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National statements

Peacekeeping Operations: New Trends

Thematic issues

  • Justice
  • Mali
  • Peace and Security
  • Peacekeeping
  • Protection of Civilians
  • Regional Organisations
  • Rule of Law
  • Sanctions
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Women


Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Thank you, Mr President, for convening this important debate. We thank the Secretary-General Ban for his briefing and for his tireless efforts to build a flexible and sustainable UN peacekeeping force able to respond not only to the challenges of today, but to anticipate those of the future.

Peacekeeping is at the very core of the United Nations. We are all indebted to those who have served as UN peacekeepers. My country acknowledges the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in the pursuit of this cause.

Over the past seven decades, one million "Blue Helmets" have deployed in over 70 operations across four continents, serving with distinction to prevent the outbreak of conflict, manage and contain violence and support countries to build peace after conflict.

As we have heard this morning, including from the Secretary-General, much has changed over the years in terms of the context for UN peacekeeping operations. Yet the essential purpose of peacekeeping has remained the same – as have many of the means peacekeepers employ to achieve their purpose. Take, for example, the proactive use of force. The UN has a history of using offensive action to counter threats. The solemn phrase "by all necessary means" has featured in mandates over many years as a powerful statement of this Council's intent to uphold international peace and security.

As the Ambassador of Jordan has just referenced, as far back as 1961, the UN Organisation in the Congo launched offensive operations against Katangese forces. One could argue that this was the genesis of multidimensional peacekeeping. In Sierra Leone in 2000, UNAMSIL troops engaged in combat operations against the Revolutionary United Front. Special forces, artillery and attack helicopters were used in that operation – the same capabilities MONUSCO's Force Intervention Brigade is employing to excellent effect in the DRC today, with strong support from this Council.

The protection of civilians is now rightfully established as a central tenet of UN peacekeeping, reflected in the fact that the majority of this Council's peacekeeping missions are clearly and specifically mandated to protect civilians. The Secretary-General's pronouncement in April that UN peacekeepers should not wait for instruction from headquarters before taking action to protect civilians was an unambiguous directive affirming the need for proactive force measures for this specific purpose. We must all now work to ensure that the intent of the Council, and the commitment of the Secretary-General, are operationalised effectively to the benefit of the civilians who require protection.

One of the most pronounced new peacekeeping trends in recent years has been the inexorable growth in the demand for peacekeeping. Today, its scale and size is unprecedented. A record number of UN military, police and civilian personnel are serving on more missions than ever before, deploying to vast, remote and volatile environments where increasingly they confront non-state actors employing deadly unconventional tactics; and where, as the Secretary-General has said, there is in fact no peace to keep and the risk of violence reoccurring is constant.

Yet public expectations are increasing about what peacekeeping can achieve. Scrutiny of peacekeeping effectiveness has never been more acute; the drive for efficiency never more pressing. So as we mobilise to confront these challenges, we must commit ourselves to adapt, innovate and continually improve.

We must strengthen our capacity to deploy rapidly where the lives of civilians are at risk. Facing uncertainty, missions should be planned in a more flexible and iterative manner. By prioritising mandate elements and sequencing tasks using benchmarks we can better meet mission objectives. Recent experiences in Mali and South Sudan show that we need to improve planning and mission support, whether generating fresh troops or through inter-mission cooperation.

We must continue to strengthen ties with regional and sub-regional organisations whose member states are so often the first responders when conflict erupts. And we welcome Rwanda's advice we will have an opportunity to examine this in more detail next month.

We must embrace new technologies in support of peacekeeping. Unarmed Unmanned Aerial Systems providing intelligence day and night have been crucial in helping MONUSCO neutralise armed groups preying on civilians in the DRC. And simple measures such as installing perimeter lighting and cameras around UN bases can free up personnel from static security tasks so they may increase active patrolling, expanding further their protective footprint.

These cost-effective enablers won't lessen the demand for boots on the ground or for other air assets in the sky. Rather, they allow those in the field to achieve their mandates in a safer, more effective and efficient manner. We encourage the Secretary-General to deploy these resources as he sees fit to meet the needs of each mission. And we must all work collaboratively with the new UN Expert Panel examining how other technologies can be leveraged to support peacekeeping.

Of course, technologies only augment human capacity. So we must redouble our efforts to improve training to better prepare personnel to conduct mission tasks and to confront the risks they face.

Ultimately, peacekeeping will only ever be a band-aid measure without a stable peace. This is where the coordination of peacekeeping and other Council instruments is so crucial. The now-routine partnering of peacekeeping with preventive and protective sanctions measures, such as arms embargoes, is a vital factor in mitigating conflict and preserving the space for post-conflict reconstruction. We also must not lose sight of the importance of the civilian side of peacekeeping to help build national capacities to address local problems. Done effectively, security sector reform; DDR, reform of justice and rule of law institutions can be the glue that binds a nation in the post-conflict phase.

The doubling of the number of UN police authorised by this Council over the past decade reflects a growing recognition that strengthening the rule of law is the basis for lasting stability and security. UN police are performing ever-expanding roles from combating sexual violence and transnational crime to engaging communities to prevent conflict. We believe the role of police in peacekeeping is something the Council should examine in a more systematic way.

To conclude, Mr President, we must all see today's debate as an opportunity to take stock, revisit our assumptions, and question current practices in peacekeeping. Collectively, as the peacekeeping partnership, we must resolve to heed the lessons learned and we need to continually refine our approach. We owe this to the men and women who serve as UN peacekeepers and the many people they protect in our name.

Thank you, Mr President.

Last Updated: 10 June 2015
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