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Washington, D.C. - America has a vital role to play in supporting UN peacekeepers' efforts to protect people during conflict, Refugees International said in a report released today. The Last Line of Defense: How Peacekeepers Can Better Protect Civilians draws on Refugees International's field visits and existing UN studies to outline the challenges peacekeepers face in providing security for people in conflict areas. The report identifies key steps the U.S. can take to support UN reforms and address these challenges, such as providing peacekeepers with clear guidance, tools and training on the issue.
"When violence breaks out, international leaders expect peacekeepers to keep people safe from harm, but these same leaders do not follow through with real support," said Erin Weir, senior peacekeeping advocate and author of The Last Line of Defense. "Many peacekeeping missions have performed admirably under these circumstances. Yet, the U.S. should provide more support to help peacekeepers prevent horrific abuses of people in war-torn areas."
The Last Line of Defense urges the U.S. to use its position on the UN Security Council to craft realistic mandates that reflect the resources available to carry out the job. The U.S. government should support the proactive use of force to protect civilians in harm's way and work with global training partners to ensure high standards of quality and consistency. The U.S. also has the ability to offer advanced military expertise and equipment, including armored vehicles and medical and engineering units.
The report notes that protecting civilians is rarely the core priority of any UN peacekeeping mission, which is routinely asked to perform a myriad of activities, including monitoring ceasefire agreements, facilitating aid delivery and demobilizing rebel groups. For example, in the DR Congo, the UN Security Council has mandated the peacekeeping mission there to accomplish over forty discreet tasks, but the staff have never been properly equipped for success. The report also describes how the very presence of peacekeepers creates expectations that local people will be protected when violence erupts. The failure to meet these expectations harms the legitimacy of the entire mission.
"It is clear that the U.S. sees UN peacekeeping missions as an important tool in our foreign policy toolbox. We should be making sure that this tool works," continued Weir. "If the U.S. wants to increase stability in places like the Congo or Sudan, they should ensure that the UN Security Council defines achievable objectives for peacekeeping missions, help provide the necessary resources and increase political support."
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. It is also a co-founder of the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping, a non-partisan policy working group to build support for greater peacebuilding capacity. To download a copy of The Last Line of Defense, go to www.refugeesinternational.org/policy/in-depth-report/last-line-defense.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Vanessa Parra; +1-202-828-0110 x225