NEW YORK: Voicing concern over the record fatalities suffered by peacekeepers last year, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi has said that the safety and security of peacekeepers must be a collective responsibility that requires a shared approach, from understanding the ground situation to improving mandates to resourcing, planning and execution of mandates.
She made these remarks at the UN while opening a meeting as the co-chair of the Group of Troop and Police Contributing Countries. Pakistan and Morocco had set up the Group of Troop and Police Contributing Countries (TCCs) last year to facilitate an open and frank exchange of views on issues of concern to the countries contributing troops to UN Peacekeeping.
Ambassador Lodhi appreciated the report ‘Improving Security of UN Peacekeepers’ released by the UN last month, reviewing the safety and security of peacekeeping missions, especially in the wake of the unprecedented number of casualties last year.
The report was prepared for UN Secretary General António Guterres by Lt Gen Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, a retired Brazilian military officer. She welcomed and thanked the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean Pierre La Croix for agreeing to brief the meeting on the critical issue of safety and security of UN peacekeepers and give an overview of the ongoing strategic reviews of peacekeeping missions.
While briefing the meeting on the Cruz report, La Croix said the report was not only about reducing fatalities, but also about the performance of peacekeepers.
He said the report was initiated after the surge of attacks last year, when fatalities doubled. He paid tribute to the sacrifices of soldiers from TCCs and appreciated their services to international peace and security. Omar Hilale, the Moroccan ambassador to UN and the other co chair of the meeting, in his remarks said that peacekeeping needed a broader and more comprehensive approach and a long-term plan of action.
“We are confident that close cooperation and coordination with TCCs can bring considerable added value to this long-term plan and strengthen the confidence and understanding between the TCCs and the UN Secretariat,” he added.
Recalling the first casualty of 2018 of a Pakistani peacekeeper in the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ambassador Lodhi said, “Sadly, everyone in this room has been confronted with such grim news much too often.”
She said that all countries fully understand the enormity and gravity of the challenge at hand. “We also know that these threats neither weaken the resolve of TCCs to serve the cause of international peace and security nor do they diminish the efficacy of peacekeeping itself.”
The Pakistani envoy noted that over the years peacekeeping had evolved into a much more complex enterprise than initially envisaged. Peacekeepers, she said, were increasingly deployed in perilous operating environments, in uncharted territory, and even in situations where there was no peace to keep.
Raising alarm at the increase in the frequency of attacks and deliberate targeting of UN peacekeepers, Ambassador Lodhi said, “Blue helmets are frequently attacked and deliberately targeted, a phenomenon that was unheard of just a few years ago.”
“If the UN cannot protect itself, how will it be able to protect others?” Ambassador Lodhi asked and emphasised the need for consultations to bring together planners and implementers of mandates for a better understanding of the risks on the ground.
“Involving TCCs at an early stage will not only clarify things but also create better situational awareness for our troops when they are actually deployed,” she added. Calling for adequate allocation of resources, she said that at the time of deployment, resources must be allocated on the basis of a realistic assessment of gaps to effectively implement mandates.
“The mantra of doing more for less should not be at the cost of safety and security,” she added.
The briefing by under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations was attended by major troop contributing countries at the ambassador-level and was followed by a rich interactive discussion. Ambassadors of Bangladesh, Italy, Ethiopia, and Uruguay, Senegal and Indonesia and representatives of China, Guyana and Burkina Faso were among those who participated in the interactive discussion.
They appreciated Pakistan and Morocco’s initiative as timely and important. The discussion focused on several key aspects of safety and security, equipment, funding gaps, deployment preparation and training. Emphasis was also placed on the need for consultations between the Security Council, the UN Secretariat and TCCs.
Published in Daily Times, February 10th 2018.