United Nations peacekeeping is “a tool to advance political, not military, solutions to conflict,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.
He made the comments this week when the General Assembly subsidiary body opened its 2016 session. Noting existing mechanisms are not always suited to meet new challenges he stressed the critical role of the Special Committee plays in setting the direction of comprehensive reform of peace operations.
“Strengthening UN peace operations is a multi-year agenda,” Eliasson said in the opening session, which was also addressed by Under-Secretaries-General Hervé Ladsous and Atul Khare, who respectively head the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and the Department of Field Support (DFS).
He said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the High-Level Panel on Peace Operations to examine and develop the range of United Nations tools in order to prevent and resolve conflicts, as well as to sustain peace.
Ban’s agenda centres on three priorities for action: strengthen conflict prevention; build more effective global and regional partnerships and improve the planning and conduct of UN peace operations.
With peacekeepers now operating in ever more insecure environments as extremist and criminal groups thrive from and exploit chaos and instability Eliasson warned targeted, asymmetric attacks against UN peacekeepers are increasing.
One example was in Mali on February 12 where seven peacekeepers, including a woman, were killed.
One the other hand when peacekeepers are involved in sexual exploitation and abuse he said there has to be “swift accountability” stressing preying on the vulnerable is a betrayal of trust.
Ladsous said this year’s substantive session of the Special Committee comes on the heels of a pivotal year for the UN system as a whole and peacekeeping in particular.
In addition to the peace operations review, the review on Security Council resolution 1325 on “women, peace and security”, as well as the peacebuilding architecture review, have all made important recommendations that will contribute to the conduct of peacekeeping in the years to come.
Khare urged member states to contribute more to help strengthen the safety and security of UN missions, either directly or in co-operation with others, and bring those who kill peacekeepers to justice.
There are currently 16 UN peace operations deployed with the largest number – nine – in Africa followed by three in the Middle East, two in Europe and one in the Americas.
The largest peacekeeping mission is MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where a South African, Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi took over command earlier this month. Total personnel strength at MONUSCO, including civilians, police and military personnel number more than 25,000.