Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at UN high-level meeting on peacekeeping, New York, September 25, 2018

Tuesday, 25 September 2018 12:36

Mr Secretary-General,

Colleagues,

Peacekeeping activities rank among unconditional priorities of the UN. For several decades, UN blue helmets have embodied the international community’s hopes for ending war and healing the wounds caused by armed conflicts. The peacekeepers’ service has never been easy. Fifty-nine of them gave their lives last year alone. We must do our best to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Russia supports the resolve of the Secretary-General to enhance the Organisation’s peacekeeping activities. Some changes are long overdue. At the same time, the fundamental principles of peacekeeping operations must remain unshakeable. A fascination with mandates authorising the use of force is not a cure-all. This is vividly confirmed by UN experience in Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the governments hosting peacekeeping operations that are mostly responsible for the population’s safety, including safety from terrorist attacks, for launching the political process, eliminating the causes of conflict and ensuring post-conflict recovery. For its part, the international community must provide all possible assistance to the national governments in achieving these goals.

The mandates of peacekeeping operations must be clear and realistic. It is important to heed the opinions of the receiving states as well as the countries providing troop contingents and to maintain respectful dialogue with them.

Although UN Secretariat expert checks remain highly relevant, the Security Council and the General Assembly play a decisive role in charting the strategic aspects of peacekeeping activities. Their prerogatives must be unfailingly respected.

We support the drive to expand close UN cooperation with regional and sub-regional organisations during peacekeeping operations. The UN’s cooperation with the African Union is a successful example. We are ready to expand peacekeeping contacts between the UN and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

We are closely following the Secretariat’s efforts to launch the practical implementation of the concept dealing with intelligence activities during UN peacekeeping operations. So far, they are giving rise to questions, and this mostly concerns the definition of intelligence. The UN Secretariat’s interpretation of this concept far transcends the boundaries of the definition that was clearly coordinated by the decisions of the UN General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34). The attempts to conceal materials setting forth the Secretariat’s understanding of this concept from the member states also cause concern. Notably, the C-34 report expressly states that intelligence activities during UN peacekeeping operations can only be used to guarantee the safety of the peacekeepers and to protect civilians. Intelligence gathering must be conducted in strict compliance with the UN Charter, with the consent of the receiving side and by purely legal methods. Reliable storage and safe processing of sensitive data have special importance. The Special Committee did not consent to this data being used for the purposes of special political missions and humanitarian operations, and especially not for establishing an independent secret service at the UN Headquarters.

Regarding the declaration on joint obligations in the area of peacekeeping operations that was officially submitted today, we are grateful to the Secretary-General for his initiative. On the whole, the document’s principles set the right direction for the development of peacekeeping activities.

However, we cannot agree with some provisions.

First, this concerns high-priority cooperation with civil society and NGOs, to the detriment of cooperation with the receiving governments.

Second, the desire to turn secondary tasks and those alien to peacekeeping operations, including human rights issues, into the main aspect of mandates. Specialised UN agencies address these matters, and it would be inappropriate to meddle in their work.

Third, and especially in light of the first two points, we are concerned that the draft Declaration’s authors perceive the use of force as a magic remedy for accomplishing peacekeeping tasks.

Fourth, the absence of a provision confirming the coordinating role of the UN General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations in the draft Declaration is unacceptable.

We would also recommend not to exaggerate the importance of certain regional organisations with controversial peacekeeping experience in this document that aspires to be consensus-based.

It is our view that the declaration lacks the status of a precedent, and that specific forms of applying its provisions in practice must become the subject of further inter-governmental coordination.

In this context, we have decided not to object to the principle of consensus.

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