Senior Officials Highlight Need to Better Protect ‘Blue Helmets’ as Fourth Committee Opens General Debate on Peacekeeping
Speakers Pay Tribute to 29 Fallen Peacekeepers So Far This Year
Senior United Nations officials today highlighted the need to improve the safety, security and mental health of peacekeepers while also ensuring accountability, improving strategic communications in the field and bolstering the participation of women, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its general debate of all aspects of peacekeeping operations.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, said that United Nations peacekeeping is facing increasing challenges, including dramatic geopolitical changes, growing regional tensions and climate vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, the “blue helmets” participating in a dozen missions are making a difference, he said, with the A4P+ (Action for Peacekeeping Plus) initiative providing strategic direction.
Improving the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel remains a top priority, he said, noting that the number of fatalities due to malicious acts nearly doubled from 13 in 2020 to 25 in 2021. So far this year, there have been 29 such deaths. Noting that peacekeeping mandates are sometimes misunderstood, he said that concrete steps are thus being taken to bolster strategic communications, including through a whole-of-mission approach.
Atul Khare, Under‑Secretary‑General for Operational Support, discussed those sections of the A4P+ implementation plan dealing with capabilities and mindset, accountability to peacekeepers, and accountability of peacekeepers. He emphasized the increasingly harsh environments in which “blue helmets” operate and how that is increasing psychological stress among them. He also noted that the Department of Operational Support has maintained complex supply lines to all peacekeeping missions despite the COVID-19 pandemic, global inflation and the aftershocks of conflict.
Miguel Mourato Gordo, Director of the Global Strategy and Policy Division of the Office of Human Resources, said that accountability of peacekeepers — in other words, ensuring that peacekeepers embody the values of the United Nations and adhere to standards of conduct — is a constant priority for the Secretariat. The Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance is engaging with Member States to share innovative good practices, he said, adding that the Department is making progress on resolving pending paternity and child support claims arising from allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. On women, peace and security, he said that the Department aims to achieve equal representation of women and men across the Organization by 2028 and to improve its ability to attract, develop and retain women staff.
Launching their general debate on the agenda item titled “Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects”, speakers turned the spotlight on the safety of peacekeepers and the need for the Security Council to issue clear mandates.
Morocco’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, drew attention to the plethora of threats faced by peacekeeping, including disinformation, misinformation and hate speech campaigns. He also urged the Secretariat and host countries to work together to ensure accountability. The Non-Aligned Movement accounts for nearly 90 per cent of uniformed peacekeeping personnel deployed on the ground, he noted, paying tribute to all those serving under the United Nations flag in these trying times.
Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that despite many challenges, peacekeeping remains an indispensable tool for the United Nations to maintain international peace and security. ASEAN fully supports ongoing efforts to ensure that peacekeeping is more fit for purpose, including under the A4P+ initiative. In particular, it supports efforts to improve medical and evacuation support for peacekeeping missions, as well as measures to ensure the full and effective participation of women in peacekeeping and peace processes, he said.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressed concern about the growing threat to peacekeepers posed by malicious actors, including mercenaries. He conveyed the bloc’s support for the Action for Peacekeeping initiative and welcomed its emphasis on accountability and the need for host States to respect their obligations. It is also crucial to strengthen the human rights components of peacekeeping missions, she added.
Also speaking were representative of Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Philippines, Uruguay, Egypt and Viet Nam.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 2 November, to continue its general debate on peacekeeping.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said the United Nations mandate to support efforts aimed at keeping the world at peace is facing increasing challenges, including dramatic changes in geopolitics and economics, whose ripple effects are being felt around the world. There is an increase in regional tensions, inequalities and climate vulnerabilities, among others. In spite of these challenges, peacekeepers continue to make a difference, contributing to laying the foundations for durable peace in 12 conflict settings, he said. Missions are supporting political processes, protecting civilians and advancing local and national reconciliation efforts. Action for Peacekeeping — and particularly those priority areas within A4P+ (Action for Peacekeeping Plus) — continues to provide the strategic direction.
