
We are working closely with the African Union on joint planning for the mandating of their peace support operations, and on legal and human rights compliance frameworks.
As I have told this Council before, we need to understand that United Nations peacekeeping has limits. We face more and more situations where we need peace-enforcement and counter-terrorism operations that can only be carried out by our partners – namely, the African Union and various sub-regional organizations.
It is essential that African-led Peace Operations acting under the Security Council’s authority are provided with strong mandates and predictable, sustainable and flexible finance, including through United Nations assessed contributions where appropriate.
I have appealed to the international community to support the regional G5‑Sahel Joint Force in combatting terrorism and organized crime. I am grateful to the European Union and other donors who have pledged to the Force, but so far, almost half the pledges have not been earmarked, let alone disbursed.
There has been progress over the past year. The Joint Force has reached initial operational capacity. But we are far from what is needed to meet the security challenges of the Sahel. An adequate level of funding would enable the force to fill equipment shortfalls and capability gaps, and to better address the serious threats facing the region.
In our interconnected age, security challenges on one continent present a risk to the whole world. The factors that drive conflict in Africa ‑ including poverty, youth unemployment, climate change, competition for resources and transnational crime ‑ threaten global security.
Improving the impact and effectiveness of peacekeeping in Africa is a collective responsibility. We will continue to tackle it with our African partners, across the continent and around the world.