In the ongoing effort to improve the overall performance of United Nations peacekeeping missions, the heads of the armed forces of around 100 countries met at UN Headquarters in New York to discuss issues including rapid deployment, training, increasing female peacekeepers, conduct and discipline.
“Our partnership has never been more important. Across the globe, armed conflict scars countless civilians and destabilises entire regions,” Secretary-General António Guterres told participants at the Chiefs of Defence Conference, in a video message.
Expressing gratitude to the men and women serving in peacekeeping, he noted UN “blue helmets” brave danger so others can enjoy safety.
He also welcomed the Conference’s focus on gender, with a view to increasing the number of female peacekeepers and integrating a gender perspective into UN peace and security actions.
“When we have greater gender balance in our forces, we boost our protection outreach – and we reduce the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse,” he said, urging all troop contributing countries to deploy more women as well as to help integrate a gender-sensitive perspective in strengthening peace.
In the same vein, Jane Holl Lute, Special Co-ordinator on improving UN response to sexual exploitation and abuse, stressed the need to stand together against individual misconduct of some troops, which she said “seriously injures the vulnerable and undermines the mission and name of the United Nations.”
“Only through the continued personal leadership of the chiefs of defence forces and others, will we effectively prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse,” she said, adding: “We are in this endeavour together, and together, we can root out this scourge.”
Trust of those served must not be broken
In his opening remarks, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, highlighted recent developments, including geostrategic shifts, emergence of new threats or large budget cuts, all meant a call for greater urgency to strengthen performance of peace operations.
“Now, more than ever, peacekeepers need to be up to the challenge of the mandates they are given,” he said, calling for continued support for peacekeeping operations.
Stressing the need to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse, he called for measures to ensure that only troops with impeccable backgrounds are deployed to be put in place, and rigorous and consistent measures are employed to make certain those responsible are held accountable for their acts.
“The success of our missions depends upon the confidence and trust placed on us by the populations we serve. When this trust is broken, our credibility is indelibly damaged,” he underscored.
More needs to be done to overcome challenges
Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Field Support – which provides administrative, finance, logistical and technical support to peacekeeping and political missions around the world – spoke of efforts underway to improve service delivery and to produce better value for money.
In particular, he noted a new environmental strategy to guide UN efforts to deliver support in a responsible manner as well as steps to improve medical support to peacekeepers to prevent avoidable loss of life.
“But we need to do more together. We simply cannot accept 30 of the 287 military medical facilities in peacekeeping missions either have not deployed or are deployed with sub-standard equipment.”
Khare highlighted the need for more female participation in peacekeeping, urging chiefs of defence forces to redouble efforts to contribute female personnel to serve in missions.
He also called on them to ensure uniformed contingents deploy rapidly and with the equipment and training required to carry out the tasks they have been mandated to.
Held under the theme “Meeting the Challenges”, the conference included participation of military representatives from the African Union, the European Union and NATO, as well as the Force Commanders of the UN peacekeeping missions in Mali (MINUSMA), Central African Republic (MINUSCA), South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).