VANCOUVER, Canada, Nov. 15, 2017 — Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan outlined U.S. support to U.N. peacekeeping operations, saying peacekeepers play a critical role in peace and security, while acknowledging reforms are needed.
The United States values its partnerships with its allies and is committed to enhancing them, to include at the United Nations and NATO and in the coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Shanahan told participants here today at the 2017 U.N. Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial.
“Strong relationships lie at our core,” he said. “We’re here to align efforts, working as one team to make the UN peacekeeping system the best it can be.”
The common goal is to protect and save innocent lives, Shanahan said, pointing out how Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said problems in ungoverned spaces do not remain in ungoverned spaces.
“Without help from the international community, fragile states can sow regional instability, become safe havens to terrorists and criminals, generate refugees and [internally displaced people] and provide fertile ground for mass atrocities or the spread of disease,” Shanahan said.
Nearly 80 countries and 500 participants took part in the two-day ministerial, according to officials here.
Shanahan met with fellow defense leaders in several bilateral meetings, to include meeting with Canadian Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan.
Defense spokesperson Navy Cmdr. Sarah Higgins said in a statement that Shanahan thanked Sajjan for Canada’s leadership on global security issues, to include the defeat-ISIS efforts, and complimented his country for hosting the peacekeeping conference.
The leaders reaffirmed their countries’ defense relationship, to include close cooperation on modernizing the countries’ approach to North American defense, she added.
U.S. Support to U.N. Peacekeepers
Shanahan told the conference the United States remains the largest financial contributor and capacity builder for U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Senior U.S. defense officials have called for cost-burden sharing.
The United States currently provides more than 28 percent of assessed costs and has spent more than $1 billion training U.N. peacekeepers over the last decade, Shanahan said.
He said the United States will continue to provide a quarter of all costs into the future. Peacekeepers, tasked with jobs that put their lives at risk, must be well-trained, led and supplied, Shanahan said.
The United States is recommitting itself to improving U.N. peacekeeping leadership, accountability and performance, he said.
Shanahan said the United States pledges to provide increased medical support to the U.N. through subject matter expertise, and to empower the U.N.’s strategic force generation and capabilities planning cell so it can connect pledging nations with needed training and equipment.
The U.S. commitment to the peacekeeping efforts includes providing equipment, training and sustainment for critical enabling operations like aviation, engineering, medical, logistics and explosive ordnance disposal.
The United States also will enhance operational readiness by providing additional training equipment that enables troops and police to train with the same equipment they will use in missions, Shanahan said.
He said the United States is proud to support Rwanda’s pledge of rapidly deployable units. The U.S., Shanahan explained, will reinforce in-mission mentoring by deploying U.S. training teams to assess and help address gaps.
Shanahan outlined how the United States will enhance in-mission communications by providing a targeted assessment and support package to a U.N. mission, in coordination with the U.N.’s signal academy.
Challenges to Peacekeeping Operations
Shanahan and other speakers at the conference called for reforms to U.N. peacekeeping. Problems include peacekeepers who have conducted misconduct, to include sexual abuse of women and children.
The deputy defense secretary pointed out how U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has said a part of leadership is to know when something needs to be fixed and having the will to do something about it.
“Difficult environments do not excuse poor performance or bad behavior,” Shanahan said. “Misconduct by troops or police on [U.N.] missions is a symptom of leadership failure.”
Leaders and units that perform poorly have no place in U.N. operations and must be removed from the field, he said.
“We do not need to reinvent the peacekeeping system for it to reach its full potential,” Shanahan said. “Instead, we should encourage a meritocracy that allows the system to flourish.”
U.N. Peacekeepers Serve Globally
U.N. peacekeepers are deployed around the world in 15 peacekeeping operations, to include in Haiti, the Central African Republic, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Cyprus and the Middle East, according to the United Nations.
The United Nations outlined the goals of the conference: measuring the progress made since the 2016 U.N. Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial; encouraging new pledges from member states; advancing peacekeeping reforms; and fostering pragmatic and innovative solutions to peacekeeping.