For nearly 70 years, UN peacekeeping has proven to be one of the international community’s most effective investments in peace, security and prosperity.
Demand for UN peacekeepers has risen steadily over the years, and deployment is now near an all-time high. Peacekeeping has had a positive impact on the lives of millions of people around the world.
Despite their different sizes and mandates, all UN missions have the same goals: to save lives, protect people, to set the stage for peace, and then close. They are intended to be short-term investments that provide long-term dividends by creating the time and space for political processes to unfold.
To date, fifty-four UN peace operations have completed their mandates. Two more, in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia, will soon close, joining a long list of successful operations in Angola, Cambodia, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and elsewhere.
Looking forward, we are aiming to do more to end operations that have achieved their goals. We are also reforming and adapting our peacekeeping missions to improve their effectiveness in the increasingly challenging environments in which they work.
Today’s peacekeeping budget — less than one half of one per cent of global military spending — is money well spent. It is a fraction of the cost of allowing conflict to spread and erode the gains of economic development. The investment is multiplied by the economic growth and prosperity that follow from stability and security after successful peacekeeping missions.
The UN is working hard to make all our peacekeeping operations cost-effective from start to finish. We are constantly finding ways to reform, restructure and drive costs down.
At the same time, UN peacekeepers are relentless in searching for new ways to build sustainable peace.
Peacekeeping operations have evolved from simply monitoring ceasefires to protecting civilians, disarming ex-combatants, protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law, supporting free and fair elections, minimizing the risk of land-mines and much more. They also work to ensure that women are fully represented in peace processes, political life, and in branches of government. All these investments are fundamental to building lasting peace.
Since taking office earlier this year, I have made ending the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN personnel, including peacekeepers, one of my top priorities. We are by no means perfect. But when we make mistakes, we learn from them, striving continuously to deploy our personnel and assets in a way that is not just responsible, but beneficial to the people and communities we serve.
I look forward to working with Member States on this. Our partnership is central to the success of peacekeeping missions, since Member States decide where troops go, what they will do, and what resources will support them. Our close cooperation is vital if we are to deliver on the promise of lasting peace, while peacekeepers create conditions on the ground to enable solutions to emerge and take root.
I have also prioritized ensuring that women play a far more active role in peace operations, as troops, police and civilian staff. Gender parity is essential for its own sake, and the presence of women increases the chances of sustained peace while reducing incidences of sexual abuse and exploitation.
On this International Day of UN Peacekeepers we pay tribute to more than 113,000 ‘Blue Helmets’, UN Police and civilian personnel deployed to 16 missions. We acknowledge the contribution made by an ever-growing number of Member States to our operations. We thank more than one million women and men who have served under the UN flag with professionalism, dedication and courage throughout our history. And we honour the memory of more than 3,500 peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving.
Last year, 117 peacekeepers paid the ultimate price. They included military, police, international civil servants, UN Volunteers and national staff from 43 countries. So far in 2017, twelve peacekeepers have been killed.
Their efforts on behalf of the international community are one of the most concrete expressions of the UN Charter’s determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” We all owe them a great debt.
Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.
Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.
Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.
Women’s legal rights, which have never been equal to men’s on any continent, are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined. Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.
Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.
Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.
Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.
When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.
Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs.
I am committed to increasing women’s participation in our peace and security work. Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Within the UN, I am establishing a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system, so that our Organization truly represents the people we serve. Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action.
On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. [Ends]
Female genital mutilation denies women and girls their dignity, endangers their health, and causes needless pain and suffering, with consequences that endure for a lifetime and can even be fatal. Sustainable development demands full human rights for all women and girls. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises an end to this practice by 2030. On this Day of Zero Tolerance, let us build on positive momentum and commit to intensifying global action against this heinous human rights violation for the sake of all affected women and girls, their communities, and our common future. [Ends]
Today, we honour the victims of the Holocaust, an incomparable tragedy in human history.
The world has a duty to remember that the Holocaust was a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people and so many others.
It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis. On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred, scapegoating and discrimination targeting the Jews, what we now call anti-Semitism.
Tragically, and contrary to our resolve, anti-Semitism continues to thrive. We are also seeing a deeply troubling rise in extremism, xenophobia, racism and anti-Muslim hatred. Irrationality and intolerance are back.
This is in complete contrast to the universal values enshrined in the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We can never remain silent or indifferent when human beings are suffering.
We must always defend the vulnerable and bring tormentors to justice.
And as the theme of this year’s observance highlights, a better future depends on education.
After the horrors of the 20th century, there should be no room for intolerance in the 21st. I guarantee you that as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will be in the frontline of the battle against anti-Semitism and all other forms of hatred.
Let us build a future of dignity and equality for all – and thus honour the victims of the Holocaust who we will never allow to be forgotten. [Ends]
On my first day as Secretary-General of the United Nations, one question weighs heavily on my heart.
