Citing “encouraging progress” achieved by United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa – which hosts half of all ongoing missions – UN chief António Guterres wants the international community to strengthen co-operation and commitment to peacekeeping.
Currently, half of all peacekeeping missions – seven of 14 – and four in five UN ‘blue helmets’ are based in Africa. African nations provide nearly half of peacekeepers deployed worldwide, including almost 60% of all women peacekeepers and the majority of UN police officers.
“Peacekeeping in Africa continues to present some of our greatest challenges,” Guterres said during a UN Security Council debate. “United Nations missions carry out complex operations with multi-dimensional mandates in extremely dangerous environments,” he said, citing transnational crime, non-State armed groups and terrorist groups, who sometimes target peacekeepers directly as examples.
The Secretary-General paid tribute to all peacekeepers that have fallen in the line of duty and to eight African blue helmets stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who were killed last week while trying to “prevent an attack on Beni” and “create a safe environment for those working there to end the Ebola outbreak”.
“Peacekeeping is an exercise in global solidarity. United Nations peacekeepers are ready to pay the ultimate price for peace and we are all in their debt,” he said.
Citing Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire as two examples of missions able to close because they were successful, Guterres highlighted how instrumental operations in DRC, Mali, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Sudan’s Darfur region, were to ongoing political stabilisation processes and peacebuilding efforts.
He praised “excellent co-operation” at the “highest levels” between the UN and the African Union (AU) for missions to carry out their mandates successfully, including two Joint UN-AU Frameworks, on Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, and on the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Our partnership with the AU and African Member States is vital to our collective efforts for peace and we must continue working to strengthen it. We work closely with the AU on joint planning for mandating of peace support operations and on legal and human rights compliance frameworks”.
The UN chief was encouraged by African support for his Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, launched earlier this year, and signed by 42 African governments to date.
“This aims to mobilise all partners and stakeholders to first refocus peacekeeping around more realistic mandates; second, to make missions stronger and safer; and third, to mobilise greater support for political solutions and for well-equipped and well-trained troops,” he said
Given the challenges ahead, Guterres told debate participants the UN has taken measures to improve effectiveness of operations, including better integration of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities; increasing the numbers of women in peacekeeping at all levels; and tackling sexual exploitation and abuse with more support to victims and more accountability.
“As I have told this Council before, we need to understand UN peacekeeping has limits. We face more and more situations where we need peace enforcement and counter-terrorism operations that can only be carried out by our partners – the African Union and various sub-regional configurations”.
He added “it is essential African-led peace operations acting under the Security Council’s authority are provided with strong mandates and predictable, sustainable and flexible finance, including through UN assessed contributions where appropriate”.
Guterres thanked the European Union and other donors who pledged to support the regional G5 Sahel Joint Force to combat terrorism and organised crime, but regretted “so far, almost half the pledges have not been earmarked, let alone disbursed”.
“There has been progress over the past year,” he explained, noting the Joint Force “reached initial operational capacity” but was are far from what is needed to fill “equipment shortfalls and capability gaps,” and meet the security needs of the Sahel.
“In our inter-connected age, security challenges on one continent present a risk to the whole world. Factors driving conflict in Africa – including poverty, youth unemployment, climate change, competition for resources and transnational crime – threaten global security.
“Improving the impact and effectiveness of peacekeeping in Africa is a collective responsibility,” he said.