On the first A4P+ priority, collective coherence behind a political strategy, peacekeeping missions are harnessing their good offices and partnerships in support of political solutions to conflicts, he said. Partnerships with regional organizations, especially the African Union, are critical, including in several peacekeeping settings. Yet to achieve the ultimate objective of durable political solutions, missions require sustained engagement and support from Member States and regional actors. On the second priority, strategic and operational integration, substantive progress is being made within missions and with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes. On the third priority, capabilities and mindsets, there have also been significant strides, he continued. Thanks to Member States’ contributions, over the past year, the Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System has generated critical capacities. On the fourth priority, accountability to peacekeepers, improving the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel remains a foremost priority for the Secretariat. In 2021, despite enormous effort, the year-on-year decrease in peacekeeper fatalities recorded since 2018 regretfully reversed. Fatalities due to malicious acts nearly doubled from 13 in 2020 to 25 in 2021, and thus far in 2022, there have been 29 fatalities due to malicious acts.
For the fifth priority, accountability of peacekeepers, the focus continues on strengthening performance in line with the Integrated Peacekeeping Performance and Accountability Framework (IPPAF), by enhancing performance evaluation tools, including in-mission military unit evaluations. Enhancing performance is also a collective endeavour. All must be vigilant and fully engaged to prevent and address allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. The sixth priority, strategic communications, is of particular importance, he added. At a time when geopolitical tensions are high, conflicts are increasingly complex, and when the mandates of peacekeeping missions are sometimes misunderstood, strategic communications have never been more crucial to achieving our mission. Concrete steps are being taken to improve strategic communications, including through the adoption of a whole of mission approach for strategic communications.
For the seventh priority, cooperation with host countries, work continues to strengthen cooperation with both host countries and local communities, he said. Ensuring a better understanding of Security Council mandates by key stakeholders is increasingly important. The full and unimpeded cooperation of host countries remains necessary to enable peacekeeping operations to implement their mandates. But when facing restrictions and violations of Status of Forces Agreements, the strong support of Member States is needed in advocating with the relevant host State to lift them. United Nations peacekeeping also continues to prioritize advocating for and fully implementing the women, peace and security agenda, as well as seeking to mainstream the Strategy for the Digital Transformation of United Nations Peacekeeping across the work, he said.
United Nations peacekeeping is a powerful symbol of how multilateralism can continue to work for peace and security at a time of new challenges and geopolitical divides, he continued. This was true during the tensions of the cold war and it can remain true in the coming years. Since the first missions in the post-war era through to the multidimensional operations of today, peacekeeping has proven its capacity to achieve results by evolving to meet new challenges. Working together, this unique tool of multilateralism will continue to contribute to global peace and security, he said.
ATUL KHARE, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, highlighted the A4P+ implementation plan and its impact on three priority areas, namely capabilities and mindset, accountability to peacekeepers, and accountability of peacekeepers. The Department remains committed to ensuring that the capabilities of units deployed match their mandated tasks, he said, highlighting the Triangular Partnership Programme, which provides training in engineering, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, among others. Nearly 13,000 uniformed personnel from Africa, South-East Asia and beyond have been trained through this programme, he noted. Stressing the importance of enhancing the safety and security of peacekeepers, he said that a single peacekeeper’s death is one too many.
In order to ensure timely access to life-saving medical support, he continued, the Department is continuously improving field hospitals and casualty evacuation practices, while also rolling out telemedicine solutions, including video telehealth capabilities between points of injuries and medical facilities in four high-risk missions. Highlighting the issue of mental health of peacekeeping personnel, he said the increasingly harsh environments in which peacekeeping operates in has increased psychological stress among peacekeepers. The Department is preparing a Mental Health Support Strategy for Uniformed Personnel to help mitigate and manage this, he said, adding that it will provide a framework for assessments and management of mental health issues, helping troop- and police-contributing countries provide a minimum duty of care for mental health.
