UN says over 60 peacekeepers died in 2017

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said more than 60 ‘blue helmets’ – also known as peacekeepers – were killed in hostile acts in 2017.

Lacroix also said that peacekeepers saved many lives in 2017 in spite of being a particularly deadly year for the ‘blue helmets’.

“We do protect civilians every day. We do save lives every day. We often do it under very difficult and stressful circumstances,” Lacroix said.

He added that “many lives were saved” because of peacekeepers’ actions this year in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, South Sudan and other places.

“I think it’s more than warranted to pay tribute to them and their achievements. But certainly we have to work hard to overcome the challenges we are facing,” he said.

According to him, the UN peacekeepers in 2017 also completed its peacekeeping objectives in Côte d’Ivoire, refocused its work in Haiti and will soon complete its mandate in Liberia.

One of the challenges facing UN peacekeepers, as they operate in increasingly complex and dangerous areas, is the need for better training and equipment, particularly, intelligence gathering and enhancing situational awareness.

This includes the use of modern technologies, such as unmanned aerial services, radars and tethered balloons.

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The head of the UN Department of Field Support, Atul Khare, said the UN was also looking to borrow or purchase more equipment related to security reinforcements, accommodations, vehicles and communications tools, among others.

“We must do even more on the side of prevention and risk mitigation when seeking to protect our colleagues.

“Providing for the safety and security of deployed personnel in volatile environments is an absolute necessity,” Khare said.

One of the main challenges in peacekeeping operations has been grappling with allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.

The new UN strategy to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse puts more pressure on governments to investigate and prosecute wrong-doing.

In addition, 17 countries volunteered some $1.8 million for a trust fund to aid victims get medical, psycho-social, legal or socio-economic support.

If the year 2017 brought ambitious reform, then 2018 must be the year that these reforms are implemented, Lacroix said.

“We approach 2018 with a sense of hope. We will do our best to successfully implement these reforms and certainly we will do our best to support our colleagues in the field,” he stressed.