UN chief urges strengthened peacekeeping in Africa

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on the international community to strengthen cooperation and commitment to peacekeeping in Africa, the region, which hosts half of all ongoing missions in the world.

Guterres, during an open debate held at the Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York, cited the “encouraging progress” achieved by UN peacekeeping operations in Africa.

Currently, half of all peacekeeping missions – seven out of 14 – and four in five UN peacekeepers – known as ‘blue helmets’ – are based in Africa.

In addition, African nations provide nearly half of peacekeepers deployed worldwide, including almost two thirds of all women peacekeepers, and the majority of UN police officers.

Guterres explained that “peacekeeping in Africa continues to present some of our greatest challenges.

“United Nations missions are carrying out complex operations with multidimensional mandates in extremely dangerous environments”.

The UN chief cited transnational crime, non-State armed groups and terrorist groups, who sometimes target peacekeepers directly.

Guterres paid tribute to all peacekeepers that had fallen in the line of duty, and to the eight African blue helmets stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who were killed last week.

The UN chief said the peacekeepers were killed while trying to “prevent an attack on the town of Beni” and “create a safe environment for those working to end the Ebola outbreak there”.

“Peacekeeping is a remarkable exercise in global solidarity. United Nations peacekeepers are ready to pay the ultimate price for peace, and we are all in their debt,” he said.

The Secretary-General cited Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire as two examples of missions that were able to close because they had been successful.

He highlighted how instrumental the operations in DRC, Mali, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Sudan’s Darfur region, were to the respective ongoing political stabilisation processes and peacebuilding efforts.

He praised the “excellent cooperation” at the “highest levels” between the UN and the African Union for all those missions to carry out their mandates successfully.

The cooperation includes through the two Joint UN-AU Frameworks, on Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, and on the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Our partnership with the African Union and African Member States is vital to our collective efforts for peace, and we must continue working to strengthen it.

“We are working closely with the AU on joint planning for the mandating of their peace support operations, and on legal and human rights compliance frameworks,” Guterres stated.

The UN chief noted that he was encouraged by African support for his Action for Peacekeeping initiative, launched earlier this year, and signed by 42 African governments to date.

The initiative aims to mobilise all partners and stakeholders to refocus peacekeeping around more realistic mandates; make peacekeeping missions stronger and safer; and to mobilise greater collective support for political solutions, and for well-equipped and well-trained troops.

“But as I have told this Council before, we need to understand that UN peacekeeping has limits.

“We face more and more situations where we need peace-enforcement and counter-terrorism operations that can only be carried out by our partners – namely, the African Union and various subregional configurations.”

He said “it is essential that African-led peace operations acting under the Security Council’s authority are provided with strong mandates and predictable, sustainable and flexible finance, including through UN assessed contributions where appropriate”.

The UN chief stressed: “In our interconnected age, security challenges on one continent present a risk to the whole world.

“The factors that drive conflict in Africa – including poverty, youth unemployment, climate change, competition for resources, and transnational crime – threaten global security.

“Improving the impact and effectiveness of peacekeeping in Africa is a collective responsibility.”