Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Human Rights and Peacekeeping (via VTC)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 7, 2020


Thank you, Minister. Thank you, High Commissioner Bachelet, and Special Representative Shearer, and Mr. Kitenge. It is critical that the Security Council hears from civil society, including human rights defenders, and I am particularly grateful today that we were able to hear of Mr. Kitenge’s insights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges to UN peacekeeping missions around the world. Mandates are being reprioritized as peacekeeping operations shift to focus on COVID-19 response. In light of this, it is essential that peacekeeping continues to protect and to promote human rights.

Human rights are universal, and defending them is non-negotiable. That’s why 154 member states, including the United States, endorsed the Secretary-General’s Declaration of Shared Commitments. These commitments in part recognize that lasting progress in human rights is fundamental to advancing political solutions to conflict. Integrating human rights into peacekeeping enhances the impact of peacekeepers while helping conflicts recede.

Peacekeeping missions monitoring and reporting on human rights violations is essential to creating the conditions for accountability, justice, and eventually peace. These missions must work with host nations to develop human rights vetting procedures that build post-conflict security institutions that help sustain that peace.

We fully support the Human Rights Divisions, joint protection teams, and mixed gender engagement teams in peacekeeping missions. Although some members of this Council regularly attempt to cut human rights officers and funding from peacekeeping budgets, the Trump Administration will continue to advocate for their retention – their work is simply vital. These peacekeeping missions have clear mandates to engage in the promotion of human rights and we have an obligation to support them in doing their work.

There are several peacekeeping missions doing excellent work in the protection and promotion of human rights.

First, we would like to highlight the innovative and steadfast efforts of the Human Rights Division in UNMISS to release women and children from captivity, document violations, and support South Sudan’s nascent institutions to respect human rights. These efforts are life-saving and the United States fully supports them.

MINUSMA’s Human Rights Division has documented and reported in central Mali on government forces’ violations in the region. This is the first step to tackling impunity and holding governments accountable. The United States values the independence and candor in this human rights reporting. Only when we improve accountability can we rebuild trust between Malians and their government.

MINUSCA, jointly with UNDP, supports the Central African Republic’s Ministry of Interior and Internal Security Forces with a vetting process for police recruits and staff. The application of the United Nations Human Rights Due Diligence Policy is fundamental in this regard. Through this collaboration, the UN ensures that their support to CAR’s justice and corrections sectors is in compliance with international human rights standards.

As Mr. Kitenge noted, armed groups and Congolese security forces have repeatedly violated human rights in the DRC. We are encouraged by increasing judicial accountability for wrongdoing, and expect to see more progress in this area. We encourage other members of the international community to join us in supporting efforts in the DRC, and the region, to hold violators responsible for their actions.

We also believe it is necessary to increase women’s meaningful participation in peacekeeping missions and the United States continues to push for an increase in recruitment. Women peacekeepers offer unique skillsets, perspectives, and opportunities for engagement that can make peace operations with a civilian protection mandate more successful.

Missions with protection of civilian mandates often face challenging decisions on ways to respond to threats against civilians. Real-time cooperation and information sharing between mission components is critical to facilitating the timely identification, prevention, and mitigation of threats to civilians and human rights abuses.

There is room for greater integration among civilian and military mission components. This integration should take place among the mission’s various analytical and reporting cells, with non-governmental organizations, and the UN Country Team.

Integrating human rights into peacekeeping is essential to building the conditions to sustain peace. We cannot lose sight of this. As we reprioritize mandates, it will be important to fully support the protection and promotion of human rights, so that those living in conflict-affected areas can have a better future for themselves, and for their children. In the end, this work is critically important for creating a more peaceful world, and it helps us to live up to the high expectations the world has for this Council. We must support and fulfill this mission.

Thank you very much. Thank you Minister.