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Threats against peacekeepers major concern: UN Peacekeeping chief

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix has said that while the UN has made progress in dealing with these challenges, such threats are stronger than ever.

Threats against UN peacekeepers, particularly those resulting from malicious acts, is a major concern, the United Nations peacekeeping chief has said, underlining the need for better protection for the Blue Helmets.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix has said that while the UN has made progress in dealing with these challenges, such threats are stronger than ever.

“The threats against our peacekeepers and particularly the threats resulting from malicious acts, is a major concern and one that we really want to work much more on,” Mr. Lacroix told PTI in an interview.

While the number of fatalities as a result of those attacks has been on a downward trend since 2017, he reiterated that one peacekeeper killed is one too many.

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Mr. Lacroix emphasised the need to do more in terms of training, awareness of the threats, improved equipment and ability to better collect information together so that “we can prevent those threats before they fall on us” is critical to better counter the threats such as those posed by improvised explosive devices.

“How to better protect our camps against attacks, which also implies the use of technologies… medical support. So all these areas are absolutely critical to be better at countering those threats that are absolutely growing and they will continue to grow,” he said.

The UN is gearing for a crucial Peacekeeping Ministerial that will be hosted by South Korea on December 7-8.

UN Peacekeeping said that the Ministerial will “focus on achieving concrete and tangible outcomes to improve peacekeeping operations, in line with ongoing peacekeeping reform efforts, specifically Action for Peacekeeping+ (A4P+).

It will “highlight medical capacity building and technology in peacekeeping as important cross-cutting issues.” “The Ministerial will draw on the Strategy for the Digital Transformation of UN Peacekeeping and specifically articulated UN requirements for medical support, as well as discuss opportunities to improve the environmental footprint of peacekeeping,” UN Peacekeeping said.

Mr. Lacroix termed it as a “very important meeting”, the first such high-level meeting on peacekeeping since the pre-COVID-19 time.

“The first thing that we would expect from that meeting is a reaffirmation of our member states’ support to peacekeeping at a political level. That is crucially important and it is all the more important as our peacekeeping missions are facing many challenges,” he said, adding that UN peacekeepers are making a “big difference” every day in terms of prevention and protection of civilians.

“But it is clear that they’re facing a number of very daunting challenges. And I think in addition to this very important political support, what we would also expect is an expression of support to the efforts that we’re currently making… with our member states to improve the impact and effectiveness of peacekeeping,” he said.

Mr. Lacroix said that another objective of the Ministerial would be “pledges” from Member States because “we need capacities and we expect our Member States to provide us with those capacities.” He outlined the need to make more efforts to ensure better protection for peacekeepers, which he stressed is “closely interlinked with our capacities to better protect the civilians.” Further, technology expertise against mine and improvised explosive devices is also very important.

“We need to have more mobility and to be more reactive and hence, the importance of helicopters or other means to improve our mobility and quick reaction forces,” he said.

Mr. Lacroix also stressed the need to improve medical support, noting that while lot of efforts have already been made, “we need to do more.” He also highlighted the importance of more women in UN peacekeeping, saying “we consider that more women peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we need to do more.” “And finally, we need to make the best possible use of the new digital technologies that are out there because I believe that they can tremendously help us to achieve our goals,” Mr. Lacroix said.

As nations begin to emerge from COVID-19, he said a lesson learnt from the pandemic is that “you have to work collectively in addressing this kind of crisis.” “We not only elaborated joint strategies but we implemented those jointly,” Mr. Lacroix said.

Another lesson has been the “capacity to adapt,” he said, adding that this is one of the key aspects he would like to emphasise moving forward.

“The environment of our peacekeeping missions is constantly changing. You’re talking about threats, political environment, unexpected challenges such as COVID-19. So the ability to adapt and preparedness for potential crisis is key,” he added.

As of September, India is the third highest contributor of personnel to UN peacekeeping, with 5,481 troops serving in 12 UN missions across the world.

The UN Security Council, under India’s Presidency in August, had unanimously adopted two significant outcome documents on the issue of peacekeeping. The Resolution on ‘Accountability of Crimes against UN Peacekeepers’ and Presidential Statement on ‘Technology for Peacekeeping’, the first such UN Security Council document on this topic, were adopted.

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