Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Briefing on Peacekeeping Operations, June 20, 2012
Thank you, Mr. President. First let me thank all of the Force Commanders, as well as the men and women under their command, for their service and dedication. You have our strong support for the work that you and all peacekeepers are doing for the cause of international peace and security. The tragic deaths only 12 days ago of seven Nigerien peacekeepers in the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire remind us yet again of the dangerous and difficult circumstances in which UN peacekeepers operate. We mourn their loss, express our condolences to their families, and remain mindful of the great risks facing their colleagues worldwide who continue to carry out missions of critical importance.
I am pleased that we have now standardized the practice of inviting the UN's Force Commanders to address the Security Council while they are here for their annual conference. Our interaction with you injects practical expertise and insight from the field into this Council's discussions. I'm also glad that you will be meeting the General Assembly's Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations this week.
There have been significant developments in UN peacekeeping since we met last year. The Security Council has ended the original UN Mission in Sudan and established new missions in Abyei, South Sudan and in Syria. The Council has also made important changes in ongoing missions to better enable peacekeepers on the ground to fulfill their mandates. Working with DPKO, we have taken steps to promote inter-mission cooperation, particularly between UNMIL in Liberia and UNOCI in Cote d'Ivoire, where it has proved critical to supporting democratic outcomes. We decreased force levels in MINUSTAH to almost pre-earthquake levels as security has improved in Haiti. And, we authorized increased troop levels and enhanced UN logistical support for the AU Mission in Somalia to further weaken al-Shabaab and bring more stability and hope to the Somali people than they have experienced in decades. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO has responded to the Council's call for stronger measures to protect civilians by developing creative early warning mechanisms to reduce the chances of attacks against civilians.
Strengthening peacekeeping remains a top priority for the United States at the United Nations. Our positions are well known: mandates must be clear and achievable; missions must have the resources required to carry out those mandates, including well-trained, equipped and skilled personnel; and there should be an exit plan that includes a political strategy, a vision of the desired end-state and effective early peacebuilding.
Today's multi-dimensional peacekeeping missions must have the capabilities and resolve to use force effectively to deter threats, to defend themselves, to protect civilians, and -- in the case of Chapter VII mandates -- to uphold the expressed will of the Security Council. The United Nations has many troop contributors who uphold the highest professional standards of proficiency and conduct, and we thank them for their service. We must not allow a relatively few poor performers to undermine that reputation and put lives at risk. Therefore, the Secretariat must be firm about troop contingents' standards of readiness and performance. And, the Secretary-General should be ready to send home any contingents that do not act in accordance with the mission mandate or whose training and equipment maintenance standards are seriously deficient to the point of undermining the mission's operations. Peacekeepers and all field mission staff must be held to the highest standard of conduct and discipline, particularly with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable populations. We must not and will not tolerate any such abuse by peacekeeping personnel of the very populations they are charged with protecting.
For missions to succeed for the people they serve, capable and committed peacekeepers and commanders are necessary but not sufficient. Operational effectiveness requires strong support from headquarters as well as modern management, administrative and logistics practices and of course the contributions of the crucial civilian components. To this end, the United States strongly supports rapid implementation of the Global Field Support Strategy. We remain concerned by gaps in aviation capacity and are determined to continue working with the Secretariat and troop-contributing countries to help close them. It is critical that the Secretariat holistically assess the best mix of aircraft - including military, civilian, fixed and rotary wing aircraft - to meet missions' needs. And helicopter-contributing countries should be fairly compensated for providing the United Nations a scarce and high-value asset.
We welcome the efforts being made by the Secretariat, troop and police contributing countries, and other partners to improve training and to set standards for professional skills. We hope the new scenario-based training modules for Protection of Civilians now available to peacekeeping training centers and TCCs, the Secretariat's Resources and Capabilities Matrix, and a UN capability standards manual for infantry battalions will improve performance in the field. We look forward to the feedback of force commanders and troop-contributing countries on these initiatives.
As the UN implements existing initiatives to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of peacekeeping missions, we must also continue to explore new areas of innovation in best practices and technology.
Generals, this Council has placed a heavy responsibility on your shoulders. There are nearly 100,000 men and women in uniform from over 100 countries serving in UN missions, and doing so in some of the most dangerous and fragile places on earth. We have asked you to bring, build, and maintain peace and protect the vulnerable in the most difficult circumstances. It is very important to us that all your soldiers return home safely. Yet, as we know, this work is as honorable and essential as it is difficult. We are grateful for your service and bravery. In this spirit, we appreciate your candor and openness with us about your missions' needs, challenges, and limitations, so that the decisions we make here in New York reflect the realities on the ground.
Thank you, Mr. President.