Pointing to environmental responsibilities, he said that the Department is implementing its Environment Strategy in Peace Operations, including by providing technical support for water, wastewater, solid waste, energy and environmental management systems. Noting that only 6 per cent of the electricity used by missions come from renewable energy sources, he said the Department is exploring ways to accelerate this transition, including by outsourcing to private or public providers. In the past year, the Department has managed to maintain complex supply chains to 12 peacekeeping missions, a remarkable achievement given the serious disruptions stemming from the aftermath of the COVID‑19 pandemic, global inflationary pressures and the aftershocks of conflicts. In a dramatically more uncertain world, the Department of Operational Support continues to respond to emerging needs flexibly and efficiently, he added.
MIGUEL MOURATO GORDO, Director, Global Strategy and Policy Division of the Office of Human Resources, speaking on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, said that accountability of peacekeepers — in other words, ensuring that peacekeepers embody the values of the United Nations and adhere to standards of conduct — is a constant priority for the Secretariat. The Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance continues to engage actively with Member States to share innovative good practices across prevention, enforcement and a victim-centered approach to supporting victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, he said.
Elaborating, he said that the Department continues to make progress on resolving pending paternity and child support claims arising from allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. This is an area in which the Department is constantly striving to do better, particularly through prevention. As part of work on ensuring the accountability of peacekeepers, the Department is working on enhancing the Case Management Tracking System, including the development of a Member State portal to enhance access to information on conduct and discipline. In terms of civilian performance and evaluations, the Department has collaborated with peacekeeping missions to establish 2022-23 senior leadership compacts between heads of missions and the Secretary-General using a revised, more streamlined format that will facilitate performance evaluations and data gathering, he said.
Turning to financial management, the Department is supporting missions to develop responsible budget proposals in line with their relevant mandates and policy guidance from the legislative bodies. Technology has the potential to both support as well as drive innovation, as is highlighted in the Strategy for the Digital Transformation of United Nations Peacekeeping. Data analytics capacities are key for understanding the effectiveness and efficiency of our operations and their context. Data can help to better measure innovation requirements as well as assess the impact of technical solutions. Improving the safety and security of personnel is of paramount concern, with projects and initiatives focused on delivering a portfolio of technology solutions crucial for protecting them, he added.
On women, peace and security, he said the Department is striving to achieve equal representation of women and men across the Organization at all levels by 2028 and to improve women talent attraction, development and retention. While progress has been made over the past few years, more needs to be done. To that end, the Department continues to provide action plans and critical data to support United Nations entities in achieving gender parity. To promote, build and sustain an inclusive, enabling work environment for women, the Department will continue to take steps towards implementing the guidelines and recommendations outlined in the Gender Parity Strategy and the Women Enabling Environment Guidelines, he said.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, underscored the importance of ensuring consensus among Member States on the development of policies and called on the Secretariat to ensure that any policy work stream is duly submitted for Member States’ consideration, through an intergovernmental consultation process, before its implementation. Noting the A4P+ action plan as well as the Cairo Roadmap for Enhancing the Performance of Peacekeeping Operations, he expressed dissatisfaction that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, the only United Nations forum mandated to review the question of peacekeeping, was unable to adopt a substantive report. Stressing that the Security Council must draft clear, focused, sequenced, prioritized, realistic and achievable mandates, in consultation with the host States as well as troop- and police-contributing countries, he added that peacekeeping efforts must be accompanied by economic recovery and capacity-building efforts, based on national ownership.
