Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Security Council Open Debate on Peace and Security in Africa:
Strengthening peacekeeping operations in Africa
New York, 20 November 2018
The Holy See thanks the Presidency of the People’s Republic of China for convening this open debate on Peace and Security in Africa: a topic affecting the whole international community, whose response has come in part in the form of peacekeeping operations, seven of which are currently active on the African continent.
It is through the presence of the immediately recognizable Blue Helmets that the United Nations is most visible around the globe. In a world that is increasingly fragmented, peacekeeping operations provide a concrete opportunity for the international community to collaborate — through diplomatic activities, financial contributions, expertise, troops and personnel. Frequently working amid immense challenges, these missions have the arduous task of re-establishing peace, protecting civilians and facilitating political processes with a view to restoring justice and laying the foundations for lasting stability. At times, men and women serving under the UN flag literally “build bridges”, only to have the enemies of peace destroy them. Armed groups and terrorist organizations on the African continent, often manipulated by political machinations from within or from without the borders of their country, cause chaos to reign.
A peacekeeping operation can be, at times, something of a misnomer; it seemingly implies that peace is already enjoyed and simply needs to be maintained. Sadly, we know that, all too often, this is not the case. Today, UN peacekeepers serve in some of the most dangerous and hostile environments on the planet, risking their lives to ensure the delivery of the most basic services to those in need. Caught in conflicts they have come to defuse, some have made the supreme sacrifice. We are right to pay tribute to them, making sure also that the positive impacts that UN peacekeeping missions have made and continue to make are not overlooked or undermined in the face of unrealistic expectations, stretched or limited resources, or because of the abhorrent cases of human rights abuses and sexual exploitation that have come to light.
While it may be true that significant financial resources are devoted to Africa in terms of development programmes, it is nonetheless worthwhile recalling that the cost of peacekeeping represents only a minuscule portion of the world’s military spending — a very small fraction indeed. Strengthening peacekeeping operations certainly requires increased financial support, which should go hand in hand with the indispensable diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing or resolving conflicts. For this to happen, the international community must be prepared to invest. As Secretary-General Guterres has remarked: “Chances of success increase dramatically when we work together with Member States and share burdens, risks and responsibilities. We urgently need a quantum leap in collective engagement.”
For a truly effective and collective engagement, we must look to the young and vibrant populations of Africa, who deserve to have better access to quality education and to decent work so as to realize their great potential, thus enabling these young men and women to be key players in building up their own countries and taking their rightful place as future leaders. The alternative is the sad reality that leaves many young
Africans without schooling or formation of any kind. Without prospects, they become a prey to a future of exploitation and violence. As a preventative measure, the international community, in particular through the UN’s peacekeeping missions, should seek greater collaboration with local populations to put the incredible resources — both human and natural — with which the African continent has been endowed, to good use.
The abundant natural resources in Africa become a curse when their exploitation does not benefit the people and, worse, when wars and conflicts are exacerbated or even artificially provoked to provide a smokescreen for illicit and abusive exploitation of those precious resources. During his in-flight press conference on his return to Rome from the Central African Republic, Pope Francis noted the sad reality that “there are powers who seek only to take the great wealth of Africa … but they don’t think about helping it to grow.” 
Heightened attention to peace and security on the African continent, as well as the very specific role of strengthened peacekeeping operations, will help African countries to prosper. This will benefit not only the countries of the region but even those beyond it.
I thank you, Mr. President.
1. António Guterres, Remarks to Security Council High-Level Debate on Collective Action to Improve UN Peacekeeping Operations, 28 March 2018.
2. Pope Francis, In-flight Press Conference from the Central African Republic to Rome, 30 November 2015.