Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 20, 2017


Thank you, and we thank the Secretary-General for his briefing and for his commitment to conflict prevention and the sustaining peace agenda. We stand behind the Secretary-General as he implements an ambitious vision for a United Nations that can better address the world’s most complicated and pressing challenges.

This Council is in a unique position – and has a unique responsibility – to respond to crises too large for any one nation to address on its own. Yet to meet these challenges, we must ensure we have the tools and capabilities to respond to the realities of the world we live in. Peacekeeping operations, for example, are a powerful mechanism for the maintenance of international peace and security and the protection of civilians. The United Nations has over 100,000 troops and police deployed worldwide, responding to crises in ways no other institution can. Yet we must ensure that these missions meet the needs of people on the ground.

This is not about producing more reports or reorganizing departments. It’s about taking a careful look at each mission and asking difficult questions. Are we using our resources well? Does each mission promote a political solution? Are we effectively protecting civilians? Are we fostering independence or dependence?

We did this just recently during the mandate renewal for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic – MINUSCA. We supported an increase in MINUSCA’s troop ceiling while also emphasizing the importance of focusing on the quality of troops deployed. To that end, we pressed for stronger requirements in the mandate for preventing and reporting on sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, and for reporting on performance indicators of force effectiveness more broadly.

In Liberia, the UN devised a peacebuilding plan in preparation for the withdrawal of the peacekeeping mission early next year. This plan was developed in close coordination with the Liberian government and participation from civil society, and the result is a plan all parties can buy into. Yet the Security Council has generally used peacekeeping missions as a tool in response to imminent risks of mass violence or, too often, after conflict has already broken out.

To more comprehensively promote peace and protect human lives, we must look first at underlying challenges to peace and security – including failure to promote development or human rights or to meet humanitarian needs. When left unaddressed, these can develop into threats to international peace and security. These factors not only can exacerbate conflict, but in many instances directly lead to instability – a vicious cycle that often is largely man-made and preventable.

In Yemen, for example, approximately 22 million out of a population of 29 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. There are over 984,800 suspected cases of cholera and more than seven million people at potential risk for famine. Access constraints at key ports only fuel this crisis and prolong the suffering of the Yemeni people.

And famine is not just a human tragedy. It is an issue of peace and security. Early this year, the Secretary-General warned us that we were in the midst of the largest food security emergency since World War II, with more than 20 million people in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen facing famine. These conditions were not caused by drought or natural causes, but rather from conflict and, in some situations, are a result of parties more interested in power and personal gain than the safety and security of their own people.

And recent reports of human trafficking in Libya have sparked moral outrage and drawn attention to these abominable acts. Men, women, and children fleeing conflict or persecution often find themselves vulnerable to forced labor or sexual exploitation, taken advantage of by ruthless traffickers with no regard for human dignity. The individuals responsible for these horrific crimes are too often also engaged in transnational weapons and narcotics trafficking and in financing terrorist organizations. These challenges remind us every day of how high the stakes are for strengthening democracy, increasing prosperity, and improving security, all of which are elements necessary to building a lasting peace.

Despite its shortcomings, the United Nations has the power to develop solutions to the transnational problems we face. These complex challenges demand a true “whole-of-UN approach,” as well as deepening partnerships with regional and sub-regional organizations and better integrating the work of UN partners and other stakeholders.

The Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office play an important role in bridging divides between the three UN pillars to support coherent peacebuilding efforts and analysis. And again, we are grateful for the Secretary-General’s participation in today’s meeting, and we encourage him to continue to raise issues to the Council’s attention early and often when he believes an issue requires Council attention and Council action.

Fragile states share many common characteristics – such as weak governance, environmental degradation, and poverty – which are interlinked with political instability, transnational crime, and violent extremism. These issues overlap, and so too should our responses. Now let us all ensure we have the right tools to act.

Thank you, Mr. President.