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UN: The more than 66,000 UN peacekeepers today face greater threats because conflicts have become more complex and are motivated by a growing number of factors ranging from ethnic tensions and impact of organized crime on the illegal exploitation of resources and terrorism, said the head of UN peacekeeping. said Friday.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix said in an interview with The Associated Press that even compared to two or three years ago, “most of our peacekeeping missions have a deteriorated political and security environment” .
In addition and “just as important,” he said, conflicts are “multi-layered” and very often local and national, but also regional and global. He cited as an example the impoverished Sahel region of Africa, which is experiencing an increase in terrorist activity.
What is driving this shift in the way UN peacekeepers are to operate are a number of factors, starting with increased political divisions among the 193 UN member countries, a he declared.
The drivers of conflict are on the rise, Lacroix said, and there are also what he called “conflict amplifiers” including digital technologies, the impact of fake news and disinformation on conflict, and “armed groups using increasingly sophisticated means to undermine our actions”.
The UN currently has 12 large-scale peacekeeping operations – six in Africa, four in the Middle East, one in Europe and one in Asia – with more than 66,000 military personnel from 121 countries joined by more than 7,000 police officers. internationals and 14,000 civilians.
Lacroix said peacekeepers continue to make “a huge difference” in countries where they oversee ceasefires like Cyprus and southern Lebanon in terms of conflict prevention, and “they are also making a huge difference. difference in terms of the protection of civilians, although we would like to be able to do more.
But the Assistant Secretary-General for Peace Operations said the drivers of conflict “have a huge impact on the conflicts in which we are involved.”
“They pose increasingly significant threats to the countries in which our missions are deployed, and frankly to the region where we operate,” he said.
“Are we sufficiently equipped as a multilateral system to deal with these threats? Lacroix asked rhetorically. “I’m not sure. I think there is probably more to do in these areas.
He called the forthcoming UN peacekeeping ministerial meeting in Seoul, South Korea, on December 7-8, an important opportunity to improve the performance and impact of peacekeepers and “the effectiveness of our tools” and to mobilize international support for these efforts.
Lacroix said “a significant number” of ministers and senior officials from all UN member states are expected in Seoul, stressing that high-level participation is “of critical importance” as a expression of support for UN peacekeeping, which is funded from a separate UN budget. amounting to $ 6.38 billion for the year ending June 30, 2022, as well as voluntary contributions.
He said the Department of Peacekeeping has distributed to UN member countries a list of what they need to improve the protection of peacekeepers from ambushes, improvised explosive devices and attacks, and to protect their camps. The list also includes improved medical support and equipment to make peacekeepers more agile, mobile and responsive, especially more helicopters, he said.
Lacroix said there are two other very important areas: improving the ability of missions to collect and process information to better prevent threats instead of having to react to them, and increasing the number of women in peacekeeping operations “because we know full well that more women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping.
He said it would be “extremely important” for governments to support the “ministry’s strategy for the digital transformation of peacekeeping, because we strongly believe that if we make the best use of these new technologies, it can be a game-changer for the future. peacekeeping. “
To do this, he said, the UN must improve what he called “the digital literacy of peacekeepers and our peacekeepers,” which means more training.
If the peacekeeping department and peacekeepers have a better grasp of digital technology, the men and women on the ground can be better protected, Lacroix said.
“We can probably communicate better and also counter disinformation,” and the UN can better collect and process information “in a way that can enable effective action,” he said.
But Lacroix said that if peacekeeping is to be successful – “which is to create the conditions where peacekeeping missions can depart” – it is “extremely important” that governments support political efforts to achieve this goal. .
He added that it should also be recognized that more and more peacekeeping operations are part of broader efforts and partnerships that can strengthen different capacities, including security, or help deliver humanitarian assistance. in places like Congo, South Sudan or Mali.
“We have to make sure that we are playing a role where you can make the best possible difference, and the other partners have to have the same approach, and we have to be complementary to each other,” said Lacroix.