We also convey our deepest thanks to their families and to people and governments who contribute these troops and resources so that we are able to serve the most vulnerable and implement the mandates given to us by the UN Security Council.
UN peacekeeping today remains one of the most effective tools available to the international community to respond to the challenges of global peace and security.
Peacekeeping has a proven track record. Over 70 years, our peacekeepers have helped bring peace and stability to many places. From Haiti to Darfur to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Lebanon, our peacekeepers are making a real difference, every day, on the ground as they go about undertaking a wide range of tasks from protecting civilians caught in fighting, promoting human rights, or supporting elections.
2017 has been a difficult year and one not without challenges. Our men and women operate in some of the most complex and difficult places in the world, risking their lives so that others can have a better future.
In South Sudan, our peacekeepers are protecting more than 220,000 civilians in camps across the country and elsewhere as well as supporting regional political efforts to end the conflict, which has entered its fifth year and seen hundreds of thousands killed, injured and displaced.
When Blue Helmets were deployed to the Central African Republic in 2014 they helped avert genocide. Today, the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) is focusing on it core peacekeeping tasks of protecting civilians as well as supporting the peace process in a country that has seen an increase in violence this past year.
In Mali, the UN peacekeeping operation in the country, MINUSMA, remains determined to support efforts aimed at restoring lasting peace and security. The Mission\ works with the Parties to expedite the implementation of the peace agreement, so as to isolate the terrorist groups and other entities bent on undermining the peace and reconciliation process.
As a result of our presence and efforts in some of the most challenging places on earth, we have lost colleagues who have been killed or have died in the service of peace. We convey our heartfelt condolences to the families of our fallen heroes and to their Governments and thank them profusely for their sacrifices.
The collective efforts of our uniformed and civilian personnel have resulted in progress on the ground this year. We ended our operation in the Ivory Coast in June, where we have left behind a legacy of stability and peace after a presidential crisis in 2010 when some 3,000 Ivorians were killed and 300,000 became refugees. MINUSTAH, our mission in Haiti closed this October. The country has remarkable progress since MINUSTAH’s deployment 13 years ago. Kidnappings have decreased by 95% in 10 years and the Haitian National Police are now a 15,000 strong force and present in all communes. A smaller peacekeeping presence, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, is helping to strengthen security, rule of law and human rights. Similarly, our Mission in Liberia will also end in the next months after successfully delivering on its mandate.
UN Peacekeeping is also improving and modernizing to prevent and address complex conflicts and new threats. We are in the midst of a peace and security architecture reform, initiated by the Secretary-General, to ensure that we are stronger in prevention, more agile in mediation, and more nimble, effective and cost-effective in our operations. Reviews of specific peacekeeping operations have been initiated to help chart their future. These reforms are part of a broader, holistic UN reform examining management and the developmental pillars of this organization.
At the same time, we are also taking critical steps and measures to ensure we uphold the trust of the population and adopt a “victims first” approach. This involves enforcing the Secretary-General’s strategy to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, hold perpetrators accountable, and assist victims.
Our efforts are starting to bear fruit. While we still have a long way to go, as 2017 ends, we have recorded 54 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in our field missions, which is roughly half of the allegations recorded in 2016. This is a result of robust efforts put in place to train our personnel, raise awareness among communities on the risks associated to sexual exploitation and abuse, promote and enforce the zero-tolerance policy and partner with Member States in this endeavour.
This support of Member States, as ever, is imperative to the fight against sexual exploitation and abuse and to everything else that Peacekeeping does. After all, it is a collective enterprise and UN peacekeeping is at its best when it represents the world.
Over the past years, especially, countries have stepped up their support and engagement, including to help strengthen our military and police capabilities, discuss challenges that affect peacekeeping and to explore ways to solve them.
Further progress was in November made at a defence ministerial meeting in Vancouver, Canada, where we received new pledges in several areas, in particular, rapidly deployable units, innovative “smart” pledges of training and capacity-building as well as to increase the deployment of female troops and police officers.
Peacekeeping is an effective and cost-efficient tool to bring peace and stability to conflict-torn countries. As we enter 2018, we look forward to further improving our performance and strengthening our engagement with Member States and regional organizations so that we can better serve the most vulnerable people.