Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 12, 2022
Thank you, Mr. Minister, and thank you for convening this discussion today, and to all the briefers for your insightful contributions. My delegation found the comments of Ms. Russo on gender and its value in use in strategic communications particularly thought-provoking, so I thank you for those. The United States welcomes this forum as important on such a timely and critical issue, and we thank Brazil for its leadership.
I begin by echoing what many have underscored today, strategic communications are critical to ensuring effective implementation of peacekeeping mandates, enhancing the safety and security of our peacekeepers, advancing a comprehensive approach to the protection of civilians, as well as the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, and to building trust among local communities, which is so important, as our briefers have emphasized.
As the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping Plus initiative clearly outlines, peacekeeping missions can help improve relationships with local stakeholders by publicly promoting successes, managing the local population’s expectations, and addressing disinformation and misinformation that obstruct mandate implementation and ultimately threatens the safety and the security of peacekeepers.
Fundamentally, any peacekeeping mission’s ability to engage in effective strategic communications rests on that mission’s ability to know what is happening on the ground and to produce timely and accurate reporting. This establishes UN missions’ reputations as a credible and impartial source of information – and that reputation is essential for UN missions to achieve every other strategic communications objective.
We welcome the ongoing efforts by the Secretariat to bolster strategic communications capacities, both at UN Headquarters and in the field. And in that regard we welcome the Secretary-General’s proposals and recommendations this morning.
This need is particularly pressing in the Central African Republic and Mali, where disinformation targeting MINUSCA and MINUSMA threatens peacekeeper safety and security and has undermined those missions’ abilities to protect civilians, investigate human rights violations and abuses, and facilitate political dialogue.
In that regard, my delegation takes note of the comments of the UK delegation this morning, noting that misinformation and disinformation has increased in both countries since the arrival of the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group in both countries. Mere coincidence? Causal link? We’ll let each member and troop-contributing country make its own decision.
But for that reason, I’m pleased to point to MINUSCA’s weekly UN radio show as a best practice. As others have mentioned, this show provides a really useful platform for mission leadership, UN agencies, Central African authorities, and locals to dispel rumors and counter disinformation about MINUSCA’s mandate and activities. However, the challenges in CAR are considerable, and we must expand and amplify these efforts.
The United States firmly condemns disinformation campaigns and incitement to violence against peacekeepers, which contributes to a climate of mistrust, impedes mandate implementation, and undermines the UN’s core mission of maintaining international peace and security.
To mitigate these risks, effective communication strategies, as we’ve heard, must engage local media and other actors, proactively shape the mission’s public messaging in ways that will resonate with the local population, and address disinformation and misinformation head-on.
The UN Secretariat and peacekeeping missions may benefit from efforts to monitor sources of disinformation and misinformation and analyze country-specific and regional trends. Gathering such information at the mission and headquarters level would equip the UN to calibrate appropriate strategic communications initiatives to address this kind of disinformation and misinformation.
In conclusion, Mr. Minister, once again, we thank Brazil for your leadership on this important issue. We look forward to working closely with Brazil and other partners to ensure that the peacekeepers we send into harm’s way are equipped with the needed strategic communications tools to fulfill their missions.
Thank you very much.