Urging the Secretariat to ensure the timely reimbursement of troop- and police-contributing countries for their peacekeeping contributions, he said those countries should not bear financial burdens, given their sacrifices for peacekeeping, most importantly in the form of human lives. Ensuring that deployed contingents are fit for service, well trained and appropriately equipped is important, he stressed, adding that this endeavour is also contingent upon other factors, including leadership, performance and accountability, as well as eliminating caveats, whether declared or undeclared. Drawing attention to the plethora of threats faced by peacekeeping, including risks arising from disinformation, misinformation and hate speech campaigns, he urged the Secretariat and host countries to work together to ensure accountability. The Non-Aligned Movement accounts for nearly 90 per cent of uniformed peacekeeping personnel deployed on the ground, he noted, paying a heartfelt tribute to all those serving under the United Nations flag in these trying times.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said despite many challenges, peacekeeping remains one of the indispensable tools of the United Nations to maintain peace and security around the globe, alongside lifesaving humanitarian activities. Paying tribute to those that made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace under the United Nations flag, he said that ASEAN fully supports ongoing efforts to ensure that peacekeeping is more fit for purpose, including under the A4P+ initiative. He stressed the need for a sound method of work to enable the Committee to provide clear and specific recommendations, as well as the vital importance for the Security Council to maintain clear, focused and achievable mandates for each peacekeeping operation.
The provision of adequate resources for the full and effective operation of each peacekeeping mandate must be ensured, including reimbursements for troop-contributing countries, he continued. ASEAN encourages enhanced collaboration and partnership between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations. In addition, it stresses the need to enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers, with better education, training and equipment providing the best guarantee of performances. The bloc supports ongoing efforts to improve medical and evacuation support for peacekeeping missions, as well as measures to ensure the full and effective participation of women in peacekeeping and peace processes, as they are vital to achieving sustainable political solutions. He concluded by reaffirming ASEAN’s commitment to strengthening the high quality of peacekeeping operations and their contribution to international peace and security.
NATALIE TOLSTOI, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that United Nations peace operations and peacekeepers embody multilateralism in action. Noting that the bloc’s member States deploy close to 5,000 personnel in peace operations, and that they are collectively the second largest contributor to the peacekeeping budget, she recalled the European Union-African Union summit in February when leaders of the two groups committed to enhanced cooperation for peace and security, premised on the principle of African solutions to African problems. The European Union has allocated €1.5 billion in support of conflict prevention and security efforts in sub-Saharan Africa for the 2021‑2027 period. Expressing concern about increasing threats to peacekeepers by malicious actors, including mercenaries, she voiced support for the Action for Peacekeeping initiative and welcomed in particular the emphasis placed on the accountability to peacekeepers and the need for host States to respect their obligations.
Stressing the need to limit the spread of false information that sows distrust between peacekeepers and those they are protecting, she called for the deployment of more strategic communication officers. Noting that women stand in the front line of conflicts around the world, she added that they should be at the forefront for their settlement as well. Expressing support for the women, peace and security agenda, she also welcomed the Organization-wide strategy on gender parity as well as the Secretariat’s commitment to a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse and exploitation in peacekeeping missions. Highlighting the link between climate and security, she called on the international community to provide adequate financing to climate change adaptation and mitigation, with a particular focus on vulnerable conflict areas. It is also crucial to strengthen the human rights components of peacekeeping missions, as they play a vital role in documenting violations and protecting their victims, contributing to the fight against impunity, she underscored.
BRUNO RÍOS SÁNCHEZ (Mexico) said that peacekeeping operations should bring together the three pillars of the United Nations, namely peacekeeping, development and human rights. They should also synergize their activities with other elements of the system in order to ensure sustainable peace. The Secretariat’s efforts to design a strategy to address mental health and psychological well-being of peacekeeping staff deserves to be recognized, he said, noting that recent studies demonstrate that levels of post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues are greater among those who have participated in missions. He added that Mexico continues to defend the full, equal and meaningful participation of women during all peacekeeping processes, and that peacekeeping operations can assist disarmament efforts, including the collection of illegal weapons.
