United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial

U.S. Department of Defense Speeches, November 15, 2017 | Go to article overview

United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial


Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan, Vancouver, Canada, 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. …

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