10 June 2016 - Protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations: Transformation in peacekeeping is underway [fr]

Ministerial Debate on the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations - Speech by Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault , French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development - Security Council - 10 June 2016

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Distinguished delegates and participants,

In this special year for the United Nations, I wanted to bring you together to assess the progress made to protect civilians in peacekeeping operations.
I would like to commend the Secretary-General, who has played such a big part in this success, as well as the President of the Central African Republic, whom I thank for accepting my invitation and who has reminded us what the United Nations has done for his country.

Finally, I would like to thank the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who was unable to attend today, but who has submitted to us his recommendations for better protecting civilians in armed conflicts.

1. We have just learnt that a transformation in peacekeeping is underway.

We all remember the failures of Srebrenica and Rwanda. We noted with concern the Secretary-General’s last report on the protection of civilians which showed that international humanitarian law is increasingly being ignored by the parties to the conflict. Each time, civilians pay the price for this. And yet the United Nations has faced these challenges and has won key battles and enabled thousands of lives to be saved.

Naturally I am thinking of the Central African Republic, but also of Côte d’Ivoire, where the United Nations prevented mass atrocities from being perpetrated. I am also thinking of Northern Mali, where they are protecting the population and supporting the implementation of a political solution.

In the face of those who cast doubts about the United Nations, these successes show that the UN can indeed protect civilians, provided that three conditions are met:

The first condition is to set an example: The violence committed against populations by forces under a United Nations mandate must be fought as strongly as possible and in full compliance with the rule of law. As troop contributing countries, it is our duty to immediately refer any substantiated allegation which we hear of to the justice system and to take the necessary protective measures, while respecting the presumption of innocence. The dignity of the victims as well as the honour of the UN and all troops who are relentlessly fighting for peace is at stake.

The second condition is effectiveness

Effectiveness means setting a clear mandate on protecting civilians, if necessary setting out all necessary measures to defend them.

However, a clear mandate will only be effective if it is fully implemented by the civilians and military personnel responsible for enforcing it. Here too, we have noted progress, thanks to regular dialogue, which has become the norm, between the Security Council and troop contributors. The investment in peace is also more evenly distributed with the arrival of additional countries.

Modern resources are also necessary: drones, intelligence, projection capabilities. Although progress has been achieved in this area, we must do more, especially for missions taking place in a dangerous security environment. We must learn from history: when faced with difficulties, withdrawal is not an option. Instead, we must work out how to strengthen and better guarantee the security of our peacekeepers.

Beyond military action, effectively protecting civilians means using an integrated policy. This involves calling on legal and human rights experts, a visible United Nations presence on the ground, including in remote areas, cooperation with NGOs to develop an early warning network and a partnership with the legal authorities so that the criminals arrested by the peacekeepers can be duly brought to justice.

Finally, the third condition is the essential political will of the countries involved and the international community to resolve the root causes of the conflicts and to put forward inclusive and sustainable political solutions. The violence in the Kivu regions will not cease for as long as the armed groups responsible receive support in the DRC, as in neighbouring countries. The crimes in South Sudan will continue until such time as pressure is placed on the belligerents. The peacekeepers in Sudan will not be able to help civilians until the government stops hindering their work.

2. In this collective effort, France has played its full part and will continue to do so.

Our foremost commitment is to continue to press tirelessly for early action by the Security Council when there is a risk of mass atrocities. This is the very purpose of our initiative, with Mexico and that of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group, to which we have adhered, on regulation of the use of the veto when civilians are faced with crimes that shock the universal conscience. When States no longer play their part, the United Nations should fully shoulder its responsibility to protect civilians. We must then take collective action.

That is why we will continue to call for firmer action by the Security Council to put an end to the horrifying war waged by the Syrian regime against its own people.

That is why we will continue to work for the deployment of a credible police presence in Burundi. All this with a single watchword: let us not repeat the errors of the past.

As the President of the French Republic announced at the rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly last September, the use of the veto must be suspended in the event of mass atrocities. This is our responsibility as a permanent member. More than half of United Nations Member States have supported this initiative which we will implement unilaterally.
A ministerial conference on the protection of children in armed conflict will be organized in Paris in February 2017.

Lastly, violations of international humanitarian law in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Sudan and elsewhere must be denounced ceaselessly.

And the fight against impunity is crucial and must, in particular, involve unflinching support for the International Criminal Court so that the perpetrators of these crimes can be held to account.

Our second commitment means defending a robust posture in maintaining peace to serve populations. The Kigali Principles are useful guidelines and policies. France has decided to implement them in compliance with its international obligations, notably under the Charter of the United Nations.

Our third commitment consists in giving the United Nations resources which are commensurate with ambitious civilian protection objectives.

France is one of the leading contributors to the peacekeeping operations budget. With almost nine hundred peacekeepers deployed worldwide, France is the second-largest contributor of troops among Security Council permanent members. In addition, several thousands of French soldiers are deployed in a national capacity and help back peacekeeping operations on a daily basis.

France undertakes to maintain its participation in line with its duty as a permanent member. We also support the modernization of operations’ equipment, particularly in the area of intelligence.

We also encourage our partners to support peacekeeping operations. In this regard, I am pleased that, in addition to the regular troop contributing countries, Europe is back in force, as well as Canada.

We are determined to train twenty thousand African soldiers a year.

I would also like to announce that we will organize a ministerial conference on peacekeeping in French-speaking countries this autumn in Paris. We aim to obtain concrete promises to provide and train staff serving in French-speaking countries. Training is fundamental prior to deploying troops. This is the best way of preventing behaviours that go against the noble mission of peacekeepers.

Our fourth commitment consists in working for zero tolerance in operations under a United Nations mandate. Whenever necessary, allegations of acts of violence committed by soldiers involved in peacekeeping operations must be referred to the courts. As we have done up to now, we will apply this rule to our own forces. Moreover, our soldiers systematically receive training in respecting human rights and international humanitarian law before being deployed in the field.

Finally, we support the Special Coordinator on improving the fight against sexual abuse by providing financial backing and a senior officer.


The example of the Central African Republic has shown the extent to which the United Nations can foster prevention of mass atrocities when the Security Council stands united. It is up to us to continue in this direction by strengthening current peacekeeping operations and doing our utmost to ensure that civilians stop being by far the first victims of war throughout the world.

Denouncing and taking action. Denouncing to take action. That is our collective responsibility so as to live up to the ideals that inspired the Charter of the United Nations. This is what we owe soldiers in the field who, at the risk of their lives, embody these ideals where tragedies lead them to intervene.

You can count on France to fully shoulder its responsibilities. Thank you.

Dernière modification : 15/03/2018

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