New York

07 July 2017

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Chiefs of Defense Conference

Distinguished Chiefs of defense,
 
Colleagues,
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
On behalf of the Secretary-General, I would like to thank you once again for your participation in this important conference. It is an honour for the United Nations to host so many senior military authorities from around the world. Together, you represent millions of soldiers. You lead men and women who have been trained to fight wars. But your presence here demonstrates an equally strong commitment to winning the peace. 
 
That is all the more important given the nature of today’s conflicts. Fewer civil wars conclude in outright military victory, and more are ended by peace settlements. This is of course a positive development.  But we also know that many countries lapse back into conflict.  This means we must strive to end conflicts in a durable way -- while being prepared to manage the recurrence of conflict in the countries where we deploy.
 
With that in mind, I would like to make five key points.
 
First, integrated approaches are crucial.
 
Sustaining peace involves a broad range of skills, civilian and military. One key priority of the Secretary-General’s approaches and reform efforts is to better unify our work across the UN pillars of peace and security, human rights and development so that they support a common vision. Today, we have a common vision – Agenda 2030.
 
Second, we must do more to address the perils of the increasingly volatile environments in which we deploy.
 
From Darfur to South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere, recent years have seen new demands on peacekeepers for a more robust and proactive stance to protect civilians and defend their mandates. With a new generation of asymmetric conflicts in which the United Nations is specifically targeted by armed groups, conditions are even more high-risk. This puts the onus on the Organization to manage and minimise the risks.
 
Third, we continue to deepen reforms aimed at strengthening peacekeeping.
 
As you know, we now have a new strategic approach to force generation.  We have also established a body of military capability standards, and training is increasingly more mission-specific.  These and other reforms seek to strengthen our performance, ensure positive impacts on the ground and, not least, earn the trust of Member States. I hope that what you have heard today has helped you to gain an appreciation of the efforts we are making to professionalize peacekeeping – and will also inspire you to maintain and increase your contributions.
 
Fourth, we need your strong commitment to prevent and end sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel.
 
Earlier today, you were briefed on the Secretary-General’s new strategy to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse. We expect your personnel to uphold the highest standards of behavior and integrity. We call on you, as leaders, to send us personnel with spotless backgrounds, and to pursue accountability for those in your armed forces who commit acts of sexual exploitation and abuse.
 
Fifth and finally, we will not succeed in increasing peace and security without increasing the role of women in peace and security.
 
It is sadly unsurprising that, as I said, there are no women amongst the Chiefs of Defense here today. I hope that at our next such conference, we will welcome a female Chief, or two, or three.
 
Our peacekeeping operations are also woefully lacking when it comes to the participation of women. Our uniformed personnel remain overwhelmingly male.
 
This is not just regrettable as a fundamental question of equality.  The strength of peacekeeping lies in its ability to engage and understand the people we are deployed to help. Those who most suffer the brunt of conflict are women and girls. Studies show that the involvement of women increases the chances of sustained peace, and reduces incidences of sexual abuse and exploitation.
 
We believe that women must play a far more active role in peacekeeping operations -- as troops, police, staff officers and civilian staff. We count on each of you to meet the fairly modest gender goal of 15 per cent of female observers and staff officers by the end of the year. We also urge you to groom a new generation of female staff in your ranks. 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
The Secretary-General and I thank you again for attending this gathering and for your ongoing contributions to our very difficult and indeed perilous work.  We wish you all a safe journey back to your countries, and count on your continued support to meet the challenges of peacekeeping and bringing the three pillars together.
 
Thank you.