As the United Nations continues to send peacekeepers to war-torn environments such as Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the “blue helmets” need more and better co-ordinated support from those who authorise and deploy them, Secretary-General António Guterres said this week.
“UN peacekeepers are often under-equipped, under-prepared and unready and there are gaps in command and control, in culture, in equipment and in training,” the Secretary-General told a Security Council debate on improving UN peacekeeping operations.
“Our peacekeepers are vulnerable and they are targeted for attack.”
Last year, 59 peacekeepers were killed as a result of malicious acts – the highest number yet and a sharp increase over the year before when the figure was 34.
Calling UN peacekeeping operations “a remarkable enterprise of multilateralism and international solidarity,” Guterres said they suffer as a result of unrealistic demands and as a result lives and credibility are being lost.
“A peacekeeping operation is not an army, or a counter-terrorist force, or a humanitarian agency. It is a tool to create space for a nationally-owned political solution,” he emphasised.
“Put simply, peace operations cannot succeed if they are deployed instead of a political solution, rather than in support of one.”
He cited the need to concentrate on three key areas: refocusing peacekeeping with realistic expectations; make missions stronger and safer; and mobilise greater support for political solutions and for well-structured, well-equipped, well-trained forces.
As far as refocusing and realistic expectations are concerned he gave the example of a UN mission that has been given 209 mandated tasks telling the Security Council to “please put an end to mandates that look like Christmas trees. Christmas is over and a UN mission cannot possibly implement 209 mandated tasks”.
“These efforts are critical – but action by the Secretariat alone is not enough. Our chances of success increase dramatically when we work with member states and share burdens, risks and responsibilities,” Guterres said.
“We need a quantum leap in collective engagement,” he said, announcing an Action for Peacekeeping initiative which will mobilise all partners and stakeholders to support peacekeeping efforts.
“As peacekeeping marks its 70th anniversary, I hope we can develop a set of mutually-agreed principles and commitments to create peacekeeping operations fit for the future,” he said.