Today, UN peacekeepers — almost 100,000 people serving in 14 missions in different parts of the world — need serious support. Having honored the memory of those who died while serving, UN head Antonio Guterres stressed that peacekeepers are faced with more and more complex and dangerous tasks, but they must be realistic and supported by financial and political support.
On the eve of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, the Secretary General proudly recalled that thanks to the dedication of the "Blue Helmets" sent to UN missions from 120 states, tens of millions of people receive help and protection.
Since 1948, when the first peacekeeping mission was established, over a million people, both men and women, have served under the UN flag. 3,800 military, police and civilian personnel never returned home. Last year, 98 peacekeepers from 36 countries were killed. Missions in Mali, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have become the most dangerous for blue helmets in the entire history of peacekeeping.
After laying a wreath at the Memorial of the Fallen Peacekeepers, the Secretary General said that ensuring the safety of the staff of peacekeeping missions is the most important task for him. “Our peacekeepers need to be better prepared, they need more modern technical equipment, they need to set more realistic tasks and provide financial and political support,” said António Guterres.
He noted that today the mandate of peacekeepers is diverse and goes beyond peacekeeping. And the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, stressed that even in such difficult conditions, “blue helmets” courageously perform their tasks every day and save lives, for example, in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
But in order for them to continue to effectively fulfill their mandate in safe conditions, peacekeepers need financial support. It is no secret that the UN member states have lately delayed the payment of contributions both to the regular and to the peacekeeping budget, including the largest payer, the United States. Answering a journalist’s question at a press briefing on Friday, Lacroix explained that the more countries have a debt, the more difficult it is for the UN to carry out peacekeeping operations.
“First of all, we need to pay salaries, then we have to pay suppliers, and to compensate for the costs of the countries that sent troops,” the UN “main peacemaker” explained. “So, when there is no money in the budget, first of all the countries that provide military and policemen suffer, because they need funds to equip and train the contingent, and this also affects the effectiveness of the peacekeepers that the UN member states expect from them” . According to Lacroix, it is also necessary to understand that peacekeepers today have to act in a completely different situation, which dictates new demands than before.
“Every peacemaker and, especially, every leader must be aware that they are in real danger, that they will have to find themselves in difficult situations that threaten the lives of the civilian population and their own. So, first of all, the perception of peacemaking needs to be changed, but in addition, they need equipment and adequate training, ”said Lacroix.
Last year, the Secretary-General came up with a new initiative, “Peacekeeping Actions”, which provides for the reorientation of peacekeeping activities in accordance with realistic expectations; strengthening and enhancing the security of peacekeeping missions and mobilizing more powerful political support, as well as improving the structure and equipment of peacekeeping operations and the preparation of blue helmets. The declaration on joint commitments in this area was approved by more than 150 Member States and regional organizations.
May 29 is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers. The first UN peacekeeping mission was established on May 29, 1948, when the Security Council authorized the deployment of a small contingent of UN military observers in the Middle East, from which the United Nations Armistice Observatory was formed to monitor the implementation of the Armistice Agreement between Israel and neighboring Arab countries. Since then, the UN has conducted 72 peacekeeping operations - from Cambodia to El Salvador, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and other countries.