The 6th International United Nations Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping Symposium, underway from 21 June in Pretoria, will strengthen peacekeeping activities, and lessons learnt will be applied to South African National Defence Force (SANDF) operations internally and abroad, defence minister Thandi Modise has said.
She was speaking at the opening of the Symposium at the CSIR International Convention Centre on Tuesday morning. Modise said it is “fit and proper” for South Africa to host the Symposium, which is in Africa for the first time. “This Symposium is about technology, and enhancing capacity whilst protecting lives.” She added that when there is a chance again, South Africa will raise its hand to host other similar events.
She mentioned that the Symposium comes as the Department of Defence is looking at reestablishing Denel. The state-owned entity has provided equipment for United Nations mission in the past, including armoured personnel carriers. “We are also looking at whatever weaknesses there have been in Armscor. We are talking to Cabinet on the re-establishment of the necessary technology to create our own equipment, bring in new technologies.”
Modise said the results of the Symposium will benefit the South African National Defence Force, including its border security operations, which she wants to enhance with technology as force multipliers. Symposium outcomes will also be applied to South Africa’s contribution to the SADC Mission in Mozambique and its fight against insurgents in Cabo Delgado province.
Atul Khare, Under Secretary-General, Department of Operational Support at the United Nations, said it is significant that the Symposium is being held in Africa for the first time. “The UN works in hostile challenging, unpredictable environments with new threats emerging practically every day. It’s time to ensure…our peacekeepers, who protect others, are themselves protected from threats that are emerging, and have the best support from medical caregivers if they are attacked or injured.” He added that the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations can be improved through the better use of data, information gathering, and a minimized environmental footprint and these themes will be discussed at the Symposium.
Khare said he hoped the Symposium will lead to major positive changes and that South African technology can contribute to this. The Symposium, which concludes on 24 June and which includes an exhibition and Procurement Summit, has seen more than 250 delegates from 43 states congregate at the CSIR, with 80 United Nations members in attendance.
“The results of this symposium will also be applied elsehwere,” Khare added. “The UN works in different countries in different forms, for example when we undertake relief and humanitarian operations, developmental activities etc. Peacekeeping is the main focus here but the results will spread and be applied everywhere.”
Modise, in a speech prepared for day one of the Symposium, stated that delegates are gathered to answer one fundamental question: “What must be done to strengthen our capacity to ensure effective peace-keeping in all parts of the world that are ravaged by wars? I am absolutely certain that at the end of this week, we will be able to respond directly and practically to this crucial question.”
She reminded her audience that South Africa remains a significant continental actor and major contributor to peace keeping operations on the continent. Members of the South African National Defence Force have been deployed to numerous peace missions since 1999 such as Lesotho, Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique. “South Africa is the leading African country in the deployment of officers in peacekeeping missions,” she stated.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my fervent hope that this symposium will deliver outcomes that will significantly contribute to strengthened and better performing peacekeeping operations. Our expectation is that this gathering will produce measures that will create new and sustainable partnerships, strengthening existing ones and lead to a broader implementation of the peacekeeping reform priorities, particularly in line with the Action for Peacekeeping initiative for 2021 – 2023 (A4P+). South Africa expresses its support for this initiative and commitment to efforts that will lead to a better performing, better trained and efficient UN peacekeeping and peace building architecture.”