China / World

Peacekeepers 'need help' as dangers grow

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-05-31 07:33

NEW YORK - Peacekeepers across the world are having to cope with increasingly dangerous environments and need help to do their work, according to the head of the United Nations.

In an opinion piece in The Boston Globe, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday wrote that "too often, United Nations peace operations face a gap between our goals and the means we have to achieve them."

He said peacekeepers, known as the "blue helmets" for their iconic headgear, are being increasingly targeted by extremists and groups fighting in conflict zones.

"Dealing with this near reality requires a serious strategic reform on our part, based on an analysis of the mandates and capacities of our missions and our partnerships with governments and others," he said.

Significant reforms

Guterres noted that significant reforms in peacekeeping have already reduced costs and made deployments faster and more flexible.

Peacekeeping is already "cost-effective," he said, noting that its budget is less than half of 1 percent of global military spending and shared by the 193 UN member states.

Referencing studies in the United States which show that UN peacekeeping missions are estimated to be eight times more cost-effective than when the US acts alone, Guterres wrote that "investment pays off many times over when we consider the economic growth and prosperity that follow from increased stability and security after successful peacekeeping missions."

So far, 54 missions have completed their mandates and closed, with Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia expected to do so in the coming months.

Since the first peacekeeping operation in Palestine in 1948, more than 3,500 UN staff have died in the service of peace, including 117 military, police and civilian peacekeepers from 43 countries who died in service last year.

"United Nations peacekeepers place themselves in harm's way every day, between armed groups that are trying to kill each other and to harm civilians," Guterres said.

Peace is an abstract concept, he said, but peace on the ground depends on "gruelingly hard work, every day, under difficult and dangerous conditions."

Guterres said that despite heroic efforts every day, the reputation of peacekeeping has been tarnished by "appalling" cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.

To tackle this scourge, he recently presented a plan to all governments which aims to end impunity and create victims' rights advocates at UN headquarters and in peacekeeping missions.

On May 29 in 1948, the first UN peacekeeping mission began operations in Palestine. In 2002, the UN General Assembly designated May 29 as International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

The annual commemoration was marked on Friday at the UN, where the secretary-general presided over a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of all peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving under the UN flag.


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