Let me first thank you and your Delegation for convening this crucial meeting today, to discuss one of the key challenges this organization is now facing. Italy aligns itself with the Statement of the European Union, and I would like to add a few remarks in my national capacity.
The maintenance of international peace and security has been defined as the “core business” of the United Nations and it certainly is: peace is the first and more valuable objective that an organization among States should pursue. And if we look at the Charter, there is no doubt that this was the main concern of those who drafted it.
Nevertheless, the world has changed dramatically since the end of World War II. First, the contexts within which our peacekeeping operations are conducted have radically changed. As underlined in the concept note of the Presidency (I quote) “the vast majority of crises that necessitate the deployment or extension of mandates of UN peacekeeping operations are armed conflicts of non-international character also often referred to as internal or intra-State”.
Second, UN peacekeeping efforts have now reached numbers, in terms of troops as well as financial resources engaged, that cannot be compared to what they were, let’s say, only 10 years ago.
And third, but no less important, conflicts today are no longer just a matter of sending off troops to the front line, but they call for cutting-edge military and civilian capacities, such as technology and skilled soldiers.
Italy is the first WEOG troop contributor and the 7th financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. We also have an Italian General leading the UNIFIL operations in Lebanon. By this engagement on the field, together with the rest of the membership, we learn lessons every day that help us make our commitment at the service of peace more and more effective. Troops cannot operate without proper equipment and skills in conflict situations where most parties involved do have at least the basic technological tools, such as night visors, armored equipment, radars or unmanned vehicles, just to mention a few.
As Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Ms. Haq, said (I quote): “providing for the safety and security of deployed personnel in volatile environments is an absolute necessity. Applying new technologies needs to become a standard feature of our modus operandi”.
This was in reference to the security of the “blue helmets”.
Nevertheless, we also noticed with satisfaction how, this year, the Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations (the C34) agreed to mention in its report such technological tools as military capacities, encouraging (and I quote) “the Secretariat to support the agreed use of modern technology consistent with the basic principles of peacekeeping, to enhance, among others, situational awareness and force protection”.
Italy could not agree more with the Special Committee and is pleased that the main policy body of UN peacekeeping tackled this issue successfully. For this result, my delegation chose to engage pro-actively, co-facilitating the negotiation process.
Most of today’s UN peacekeeping operations have a mandate to protect civilians, as the innocent and defenseless targets of armed groups. This is an important development. As an example, since the eruption of the South Sudan conflict at the end of last year, over 70,000 people have been rescued and hosted in peacekeeper camps: this is humanitarian aid in action for which UN peacekeeping gains credibility and praise. It is only normal that vulnerable civilians in hardship look to the “blue helmets” for protection and refuge. Due to the reality of today’s conflicts, the disparity between the expectations on the UN and its capacity to respond has grown starker. In these times of budgetary hardship and constraints, the only possible solution to level this disparity is innovation: quoting the address of Under-Secretary-General Ladsous to the C34 this year: “flexibility and innovation at Headquarters and within our missions [are] no longer an option, but an acute necessity”.
MONUSCO, in the Republic Democratic of Congo, is also a relevant case study for the topic we are discussing. The need to provide for civilian protection has brought to the creation of new tools, such as the Intervention Brigade and the use of special high-tech equipment, such as the Unmanned Unarmed Aerial Vehicles. Both tools have delivered, so far, to the highest expectations, giving their contribution not only in the direct framework of the peacekeeping operation, but also by saving civilian lives as was the case recently when one UAV spotted a sinking boat on a river, leading to a rescue operation that saved human lives.
Italy understands and shares some of the concerns of members especially from the Continent that sees the highest number of operations, Africa, about the “New Trends” in UN peacekeeping, as highlighted in this meeting’s concept paper. It is not by chance that Italy actively participates in and promotes discussions and negotiations on this sensitive matter not only in the framework of C34, but also in other venues, such as the recent High-Level panel on “Innovation & Technology in Peacekeeping” we organized at the International Peace Institute. On that occasion, we learnt how missions could benefit from satellite imaging to locate water for digging wells, among other uses, or solar and other renewable energy systems; and numerous tools to facilitate logistics and procurement of mission supplies. We also learnt how Information Communication Technology (ICT) is crucial to providing mission staff with up-to-the-minute data. Or how biometric handheld devices could be used to gather basic health and identifying information of refugees; or how water generators can pull moisture from the air to provide up to 4,000 litres of potable water a day. Talking about technology, I would also like to mention here the project funded by Italy with United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) for the use of satellite images to verify compliance of the SC Resolution #2139 concerning humanitarian access in Syria.
To further explore all of these applications and how they can help peacekeeping, save more lives, enhance international security and also save money, a call for more private-public collaboration in this sphere was made by Ms. Haq. A call that we certainly support.
We shall never forget that, at the end of the day, peacekeeping is a moral imperative. It is a duty on the shoulders of UN Member States from which there is no backing down. All concerns mentioned above – from the use of data collected by recognition devices, to the effects of inter-mission cooperation on the security of the “blue helmets”, to the level of budgetary discipline, are more than legitimate. Nevertheless, we feel that if the “new trends” in peacekeeping can help, as they show they can, to do a better job at the service of peace, we should continue to explore state-of-the-art solutions for these concerns. UN peacekeeping has entered the 21st century: let us work together with this objective in mind.
I thank you, Mr. President.