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UN reviews peacekeeper safety

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A Chinese peacekeeper sings with local children in Juba, South Sudan. Xinhua

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) – Several member states of the United Nations on Monday called for plans to ensure the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel.

Presented during the 258th plenary meeting of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, the latest report of the secretary-general highlighted key developments in UN peacekeeping, and it also noted that the changing nature of conflict has exposed peacekeepers to high security risks.

Fatalities among uniformed peacekeepers due to acts of violence almost doubled in 2017, from 34 in 2016 to 61, the highest recorded for peacekeeping since 1994, according to the report.

The report also found that the total cost of occupational safety and health fatalities, injuries and illnesses to the organization and its peacekeeping operations was approximately $250 million a year.

On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Omar Kadiri, Morocco’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said that the killing of UN peacekeeping personnel and all acts of violence against such personnel constitute a major challenge to the credibility of UN field operations and ability of peacekeepers to carry out their mandate.

He called upon the Secretariat to ensure that adequate measures are taken to improve the physical security infrastructure of camps.

On behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN Marc-Andre Blanchard said that they strongly support a robust culture of performance evaluation and accountability throughout the UN.

The ultimate goal of strengthening performance must be to increase the overall effectiveness of peacekeeping operations, because doing so will improve the safety and security of civilians and uniformed peacekeepers alike, said Mr Blanchard.

“More attention should be paid to the safety of peacekeepers,” said Wu Haitao, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, adding that the Secretariat and the missions should formulate security rules in an integrated manner, strengthen information collection and sharing, ensure that security equipment and measures are in place, and strengthen medical ambulance capacity effectively.

According to the report of the Secretary-General, the United Nations last year made an action plan to improve the security of peacekeepers, and it is “a critical tool for fulfilling the commitment of the United Nations to ensure the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel,” and it has been “the central instrument to improve peacekeeping performance in all its critical aspects.”

To carry it out, the five peacekeeping missions with the highest fatality rates since 2013 have appointed dedicated teams to drive implementation on the ground, the report added.

The action plan includes a number of measures, such as the missions to support national authorities in prosecutions for attacks against peacekeepers, or re-examinations of missions’ deployment footprint with regard to priority locations, threat assessments, mission support and medical considerations as well as operational capacities.

“There are preliminary indications that those efforts have begun yielding fruit, but we must remain vigilant, as the threats to peacekeepers remain extremely high,” said the report.

The number of fatalities as a result of hostile acts from January to September 2018 was 43 percent lower than the figure for the same time period in 2017, and the six-month period from January to June 2018 also registered a 60 percent decrease in fatalities compared with the preceding six-month period from July to December 2017, it added.

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