Mr. President, thank you for convening this debate to discuss the critically important issue of peacekeeping. I thank the Secretary-General for his opening statement. As we meet, nearly 100,000 peacekeepers and 17,000 civilian personnel are deployed in peacekeeping missions around the world. Day after day, they put their lives on the line to protect people from communities and nations different from their own, and to uphold the fundamental principles set out in the United Nations Charter. The United States thanks these individuals for their service, as well as the 122 countries from which they come.
Mr. President, let me begin by saying that – on many of the issues involved in peacekeeping – we all agree on the key points.
We agree that peacekeeping is an absolutely essential part of this Council’s work and driven by our shared moral commitment to protect the defenseless from the scourges of war and conflict. This sense of shared purpose is also driven by having witnessed the horrific human consequences of the times when the UN has failed to stop the slaughter of unarmed civilians. This year, we are marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Next year, we will do the same for Srebrenica.
Rwanda and Srebrenica taught the world, and the UN, an extremely costly but important lesson: in order to fulfill their basic duty to protect civilians, peacekeepers need clear, robust mandates. This is another of the points on which we all can agree, and on which we have agreed, repeatedly, in the mandates for peacekeeping missions authorized since that time. Indeed, many of the current peacekeeping missions have robust mandates, empowering them to use force to protect human lives.
However, that does not mean that peacekeeping missions should rely predominantly on the use of force to protect civilians. As is affirmed by Resolution 2086 – one this council unanimously supported – effective peacekeeping is multidimensional peacekeeping. That means we must use all of the tools in our toolbox to prevent situations in which the use of force is necessary to save lives and work methodically to lay the foundations for greater peace and stability.
All of that said, in circumstances in which force is necessary to protect innocent lives, missions must fulfill the responsibilities set out by these robust mandates. In fact, the credibility of all of our commitments around the world to protect civilians, which can be a deciding factor in deterring those who would otherwise attack civilians, is inextricably tied to our living up to our word in each and every mission. As such, the failure to hold to this commitment in one mission can undermine the legitimacy of all of the others.
We have seen that these more robust approaches can be highly effective. The accomplishments of the Intervention Brigade in MONUSCO demonstrate this clearly. The success of this initiative truly has many fathers and mothers: from the region, which put forward the idea of a neutral force focused primarily on combatting armed groups in the DRC; to the mandate, which represents our collective commitments; to the contributing countries of Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania; and to the troops who have performed so bravely and professionally on the ground, in extremely challenging conditions. This effort has not only made the individual peacekeeping mission more effective and more credible, but also supported broader efforts to promote peace and stability in the Great Lakes region.
So – if we agree that we have a moral imperative to protect people at risk; if we have learned that peacekeeping missions need robust mandates to fulfill that commitment; and if we have unanimously authorized missions with such mandates – the question is then: How can we give these robust missions the tools they need to be as effective as possible?
First, we in the Security Council need to set forth clear priorities in mandates, particularly through the sequencing of tasks. Not because we think that some goals are less important than others, but rather because our experience has demonstrated that certain objectives cannot be pursued until others have been met. For example, it is difficult to rebuild a broken judiciary when it’s not safe enough for people to leave their homes. Such prioritization will make missions more effective and more efficient. The Council’s newest peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, offers a solid example of this Council’s efforts to set such priorities, as well as proof of its benefits.
In addition, now that we have clearer, more robust mandates, we must do a better job of ensuring missions have the capabilities needed to fulfill them. Among those necessary capabilities, we count access to new technology, from wireless radios and satellite phones to unmanned, unarmed aerial vehicles. We believe the people best suited to determine what capabilities are required are the missions themselves, and specialists from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. To move such decision making to the Council would not only take it away from the experts who know best, but also would dramatically hinder and politicize the process of obtaining crucial capabilities required to implement Council mandates and save lives.
Another way we can make missions more effective is to allow for greater inter-mission cooperation. We have seen how this can be a smart way to temporarily move resources rapidly to respond to emergencies and scale-up missions on short notice, as we unanimously authorized in South Sudan through resolution 2132. The more flexible such arrangements are, the more swiftly we will be able to respond to the next unexpected crisis.
Lastly, I would like to highlight an additional issue related to peacekeeping that deserves our attention.
In March, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services released a report on the protection of civilians in peacekeeping missions, focusing specifically on the use of force to protect civilians. Its key finding is that, in UN peacekeeping missions, “force is almost never used to protect civilians under attack.”
The report highlights a number of apparent reasons for the failure to use force to protect civilians, as well as recommendations for how to address this. While recognizing that the use of force is only one tool for protecting civilians, my government believes this Council will benefit from a thorough briefing of the report’s serious and concerning conclusions. This Council would also benefit from a discussion of the report’s implications for our work going forward.
At its essence, the report reveals a significant gap that has emerged between the commitments we set down on paper – which constitute a responsibility to act – and the way missions perform in practice. The larger this gap grows, the more vulnerable civilians become, and the less credible this organization and the peacekeepers representing it become.
I hope that this is another point on which we can all agree, and that today’s discussion will contribute to this Council’s work to make peacekeeping more efficient and effective. I thank you.
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