Today, in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York City, high-level representatives from over 120 countries will gather for the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial on Uniformed Capabilities, Performance, and Protection. Over 100,000 troops, police, and civilians serve in 14 peacekeeping missions around the world, from Mali to Cyprus, and Lebanon to the Central African Republic. Peacekeepers are asked to undertake challenging tasks, such as protecting civilians and creating the security space for peace processes to take hold. They serve in some of the most challenging environments on earth with one goal: to make the world more peaceful, safe, and secure.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale is leading the U.S. delegation, which includes senior-level representation from the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council. Secretary Pompeo will also underline the importance of peacekeeping and stress the need for continued reform through a video message to attendees. The United States understands that UN peacekeeping is vital to our national security interests and broader stability, but we recognize the need for improvements in how missions deliver on their mandates and how personnel perform in the field. Contributors to peacekeeping must possess the political will to carry out mandates, as well as the necessary leadership, training, capacity building, and equipment to better ensure the safety and security both of civilian populations and the peacekeepers themselves.
That’s why last September the United States authored UN Security Council resolution 2436, which calls for better evaluation of peacekeeping personnel and greater transparency in how these evaluations are used to ensure accountability. Uniformed personnel who do not carry out their mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence should be held accountable, and there should be zero tolerance for those who commit sexual exploitation and abuse. Using evaluations and data, the UN can and should make informed decisions about future deployments and hold those who do not live up to UN standards and requirements accountable for their actions, up to and including repatriation. This data can also help guide donor countries such as the United States to better calibrate their training and capacity-building assistance for countries contributing troops and police. In addition, there must also be recognition for those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect civilians and carry out their mission -- who go above and beyond to try and create a safer environment for those most affected by conflict.
At the ministerial, Under Secretary Hale will call for reform but also reiterate our commitment to supporting peacekeeping. The United States is the number one financial contributor to UN peacekeeping and the largest training and capacity-building partner in the world. Since 2005, the State Department-led Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) and other capacity building programs have invested over $1.5 billion on training and equipping both troops and police specifically for service in peacekeeping missions. Today we will pledge our continued commitment to assist the UN in addressing persistent capability shortfalls, including critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that will strengthen mission operations. Our pledge includes the provision of at least $13 million in support of Bangladesh’s commitment to develop an unmanned aerial system (UAS) capability for deployment to a UN peacekeeping operation. The U.S. Department of Defense is further providing training, technology, and subject matter expertise on a variety of topics, including advising the UN on how to incorporate and more effectively employ UAS capabilities into their missions.
Our reform efforts also center on the need for more women at all levels of peacekeeping. Evidence shows that having women in meaningful roles increases the effectiveness of peacekeeping and improves missions’ abilities to protect civilians. Accordingly, we are actively supporting the UN’s goals to increase the percentage of female peacekeepers deployed. We are proud that, since 2010, GPOI partners have increased the number of female military peacekeepers deployed by 89 percent. We will continue to promote the inclusion of women throughout peacekeeping, and particularly at leadership levels.
Peacekeeping is a complex, challenging, and ever-changing task. At today’s Ministerial, the United States joins with partners around the world to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of UN peacekeeping.
About the Author: Rebecca Wallace serves as Senior Peacekeeping Advisor in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the U.S. Department of State