Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power and General Joseph F. Dunford at a UN Meeting on Peacekeeping
Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
General Joseph F. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
New York City
June 17, 2016
AMBASSADOR POWER: Thank you, so much. And thank all of you for being here today at this important event. Let me in particular thank the United Kingdom for its leadership in convening the upcoming Defense Ministerial Meeting in London, and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, who has spearheaded this effort to dramatically increase the quantity and quality of peacekeepers made available to the United Nations.
Let me begin with a quote from our incredibly distinguished guest, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford. It is from a speech that the General delivered last week, at the commencement ceremony of National Defense University, which has helped shape generations of the United States’ leaders in national security. The quote is as follows: “There’s no substitute for taking a clear-eyed look at the threats we’ll face, and asking how our force has to change to meet them. There is no substitute for leadership that recognizes the implication of new ideas, new technologies, and new approaches, and actually anticipates and affects those changes, actually affects adaptation.”
General Dunford’s presence here today is testament to how the United States – and in particular our military – is not only recognizing the evolving threats that we all face today, but also adapting so that we can effectively meet them. His presence here today marks the first time in history that a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has spoken at the United Nations. First time ever. And that reflects the understanding by the United States military – and in particular, by the General himself – of the critical importance of building multilateral coalitions to address 21st century threats; threats that, by their very nature, cannot be confined to within national borders, or effectively confronted by any one nation. This is a shift that General Dunford has experienced and practiced first-hand over his decades in service.
To give just one example of the value he places on the sacrifices made by our partners to advance our shared security – and a clear demonstration of his character: when General Dunford was serving in Afghanistan – first as a leader of U.S. and NATO forces, and then as commander of the International Security Assistance Forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, ISAF – he made a point of writing an individual letter of condolence to the family of every fallen soldier in that effort, regardless of what country they came from. He made sure every letter was personalized.
General Dunford has joined us today to speak, among other themes, on the crucial role of UN peacekeeping in addressing 21st century threats; and the need for all of our countries to follow through on the commitments we made at last September’s transformative peacekeeping summit, which was convened by President Obama, and at which so many governments made important pledges.
It is the privilege of a lifetime to serve with General Dunford in the Obama administration. He is a leader known for his tactical and strategic intelligence, his humility, and his deep compassion. He has shown a unique ability to adapt to today’s evolving challenges and threats, and we are so very grateful he is here with us today on this historic occasion. Please join me in welcoming him.
GENERAL DUNFORD: Well Ambassador Power thanks very much for the introduction, and more importantly, thanks for your leadership while representing us here at the United Nations. I appreciate that. Under-Secretary Ladsous, Under-Secretary Khare, Ambassadors, General Messenger, General Maqsood, ladies and gentleman, it’s an honor to be with you here this afternoon. When Ambassador Power asked me to join you, I jumped at the opportunity, because I truly believe in the utility of the United Nations peacekeeping. I’m particularly enthusiastic about our collective efforts to enhance the capability and capacity of the United Nations to respond to the growing demand for peacekeeping operations. Your commitment to maintain the momentum that we generated last September is reflected by your presence here today, and I want to thank all of you for being here and for focusing this issue. And I particularly want to echo Ambassador Power’s comments about the United Kingdom, and their leadership. And Gordon, my good friend, your presence here says it all.
The current security environment has been described as the most complex and volatile since World War II – and frankly, I believe that. The challenges we face range from conventional conflict to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, from violent extremism to trans-regional crime, and the character of war has changed.
Today’s challenges are increasingly trans-regional. The current fight against violent extremism is an example. We estimate that over 45 thousand foreign fighters from 120 different countries have come to Iraq and Syria. No nation today can turn away and consider violent extremism somebody else’s problem. We have many examples of how the fight can follow us home from fragile states in the form of terrorist acts and the mass migration of those seeking to escape violence.
Similarly today, today’s conflict between states is not only trans-regional but also what we in the United States call multi-domain. That is involves simultaneous action on sea, on land, in the air, in space, and in cyberspace. And we also see non-state actors involved in conflict that are able to leverage information, cyber capabilities, and sophisticated weapons. In addition to the complexity of conflict, we see increased volume. In 2014 nearly 60 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict, and the commission for refugees estimates that violence will displace over 40 thousand people a day.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that United Nations peacekeeping operations are a solution for all of that, but that brief description of the current environment highlights the growing need for multi-national cooperation in responding to conflict. No longer can conflict be considered something that is “over there.” While the international community must develop a wide range of capabilities to respond to today’s challenges, we already have a relevant and potentially very effective tool in the form of the UN peacekeeping. And I firmly believe that UN peacekeeping can play a major role in dealing with the human suffering associated with conflict and by continuing to improve our collective security.
