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Statement by H.E. Mr. Jüri Luik, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Estonia at the Security Council Open Debate on Collective Action to Improve UN Peacekeeping Operations New York, 28 March 2018

28.03.2018

Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues,

Let me start by saying that United Nations Peacekeeping Operations have had a unique role in securing peace and stability globally for a very long period. For decades, the blue helmets of our peacekeepers and the white UN emblem have been perceived as symbols of peace and hope for a better future in many countries all over the world. We thank the Kingdom of Netherlands for organizing today’s open debate on this highly relevant topic. Estonia also aligns itself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union.  
 
The international security environment has significantly changed in recent times. The threats we are facing are more complex, asymmetric and, sometimes, difficult to attribute. The fundamental human rights and values we hold self-evident have come under increasing attack from ideological and religious extremism. Correspondingly, there has been a change in the peacekeeping environment. Our peacekeepers can rely less and less on the protection provided by the colour blue as they are increasingly being targeted themselves, as thoroughly highlighted in the Santos Cruz report. At the same time UN peacekeeping missions carry greater mandates and demands: they no longer only keep the peace, but are on the ground to build the peace, to protect civilians, to help address the root causes of conflicts and assist in finding political solutions.

It is our belief that the UN will maintain its leading role in bringing peace and stability to different regions and tackling today’s security problems. In order to successfully continue to do so, the United Nations needs to adapt to the new security environment. In this light we welcome the Secretary-General’s push to reform how the United Nations manages Peacekeeping missions and the whole Peace and Security Pillar. 

In this light I would like to make more specific remarks on the following four aspects: 
   
First, we share the idea that the UN Security Council mandates for peacekeeping operations could be more realistic and robust.  The Council is the primary political body responsible for giving guidance and consulting with partners in the field. The Council should increase its focus on adopting more mission specific and tailored mandates. Closer coordination with the UN mission commanders would also help set up achievable tasks for the successful fulfilment of mandates.

Second, improved decision making process – the UN can become quicker and more flexible in addressing the dynamics of the crisis areas. To that end, we support greater delegation of power to the field. This would help guarantee operations that are reactive and can rapidly and effectively respond to complex and changing circumstances on the ground. We believe this would also benefit from improved gender balance in peacekeeping. 

Third, member states have a responsibility to provide adequate troops and capabilities to UN operations. It is not by chance that the year 2017 saw the highest number of peacekeeper fatalities from acts of violence in absolute terms in the last two decades. We are sad witnesses to the simple fact that in crisis areas where more than one mission is ongoing, the UN missions are less equipped and not as well trained as operations led by other actors. Also, restricting national caveats make it more difficult for our blue-helmets to achieve the overall success of the mission.

Adequate training and equipment of forces is the responsibility of all of us, the member states.  Stronger implementation of accountability measures and remedial action should be adopted in order to ensure that our troops are prepared and able to carry out the tasks we ask of them. It must also be noted that we have zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse.

Fourth, I would like to underline that creating security and stability requires co-operation and coordination with other actors in the field, which work towards a similar goal. In this regard, the Government of Estonia has recently decided to deploy troops within the French operation Barkhane to help improve stability in the Republic of Mali. Our troops will be based in Gao, right next to the much larger base of the UN MINUSMA mission. These two missions work to bring stability and safety to the population of Mali and it is crucial that they continue to support each other’s efforts. 

Finally, let me conclude by emphasizing that every peacekeeping or military operation encounters challenges and in this context the UN operations are not an exception. To keep pace with changes in the field, in our view the UN could focus on a couple of key themes – such as tailored country and region specific mandates and better prepared forces with greater capabilities and fewer caveats. Estonia will continue to contribute to making a difference for a world in peace and promote these ideas throughout our bid for the non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council for the period of 2020-2021.

Thank you Mr. President!

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