NewsPeacekeeping is profitable, but it must adapt to the...

Peacekeeping is profitable, but it must adapt to the new reality

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In January, when I first entered the United Nations Secretariat building as Secretary-General, my first act was to lay a wreath in honor of the more than 3,500 United Nations staff who have given their lives in the service of the peace.

Later that week, two peacekeepers were killed in the Central African Republic, where they were working to prevent violent clashes between communities from escalating into mass murder. United Nations peacekeepers experience danger every day, among armed groups trying to kill each other or harass civilians.

           Over the past 70 years, thanks to United Nations peacekeeping operations, countless lives have been saved and improved; untold numbers of war-torn families have been able to start over. Independent studies have shown the value of peacekeeping operations: they prevent the spread of violence and typically reduce civilian deaths by more than 90% compared to pre-deployment figures.

           We also know that peacekeeping pays off. The United Nations peacekeeping budget is less than half of 1% of global military spending, and is spread among the 193 United Nations Member States. In the United States of America, studies have shown that United Nations peacekeeping missions are approximately 8 times more profitable than individual US actions. The benefits of that investment are multiplied when we consider the economic growth and prosperity that come from increased stability and security following successful peacekeeping missions.

           In our interconnected world, the rise of global terrorism means that instability anywhere is a threat across the globe. United Nations peacekeeping operations are at the forefront of our efforts to prevent the emergence of lawless regions that can foster insecurity, transnational crime and extremism. They are an investment in world peace, security and prosperity.

           Our missions have contributed to a legacy of stability, development, and economic growth from El Salvador to Namibia, and from Mozambique to Cambodia. Fifty-four missions have completed their mandates and have been closed; Two more will be added in the coming months, in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.

           While we must admit that United Nations peacekeeping efforts have problems and limitations, we must also acknowledge the successes of our mission for peace.

           Two years ago, when peacekeeping forces arrived in the Central African Republic, the threat of genocide hung over the country. Today, that country has elected a new Government in a peaceful and democratic process and is striving to advance towards peace and stability, disarmament and the rule of law. Our mission, MINUSCA, offers crucial support to reduce the risk posed by armed groups, despite which the situation is still very complex. It is frightening to imagine what the tragic outcome would have been if the peacekeepers had not been present.

           In South Sudan, United Nations peacekeeping forces are sheltering more than 200,000 civilians who fled their homes destroyed in fighting. Now, with famine looming over the country, peacekeepers provide the security humanitarian agencies need to provide vital assistance.

           Peace in the world, as a concept, may seem like something very abstract, but peace on the ground depends on tremendously self-sacrificing work that continues day after day, in circumstances that are as difficult as they are dangerous. The world trusts United Nations peacekeepers, who are there where no one else can or wants to be, despite the many obstacles that stand in the way.

           In United Nations peace operations we all too often find a gap between our objectives and the means they have to achieve them. On many occasions we deploy peacekeeping forces in areas where the parties to the conflict show little commitment to peace. In fact, our missions are increasingly being targeted by warring parties and violent extremists.

           These new circumstances require a serious strategic reform on our part, based on an analysis of the mandates, the capacity of our missions and our alliances with governments and other actors. We have to adapt peace operations to the dangerous and complex environment that exists today.

           We have already introduced some reforms that have substantially reduced costs and given us more flexibility to deploy peacekeeping forces on shorter timescales, but much remains to be done. I am determined to work with Governments, regional organizations and other partners to ensure that peacekeeping operations have the tools and regulations they need.

           In recent years, the reputation of United Nations peacekeeping missions has been tarnished by unfortunate cases of sexual exploitation and abuse that constitute a denigrating violation of all our values. The entire United Nations system considers eradicating this scourge a priority. I have presented a plan to all Member States whose objective is to end impunity, and by virtue of which posts for defenders of the rights of victims will be created, both in our peacekeeping missions and in the offices of the United Nations United. I intend to involve world leaders in this initiative.

           When people around the world, from New York to New Delhi, from Cairo to Cape Town, are asked their priorities, the answer is always the same: they want security and tranquility, they want to raise their children in peace and give them the education and opportunities they need to build a future.

                The United Nations peacekeeping forces are one of the tools at our disposal to contribute to that universal aspiration and to make the world safer for all.  

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