Welcome to the United Nations

Deputy Secretary-General's Closing Remarks at Chiefs of Defence Conference [as prepared for delivery]

27 Mar 2015
Jan Eliasson

I am honoured to be here today at the closing of this first Conference of Chiefs of Defence ever held at the United Nations.

I understand you have had a fruitful meeting.  I am encouraged by your discussions.  There is wide agreement on the value and crucial role of United Nations peacekeeping and peace operations.

Constant, inclusive and transparent dialogue with all stakeholders is fundamental to strengthening our partnership.

Your meeting here represents a critical moment in this dialogue and, in fact, for UN peace operations.

The United Nations is deeply grateful for the extraordinary and positive response to our invitation to meet here today.  We appreciate your thoughtful views on new challenges facing peacekeeping and how we are to respond.

As my colleague Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous has noted, many participants have affirmed the critical importance of peacekeeping missions, both from an international, regional and national perspective.

I appreciate your frank and realistic acknowledgement of the challenges – and the need to prepare and strengthen our operations for the future.

Peacekeeping missions remain one of the Security Council’s most substantive and dynamic tools to respond to conflict and post-conflict situations.

The evidence is clear.

When peacekeeping missions are deployed in post-conflict situations, countries are 50 per cent less likely to experience renewed conflict.

This saves lives, protects infrastructure and fosters development.

Conflicts that recur also tend to spill across national and international boundaries – making peacekeeping an even more valuable investment in our collective security.

As you know, the United Nations is adapting our approach to peacekeeping to keep pace with evolving demands.  The Peace Operations Review is expected to provide us with appropriate options and concepts for the future.

At its core, peacekeeping serves a timeless purpose.

Our blue helmets support conflict-torn countries in making the successful transition to sustainable peace and inclusive governance.

More and more, our peacekeeping operations are mandated to protect civilians.  We have every reason to believe this responsibility will remain central.

The Security Council is deploying peacekeepers in new and diverse ways to better support countries that are making political transitions.  This also aims to more effectively respond to changes in the nature of conflict.

We see these operations in some of the world’s most challenging environments, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and the Central African Republic.

The Security Council’s high expectations and great demands testify to its faith in peacekeeping as a tool for maintaining international peace and security.  We hope we will also be given the necessary resources to meet these demands.

There are strong signs that we will need to continue to adapt to new challenges, not least new risks and new operating environments.

Today, we have asked you for assistance in a number of areas to ensure that we are prepared to face these new and evolving challenges.

First, we need your assistance in providing the capabilities needed to fulfil our mandates.

This includes the necessary personnel, equipment and training, as well as technology that matches the requirements to do the job.

Peacekeeping must deploy these capabilities rapidly, wherever needed.  We must ensure that peacekeepers are equipped to effectively meet threats and carry out mandates – especially for the protection of civilians.

We need strong field support structures, systems and policies behind our peacekeeping missions.

It is heartening to hear of the many statements made today in support of these notions. In particular, I note the virtual consensus on the need for strengthened information gathering and intelligence capacities. This will help us greatly in moving forward in this critical area of capability development.

Second, we have called upon your governments to unite politically behind our peacekeeping missions.  Strong consensus on these issues among Member States is essential.

Unity of purpose drives progress towards the resolution of conflict and the establishment of effective political processes.

Finally, we must continue to work towards a common understanding of peacekeeping, and to build support for it.

We need consensus around the roles, principles, mandates and activities of peacekeeping missions to fully implement our mandates and to effectively operate in the complex environments where we are deployed.

Without consensus and unity of purpose in the partnership that makes good peacekeeping possible, we cannot expect missions to fully meet rising expectations in increasingly challenging situations.

We hope that your Governments will continue to engage actively in this renewed international dialogue on peacekeeping.  In this regard, I encourage you to participate in the regional force generation discussions leading up to the second peacekeeping summit in September.

I have been privileged over the course of my career to work on different sides of the peacekeeping equation.  I have served in mediation.  I have developed peace-keeping mandates and taken part in humanitarian operations.  I have seen the courage of our women and men in the field.  I have often solemnly, and with a heavy heart, honoured their sacrifice.

Troop-contributors, civilian staff and the people we serve are united by our faith in collective security.  We share an unwavering commitment to the United Nations emblem and the principles it embodies.

The risks in peacekeeping will always be high.  The stakes are life-and-death.

When we succeed, we prove to the world’s most vulnerable people that, fundamentally, the most powerful soldiers are those without enemies.  We show that true strength is built on universal values laid down in the UN Charter.

Thank you for supporting this noble endeavour, both internationally and within your own nations.

Thank you.