Secretary-General, Opening General Assembly Debate, Outlines Action Agenda That Places Prevention, Capabilities, Partnerships at Core of Peace Operations
I thank the President of the General Assembly for bringing us together for an especially timely debate on how best to strengthen United Nations peace operations.
In recent years, all of us have grown deeply concerned about the escalating challenges confronting UN peace operations — both peacekeeping and special political missions.
One year ago today, I appointed an eminent panel to assess our operations and suggest ways to meet these tests.
President Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste, with wide-ranging national and UN experience, was uniquely suited to lead this effort. Ms. Ameerah Haq, who served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and also as Vice Chair of this panel, has also had extensive exposure to the realities the United Nations faces in the field. I am very pleased that both are with us today.
The task was ambitious and the time was short. Yet the Panel delivered a report that was wise and bold, and reflects the results of consultations with diverse stakeholders in every region of the world.
I thank the Panel for its outstanding service on behalf of all those around the world living under the threat or the reality of conflict.
Last month, I submitted to you my implementation report. It conveys my strong support for the Panel’s recommendations and identifies those areas where I believe we can move forward immediately.
My report calls on the General Assembly and the Security Council to consider a number of important recommendations directed at Member States and which I fully endorse.
It deliberately leaves some of the structural proposals to my successor, but I wholeheartedly support the need for these changes to be given serious consideration.
UN peace operations are a global instrument. Making them fit for purpose is a collective responsibility. I hope that today will mark the start of early and concerted action to strengthen a set of vital tools at a time when they are most in need.
The historic adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals last month underscores a long-standing truth: there will be no peace without development, no development without peace, and neither without respect for human rights.
The case for renewed investment in UN peace operations is urgent and clear. We are living in a time of global turmoil. Large-scale conflicts have tripled since 2008. More than 60 million people have been forcibly displaced, the most since the Second World War. Violent extremism is on the rise.
I fully endorse the Panel’s call for a focus on politics, people and partnership.
UN peace operations are political tools. Their objective is to pursue and sustain negotiated political settlements. They cannot substitute for a clear political strategy to bring an end to conflict. Nor should they be used to give the appearance of action, or given mandates without the means; peace operations must be used responsibly.
UN peace operations must be judged by their impact on people. They must make every effort to protect civilians and defend the rights of people in conflict. And they must never abuse that trust.
The United Nations cannot tackle today’s challenges alone. We must strengthen partnerships to meet the growing complexity of conflict.
In my report, I set out an agenda for action to translate these priorities into concrete steps over the next 18 months.
First, we need to bring prevention and mediation to the centre of international peace and security. Early action saves lives and money. Effective prevention and mediation keeps politics at the fore. As the toll of human lives rises, and humanitarian needs and costs escalate dramatically, I am calling for a concerted prevention agenda that makes greater use of the full range of tools, including my good offices.
Second, we need to change the way we plan and conduct UN peace operations. We need to become faster and more agile in limiting the spread of violence and seizing opportunities to resolve conflict. We need to move away from “template” approaches towards more targeted efforts, with mandates tailored to specific demands on the ground. We need a shared understanding of the tasks involved between the Security Council and troop- and police-contributing countries. And we need to work hand in hand with national actors and local communities.
We also need capabilities — uniformed and civilian — that can deploy quickly and operate effectively in challenging environments. We must ensure that administrative procedures are systematically configured to support dynamic field environments. I thank those Member States that came forward with commitments of scarce and valuable resources at the Summit on Peacekeeping on 28 September. This is a significant step forward in equipping UN peacekeeping operations for today and tomorrow.
UN personnel — civilian and uniformed — must always uphold the highest standards of conduct, and be held accountable when they do not. It is shameful that this has not always been the case. We must work together to eliminate the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse, which tarnishes the reputation of the United Nations and detracts from the contributions of so many brave men and women.
We must also do everything in our power to enhance the safety and security of our personnel. These courageous men and women often work in difficult and dangerous conditions to help make the world a better place. We should do our utmost to keep them safe.
Third, we need stronger and more partnerships. Effective peace operations are those in which multiple actors — UN bodies, troop and police contributors, regional organizations, host counties and others — pull together and take advantage of each other’s strengths. Each partnership will be distinct, reflecting the overall strategy and the specific demands.
In our partnerships with regional organizations, we will aim to prioritize standing arrangements for early consultation and rapid response, including bridging arrangements. The African Union is bearing an increasingly heavy burden, along with several of the continent’s subregional organizations. It is time to take UN-AU (United Nations-African Union) ties to a new level, including through predictable and sustainable financing for AU peace operations. We must also deepen our ties with the European Union and other organizations that can contribute.
UN peace operations are an essential tool. But they are not the only international tool.
I welcome the ongoing intergovernmental reviews of peacebuilding and implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. My report has drawn on these reviews and identified links among them. There is far more we can do to sustain peace and help post-conflict societies avoid a relapse in to violent conflict. And despite important gains in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, we have still not done enough to involve women in peace processes and other decision-making processes.
The World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 in Istanbul is a further piece of the picture. This will be an opportunity to reinforce our common endeavour to save lives, and prevent and alleviate suffering.
Taken together, these efforts can enable us to renew the instruments of the United Nations.
We do not have many opportunities to reform UN peace operations comprehensively. The last such major effort was fifteen years ago. Yet we all understand how much the world has changed during that time. It is essential that we act urgently and collectively — and not wait, as in the past, for crisis or tragedy to propel reform. I stand ready to work with you in the months ahead.
Thank you for your presence here today. Let our actions speak louder than our words on behalf of the people around the world who look to us for leadership and support.