UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told the world body’s Security Council its peacekeeping operations are increasingly mandated to operate in countries where “there is no peace to keep”.
He told the 15-member council meeting in New York this week more than 66% of all military, police and civilian personnel operating under the UN flag are in Africa. They are deployed and working in the Central African Republic (CAR), Darfur, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Mali where levels of violence are “significant”.
UN Blue Helmets” are also being authorised when there are no clearly identifiable parties to the conflict or viable political process, such as in Mali, where no comprehensive agreement in place and where the situation remains precarious.
“When there is no clear path towards peace, crises will inevitably recur and peacekeeping operations are much more likely to struggle to meet their mandates,” Ban said.
African and other UN peacekeeping efforts around the world currently cost the world body close to US$8 billion a year and Ban has appealed to the international community to invest in peacekeeping and peace building as a “flagship UN activity”.
“The continued use of UN peacekeeping by the Security Council testifies to its continued relevance and its universality and legitimacy. The demand for peacekeeping will remain,” Ban told the Council at the opening of a debate on trends in UN peacekeeping.
Peacekeepers are also increasingly operating in more complex environments with asymmetric and unconventional threats.
“Whether acting in self-defence or implementing our mandate to protect civilians, we need to ensure UN peacekeeping operations are undertaken in full compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law obligations,” the UN chief said.
He also pointed out speed was a critical factor when it came to protecting civilians and, in the absence of a standing UN reserve force, working together to deploy or reinforce missions should happen as quickly as possible.
Ban again stressed the need to use all forms of technology that enable peacekeeping operations to work more safely and effectively giving the example of UAVs now in service with the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
Elements of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) are currently serving with MOUNSCO, most notably as part of its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the first UN force in the history of the world body’s peacekeeping to be given an offensive mandate.
South Africans are also part of the hybrid AU/UN mission in South Sudan.
Since it launched its first peacekeeping operations in 1948 more than a million men and women have served in Blue Helmet operations on four continents.