Opening Remarks by the Vice President at the UN Summit on Peacekeeping Operations
The United Nations
New York, New York
10:43 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Welcome. And welcome to my co-hosts -- the Secretary General, the President of Rwanda, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the Prime Minister of Japan, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and all the assembled leaders, ministers, ambassadors and distinguished guests. And as we say in the body I used to work in, the United States Senate, if you could excuse the point of personal privilege, I’d like to welcome my colleague, Senator Coons, who represents my home constituency. So I want to be able to go back home. (Laughter.)
We meet at a moment when the demand for international peacekeeping has never been greater. In one generation, U.N. peacekeeping has grown tenfold, to about 120,000 men and women deployed around the world.
And as the nature of conflict and combatants has evolved -- to include sophisticated non-state actors as well as traditional armies -— the instruments of peacekeeping have evolved as well.
Today, we ask peacekeepers to protect civilians in South Sudan and the Central African Republic; to prevent sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and to help with the peace process in Mali, amid deadly attacks by extremists -— even as we continue to monitor longstanding ceasefires on three continents.
When we ask them to do more than ever, that is the peacekeepers, in even more difficult and more dangerous environments, we owe them more. The result is that peacekeeping is under greater strain than it ever has been. And I should say -- and I’m sure I speak for everyone -- we are grateful for the burdens peacekeepers have carried, and we honor the sacrifices that they have made.
But, today, we gather to offer more than just words of support. Together, our nations are here to offer resources, troops, police, and more for these missions. We have to meet the peacekeeping challenges today. We also have to look ahead what they're going to be tomorrow; and we have to do it together.
The United States will do its part. Last month, President Obama launched the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, a new commitment of $110 million dollars per year for the next three to five years to help six African partners build their capacity to rapidly -- and I emphasize rapidly --deploy peacekeepers in emerging crises. Because rapid deployment, if done rapidly, can save tens of thousands of lives.
We thank the growing coalition, including several leaders here today, who are joining us in support of this initiative. We think they share the same view, and we thank them for their contributions.
We also will review U.S. contributions to peacekeeping, as well, to assess gaps that the United States is uniquely positioned to fill, like base camps we are building and helping the U.N. build for peacekeepers in the Central African Republic; to better share the U.S. military’s knowledge of confronting asymmetric threats; and to help the U.N. deploy advanced technology.
And we’ll continue to offer support during cases as we did -- crises, I should say, as we did after the Haiti earthquake, and as we will be doing in Liberia to help contain the Ebola outbreak.
We are already making contributions, all of us. But we can and should do more together, and we can do it, in our view, more effectively. That’s why the United States, Mr. Secretary General, welcomes the comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations that you have put forward.
This is a chance not only to make commitments, but to think strategically together about future peacekeeping needs and related missions. My guess is -- and I’ve been in this business a long time -- had we met in the same fora 20 years ago, no one would be anticipating the type -- have anticipated the type of peacekeeping operations from non-state actors that we’re engaged with. So when I say think strategically, we have to think ahead, as well.
And as to what kind of missions are going to be required in the future; what will be required to deploy them -- these missions -- rapidly and ensure they perform effectively; working in partnership with the African Union, NATO, and the European Union, and other organizations, we can do that. And we owe the United Nations our best and boldest thinking.
So the truth is the very fact that peacekeeping exists, that men and women sometimes from halfway around the world risk their lives to protect peace on the fault lines of conflict is one of the great achievements of this international system. Working together I’m confident we can strengthen that system and meet the challenges ahead.
And with that, let me now turn to His Excellency, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.
10:50 A.M. EDT