Welcome to the United Nations

Remarks at the “United Nations Peace Operations Review: Taking stock, leveraging opportunities and charting the way forward" [as delivered]

11 Apr 2016
Ban Ki-Moon

It is a pleasure to be with you.  I want to thank the Republic of Korea, Norway, Ethiopia and IPI for organizing today’s discussions.

I thank all of you for coming together to focus on how to ensure that the United Nations is well placed to address the peace and security challenges of today and tomorrow.

There is a collective sense that our toolbox has not kept pace with the emerging and increasingly complex challenges we face in peace and security.

There is the sheer scale of demand. The number of civil wars has tripled in the past ten years.  More people are displaced around the world – many of them by conflict – since the founding of this Organization.  Humanitarian needs – many of them also caused or exacerbated by conflict – have reached $20 billion.

But this is not a story that can be told only in numbers. There has been a qualitative change in the very nature of the problems we face. Conflict is increasingly transnational and difficult to resolve through the traditional tools at our disposal.

We have before us a set of thoughtful and comprehensive reviews that point the way towards a more effective UN response to these challenges. 

These include the report of my High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, the  Advisory Group of Experts on Peacebuilding, and the Global Study on women, peace and security.  

We also now have new resolutions on women, peace and security and the peacebuilding architecture that build on these reviews.   

Our challenge is to bring these proposals to life.  That is my responsibility as Secretary-General.  It is your responsibility as Member States and partners, as host or neighbouring countries, as members of the Security Council and as contributors of troops, police and financing. 

We have made good progress in the past six months.  But we must also be clear-eyed about the political, financial and organizational challenges ahead. 

The report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations included a number of clear messages. 

It called on us to place political solutions at the centre of the work of peace operations.  It urged us to work toward a more flexible spectrum of peace operations.  It emphasized the need to strengthen our partnerships and to ensure more field-focused and people-centred operations. 

In my implementation report, I put forward a practical agenda stressing three main action areas: First, a renewed focus on conflict prevention and mediation; Second, more effective partnerships, in particular with regional organizations; Third, strengthened planning and conduct of UN peace operations.

In the six months since that report was issued, almost 90% of the actions put forward are at various stages of implementation. 

Some of these measures are complex and will require considerable time to implement.  Others, such as proposed restructuring, I will encourage my successor to consider.

I welcome the prompt and continuing engagement of the General Assembly -- most recently the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, and the Security Council.  I thank the President of the General Assembly for his continued leadership and look forward to the high-level event he will chair in the General Assembly on 10-11 May. 

I see progress in efforts to better prioritize mandates and to implement protection of civilians mandates. 

But when the lives of men, women and children lie in the balance, political consensus must be crafted on a case-by-case basis to enable us to most effectively respond. 

As we look ahead together, allow me to briefly focus on eight areas which I believe are critical to success.

First, prevention and mediation.  We must revitalise the preventive efforts of the UN system and deepen political support from Member States.  The modest financial proposals that we put forward last month are an essential part of this effort.  I call upon Member States to give them timely consideration and support.  I am also committed to bringing situations of concern to the attention of the Security Council where swift responses may save lives as well as resources. 

Second, partnerships.  Deeper engagement with regional partners is a must, including more regular consultations and more predictable ways of working together. We are initiating a joint review of financing mechanisms with the African Union.  We are deepening our partnership with the European Union even further and are also exploring ways to expand our engagement with the League of Arab States and other vital partners.  Building on recent Council action, we will seek to further enhance dialogue between troop- and police-contributing countries, the Security Council and the Secretariat. 

Third, rooting out sexual exploitation and abuse.   I know you share my horror and disgust at allegations that troops committed unspeakable acts against those they were sent to protect.  I will continue to shine a spotlight on this scourge.  My constant and loud advocacy must be matched by Member States who alone have the power to swiftly bring to justice those who have committed crimes and to impose the strongest possible disciplinary and criminal sanctions.  This is essential to restoring trust in the invaluable institution of peacekeeping, and providing justice and healing to the victims and affected communities. 

The adoption of Security Council Resolution 2272 is an important step in our collective efforts to prevent and combat sexual exploitation and abuse and the damage it causes.

Fourth, women, peace and security.  Greater progress is needed to enhance the participation of women in peace operations and in mission leadership, and ensuring the UN continues to advocate for women to be central in peace processes.  

Fifth, enhancing uniformed capabilities and performance. Building on last year’s historic Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping, we will convert your generous pledges into actual deployments, enhance our ability to deploy more rapidly, deploy more women peacekeepers, and increase the overall level of performance of all uniformed personnel over time.

Sixth, improved field support.  Peace operations now account for 75 percent of UN Secretariat spending, more than half of our staff, and 90 percent of our procurement.  As such, we must make sure that our organizational structures and processes become more focused on the field, and can deliver effective, efficient and responsible solutions in the world’s most complex environments.  This is vital to deliver on our mandates.

Seventh, peacebuilding and ensuring coherent and system-wide support to sustaining peace.  Building on the recent peacebuilding resolution, I will move swiftly to respond to requests such as working with Member States to address systemic shortfalls in financing for sustaining peace and improving system-wide coordination.  

Eighth and finally, placing political solutions and strategies at the centre of our peace and security efforts, including the work of UN peace operations.  These missions need strong political support and backing, built on a united Security Council and strategic engagement with partners that have influence with the parties.  Peace operations can and have succeeded when they are an expression of strong and unified international political will.  They have failed when they are not. To deploy them in the absence of a political strategy for resolving the conflict is to risk lives and money in pursuit of a peace that will likely remain elusive. 

Change will not come overnight. The sustained attention of Member States will be critical to maintain momentum throughout 2016 and beyond.  I urge your active consideration of recommendations directed to Member States.

More than that, I urge your ownership of this entire agenda. We cannot expect to effectively respond to today’s peace and security challenges with yesterday’s mindset and capacities.

Yes, we need the right people and capabilities.  But we also need the right processes, strong partnerships and clear political strategies to help UN peace operations better confront today’s challenges.

Given the difficult fiscal environment, the initiative seeks to further increase efficiencies.  But there will be some requirements for modest investments to strengthen our peace and security instruments.

I am sure you agree that this is essential to ensuring that United Nations peace operations truly respond to the challenges of our times.

I thank you once again for joining forces to achieve that goal. Thank you very much.