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Carter Announces New DoD Contributions to U.N. Peacekeeping Operations

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2016 — At the first-ever U.N. Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial in London last night, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Defense Department will add to already substantial U.S. contributions to U.N. peacekeeping operations. 

Carter is in the United Kingdom as part of a visit there and to Norway Sept. 6-9 to meet with top officials, to participate in discussions about U.N. peacekeeping operations and to update counterparts on recent momentum in the military campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“It’s a very rare occasion to gather this many defense ministers in one room, and there are two important reasons why so many of us are here,” Carter said in prepared remarks before the audience at a ministerial dinner last night.

First, he said, U.N. teams “have worked with each of our nations to increase the potential and the power of U.N. peace operations. And the second reason we’re here is that we believe in the importance of U.N. peacekeeping and the value of peace operations.”

Such importance comes from the humanitarian efforts themselves, the secretary said, but also because defense officials appreciate that it is more efficient and effective to prevent the development of serious dangers than to confront them later on.

“We’ve learned that lesson time and again -- sometimes the hard way -- from the aftermath of World War II right up through to today. And we must remember it at a time of global change and instability, when the need for and importance of peace operations will only grow,” Carter said, noting, “It is imperative that all nations and militaries contribute more to these operations and improve how we conduct them.”

Peacekeeping Becoming More Dangerous

Peacekeeping is changing in this new era of global challenges, growing more difficult, demanding and dangerous and its missions more far-reaching, Carter said, as he announced that DoD will make new contributions to U.N. peacekeeping efforts in the following five areas:

-- DoD is offering to help train, develop and prepare future leaders by reinforcing the U.N.’s Enhanced Leader Development Program to develop competent and effective senior mission leaders for peace operations;

-- DoD is leveraging its recent experience trying to rid its force of sexual assault to help U.N. National Investigative Officers and to improve training to prevent sexual exploitation and other conduct and discipline issues such as sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers;

-- DoD is offering to help synchronize capability-development efforts, especially to help fill critical gaps -- such as in efforts to counter improvised explosive devices and in medical evacuation -- to help U.N. peace operations predict, plan and secure capabilities needed in the field;

-- DoD will leverage its unique capabilities and recent operational experience to help peacekeepers get on the ground and get working sooner when U.N. and troop-contributing countries deploy units to crisis zones; and

-- DoD will partner with the U.N. to improve energy, water and waste management efficiency to optimize operational and environmental designs for U.N. peacekeeping camps and sites.

“Taken together,” Carter said, “these new commitments, along with last year’s and our ongoing financial support for U.N. peacekeeping, demonstrate the priority that President [Barack] Obama, I and the entire U.S. government place on peace operations.”

Placing a Priority on Peacekeeping

The secretary also asked each defense minister and their defense institutions to continue to prioritize peacekeeping operations.

“Many nations here tonight have already pledged to contribute additional uniformed personnel and enablers … [But] new troops, equipment and support to U.N. peacekeeping can only do so much on their own. That’s why we also need to look at and be honest about where our operations and peacekeepers have fallen short, and to take steps to improve the diversity, leadership, accountability and performance of our peace operations,” Carter said.

Carter, applauding the meeting’s focus on the importance of women in peacekeeping, said all participating countries should strive to have more women peacekeepers because it will improve the effectiveness of peace operations and allow the U.N. to draw from the widest possible pool of talent that meets mission standards.

The secretary also called for the following three critical reforms to U.N. peacekeeping:

-- Selecting qualified leaders of peace operations missions and empowering them to more effectively manage their forces in complex, austere and dangerous environments;

-- The U.N. must ensure that leaders of peace operations and their forces are rigorously assessed against clear standards for their performance, equipment and conduct and that consistently underperforming units must be sent home and replaced by those more committed to the task; and

-- The U.N. must continue to improve performance in operations in the field and at U.N. headquarters in New York, and peacekeepers must be trained, equipped, enabled and motivated to succeed.

“Now is the time to make these changes; when the demand for peacekeeping is high and when, thanks to the work of the U.N. during last year’s summit and this week’s ministerial, our governments have each renewed their commitment to these missions,” Carter said.

“The stakes are too high for those we seek to protect, for our peacekeepers and for our shared interests to miss this opportunity for reform,” he added.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)

Distribution channels: Military