Security Council Debate: UN Peacekeeping Operations

Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York

New York, 12 September 2018

Thank you very much, Madame President.

And thank you so much for putting the key issue of improving the performance of peacekeepers on our agenda. It is one of the three priorities for the Kingdom of the Netherlands during our membership of this Council.

And thank you Mr. Lacroix and Dr. Blakemore for your briefings. May I add, I was deeply impressed by the testimony of Dr. Blakemore. A testimony on criminal abuse of children by peacekeepers. It is simply unacceptable. And I think you have strengthened our common resolve to end these crimes.  

Madame President, to quote the Secretary-General: “At its best, United Nations peacekeeping is a remarkable enterprise of multilateralism and international solidarity.” But peacekeeping has its dark pages. We, in the Netherlands, know that all too well from our own history.

And also today, UN peacekeeping faces serious challenges. Let me first pay tribute to and commemorate the brave blue helmets, women and men, who gave their live for a safer world.   

Madame President, we were honored that the Secretary-General launched his Action for Peacekeeping initiative during the Dutch Presidency of this Council in March, in the presence of our Prime Minister Mark Rutte and in the presence of the Minister of Defense of Cote D’Ivoire on behalf of President Ouattara. 

We were pleased to play our role in co-facilitating the A4P Declaration together with other members of this Council. We salute the leadership of Cote D’Ivoire as chair of this Council’s Working Group of Peacekeeping and our cooperation for the PRST we adopted on the 14th of May.

Madame President, we are looking forward to the High-Level Event on peacekeeping in two weeks from now and we are heartened to see that so many countries recommit to the great enterprise of peacekeeping in such a short time. And we encourage those countries who have not yet signed up to the declaration, to do so. And I do indeed some of them present here today.

Madame President, today, we focus on a key element of the reform of UN peacekeeping: performance. In that light, I will focus on three issues:

  • Women in peacekeeping;
  • Performance and accountability;
  • Training and effective force generation.

And of course I align myself with the statement to be made later today by the European Union.

1. Women in peacekeeping

Madame President, my first point: women in peacekeeping. Increasing the number of uniformed women in peace operations is essential. And I welcome Mr. Lacroix’ personal commitment on this, as he just expressed.  

As the C34 stated in its 2017 report, the meaningful participation of women at all levels and in all pillars of a mission is key to the operational effectiveness, success and sustainability of peace processes and peacebuilding efforts. Therefore we look forward to the further development of a gender-sensitive force and police generation strategy by the Secretariat.

We welcome the development of Female Engagement Teams and efforts to institutionalize such teams in deployments by TCCs.

We also support initiatives by member states and the UN, such as the Elsie initiative and the UN-Women Female Military Officers Course. And we try to do our share, together with Spain we organize a yearly female peacekeepers course.

2. Performance and accountability

Madame President, that brings me to my second point: performance and accountability. We need a comprehensive and integrated performance policy with clear standards. That is an important basis to provide guidance and improve accountability. The same holds true for scrutiny in vetting and transparent evaluation standards.

Adherence to a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse demands our continuous attention. A part of the moral compass of peacekeepers should be the following very simple rule: there is no such thing as an equal and consensual relationship between a peacekeeper and anyone in a local community. It simply does not exist.

The Secretariat and missions can further improve data- and intel-based analysis and decision-making. For us it is obvious, it is vital to the mission and to the safety of peacekeepers to be aware of the context on a real-time basis, to be aware of security situation in their area of operations. And in asymmetric environments, peacekeeping intelligence is even more crucial, so we strongly support further development of this concept.

Excellence in duties and leadership should be rewarded. And we must continue to learn from lessons, positive and negative. We welcome the use of independent strategic reviews in this respect.

We call on the Secretariat to continue to further enhance measures to inform this Council on the planning and outcomes of such reviews.

And Madame President, we welcome your initiative for a resolution on peacekeeping and we will continue to work closely together with you and your team to ensure its maximum impact.

3. Training and force generation

Madame President, my third point: training and force generation. The Cruz report stated that the UN, mission leadership and contributing countries must change their mindset, must be willing to take risks, and must show a willingness to adapt to a new reality UN peacekeeping faces.

We fully agree. It is essential that missions possess well-trained and equipped personnel. Missions must have the right capabilities to implement the tasks mandated by this Council.

The UN must continue to refine and further develop training, so that peacekeepers can perform their tasks with confidence and with decisiveness. And the training should include special leadership modules.

The UN and its member states should do more to better coordinate training, and address specific training needs. There are more ways to strengthen the impact of peacekeeping. Let me mention innovative force generation, smart pledging, and the use of multi-annual rotation schemes.

We welcome initiatives from member states and the Secretariat to identify good practices and further improve force generation.

This Council has a specific responsibility in this context. We need to provide more tailor made solutions for the challenges faced by the men and women who risk their lives serving in peacekeeping missions to protect others.

We must do everything in our power to avoid sending blue helmets on impossible missions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Madame President, let me quote General Cruz:

“We need to change the way we are doing business”.

That is a key challenge for all of us. In order to bring safety and security to the civilians in areas where blue helmets are active.

We owe it to the civilians involved. We owe it to the children involved. We owe it to the blue helmets. And we owe it to the brave men and women who gave their life under UN command for a safer world.

Thank you very much, Madame President.

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