How can we help the millions of people caught up in conflict, suffering massively in wars with no end in sight?
Civilians are pounded with deadly force. Women, children and men are killed and injured, forced from their homes, dispossessed and destitute. Even hospitals and aid convoys are targeted.
No one wins these wars; everyone loses. Trillions of dollars are spent destroying societies and economies, fueling cycles of mistrust and fear that can last for generations. Whole regions are destabilized and the new threat of global terrorism affects us all.
On this New Year’s Day, I ask all of you to join me in making one shared New Year’s resolution:
Let us resolve to put peace first.
Let us make 2017 a year in which we all – citizens, governments, leaders – strive to overcome our differences.
From solidarity and compassion in our daily lives, to dialogue and respect across political divides… From ceasefires on the battlefield, to compromise at the negotiating table to reach political solutions…
Peace must be our goal and our guide.
All that we strive for as a human family – dignity and hope, progress and prosperity – depends on peace.
But peace depends on us.
I appeal to you all to join me in committing to peace, today and every day.
Let us make 2017 a year for peace.
António Guterres – Biography
António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, took office on 1st January 2017.
Having witnessed the suffering of the most vulnerable people on earth, in refugee camps and in war zones, the Secretary-General is determined to make human dignity the core of his work, and to serve as a peace broker, a bridge-builder and a promoter of reform and innovation.
Prior to his election as Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015, heading one of the world’s foremost humanitarian organizations during some of the most serious displacement crises in decades. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Yemen, led to a huge rise in UNHCR’s activities as the number of people displaced by conflict and persecution rose from 38 million in 2005 to over 60 million in 2015.
Before joining UNHCR, Mr. Guterres spent more than 20 years in government and public service. He served as prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, during which time he was heavily involved in the international effort to resolve the crisis in East Timor.
As president of the European Council in early 2000, he led the adoption of the Lisbon Agenda for growth and jobs, and co-chaired the first European Union-Africa summit. He was a member of the Portuguese Council of State from 1991 to 2002.
Mr. Guterres was elected to the Portuguese Parliament in 1976 where he served as a member for 17 years. During that time, he chaired the Parliamentary Committee for Economy, Finance and Planning, and later the Parliamentary Committee for Territorial Administration, Municipalities and Environment. He was also leader of his party’s parliamentary group.
From 1981 to 1983, Mr. Guterres was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where he chaired the Committee on Demography, Migration and Refugees.
For many years Mr. Guterres was active in the Socialist International, a worldwide organization of social democratic political parties. He was the group’s vice-president from 1992 to 1999, co-chairing the African Committee and later the Development Committee. He served as President from 1999 until mid-2005. In addition, he founded the Portuguese Refugee Council as well as the Portuguese Consumers Association DECO, and served as president of the Centro de Acção Social Universitário, an association carrying out social development projects in poor neighbourhoods of Lisbon, in the early 1970s.
Mr. Guterres is a member of the Club of Madrid, a leadership alliance of democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world.
Mr. Guterres was born in Lisbon in 1949 and graduated from the Instituto Superior Técnico with a degree in engineering. He is fluent in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish. He is married to Catarina de Almeida Vaz Pinto, Deputy Mayor for Culture of Lisbon, and has two children, a stepson and three grandchildren.
As United Nations Secretary-General over the last decade, I have repeatedly stressed the interdependence of the three pillars of the United Nations — peace, sustainable development and human rights. Together, they form the basis of resilient and cohesive societies rooted in inclusion, justice and the rule of law.
I have also underscored that human rights are at the heart of the work and identity of the United Nations. This understanding is at the core of our Human Rights up Front initiative.
At a time of multiplying conflicts, intensifying humanitarian needs and rising hate speech, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that recognition of “the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. Step by step, we can build a future based on our shared values of equality and human dignity.
That is the spirit that underlies our recently launched “Together” campaign to fight the xenophobia faced by so many refugees and migrants. That is also the spirit we will need to combat extremism, halt the erosion of respect for international humanitarian law, and defend civil society groups facing increasingly harsh measures aimed at preventing them from fulfilling their vital role.
Upholding human rights is in the interest of all. Respect for human rights advances well-being for every individual, stability for every society, and harmony for our interconnected world.
And this work can be done by all, at every level of society. States have the primary responsibility for upholding human rights. The United Nations, along with partners around the globe, must continue to strengthen responses to abuses, and work better to prevent human rights crises.
All of us can – and must – act in our daily lives to advance the human rights of the people around us. This is the driving force behind a new global campaign being launched by the UN Human Rights Office — “Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today.”
Wherever we are, each of us can make a difference for human rights — in our neighbourhoods, in school, at work, on social media, at home and even in sporting arenas across the world.
Together, let us stand up for someone’s rights. Today, tomorrow, and every day. [Ends]