Statement by the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, to the Security Council on collective action to improve UN peacekeeping operations

New York, March 28, 2018

Statement by the Group of Friends of Women, Peace, and Security

I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, an informal network of 53 interested Member States chaired by Canada, representing all five regional groups of the United Nations. In the context of this Open Debate, the Group wishes to emphasize the importance of women’s participation and gender perspectives in UN peacekeeping.

As recognized by Resolution 2378, women play an indispensable role in peacekeeping and their participation and decision making at all levels is key to the operational effectiveness of missions.
Experience has shown that women bring valuable perspectives, increase situational awareness of missions by accessing a greater diversity of information about threats and conflict dynamics, and help built trust with local communities. This supports both the safety and security of peacekeepers as well as the operational effectiveness of missions.

We therefore support calls, including specific targets set out in Security Council resolution 2242, to increase the number of civil women and women in uniform in peacekeeping.  We must redouble efforts and engage in new and creative thinking to resolve persistent gaps and structural barriers to female participation and leadership.  We recognize the importance of political will, attitudinal change, and resources for increasing the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping. We encourage DPKO and DFS to finalize work on a Gender Strategy for the headquarters and to ensure implementation of targets in field missions.

Beyond increasing the number of women deployed, greater efforts are required to mainstream gender considerations in peacekeeping. In this regard, peacekeeping operations need to be equipped with appropriate gender-responsive conflict analysis and expertise at all levels and all stages, including in the development of mandates. Leadership in peacekeeping operations must ensure that this expertise, including gender advisors and women protection advisors, are provided the access and resources needed to fulfill their critical tasks.

Lastly, we condemn in the strongest terms cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations and in international assistance.  Recent allegations across the UN have reinforced the need for a system-wide approach. We welcome the recent initiatives by the Secretary-General, including the appointment of a SEA Victims’ Rights Advocate and field-based Victims’ Rights Advocates as well as efforts to combat sexual harassment. Yet, still much more needs to be done to ensure accountability and fundamentally reconfigure our collective approach to make responses victim-centered. We encourage the Secretary-General to ensure that common standards are developed and implemented across all UN entities, and shared with implementing partners, to better prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse. Both the UN and Member States must play their part.

Canada National Statement

Madam/Mister President,

Allow me to make a few additional remarks about women in peace and security, in a national capacity.

Canada views the participation of women in all aspects of peacekeeping as essential to mission success. Yet, despite this reality, the UN and its Member States have repeatedly failed to reach targets set for the deployment of women. The time for change is now and we must be bold.

Recently, Canada launched the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations. This is an innovative and multilateral pilot initiative to design, implement and evaluate a combination of measures to overcome barriers to women’s deployment to UN peace operations, and to support their effectiveness once on missions. Last month, Canada hosted representatives from Member states, the UN, civil society and academia for a design workshop for the Elsie Initiative. Canada has also formed a Contact Group to conduct advocacy in the UN system with regard to the representation of women in UN peace operations, and to help us to develop and implement this five-year pilot initiative.

Ladies and gentlemen, peacekeeping operations play a life-saving role in the protection of the most vulnerable, including of children. Canada believes there is much more we can do to enhance child protection. As many of you know, Canada developed the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. Canada launched this initiative last November in partnership with retired General Romeo Dallaire. It seeks to identify early warning signs, take action to end recruitment, and promote the reporting of abuses and grave violations against children. Since their launch five months ago, the Vancouver Principles have already been endorsed by 62 Member States.  In the coming year, Canada will convene the endorsing States, the UN, and members of the child protection community to develop practical implementation guidance for these Principles.

Madam/Mister President,

Each of the initiatives I have mentioned reflects Canada’s understanding that we must do peacekeeping differently and that we must do it in a way that reflects the present day realities of conflict. For decades, peacekeeping has helped prevent violence, preserve peace, and provide protection to millions of vulnerable people affected by conflicts.

Moreover, as my Prime Minister has said, peacekeeping operations are important for us, not only because they allow us to assist millions of vulnerable people in conflict zones, but also because a peaceful world is a more secure world for Canada.

What we’ve seen in the past 25 years, however, are mandates that are more complex, demanding more and more of both our personnel and systems of responding. Though the peacekeeping community has been adapting and incorporating lessons-learned, it is imperative that we continuously adapt, innovate, and respond to new challenges. We must identify the root causes of conflict and the grievances that fuel them.

In short, we must do peacekeeping differently, better and together.

There is so much analysis and reporting, and so many initiatives underway that encourage us to look at peacekeeping more holistically. Canada commends the leadership of the Secretary-General and his reform efforts, across all pillars. They have recognized that sustaining peace remains at the heart of what we do.  We also welcome the important work the UN is undertaking on enhancing the safety and security of our peacekeepers. General Santos Cruz and his team have delivered frank assessments and honest advice.

The mantle now lies with us.

As Members of the United Nations, whether as host nations or as troop, police, financial or equipment contributors, we all have an essential role to play. This is why Canada is proud to Chair the Working Group of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, or C34. This year, the Committee completed one of its most compelling negotiations. In it, they tied in the voices of troop and police contributors, to some of the major efforts to improve the way we deliver peacekeeping. This is one example, of how ours can only be a shared success, achieved in partnership with the UN Secretariat and with each other.

This is also why, during the Vancouver Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in November, Canada convened 80 Member States and five international organizations to do just that. In the lead up and during the conference, we examined how we could collectively ensure greater safety for at-risk populations. We explored early warning and rapid deployment, smart pledges, training and capacity-building. Forty-eight new peacekeeping pledges were made, significantly enhancing to the UN’s peacekeeping capabilities. Following the Vancouver Ministerial Conference, Canada remains steadfast in its continued commitment and engagement in UN peacekeeping.

To this end, Canada has begun deploying key enablers and military capabilities which leverage Canadian expertise. They are aimed at giving the UN the smart, flexible, tools it needs to enhance performance and operational effectiveness. Last November, we committed a C-130 Hercules aircraft to provide tactical airlift support for the UN’s Regional Support Centre in Entebbe. Preparations for deployment are currently underway. This contribution speaks to our support in helping to enable the UN’s rapid deployment capacities and effective delivery in the field.

Last week, Canada committed an Air Task Force to MINUSMA. This contribution will include Chinook helicopters to provide urgently needed transport and logistics capacity, as well as Griffon helicopters to provide armed escort and protection. We look forward to joining 57 MINUSMA partner countries in our collective efforts to bring sustainable peace and stability to Mali and the Sahel.

In conclusion Madam/Mister President, Canada is convinced that when properly mandated, resourced, and supported, peacekeeping remains one of the most flexible and effective tools available to the international community in responding to crises.  We welcome this open debate as an opportunity to further develop our collective thinking on how to respond to the key challenges in the years ahead. All of us share this responsibility. 

Thank you.

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