Welcome to the United Nations

Deputy Secretary-General Says ‘Every Peacekeeper Must Be a Protector’ in Remarks to General Assembly Special Committee

16 Feb 2016
Jan Eliasson

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General’s Jan Eliasson’s remarks to the General Assembly Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations opening debate, in New York today:

It is a true pleasure to be here today at the opening debate of this year’s session of the Special Committee.  I want to thank you, Chair, for the invitation to speak today, and I congratulate you and the members of the bureau on your re-election.

This year’s debate is taking place at a moment of singular challenge, but also of singular opportunity.

The changing nature of conflict, as we all know, is placing great pressure on the international community and on all concerned.  Peacekeepers are operating in ever more insecure environments.  Extremist and criminal groups thrive from and exploit chaos and instability.  Targeted, asymmetric attacks often take place against our peacekeepers, such as last Friday’s attack in northern Mali.

Our existing mechanisms are not always suited to meet these new challenges.  But, the proven ability of United Nations peacekeeping to adapt and evolve is one of its greatest strengths.

The Secretary-General established the High-Level [Independent] Panel on Peace Operations to examine and develop the range of United Nations tools in order to prevent and resolve conflicts, as well as to sustain peace.

The Panel’s work very much benefits from interaction with this Committee.  The Secretary-General’s agenda to implement the Panel’s recommendations was also shaped by your perspectives.  I thank you for your valuable contributions.

The Secretary General’s agenda centres on three priorities for action:  firstly, to strengthen conflict prevention; secondly, to build more effective global and regional partnerships, and thirdly, to improve the planning and conduct of UN peace operations.  The progress we make towards implementing this agenda will be shaped and influenced by your engagement and the extent to which we work together effectively.

UN Peacekeeping, as the Panel reminds us, is a tool to advance political, not military solutions to conflict.  It is an international instrument to help national states and local communities find peaceful means of resolving differences.  It is also a reflection of our values — to uphold the rule of law and the rights of all people.  Our policies and our actions must be clear, legitimate and reflective of the highest standards and of purposes and principles laid down in the UN Charter.

This Committee has played an important role for the policy agenda for peacekeeping operations over many years.  This year, your role is critical.  Comprehensive reform proposals are before you; your discussions can set the direction and determine the content of these efforts.

You can also help to sustain continued attention and engagement.  Strengthening UN peace operations is a multi-year agenda.  This Committee is well-placed to make sure that there is continuity and follow-up, including on the commitments made at last year’s Summit on Peacekeeping.

The 125,000 UN military, police and civilian personnel serving around the world need tailored mandates and political strategies supported by the Security Council.  They need strengthened capabilities, they need effective security arrangements, they need reliable field support and they need access to the latest technology.  They also need effective and accountable leadership, professional planning and coherent efforts on the ground.

We must also make sure that peacekeepers maintain the highest standards of conduct and discipline.  This is critical if we are to preserve the credibility of our common peacekeeping enterprise.  We have all witnessed how the abhorrent actions of a few can bring peacekeeping into disrepute.  Every peacekeeper must be a protector.  Preying on the vulnerable is a betrayal of that trust.  When there are cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, there must be swift accountability.  This is an obligation for the United Nations, as well as for the Member States.

Under-Secretaries-General Hervé Ladsous and Atul Khare will speak to these issues in greater detail on Friday.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support are moving forward on a number of initiatives in order to match peacekeeping with the evolving nature of conflict.  They are also to make sure that the support we provide is rapid, effective, efficient and responsible.

The Secretary-General and I count on your political support for these endeavours, as well as on your positive contribution and engagement.

At the same time, we want to warmly thank troop and police contributors and the people on the ground for their vitally important work, and for the many sacrifices you have made while serving the UN and the cause of peace.