Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Protecting the Protectors: Technology and Peacekeeping

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 18, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you for bringing this important issue before the Security Council. I also thank you, Secretary-General, for your briefing.

Today’s peacekeepers work day and night, under some of the world’s most severe circumstances, to address threats to international peace and security, and we thank them for their service. They deserve the most advanced, cutting-edge technology to help them do this difficult job better. The right technology helps keep peacekeepers safe, and it helps them keep the communities they serve safe, too. So, it is our duty to ensure they have this technology and use it appropriately. After all, we all share responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of peacekeepers, as they in turn protect civilians. It’s a top priority of the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping Initiative, and it’s a top priority for us too.

This initiative, the “A4P Plus,” further emphasizes the need to ensure the well-being of peacekeeping personnel, including providing reliable medical support for all peacekeepers. So, we deeply appreciate the Secretariat’s efforts to improve emergency medical care practices using technology. We have supported these priorities through our own capacity-building partnerships for years, working with troop-contributing countries and providing them the technology and equipment they need to enhance their medical capabilities and save lives.

The right technology can also increase mission efficiency and effectiveness. Peacekeeping missions predominantly operate in areas with unreliable power or without electricity grids altogether. Missions look for autonomous power supply options and rely heavily on diesel generators to overcome this challenge. In fact, more than 90 percent of the total consumed electricity by peacekeeping missions is supplied by diesel generators. This diesel costs a great deal – a large share of total mission costs. It accounts for the majority of the UN’s greenhouse gas emissions. And it leaves missions vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. It’s time to disrupt this reliance on diesel.

The UN’s Environmental Strategy for Peace Operations provides a framework for reducing the environmental footprint of the UN field operations and deploying missions that achieve maximum efficiency at a minimum cost. We are excited to see the vast improvements in data collection and analysis that phase one delivered. And we look forward to seeing the results of phase two’s effort to reduce the reliance of our peacekeeping missions on fossil fuels and increase their use of renewable energy technologies.

As we continue to seek innovative solutions to today’s peacekeeping challenges, and attempt to scale these solutions across missions, we must take a phased and gradual approach. Our TCC and PCC partners need time to develop, learn, deploy, and sustain new capabilities. Procuring and sustaining new equipment requires additional training, different maintenance and spare parts, resources, and patience. Contingent-owned equipment guidelines and reimbursement rates will also need to ensure TCCs and PCCs are compensated for their investments in technological solutions. And wherever we encounter capability gaps, we should work through the Light Coordination Mechanism to share information and identify potential capacity-building partnerships to close these gaps.

Finally, we must work together to ensure these innovative technologies are used responsibly. Military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, including unmanned aircraft systems and camp security technologies, offer promising solutions to peacekeeping operations. But they must be used in line with UN doctrine and policy. We need to give due respect for safeguarding information gathered in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. To those ends, we welcome the Secretary-General’s efforts to launch a new Digital Transformation Strategy for UN Peacekeeping, and we look forward to supporting its implementation.

We are eager to discuss all of this further – and in particular how we can enhance peacekeeping medical capabilities – at the upcoming UN Peacekeeping Ministerial. We welcome that the Republic of Korea, as ministerial host, intends to focus on this theme.

Technology can be used both as a tool for good or a weapon for harm. It can take lives. Or, more importantly, it can save lives. Together, let us make sure we deploy technology rightly, and justly, to protect the protectors and empower them to better serve so many of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Thank you, Mr. President.