29 March 2019

Secretary-General Stresses Need for Critical High-Value Capabilities in Remarks to Ministerial Meeting on Peacekeeping

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the ministerial meeting on peacekeeping, in New York today:

I thank you all, and particularly the co-hosts of today’s meeting, for your commitment to United Nations peacekeeping.

Across the decades, our peacekeeping operations have helped countries from Liberia and Sierra Leone to Timor-Leste and Cambodia in transition from conflict to peace.  They protect hundreds of thousands of civilians, support political solutions to conflict and help preserve ceasefires.

But, as conflicts become more complex and high-risk, our operations must keep pace.  Twenty-seven United Nations peacekeepers were killed by violent acts in 2018.  I ask you please to observe a moment of silence for them, and for all who have died in the service of peace.

Making our missions stronger and safer is one of the key elements of my Action for Peacekeeping initiative, together with refocusing peacekeeping with more realistic expectations, and mobilizing greater support for political solutions.

I thank the more than 150 Governments that have signed up to the Statement of Shared Commitments.  We are already seeing results; last year, there was a significant reduction in the number of peacekeepers killed.  Our missions are more agile and more proactive, as we have seen recently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

Thanks in part to your support at previous ministerial meetings in London and Vancouver, the United Nations now has verified military units on standby that can be deployed in less than 60 days — for the first time ever.  But, we still lack some critical capabilities.  As the Declaration of Shared Commitments makes clear, we must bridge these gaps together.

In Mali, there is an urgent need for the armoured personnel carriers that greatly improve chances of surviving an attack.  More than 119 peacekeepers have been killed and 397 injured in Mali since the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established in 2013.  In the Central African Republic and many other missions, we need helicopters that can operate 24/7 for medical and casualty evacuations from remote areas.  Elsewhere, we need armed utility helicopters; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance units; quick reaction forces; and air medical evacuation teams.

I urge you to consider contributing these high-value and critical capabilities; and I assure you they will be utilized effectively and efficiently, in accordance with our command-and-control policy.  I hope you will also consider innovative solutions like triangular partnerships and joint contingents, in which one group of Governments provides equipment and training, and another provides troops and police.

Training is essential to address our peacekeeping challenges in relation to safety and security, the protection of civilians and the overall performance of our personnel.  Quality training requires sustained investments by all Member States and we count on your continued support.

Beyond better equipment and readiness, we must increase local engagement.  Women peacekeepers and civilian staff are essential to improve those efforts.  We have almost doubled the number of female staff officers and observers since the Vancouver meeting, and more women are deploying in mixed police and military units.  I commend everyone involved, including the Canadian Government for launching the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations.

But, we must do more because it is unacceptable that, in 2019, only 4 per cent of our military peacekeepers are women.  We will present a strategy to increase the numbers of female uniformed personnel to the Security Council next month, and I urge your support.

Despite work by the United Nations in partnership with Member States, cases of sexual exploitation and abuse continue to cause irreparable damage to the people we are meant to protect.  From the outset of my term, ending sexual abuse and exploitation by personnel serving under the UN flag has been a priority.

I welcome the strengthening of partnerships with Member States through the voluntary compact on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse with 101 signatories, and the circle of leadership on the prevention of and response to sexual exploitation and abuse in UN operations with 72 sitting and former Heads of State and Government.

I have appointed a system-wide Victims’ Rights Advocate to work closely with governments and civil society, so that the rights and dignity of victims are front and centre.  Recent data shows that these measures are starting to show results, but much more needs to be done.  The era of silence and taboos is over and must now give way to an era of transparency and accountability.

I am also fully committed to the environmental management of our missions and to minimizing any risks to personnel, communities and their environments.

The reforms to the United Nations’ peace and security architecture are enabling us to adopt different, regionally based approaches to some of the most complex conflicts where our peacekeepers are deployed.  Member States’ support for political solutions is essential to the success of peacekeeping operations; I urge your strong backing for all efforts towards peace, including those in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Our management reforms have established a platform for more effective and efficient support to our missions.  The Uniformed Capabilities Support Division is now a one-stop shop for troop- and police‑contributing countries.

We have also improved and streamlined our response to misconduct.  All aspects of administrative law have been integrated to provide a standardized approach across the Organization.

However, while we are making progress on several fronts, we are facing severe cash shortfalls in some of our peacekeeping missions, exacerbated by structural weaknesses in our budgeting process.  I made proposals to the General Assembly to rectify this situation, and I count on your support.

It is not acceptable or fair for troop- and police‑contributing countries to be the ones funding the United Nations activities.  Only our continued strong partnership can help us advance lasting peace and protection for those we serve.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.