At Seoul meeting, Guterres urges greater support for peacekeeping amid mounting threats

The United Nations

With the world now facing the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945, Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday urged countries to step up support for UN peacekeeping operations across the globe, and the thousands who serve within them.

Mr. Guterres made the appeal in remarks to the opening ceremony of the 2021 Seoul UN Peacekeeping Ministerial, hosted by the Republic of Korea.

The two-day event is the latest in a series of meetings held since 2014 aimed at improving UN field operations, stretching from the Western Sahara, to India and Pakistan.

New threats and challenges

Although there has been a notable increase in support for UN peacekeeping during this period, the Secretary-General said new threats and mounting challenges highlight the need for greater assistance.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and geopolitical tensions mean conflicts are more complex and prolonged. Peacekeeping has never been more relevant and its success more urgent,” he said in a video message.

The Seoul meeting is in line with efforts to reform UN peacekeeping, particularly the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative launched three years ago by the Secretary-General.

A4P encompasses eight priority areas, such as protection, partnerships, and performance and accountability. This past March, it was enhanced through a strategy known as A4P+ to accelerate commitments over the next two years.

Addressing critical gaps

Previous Ministerials have examined issues related to generating and enhancing uniformed capabilities, including the need to deploy more women ‘blue helmets’. This time, the focus is on medical capacity building and technology.

UN peacekeeping missions continue to face significant gaps in aviation and high-tech capabilities, said the Secretary-General. He gave examples from countries such as Mali, where helicopters and medical evacuation teams are urgently needed, given the vast and inaccessible terrain.

“We need your partnership, to ensure that we are deploying well-trained troops with the appropriate equipment,” he added. “Too often, uniformed peacekeepers lack the skills to administer first aid, to plan and undertake a patrol, or to assess information and identify threats.”

The UN chief also called for support to prevent and address misconduct, particularly sexual exploitation and abuse, among other areas for action.

Countries pledge support

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong noted that as technology advances and becomes more affordable to warring parties, the operating environment for peacekeeping missions has in turn become increasingly complex and high-risk.

“It is essential to leverage the necessary technological tools and medical support as well as provide proper training in order to prepare our peacekeepers to meet the growing challenges, better deliver on their mandates, and protect themselves,” he said.

Mr. Chung announced the launch of the Seoul Initiative on Technology and Medical Capacity-Building in Peacekeeping, one of a raft of pledges made by countries during the first day of the meeting.

Promoting gender parity

Following the opening ceremony, senior UN and government officials held two panel discussions: one on the issue of Sustaining Peace and the other looking at Partnerships, Training, and Capacity Building.

Atul Khare, head of the UN Department of Operational Support, spoke of additional critical aspects for peacekeeping. “We are redoubling our efforts to reduce missions’ environmental footprint and need your support by deploying units with renewable energy,” he told the session on partnerships.

Action on gender equality continues to be a priority, and Mr. Khare pointed to examples such as the Senior Women Talent Pipeline, a programme that promotes gender parity at senior levels in peacekeeping operations, as well as initiatives to increase women peacekeepers and make camps more suitable for them.

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