Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, To the United Nations, During a Security Council Debate, On Peacekeeping

Susan E. Rice
Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
June 29, 2009


Thank you, Mr. President. Ambassador Ilkin, we are grateful to you for convening this timely debate—and for including troop- and police-contributing countries in this discussion. The United States deeply appreciates the chance to hear their views, and we salute the sacrifices made by their brave men and women serving under the UN flag.

Let me also thank Undersecretaries-General LeRoy and Malcorra for their thorough briefings. Much of what we have just heard echoes what key stakeholders say: UN peacekeeping operations save lives. They stop wars from escalating and spreading. And they can provide hope after decades of despair, as we have been told by the democratically elected leaders of such countries as Haiti, Liberia, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone, and Burundi.

But for all the good that UN peacekeeping does, it faces, of course, serious challenges.

Host governments warn that violence may return if blue helmets leave too soon. Civilians plead for better protection from marauding gangs, rebel groups, and renegade soldiers. Troop and police contributors point to a widening gap between the risks they face on the ground and the degree of input they have when mandates are discussed here in the Council. Financial contributors in the throes of a global economic crisis struggle to enforce budget discipline, cut waste, and prevent abuse. The Secretariat appeals for the political support to advance peacemaking efforts and to assemble better equipped and rapidly deployable forces. Peacekeeping missions often need stronger leadership and endure persistent delays in acquiring critical personnel and materiel. And Security Council members question whether the way we produce mandates for these missions does justice to all of these concerns—and to the responsibilities that all of us on this Council must shoulder.

Mr. President, those responsibilities do not end when we adopt a peacekeeping mandate. In many ways, it is where they begin. Tackling these challenges is one of my highest priorities, and the United States stands ready to do its part. Permit me to spell out five of the principles that will guide our approach.

First, we will seek mandates for UN peacekeeping operations that are credible and achievable. We will urge the Council to continue to weigh the full range of responses to a given challenge. Poorly armed and disorganized gangs, rebel groups, and others outside a peace process should not be allowed to thwart a peacekeeping mandate or block a UN deployment. Peacekeepers are often authorized to use appropriate force to defend themselves and fulfill their mandate, including protecting civilians under imminent threat of violence. They must be willing and able to do so.

At the same time, we recognize that UN peacekeepers cannot do everything and go everywhere. There are limits to what they can accomplish, especially in the midst of a full-blown war or in the face of opposition from the host government. Peacekeeping missions are not always the right answer; some situations require other types of UN-authorized military deployments, such as regional efforts or multinational forces operating under the framework of a lead nation. And effective mediation must precede as well as accompany peacekeeping efforts if they are to succeed. These lessons have guided our approach in a number of instances, most recently Somalia, where conditions are not yet appropriate for successful UN peacekeeping. But it is a country that still urgently needs sustained, if not increased, international support.

Second, the United States will intensify diplomatic efforts to give new momentum to some of the stalled or faltering peace processes in areas where UN peacekeeping operations are deployed, starting with Darfur and Sudan’s North-South peace process. As you know, President Obama appointed General Scott Gration as his Special Envoy for Sudan for precisely this purpose. Successful diplomatic and political efforts are crucial to enabling UNAMID, UNMIS, and MINURCAT to better implement their mandates.

Third, the United States will strengthen its efforts with the UN and other partners to expand the pool of troop and police contributors, for both current and future UN peacekeeping operations. This will require work on several fronts.

The United States, for its part, is willing to consider directly contributing more military observers, military staff officers, civilian police, and other civilian personnel—including more women—to UN peacekeeping operations. We will also explore ways to provide enabling assistance to peacekeeping missions, either by ourselves or together with partners. Let me single out one immediate priority: we will assist with generating the missing forces and enabling units required for UNAMID, MINURCAT, and MONUC to better protect civilians under imminent threat of physical, including sexual, violence.

We will be open-minded about practical suggestions to deepen consultations among troop and police contributors, the Security Council, and the Secretariat, including redoubling efforts to implement undertakings in Resolutions 1327 and 1353. In these consultations, we should also be clear about what we are asking of troop contributors and what we are willing to do to assist them.

We will provide improved training and equipment assistance through the US’s Global Peace Operations Initiative and its Africa-oriented program, the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance program. Through the Global Peace Operations Initiative, the United States has already trained 75,000 peacekeepers and facilitated the deployment of some 49,000 peacekeepers to 20 operations around the world, mostly in Africa. Over the next five years, the Global Peace Operations Initiative will continue direct training but will make it its top priority to help partner countries become self-sufficient in peacekeeping training.

The United States will engage in longer-term discussions about how best to increase the interoperability and supply of rapidly deployable, brigade-sized forces—the very forces that could join, reinforce, and buy time for UN peacekeeping operations in an hour of crisis.

And the United States will consider different ways to support the increasing need for effective Formed Police Units.

Fourth, the United States will dedicate greater attention to Security Council discussions on the renewal of existing peacekeeping mandates. We will seek more comprehensive assessments of the progress that has been made and the obstacles that remain. This includes carefully considering the early recovery and peacebuilding activities that enable peacekeeping operations to depart successfully, such as demobilizing and reintegrating former combatants, reforming the security sector, and strengthening the rule of law. We will use these discussions as opportunities to take stock of the ways that U.S. assistance can accelerate the transfer of responsibilities from peacekeepers to the host country, in success. We plan to start this new approach in September, when the Security Council is scheduled to discuss Liberia and Haiti. But let me be clear: we will not support arbitrary or abrupt efforts to downsize or terminate missions, before their downsizing or termination is warranted.

And finally, the United States will give a careful review of and keep an open mind about reform proposals from the Secretariat, and others, especially those to be contained in the New Horizons non-paper and related field support proposals, in order to address the many challenges we have discussed today.

Mr. President, we are ready to work together with members of this Council, the Secretariat, the countries that provide troops and police, and the many other partners on whose efforts success in peacekeeping depends—notably the countries in which UN peacekeeping operations now exist or may be deployed to in the future.

We thank our colleagues—particularly the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Turkey as well as Canada and Nigeria—for urging us to confront the challenges facing UN peacekeeping. We thank the peacekeepers and those who support them for all their efforts and courage. And we look forward to the lifesaving work we can continue to do together.

Thank you, Mr. President.


PRN: 2009/138