Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan,
Nov. 15, 2017
Thank you for the introduction. Secretary Sajjin, Under Secretaries Lacroix and Khare, Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Defense, military officers, distinguished guests… Our sincere gratitude to Canada for hosting. The United States appreciates Canada’s leadership on peacekeeping. It is an honor to represent the United States here in Vancouver amongst representatives from seventy-nine countries and five international organizations.
Secretary Mattis wishes he could be here. As you can imagine, his schedule is exceptionally demanding, but I join you in his stead to discuss the critical topic of peacekeeping. Secretary Mattis understands the importance of this forum for bolstering and building relationships – an effort that underpins all aspects of his leadership.
From the United Nations to NATO to the D-ISIS Coalition, the United States values partnerships and is committed to enhancing them. Strong relationships lie at our core, and we are here to align efforts, working as one team to make the U.N. peacekeeping system the best it can be.
The world needs strong leadership right now. We come from different backgrounds, experiences, and places that influence how we view security challenges, but we have a common goal – to protect and save innocent lives.
U.N. peacekeeping operations are not catch-all solutions for the world’s problems, but they are critical for enabling peace and stability, protecting innocents from violence, and rebuilding post-conflict societies.
In an increasingly complex security environment, U.N. peacekeeping has reached peak levels of demand, risk, and cost. As an international community and individual nations, we possess limited resources too valuable to waste on ineffective efforts – the most valuable being the men and women in peacekeeper uniforms.
Peacekeeping is important to the United States. Good peacekeeping is even more important. In Secretary Mattis’ words, “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 IDPs, and provide fertile ground for mass atrocities or the spread of disease.
For these reasons, partnerships – like those enabled by U.N. peacekeeping operations – serve as multipliers. They allow us to expand our collective reach to help those far beyond the grasps of our individual nations.
Like Secretary Mattis, Ambassador Haley knows the power of partnerships and modernization. She is tirelessly leading efforts to evaluate peacekeeping mandates and enhance their efficiency. As she said in April, “part of leadership is knowing when something needs to be fixed and having the will to do something about it.”
It is always easier to be a critic than part of the solution, but like Ambassador Haley we must focus our collective energy on bettering peacekeeping by removing roadblocks to success.
Difficult environments do not excuse poor performance or bad behavior. Misconduct by troops or police on missions is a symptom of leadership failure. Leaders and units that perform poorly have no place in operations, and they must be removed from the field. The United States has experience operating in similar environments. We know what a good unit in the field looks like and that good units and leadership make or break missions.
We do not need to reinvent the peacekeeping system for it to reach its full potential. Instead, we should encourage a meritocracy that allows the system to flourish. Deployed forces should be properly trained and equipped, empowered to succeed, and rewarded for performing well. Those who wear the iconic blue peacekeeper helmet must have the protection of civilians in mind at all times and be deployed without hidden caveats.
Above all, forces must operate with the moral and political support of the international community behind them. We cannot ask troop and police contributing countries to put their forces’ lives at risk without confidence that they will be well trained, led, and supplied.
We appreciate that Secretary-General Guterres is taking steps to address these concerns. In this Ministerial’s meetings and beyond, we must maintain positive momentum on his recommendations and focus our efforts on improving delivery of operational mandates.
The United States stands with you. We recommit ourselves to improving U.N. peacekeeping’s leadership, accountability, and performance. The United States remains the largest financial contributor and capacity builder for peacekeeping missions. We currently provide more than twenty-eight percent of assessed costs and have spent more than $1 billion training peacekeepers over the last decade. We will continue to provide a quarter of all costs into the future.
Moving forward, we are focused on “a partnership to provide” model that matches U.S. capabilities with the needs of the U.N. and partner nations, in order to enhance capabilities across the board.
In pursuit of this ongoing initiative, the United States pledges to provide medical support to the U.N. through extensive subject matter expertise. We will help identify and develop U.N. training standards, processes, and training to increase peacekeepers’ health and safety.
We will bolster U.N. planning and coordination by empowering the U.N.’s strategic force generation and capabilities planning cell, so it can connect pledging nations that lack training and equipment with donors who can match their needs.
We will provide equipment, training, and sustainment for critical enabling operations, like aviation, engineering, explosive ordnance disposal, medical, and logistics.
We 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.
We are proud to support Rwanda’s pledge of rapidly deployable units. These units, developed through the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, will respond to emerging crises.
We will re-inforce in-mission mentoring by deploying U.S. training teams to peacekeeping operations for short durations to assess and help address U.N.-identified gaps.
And we pledge to 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.
As we fulfill these pledges, your continuing leadership is vital for strengthening U.N. peacekeeping operations.
In closing, I would like to highlight two examples of peacekeeping at its finest, in the hope that these heroic actions serve as inspiration and motivation for this Ministerial’s discussions.
In South Sudan, a Bangladesh Force Marine Unit tasked as barge escorts to deliver critical supplies and equipment was ambushed numerous times and stood their ground to support those barge escorts.
Throughout this year, Mongolian peacekeepers in South Sudan have repeatedly rescued dozens of IDPs from abduction and harassment by armed groups and valiantly defended U.N.-protected civilian sites.
I am confident we can reach an inflection point where these types of actions are the norm. By working together, I have no doubt we can enable peacekeeping operations grounded in results-driven success.
Thank you very much.
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