Canada’s Statement to the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Peacekeeping Operations, delivered by Ambassador Marc-André Blanchard
September 12, 2018
Allow me to start by thanking the United-States for convening this important debate. Let me also thank the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Ms. Sarah Blakemore from the NGO Keeping Children Safe for their thought provoking interventions.
The success of peacekeeping operations depends on the credibility, integrity and reputation of the UN in the eyes of the local population. A growing body of evidence shows that increasing the meaningful participation of women at all levels in peace operations can enhance effectiveness by bringing valuable perspectives, helping build trust with local communities and increasing situational awareness by accessing a greater diversity of information about conflict dynamics. Women bring irreplaceable assets to UN peace operations, and their contributions support the safety and security of peacekeepers as well as the operational effectiveness of missions.
Since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 18 years ago, the UN has repeatedly set targets for the increased deployment of women to uniformed roles in peace operations. Unfortunately, we arenoton track to meet these targets. What will it take? We need to demonstrate political commitment at the highest level from a broad range of countries, including troop contributing countries and host governments.
Canada has work to do at home as well. Far too many women in Canada continue to face discrimination and gender-based violence. It’s a priority for my government to meaningfully address these challenges. In the context of peacekeeping, we are doing so by actively working to recruit more women to the Canadian Armed Forces, increase the number of Canadian women deployed to multinational operations, and better mainstream gender considerations into how our government works.
Through effective collaboration and bold leadership from troop contributing countries, we can recruit, train and deploy many more women to UN operations. But deployment itself is not sufficient – mission leadership must also leverage the contributions and performance of uniformed women deployed in their missions. Making this a reality will require honest reflection at headquarters, in missions, and in contributing countries on the barriers and biases that persist. Deploying more women to peacekeeping operations – and mainstreaming gender considerations - will make a tangible improvement to peacekeeping performance.
Canada is contributing to these efforts as a matter of national priority. Since 2014, Canadian police have been at the forefront of a UN initiative to provide preselection training to female UN police peacekeeping candidates and we have partnered with the UN to deliver the Female Senior Police Command Development Course, preparing more than 130 female police commanders for leadership roles in UN police components. Last November, Canada launched the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations because we believe that a thoughtful combination of technical assistance, training, financial incentives, and research can help catalyze transformational change and accelerate progress to meet UN targets. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs looks forward to update Member States on the progress of the initiative at an event on the margins of the General Assembly’s High-Level Week later this month. You can also be sure that we will remain an active proponent of tangible progress on these issues should we be elected to serve on the Security Council for 2021-22 term.
Let me now address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse. I am glad that it has been included in this debate on peacekeeping. It is clearly not only a conduct and discipline issue but also one of performance, effectiveness, and legitimacy. Instances of sexual exploitation and abuse undermine the credibility of UN operations by breaking down the trust between the mission and the communities they serve
We must work together to end sexual exploitation and abuse. Canada is a strong advocate of the full implementation of the UN’s zero tolerance policy. Our efforts to make this policy real must span the entirety of the UN system, as well as the national frameworks of troop and police contributing countries. Victims must be able to access a single, integrated, responsive and compassionate system that treats them with dignity, can investigate claims, and offers a path to justice and restitution. While the Secretary General has been unequivocal in his message that sexual exploitation and abuse is unacceptable, this message has not yet translated into concrete efforts across to all UN operations. Only solid leadership can overcome this.
The goal is clear: a comprehensive response consistently implemented across the UN system to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse, and to assist victims. Similarly, more needs to be done to clarify the role of the Victims Rights Advocate and, more broadly, how a victim-centred approach should be articulated in policy and in practice. The Secretary General’s strategy relies upon the successful functioning of key mechanisms including the office of the Special Coordinator, the Office of the Victims Rights Advocate and the Victims Assistance Trust Fund. These offices should be sufficiently resourced to tackle a task of this scale. Yet, much more needs to be done to ensure accountability and fundamentally reconfigure our collective approach to make responses victim-centered.
At the Vancouver Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference last year, Canada hosted 80 Member States and 5 international organizations to look at how we can better undertake peace operations. It is imperative that troop and police contributing countries work together to ensure the reliable, predictable availability of capabilities to meet the critical needs of UN operations. It is equally important that we work together to develop new ways to meet those needs that make best use of scarce resources.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that improving peacekeeping performance is a complex task. Increasing the meaningful participation of women and tackling sexual exploitation and abuse are essential components of this effort. As I said earlier, part of this effort starts at home. We each need to work with our own national institutions. And we need to help and learn from each other. Rest assured that Canada will be looking to this Council, and to other member states, civil society and experts for advice on what works. We all need to encourage, push and support the UN to reach its own goals. We all benefit from a safer world. We need to work together to make this a reality.
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