MARIELA SÁNCHEZ DE CRUZ (Dominican Republic), noting the vital role of peacekeeping in international peace and security, stressed that the success of an operation is tied to the levels of cooperation, including with affected communities. Highlighting the need for realistic mandates, she said it is also essential to focus on early warning and mitigation. The pandemic provided an impetus for missions to develop new contingency plans to minimize risk, she noted, adding that in light of multiplying multidimensional crises, it is vital to strengthen pre-deployment training. All too frequently, decisions on transitions are based on financial reasons, she said, pointing to the danger of relapses and loss of gains. Underscoring the need for the full participation of women in peacekeeping operations, she said that women’s protection advisers must be deployed to missions.
CARLA MARIA RODRÍGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala) said that as a troop-contributor to peacekeeping operations, Guatemala condemns all acts of violence, including the murder of staff on missions. The security of United Nations personnel is the responsibility of the host State, which must adopt all appropriate measures to bring to justice those guilty of such acts, including hostage-taking and kidnapping. She added that the United Nations and police-contributing countries should plan their interventions on the basis of in-theatre threat assessments, with the respective commander ensuring that basic precautions are taken. For its part, the Secretariat should provide corresponding information to all missions so that they can document violations and guarantee the evacuation of the personnel. Adequate funding should be provided to peacekeeping missions and recognize the importance of ongoing stability and long-term peacebuilding, she added.
RANDY GUYONG BANCE (Philippines), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, pointed to the urgent need to push forward the implementation of reforms to strengthen peacekeeping operations. Highlighting his country’s participation in more than 21 peacekeeping missions over 60 years, he reaffirmed its commitment to the zero-tolerance policy and a victim-centered approach to sexual harassment and abuse. Reiterating the need to fully train troops prior to their deployment, he added that national investigation officers should be included in all deployed military units. Encouraging greater collaboration between ASEAN and the Organization in peace operations, he welcomed capacity-building efforts, including the Triangular Partnership Project. Recalling the adoption of the draft resolution on financing for peacebuilding, which encourages States and partners to increase their contributions to peacebuilding and sustaining peace, he added that multi-year flexible funding is crucial to achieving that.
MARÍA NOEL BERETTA TASSANO (Uruguay) emphasized Uruguay’s commitment to implementing United Nations resolutions on strengthening the rights of women and girls and empowering women as agents of change, which is essential for sustainable development and peace. Dealing with structural barriers that prevent more women from participating in the peacekeeping operations is an important issue, she added, noting that the Women, Peace and Security Agenda applies not only to peacekeeping operations, but also to peacebuilding. In that regard, States should develop alliances to detect barriers and adjust policies to ensure women’s participation at all levels, she said.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, highlighted the unprecedented challenges faced by peacekeeping operations as they work in complex security contexts where armed groups and organized criminal networks are active and there are tensions between host countries and missions. Reaffirming support for the reform of peacekeeping operations, he noted that Egypt is the sixth largest troop- and police-contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions. Highlighting the Cairo Roadmap, which represents the African position on Action for Peacekeeping, he expressed concern about the growing number of attacks against peacekeepers. This year alone, Egypt has lost seven of its nationals in Mali. Calling for improvements in human, financial, technological and medical capacity, he emphasized the need for better data assessment on security threats. Going forward, the Security Council must provide clear and realistic mandates, while the General Assembly needs to allocate adequate resources to peacekeeping, he said.
DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam) noted that there have been various calls for clear and streamlined peacekeeping mandates which are fit for purpose and capable of being implemented. Their development should therefore involve the relevant host countries. Ensuring the safety of peacekeepers is also vital, he said, emphasizing that they must be provided with appropriate training as well as the tools they require to carry out mandates while also protecting themselves from threats. Underscoring the value of technology, he also stressed the important role of women at the heart of peacekeeping operations and peace processes. Viet Nam is committed to peacekeeping operations, and it spares no effort to collaborate with others in this context, he said.