Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
July 28, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix and Force Commanders for your briefings.

I also want to thank the Commanders and the Peacekeepers under their command for their extraordinary service and sacrifice. You all carry out your duties under very challenging circumstances, and I want to express my country’s great appreciation for all that you do.

And let me offer my condolences to the Permanent Representative of Ghana, and the people of Ghana for the death of the Ghanian peacekeeper who died earlier today.

The United States would like to echo comments expressed today underscoring that the protection of civilians requires a whole of mission effort to continually set conditions for a stable environment that will allow a political process to take hold. UN Peacekeeping missions must work in concert through dialogue, engagement, and positioning of forces to protect vulnerable civilians.

We recognize that it takes the entire mission team to facilitate the three tiers of protection of civilians action and we join with others on this Council in urging integrated, mission-wide planning that leads to solutions which advance the protection of civilians.

The protection of civilians should always be given priority in peacekeeping operation mandate implementation. We recognize the challenges in weighing protection of civilians with the responsibility to maintain the safety and security of our peacekeepers, especially in dangerous operational environments.

We acknowledge that Force Commanders and subordinate leaders often weigh difficult decisions between protection of civilians and protection of peacekeepers on a daily basis. Sound leadership with an eye to robust mandate implementation is fundamental to our efforts in protecting civilians.

UNIFIL continues to provide a comprehensive model for developing a protective environment through concerted dialogue and engagement amongst the concerned parties. The Tripartite mechanism is an exceptional example of how our missions help to mitigate the risk of violent escalation in dangerous operating environments.

In South Sudan, we are heartened that the early June violence at the Malakal protection of civilians site has not escalated, and we appreciate efforts by UNMISS to stabilize the situation. We look forward to the release of the UN’s external assessment of UNMISS’ protection of civilians’ performance on October 15. UNMISS remains a critical player in providing security and stability in South Sudan.

Likewise, we would like to recognize efforts by MONUSCO to ensure the implementation of its mandate to protect civilians and continue assisting the DRC government to strengthen key governance, justice, and security institutions despite the worsening humanitarian crisis resulting from violence in eastern DRC.

We also appreciate MONUSCO’s logistics support to the electoral commission throughout the spring in transporting electoral materials for voter registration to North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri. The swift provision of that mandated support was critical in protecting civilians and ensuring their ability to participate in the electoral processes.

We emphasize that all mandated peacekeeping tasks that establish conditions for a protective environment should be implemented in a manner consistent with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Ultimately, the protection of civilians must be enshrined in political solutions to which UN Peacekeeping strives to provide a bridge.

Thank you, Mr. President.