UNGA 77 – Fourth Committee
Agenda item 48: Comprehensive review of the whole question
of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects
New York, 7 November 2022
In an era of environmental catastrophe, growing violations of human rights and rising conflict, UN peacekeeping operations offer a sign of hope that in working together, nations can overcome “globalized indifference” and promote just and lasting peace in areas plagued by violence. Indeed, these joint efforts uphold human dignity and protect innocent life when States fail in their responsibility to “safeguard and promote the common good of society.”
The Holy See has long held that “peace is not merely the absence of war,” rather “true peace ‘can be achieved only when we strive for justice through dialogue, pursuing reconciliation and mutual development.’” As such, peacekeeping operations must be situated firmly in the broader framework of peacebuilding and development activities, the conduct of which provide the only path to long-term sustainable peace. Within this framework, and in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, peacekeeping operations should prioritize the protection of civilian life, the facilitation and monitoring of political settlements and the promotion and protection of human rights.
Although host States bear the primary responsibility to protect civilians, they often lack means and the political will to meet this responsibility. In such situations, UN peacekeeping operations should assist in ensuring the security of non-combatants threatened by violence. Over the long-term, such assistance must include sufficient capacity-building support for host State forces, as well as implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) efforts. These efforts are especially crucial during mission drawdowns or transitions, offer a critical means to prevent violence through the control of arms and prove decisive in determining the resiliency of peace agreements. On a broader level, the ability of peacekeeping operations to protect civilians often forms the basis of their legitimacy among the host state population. When missions fail to protect civilians, the resulting loss of legitimacy imperils all aspects of their mandates.
Beyond a preeminent focus on civilian protection, effective peacekeeping operations must be governed by clear, credible and achievable mandates aimed at attaining political resolution to conflict. As Pope Francis has observed, “good politics is at the service of peace.” In this sense, without a holistic approach that prioritizes the common good over partisan interests, negotiated settlements will often be brittle and transient.
Indeed, the seeds of peace can only be sown where human dignity is allowed to flourish. In this regard, it is most welcome that nearly all UN peacekeeping mandates include a human rights component. By monitoring and promoting fundamental human rights, peacekeeping operations ensure that host populations are respected and valued in a manner conducive to their integral human development.
As our common home continues to face climate change, peacekeeping operations must adapt to extreme weather events, dwindling natural resources and the resulting displacement of civilian populations. Key to any adaption is effective monitoring of environmental conditions. This is most needed in areas of active hostilities, as “war always does grave harm to the environment.”
The Holy See welcomes all efforts to prevent and eradicate sexual exploitation and abuse committed by peacekeepers. Such violations not only violate the human dignity of victims but also reduce trust between missions and local populations. In addressing such abuse, it is essential that the UN provide victims and any children born as a result of exploitation and abuse with adequate psychological and social support.
Before closing, allow me to commend the efforts of all UN peacekeepers, who put themselves in harm’s way for the greater good. Most of all, I would be remiss not to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. May their sacrifice encourage all of us to act as peacemakers everywhere and to help build a more secure world in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in conflict-affected areas.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.