Guterres looks back on challenging year for UN peacekeeping

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Reviewing 2023 peacekeeping operations, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said 88 000 peacekeepers from 125 countries served in 12 missions worldwide in the best interests of peace and humanitarian assistance.

On the debit side of the peacekeeping ledger, 59 peacekeepers were killed while wearing the blue helmet.

UN peacekeepers supported political solutions to conflict and ceasefires, protected civilians from violence, protected human rights and helped build state capacity in key areas, the UN said. This in anticipation of helping countries maintain security without UN support. They further helped with delivery of humanitarian aid to communities in need, observing and monitoring and removing explosive remnants of war to address immediate threats to populations.

The UN number one called 2023 a “remarkably challenging 12 months” with “enormous suffering and violence”. Conflict related deaths according to his review reached a 28-year high “with a full quarter of humanity living in conflict-affected areas”.

Four missions in Africa – MINUSCA (Central African Republic), MONUSCO (Democratic Republic of Congo), UNMISS (South Sudan) and MINUSMA, the now closed mission in Mali – worked to end “large scale conflict impacting millions”. Conflict prevention was part of the mandate of these four missions with the addition of Sudan, via the integrated mission (UNITAMS) due to end on 29 February.

Seven of the world body’s 12 missions were active in maintaining ceasefires, three – South Sudan, Sudan and the territory of Western Sahara – in Africa.

The five African missions in CAR, DRC, Mali, Sudan and South Sudan “helped protect millions of civilians from violence” with DRC given as a specific example. The MONUSCO mission in the central African country is “directly protecting more than 100 000 internally displaced people in Djugu territory in the Ituri province.”

With the mission in Mali closed and MONUSCO in DRC set to cease operations at year-end, Guterres has it the remaining missions will “work to strengthen performance and find innovative solutions to rapidly evolving challenges”.

Looking back he points to “extraordinary results” in 75 years of UN peacekeeping. These include transforming Cambodia, Liberia, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Timor Leste.