Peacekeeping is 70 years old!
This year, we celebrated our 70th birthday. Over the past 7 decades, more than one million men and women have served proudly under the UN flag in more than 70 UN peacekeeping operations. Today, more than 100,000 military, police and civilian personnel from 125 countries continue to serve in 14 peacekeeping operations across four continents.
UN peacekeepers have long been the best chance for peace for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Their service and sacrifice–frequently under harsh and dangerous conditions–has made the Blue Helmet a symbol of hope to millions of people. These brave women and men come from different countries, cultures and backgrounds, but share a common purpose to improve lives and to further peace wherever they serve. We thank them, their families, and the governments who contribute uniformed personnel to all UN peace operations.
We have a proven track record. Over 70 years, our peacekeepers have helped bring peace and stability to many places, from Timor Leste to Angola, from El Salvador to Cambodia. The UN is now making plans for the drawdown of operations in Darfur and the closure of the mission in Haiti, as signs of stability and increased national capacity are visible.
This year also marked the end of 25 years of UN peacekeeping in the Mano River Basin sub-region of West Africa, a region that was torn apart by a series of brutal civil wars that gravely destabilised Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d'Ivoire. Between 1993 and 2018, UN peacekeeping operations in these three countries have supported the disarmament of approximately quarter million armed combatants and secured more than 75,000 weapons along with millions of rounds of ammunition. The gradual end of hostilities across the sub-region allowed the majority of the more than 3.5 million displaced people to return home and rebuild their lives.
Peacekeeping works. Our successes also come at a high cost. With operations in some of the world’s most challenging environments, peacekeepers face considerable risks. Since 1948, more than 3,500 personnel have lost their lives serving for peace, including 943 killed by violence. Since 2013, casualties have spiked, with over 200 deaths resulting from violent attacks over the last five years. This figure is higher than any other five-year period in the UN’s history.
Peacekeeping has renewed its political and global support
More than 150 countries and four regional organisations have endorsed in September 2018 the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative. This is a concerted effort at improving UN peacekeeping to make sure that it is fit for purpose and well equipped to meet today’s challenges.
UN peacekeeping is a remarkable enterprise of multilateralism and international solidarity. Action by the Secretariat alone is not enough to meet the challenges we face. —Secretary-General António Guterres
The 45 shared commitments defined in the A4P Declaration call for a strong, collective action on three main areas: refocusing peacekeeping with realistic expectations; making peacekeeping missions stronger and safer; mobilizing greater support for political solutions and for well-structured, well-equipped, well-trained forces. Our collective success will depend on every partner playing their role with unyielding commitment. This includes the UN Secretariat, the Security Council, troop and police contributors, regional organisations, host governments and financial contributors. We all must deliver on these shared commitments.
Peacekeeping is constantly improving
From the reform of the UN Peace and Security Pillar to the expansion of the Triangular Partnership Project and the ongoing implementation of the Gender Parity Strategy, UN Peacekeeping is adapting and answering the recommendations that have emerged from independent comprehensive reviews of our operations.
We recently commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Semuliki attack that occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 7 December 2017, which claimed the lives of 15 UN peacekeepers from Tanzania and wounded another 53. This was the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in recent history. In response to this alarming trend, we have put forward in 2018 an Action Plan to Improve the Security of Peacekeepers and are implementing a series of new measures to improve the safety of all our personnel.
We also launched in 2018 a sensitisation campaign to support our ongoing efforts to put an end to the occurrence of sexual exploitation and abuse by personnel. The campaign is accompanied by community projects that offer support for victims in collaboration with local organisations. These projects are supported by the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Together, with member states, we are sending the clear message that there is zero tolerance for misconduct in our ranks and that we have a shared responsibility to assure the honouring of our UN values.
Peacekeeping highlights in 2018
The 45 shared commitments defined in the A4P Declaration are a roadmap to meeting our biggest challenges through strong, collective action focused on three main areas: refocusing peacekeeping with realistic expectations; making peacekeeping missions stronger and safer; mobilizing greater support for political solutions and for well-structured, well-equipped, well-trained forces. Our collective success will depend on every partner playing their role with unyielding commitment. This includes the UN Secretariat, the Security Council, troop and police contributors, regional organisations, host governments and financial contributors. We all must deliver on these shared commitments.
Dear peacekeepers, you have demonstrated that you are capable of all forms of sacrifice. For many of your colleagues, this has meant the supreme sacrifice of giving their lives… I want to thank you very much for this effort, these sacrifices, to pay tribute to you, and to say how proud I am to work with you. As peacekeepers, you are the foremost symbol of the United Nations itself. —Secretary-General António Guterres
In Mali, and across neighbouring borders in the Sahel region, UN Peacekeeping with the support of the international community, which pledged more than USD$500 million to support the regional G5 Sahel Force operating across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, supports regional efforts to restore stability in the Sahel, where critical security and governance challenges remain. Together with the African Union, MINUSMA and many UN agencies continue to work with partners for lasting peace and to strengthen security and promote development for the many communities affected by transnational crime and terrorism in the region.
Our peacekeeping operation in Mali also supported presidential elections this year, which marked an important milestone to the re-establishment of stability in the country. MINUSMA provided many forms of support to that process: electoral support and security, including the preparation and dispatching of electoral materials, security support, as well as sensitization outreach activities promoting the participation of women, transportation, and training of electoral observers. Despite some isolated acts of violence, the outcome of that election has resulted in a clear political mandate for the Government, which will contribute to the improvement of peace and security in the country.
In South Sudan, nearly 1,000 child soldiers have been officially released by armed groups and reintegrated into their communities throughout the year. Thanks to the support of UNMISS and UNICEF, these children are given a chance at the life they deserve. A renewed peace agreement was also signed between the Government and rebel leaders giving hope that the conflict, which has cost more than 50,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people across the country, will give way to lasting peace.
In the Central African Republic, MINUSCA supported national Forces in their ability to effectively deploy outside of the capital, helping protect communities from violent acts of armed groups. Following many years of conflict, the establishment of the Special Criminal Court in CAR now offers victims of violence a means to gain justice. The court has officially began carrying out investigations into human rights violations which will hopefully put an end to impunity for such crimes and pave the way to lasting peace.
With the waning of fighting in Syria, UNDOF was able to reopen the Quneitra crossing after four years of closure due to the war. Located in the Golan, this crossing, controlled by UN peacekeepers, is the only access point between Syria and Israel. Now open, the crossing represents an important milestone in the improvement of peace and security in the area.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO is working together with the Government and partners to improve security, set up bases and establish Ebola treatment facilities in support of the Ebola outbreak response. There have been more than 500 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola since August in the country with more than 300 deaths to date. UN peacekeepers are working hard to improve the security situation, allowing health workers access to remote communities, as attacks by armed groups have become more frequent. The challenges are great as the UN tries to contain the Ebola outbreak and help those in need, containing the epidemic to prevent much higher loss of life.
We thank all of you, the supporters of UN peacekeeping for your ongoing advocacy. We cannot achieve our goals alone, we all have a part to play into making our world peaceful.