277th & 278th Meetings (AM & PM)

Peacekeeping Vital to Protect Civilians, Prevent Violence in World Marred by Conflict, Speakers Stress as Special Committee Opens 2024 Session

Delegates Further Urge Missions Fit for Evolving Threats

On a complex global landscape marred by conflict, United Nations peacekeeping remains vital for protecting civilian populations, averting festering hostilities and preventing violence, speakers stressed today as the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations held the first meeting of its 2024 session, further underscoring the need for missions to adapt to evolving threats.

Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly, stressed that, while peacekeepers embody the pledge of the Charter of the United Nations — to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war — “this does not come without a price”.  Acknowledging the courage and sacrifice of the men and women who venture into areas torn by conflict, he recalled that 4,345 peacekeepers have lost their lives since the inception of UN peacekeeping operations.  Today, the evolving peacekeeping landscape — marked by geopolitical tension, escalating conflict and new threats — demands a nuanced, comprehensive response.

“Now is the time to set aside differences and focus on reaching a consensus,” he stressed, urging those present to remember the human element: the 78,677 personnel, their families and the millions of people they protect and serve worldwide.

Alexandre Zouev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, speaking for the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, noted that, after a year of “extreme challenges to global peace and security, we are on the verge of a new era” — an opportunity to address the evolving risks and make missions fit for today’s world.  Calling on the Special Committee to deliver concrete guidance to strengthen the ability to fulfil mandates, he urged Member States to maintain the spirit of collaboration, compromise and consensus that has made the body successful in the past.

In the ensuing debate, delegates echoed the critical role of peacekeeping missions and noted their Governments’ contributions, while also citing funding issues and the need for mandates suitable for a changing threat landscape.

Morocco’s representative, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement — whose member States account for nearly 90 per cent of UN uniformed peacekeeping personnel on the ground — emphasized that, amidst a changing political landscape, the Security Council must draft clear, focused, realistic and achievable mandates in consultation with host States and troop- and police-contributing countries.  Optimal human and financial resources must be provided, with Member States making contributions in full, on time and without conditions.  She also reiterated the need for equitable geographical representation of troop- and police-contributing countries in leadership positions within peacekeeping operations and at UN Headquarters.

The representative of Bangladesh, noting that his country is one of the leading troop and police contributors — with more than 6,000 peacekeepers in 10 peacekeeping operations around the world — emphasized the need for adequate resources and equipment to ensure the safety of peacekeepers, as well as better coordination with host Governments.  Bangladesh, for its part, has pledged to co-deploy with Gambia and to offer equipment to other troop- and police-contributing countries.  He also underlined the collective responsibility to ensure accountability for crimes against peacekeepers.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking for the Group of French-speaking Ambassadors, noted that the bloc is present on five continents.  He urged the UN to ensure that multilingualism is fully integrated into peacekeeping activities, which would directly impact dialogue with local authorities and communities, and further, is crucial in the fight against disinformation in theatres of operation.  Additionally, he called for regular interaction in French between the Group and the Secretariat.

Indonesia’s delegate, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that the bloc has deployed over 5,000 peacekeepers across multiple missions.  He called for clear, realistic and achievable mission mandates supported by adequate resources, as “we cannot expect peacekeepers to do more with less”.  He therefore urged the Secretariat to ensure timely reimbursement for troop- and police-contributing countries, and for Member States to settle their assessed contributions.

The representative of Brazil, recalling that more than 55,000 Brazilian military and police personnel have participated in UN missions in the past 70 years, affirmed that the success or failure of a peacekeeping operation depends largely on whether there is a clear political process supporting its objectives.  Moreover, sustaining peace is only possible with security measures implemented jointly with comprehensive initiatives focused on social and economic development, the rule of law, justice and inclusion.

Meanwhile, the speaker for the African Union said this year’s session was taking place at a critical juncture, following the adoption of the second 10-year plan of the bloc’s Agenda 2063, which aspires to ensure full functionality and operationality for African peace and security architecture.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s “New Agenda for Peace” and its call for enhanced UN engagement with the African Union.  He also welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 2719 (2023) on funding for peacekeeping operations and General Assembly resolution 78/257 on assessed contributions to fund the Peacebuilding Fund, both of which will better help address peace and security in Africa.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, similarly, highlighted the trilateral partnership between the European Union, African Union and the UN, concurring on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2719 (2023).  He also stressed the need for posts in UN Headquarters that support UN peacekeeping operations to be adequately funded through assessed contributions, noting that European Union member States are the primary donors to the Department of Peace Operations and the Department of Operational Support.  Further, he said that adapting to emerging challenges requires critical predeployment training, along with greater coordination among UN departments and agencies.

The United States’ delegate, commending peacekeepers’ service to maintaining international peace and security at great personal risk, voiced hope that the Special Committee’s 2024 session would lend momentum to key issues, including seeking accountability for those who undermine the safety and security of peacekeepers — whether they be host Governments, armed groups or mission leadership.  She also looked forward to strengthened implementation of the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse, and to the removal of barriers for women’s participation.

Other speakers cited problematic issues, with the Russian Federation’s delegate observing a clear downward trend in the number of peace operations — partly because their effectiveness does not always meet the expectations of host States.  She warned that bloating mandates with irrelevant tasks lowers their effectiveness and makes them more expensive.  She also called for cooperation with regional and subregional organizations, noting that the African Union, for instance, is familiar with its member States’ problems first hand.

China’s representative, noting that his country is the second-biggest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations, as well as the largest troop‑contributing country among permanent members of the Security Council, underscored the need for reform and for mandates to adhere closely to the reality on the ground.  He added:  “Augmenting mandates will strain resources and divert from the missions’ core responsibilities.”  He also called for stable relations and cooperation with host countries and for effective transitions and exit strategies with clear timeframes to help manage expectations.

For his part, the representative of the Republic of Moldova stressed that no conflict in the world should escape the UN’s attention, recalling the continued presence of the so-called “Operational Group of Russian Forces” and munitions stockpiles in Cobasna and calling for their withdrawal.  He further noted that his country continues to provide military observers in some of the largest peacekeeping missions, including the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

At the outset of the session, Movses Abelian, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, acting as temporary Chair, stated that Nigeria had not nominated a candidate for Chair after representative Tijjani Muhammad Bande returned to Abuja as his tour of duty concluded.  While reaffirming Nigeria’s interest to continue serving as Chair, he noted the Secretariat would be notified once a successor is named.

The Special Committee then elected its Bureau by acclamation, with Fabián Oddone (Argentina), Richard Arbeiter (Canada), Takayuki Iriya (Japan) and Mateusz Sakowicz (Poland) serving as Vice-Chairs, and Wael Eldahshan (Egypt) as Rapporteur.

Mr. Abelian proposed establishing a Working Group of the Whole on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations to consider the substance of the Committee’s mandate, with Mr. Arbeiter continuing to serve as its Chair.

Members further approved the Special Committee’s provisional agenda for its session (document A/AC.121/2024/L.1), as well as a draft programme of work (document A/AC.121/2024/L.2).

For information media. Not an official record.