United Nations peacekeeping is “a tool to advance political, not military solutions to conflict,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations today, as the General Assembly subsidiary body opened its 2016 session.
Noting that existing mechanisms are not always suited to meet new challenges, he stressed the critical role the Special Committee plays in setting the direction of comprehensive reform of peace operations. “Strengthening UN peace operations is a multi-year agenda,” Eliasson said in the opening session, which was also addressed by Under-Secretaries-General Hervé Ladsous and Atul Khare, who respectively head the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and the Department of Field Support (DFS).
Eliasson said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the High-Level 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. Ban’s agenda centres on three priorities for action: strengthen conflict prevention; build more effective global and regional partnerships; and improve the planning and conduct of UN peace operations.
However, peacekeepers are operating in ever more insecure environments as extremist and criminal groups thrive from and exploit chaos and instability, he said, warning that targeted, asymmetric attacks often take place against UN peacekeepers, such as last Friday’s attack in northern Mali. Seven peacekeepers were killed, including a woman, according to Ban’s spokesman.
On the other hand, when there are cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, there must be swift accountability, he said, stressing that preying on the vulnerable is a betrayal of trust. Ladsous said that this year’s substantive session of the Special Committee comes at the heels of a pivotal year for the UN system as a whole and peacekeeping in particular. In addition to the peace operations review, the review on Security Council resolution 1325 on ‘women, peace and security,’ as well as the peacebuilding architecture review, have all made important recommendations that will contribute to the conduct of peacekeeping in the years to come.
He said he will elaborate in greater detail on DPKO’s plans to take forward the reform agenda proposed by the High Level Panel on Peace Operations, and the Secretary-General’s subsequent implementation report. Khare urged Member States to contribute more to help strengthen the safety and security of UN missions, either directly, or in cooperation with others, and bring those who kill peacekeepers to justice.
The Special Committee was established by General Assembly resolution 2006 (XIX) of 18 February 1965 to conduct a comprehensive review of all issues relating to peacekeeping. It reports to the General Assembly on its work through the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and is comprised of 147 Member States, mostly past or current contributors to peacekeeping operations.