Towards more effective, fit for future UN peacekeeping operations

Ahmed Abu Zeid and Elena Panova , Thursday 30 May 2024

Reflecting on 76 Years of UN Peacekeeping Operations and Egypt’s remarkable track record

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As we mark the 76th anniversary of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, we are reminded of the long and proud history, with more than one million peacekeepers having served in more than 70 operations on four continents since its establishment in 1948. Over the past seven decades, UN peacekeepers have tirelessly worked to mitigate conflicts, protect civilians, provide basic security guarantees, respond to crises and facilitate the transition to sustainable peace in some of the world's most challenging settings. In doing so, they have helped countries close the chapter of conflict and open a path to sustainable development, even if major peacebuilding challenges remain.

Egypt has been a key supporter of UN peacekeeping efforts, contributing troops, police, civilians, and expertise to numerous missions across the globe. It built up an impressive record of peacekeeping achievements over more than 60 years of its existence. Egypt is one of the key countries that made these successes possible. Since 1960 when it first sent troops to the UN Operation in Congo, more than 30,000 Egyptians have served in 37 peacekeeping missions in 24 countries.

As one of the largest contributors of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping, Egypt currently deploys 1602 military and police personnel to the UN peace operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and the Western Sahara.

As impressive as Egypt’s peacekeeping achievements are over more than 60 years of peacekeeping operations existence, so is Egypt’s sacrifice, with 60 brave Egyptian blue helmets paying the ultimate sacrifice in service of peace.

Egypt’s service and sacrifice are recognized globally, demonstrated by its re-election as rapporteur of the UN Special Peacekeeping Operations Committee and its recent election as Chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. Furthermore, the adoption of the Cairo Roadmap on Enhancing Peacekeeping Operations as the African Union’s position shows Egypt’s strong leadership in this area.

And through the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding (CCCPA), indeed, Egypt has provided a leading voice from the Global South on a wide range of topics, including conflict prevention and resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The CCCPA stands out as an African Union Center of Excellence, and the only civilian training center on issues of peace and security. Through effective partnership with the United Nations Family in Egypt, CCCPA has emerged as a pillar for fostering dialogue, negotiation and mediation; early warning and early response and crisis management in Africa and the Arab world.

In today's complex and evolving security landscape, the need for effective multilateral cooperation has never been greater. Conflicts continue to erupt, often with devastating humanitarian consequences. UN peacekeeping missions are also facing unprecedented, growing threat from the weaponization of digital tools, with hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation undermining their vital work, and fueling violence against peacekeeping personnel, partners, and communities.

The United Nations chose as theme for this year’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers: “Fit for the future, building better together,” pointing out the paramount importance for peacekeeping operations to adapt to the changing political landscape and nature of conflicts which have become more complex and interconnected.

As peacekeeping has evolved to reflect the populations they serve, women have become increasingly part of the peacekeeping family – making operations more effective. It’s also an area where Egypt has been an active player, with Egyptian female peacekeepers – currently 102 brave Egyptian women are serving with 5 missions across Africa - considered as role models in the peacekeeping missions where they serve

In the words of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “in order for our peacekeepers to respond to the challenges of today and tomorrow, they need the world’s support.” In this regard, countries will not be able to address conflict prevention and resolution in an inclusive and sustainable manner without taking into account young people’s perspectives in planning and decision-making. The UN Security Council Resolution #2250 on Youth, Peace and Security is a landmark as it acknowledges the important role youth can play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.

Furthermore, the climate crisis poses an increasing threat to global peace and security, with rising sea levels, droughts, floods and other climate-related events, and highlights the need for UN peace operations around the world to adapt and mitigate the risk of climate driven conflicts. Despite its limited contribution to global warming, Africa disproportionately faces the worst of climate change impacts.

The COP27 Presidency’s flagship initiative titled “Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace” (CRSP), has taken a leading role in this regard, by spearheading a discussion on how climate change may exacerbate the risks of violence, conflict or other national vulnerabilities, and the need to approach these through a multifaceted and holistic way.

 Egypt took the initiative even further by launching the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development. The forum, with the next edition scheduled for 2-3 July in Cairo, provides the first of its kind platform in Africa to address the interlinkages between peace and development, championing Africa-led solutions and addressing peacebuilding through a climate lens.

Looking ahead, this International Day of UN Peacekeepers reminds us that collective commitment to a stronger engagement for advancing political solutions to conflict is needed more than ever. As the Secretary-General puts it, “UN Peacekeeping is a remarkable enterprise of multilateralism and international solidarity.”

In September, member states will meet at the Summit of the Future, where they will jointly tackle how to respond to the world's emerging threats. In this important forum, UN member states have a responsibility to champion multilateralism, join forces and chart a more effective, accountable and inclusive peacekeeping operations, as laid out in the New Agenda for Peace." The New Agenda for Peace is the UN Secretary-General’s vision for strengthening multilateral action for peace, based on international law, in a world in transition.

*Ambassador Ahmed Abu Zeid, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Director of Public Diplomacy Department

Elena Panova, UN in Egypt Resident Coordinator

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