Chinese peacekeepers have long played a valuable role at the United Nations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, under-secretary-general for the Department of Peace Operations, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“Chinese peacekeepers – civilian, military and police have played a valuable role in several UN operations over the past 30 years and I commend them for their service under the blue flag,” said the UN peacekeeping chief in an email on Thursday, one day prior to the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
“I extend my gratitude to all the Chinese peacekeepers past and present on the occasion of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, which we mark on 29 May each year,” said Lacroix.
Talking about China‘s contributions to UN peace operations, he said that China ranks eighth among the top 10 troop contributing countries, with more than 2,500 Chinese troops and police currently serving in UN peace operations.
“Chinese peacekeepers serve with dedication on these missions, some of which are among the most challenging contexts into which our peacekeepers deploy,” he said, adding that China is also the second-largest financial contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget.
“Over the decades, Chinese peacekeepers have participated in a wide range of missions and in a number of important capacities. The contributions of Chinese peacekeepers have been not only in the fields of, for example, medical and engineering but they have also served as police – both individually and as units – and in infantry deployments,” the UN peacekeeping chief noted.
Lacroix also extended his condolences to one Chinese peacekeeper who was killed in South Sudan this year. “We honor his memory and we grieve with his family, his nation and the people of China.”
Noting that UN Peacekeeping is a unique global partnership, the UN peacekeeping chief said that “we look forward to continuing this partnership with all stakeholders.”
“We commend and thank all our Chinese peacekeepers for their service in the cause of peace,” Lacroix said.
Discussing the major challenges facing UN peacekeeping operations, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world, Lacroix said the entire UN system is mobilized, and “our peacekeeping operations missions are playing an important role not only in responding to the pandemic, but ensuring that we continue to deliver on our mandates under very difficult and rapidly changing circumstances.”
“UN peacekeeping continues to face broad challenges on delivering their mandates, in addition to the immediate challenges posed by COVID-19, such as the lack of progress in finding political solutions,” he said.
The UN peacekeeping chief noted that peacekeeping is a tool that exists to support and promote the achievement of political solutions, but the UN cannot achieve those solutions alone.
“This requires political will from the parties as well as united support from the international community and especially the UN Security Council, to push for political solutions,” he stressed.
“Our peacekeepers are currently deployed in challenging and dangerous environments. Armed groups target our peacekeepers or humanitarian workers directly. Disinformation exacerbates tensions, creates toxic rumors and undermines the confidence of whole populations. And the contexts into which UN peacekeepers deploy remain fragile,” he said.
“For vulnerable populations, expectations for the UN to protect civilians are – understandably – very high and often above what peacekeeping can realistically achieve,” he added.
Lacroix said that the pandemic has “added additional complications.”
“Our mission in South Sudan, for example (UNMISS) has had to reduce some of its operations due in part to precautionary measures and to restrictions placed on the mission’s freedom of movement,” he said. “The mission is particularly concerned about the possibility of an outbreak in the Protection of Civilian camps.”
On UN‘s mission in Lebanon, he said UNIFIL has suspended outreach and civil-military activities that require in-person interactions as well as most training activities with the Lebanese Armed Forces. However, it maintains a large part of its patrols, while observing social distancing rules, and continues monitoring of the Blue line.
“In spite of these challenges, we remain strongly committed to delivering our mandates and supporting governments and communities in their efforts to combat COVID-19. Our peacekeepers are running sensitization campaigns, donating and distributing protective gear and essential equipment in communities, building handwashing stations and educating children out of school through UN radio stations airwaves,” said Lacroix.
“Our missions are also encouraging parties to conflict to silence the guns, in line with the secretary-general’s call for a global ceasefire,” Lacroix noted.