(Check against delivery)
Mr. President, I thank Brazil and specifically Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Alberto Franco França for organizing an Open Debate on this important topic. I also thank Secretary-General António Guterres, Under-Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix, MONUSCO Force Commander Lt. Gen. Marcos De Sá Affonso Da Costa, and IPI’s Director of Research Jenna Russo for their insightful briefings.
Let me start with expressing our strong support for and deep gratitude to all United Nations peacekeepers. They contribute to establishing stability, they engage in mediation efforts and in deterrence of violence, and they offer support to elections. All of these efforts deserve our full respect.
However, local populations tend to overestimate peacekeeping operations’ ability to achieve immediate positive impact. These populations are likely to become frustrated when security and development problems persist longer than they had expected and hoped for.
This is further aggravated by political actors trying to put the blame for bad governance on the United Nations. Recent smear campaigns on social media and the increase of deliberate misinformation have made peace operations increasingly difficult. This development results in acute and immediate danger for peacekeepers from the Central African Republic to Mali and to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Clear communication of the objectives and limitations of peacekeeping missions is crucial to preempt unrealistic expectations and gather support for mandate implementation amongst the local population and authorities.
Together we need to echo a shared message: United Nations peacekeeping is always the common effort of all United Nation Member States to achieve a peaceful resolution of violent conflict. UN peacekeeping only ever acts with the permission of the host country and is based on a clear mandate by the UN Security Council. We must stand united against verbal - or worse - physical attacks on peacekeepers, as they challenge the United Nations at its very core.
Yet, whenever peacekeepers are able to take decisive action, their popularity increases significantly. Accordingly, peacekeeping needs to better communicate existing efforts on the output level – let’s say, the daily patrols. More efforts must be invested in impact assessment, resulting – inter alia - in plausible claims about what peacekeepers were able to prevent from happening.
As political actors, peacekeeping operations have to take part in public discourse and pro-actively shape ongoing discussions. Peacekeepers on all levels need to understand the public debates in a given context as well as the ways to influence them, especially through social media. I would like to encourage peacekeeping operations to become as operational as possible when it comes to strategic communication in the field.
In order to be successful, peacekeepers need to understand the local context and evolving security situation through listening to the population. This requires more specific language training as well as specific tools and enablers, such as Community Liaison Assistants and engagement teams.
We know that DPO is working to address these challenges, specifically with an important new project on countering misinformation/disinformation. As one of the largest contributors to the UN Peacekeeping budget, alongside with considerable extra-budgetary means, Germany is proud to continue support in favour of these efforts.