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Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate on UN Peacekeeping Operations


Statement delivered by Sweden's Minister for Policy Coordination and Energy, Ibrahim Balyan on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Collective action to improve UN peacekeeping operations: Supporting greater impact and performance in today’s complex and high-risk Environments, 28 March 2018, New York.

Thank you for giving me the floor. Let me begin by thanking the Secretary-General, the AU Commission Chairperson and Ms Fatimata Touré for your strong testimony on what this all about and the important perspectives on the issues we are here today to discuss. Let me also thank you, Mr President, for offering a platform for today's discussion. I would like to align myself with the statement to be delivered later this morning on behalf of the Nordic countries.

Mr President,

Never has the world been in greater need of effective peacekeeping, and never have the challenges peacekeepers encounter been more complex, or more immense. Consequently, it has never been more important for United Nations' peace operations to be optimally configured to deliver for peace and security and to meet the challenges of the day.

In recent years, important and thorough reviews have been conducted, seeking to adapt UN peace operations in light of changing conflict dynamics and limited resources. Yet progress on implementation has been limited. We welcome renewed efforts, spearheaded by the Secretary-General, to strengthen global partnerships for peacekeeping; and to move from policy to practice, and from words to action, we need more action. Otherwise we will not make peace operations fit for the 21st century.

We must strive to ensure that the UN as a whole is able to engage early, flexibly and effectively across the conflict spectrum. This is essential if we are to be able to deliver on our ultimate goal of peace, security and sustainable development. We stand firmly behind the Secretary-General's reform agenda, putting prevention and sustaining peace at the heart of our efforts.

Peacekeeping is one of the instruments available in this regard. And effective and efficient peacekeeping can reduce the costs of human suffering – and save resources in the long run. Our guiding principle must be to make the most possible difference in the field, on the ground.

Mr President,

Sweden has a long and broad history in UN peacekeeping operations. Since 1948, when the first observers were sent to UNTSO, more than 80.000 Swedish women and men have participated in UN peace operations. Sweden currently deploys about 350 military, police, correction officers and civilians to UN peacekeeping and contributes approximately 70 million USD to UN peacekeeping operations per year.

In 2014, Sweden reinforced our contribution to UN peacekeeping through our contribution to MINUSMA in Mali. Drawing on this experience, I would like to raise three points in particular that we believe would contribute to more effective peacekeeping.

Firstly, let us ensure that we can make informed decisions. The purpose of today's debate is to clarify the responsibilities of each and every actor involved in peacekeeping. To assume these responsibilities and make informed decisions, we need the relevant facts. The Security Council should be provided with information on options and trade-offs between mission tasks, costs, safety and security, and resources ahead of mandate renewals and significant changes in operational environments. And we always need to apply a gender perspective and a whole-of-mission approach and make sure that gender-disaggregated data is available. Integrated analysis should also guide the force generation process. Reporting on risks and underperformance, in particular related to the protection of civilians, has to be coherent and systematic. We need to encourage and find models for frank dialogue in this regard, bringing together all the relevant actors.

Secondly, visions and mandates need to be translated into results on the ground. Peace operations must be integrated and fit for purpose. Three aspects are particularly important in this regard: situational awareness, adequate leadership and the performance of troops.

In our own experience from MINUSMA, peacekeeping intelligence is vital, just like the President highlighted, to ensure informed decisions and operational planning. Joint analysis and information-sharing need to be systemised from the outset of a mission in order to contribute to more effective protection of civilians and UN personnel. It is also crucial that missions are able and ready to act on the information and early warnings that they receive. This leads me to the issue of leadership.

The Secretary-General's reform agenda foresees greater delegation of authority to the field. This, together with the multidimensional nature of peace operations, requires well-prepared and cohesive leadership with clarity of roles in crisis management situations. Current selection processes for senior mission leadership should be reviewed and joint training of management teams enhanced – encompassing both civilian, military and police components.

The legitimacy of peacekeeping depends on the performance and accountability of troops. We all have responsibilities in this regard. Uniformed units must have the right training, skills and equipment to be able to protect civilians – and themselves – and to deliver on mandates in accordance with applicable law. To achieve this, we need to hold TCCs accountable, support capacity-building with mobile training teams, and focus on training headquarters' staff and on the selection of qualified staff officers.

The sexual exploitation and abuse of the most vulnerable people by those sent to protect them is a despicable act. We strongly support ongoing efforts to prevent and combat sexual exploitation and abuse within the UN system. However, more can – and must be – done, including ensuring that all perpetrators are held to account. The Secretary-General's proposed measures must now be properly implemented so that zero tolerance of sexual harassment becomes a reality. This is crucial to maintaining the legitimacy of peacekeeping.

Thirdly, peace is best pursued in partnership. With regional organisations actively engaged in political processes and security efforts in UN mission settings, strategic coherence is a prerequisite for success. Our interventions should be based on a joint political strategy, clarifying roles, end states and mandates. Training and capacity-building, counter-terrorism operations and the fight against human trafficking and organised crime also need to be part of the dialogue with partners.

In addition, frank discussions should characterise our relations with host nations, before and during deployment of missions. We need the political will to be open and transparent on mission's performance – and the courage to continuously ask ourselves how we can do better, and to act when we can.

Mr President,

Let me end on a positive note. Even if there are many challenges ahead of us that only can be solved by all of us together, the Security Council, the Secretariat, Troop Contributing Countries and Host Nations, we have seen success in Peacekeeping Missions. The mission in Liberia, which is closing after 15 years, is a powerful example of the positive contribution that peacekeeping can bring by supporting national efforts to build sustainable peace and stability. Careful and early planning for the transition across the whole of the UN, including through the PBC, has also laid the foundation for these gains to be sustained into the future. A long term commitment and adequate support and funding are needed to ensure that this is possible. We must learn from these success stories.

Former Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, once said: "The concept of loyalty is distorted when it is understood to mean blind acceptance. It is correctly interpreted when it is assumed to cover honest criticism". That is our main message today: our loyalty to, and trust in, UN peacekeeping remain firm. But our loyalty requires us to continue to critically assess and review our respective roles and responsibilities. Mr President and Mr Secretary-General, we must move from talk to that action that as we have agreed to so many times.

Thank you.


Lisa Laskaridis
Head of Press and Communication, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
Phone +1 212 583 2543
Mobile +1 917 239 0941
email to Lisa Laskaridis