President Obama made that point last September when he said: “we know that peace operations are not the solution to every problem, but they do remain one of the world’s most important tools to address armed conflict.” Of course he’s also directed the U.S. military to do more in support of UN peacekeeping operations and he’s asked others to make a commitment to do the same.
Just as the character of war has changed, the nature of UN peacekeeping missions has changed. Today, two-thirds of all blue-helmeted peacekeepers are serving in active conflict areas, a trend that in my estimation is likely to continue well into the future.
A quick review of the ongoing peacekeeping operations highlights the wide range of conditions within which we’re operating today: Military and Police forces under the UN Flag are disarming violent rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; UN peacekeepers in South Sudan are delivering humanitarian supplies and protecting over 100,000 innocent civilians; The UN observer mission in Lebanon is actively monitoring the ceasefire agreement in a volatile and challenging environment. And as day turns to dusk in Mali, peacekeepers wearing blue helmets are providing people with the security they need to return to their communities while preventing the return of violent extremists.
I believe that these examples actually say as much about tomorrow’s peacekeeping operations as they do about today’s. And while we can be proud of what we have accomplished, we will get no credit tomorrow for what we did yesterday.
To be successful, UN peacekeeping missions today and in the future must be capable of defending themselves, protecting civilians, and carrying out their mandate in the context of a very dynamic security environment. In short, to meet what I believe will be a growing demand for more complex peace operations, we’re going to need to adapt. Meeting the growing demand for a wide range of peacekeeping operations requires a robust set of capabilities and capacities. The needs are well known to this audience, they include: strong civilian and military leadership teams; staff capacity to design missions with clear objectives, end states, and measures of effectiveness; effective command and control; well-trained forces at the brigade, at the battalion, and at the company level; and appropriate enabling capabilities to include intelligence, air and ground mobility, logistics, counter IED capability, engineering, and medical capability.
And of course, the foundation of any mission is quality, disciplined people with the right skills. And on this point, I’d like to highlight there’s a growing need for women to serve as peacekeepers. During my deployments to Iraq and later as the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, I learned first-hand that women are an important part of an effective response to today’s challenges. Women not only add to the capability of our own forces, they have a unique ability to connect with local populations in areas of instability.
As we move forward to increase the size and grow the capability of UN peacekeeping forces, we have to address the challenges that we’ve experienced in recent years. I think it’s clear to all of us that the UN’s record in this area has been mixed – and there’s a lot of reasons for that mixed record, but chief among them is the hard reality that UN peacekeeping missions deal with some of the most challenging and protracted issues on the planet. But while many of the challenges are due to the nature of the conflicts, there’s other challenges that should concern us all. Problems of ill-disciplined units conducting criminal acts, including sexual assault; problems with corruption and shortfalls in equipment cannot be blamed on the environment.
While the missions will always be hard, we have to address the challenges that are within our control. And we have to do that because they threaten our collective legitimacy and our effectiveness. To much of the world’s populations, a soldier or policeman wearing a blue helmet and a UN patch represents their last best hope for safety and security, and we must work to ensure that image and hope isn’t diminished.
Being candid about our challenges is not about finger pointing, addressing them is something that we have to do together. And today, I want to emphasize that U.S. military forces are prepared to be a part of the solution, from helping to develop the capacity of peacekeeping forces, to providing enabling capabilities, to assisting with reform. This is a personal priority for me, the United States’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the entire U.S. Joint Force. And the priority we place on UN peacekeeping operations is consistent with our view that these operations make an indispensable contribution to international security.
Finally, I’d ask that all of us leaving here today do so with the commitment to make the ministerial meeting in London a success. And of course, success implies that we’ll maintain the momentum of the last year. Success implies that we’ll meet the commitments we have made and encourage new commitments. And we will refine our efforts to reform and enhance the capability, capacity, and professionalism of our “blue helmets.”
Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen, thanks again for the opportunity just to share a few thoughts with you on UN peacekeeping operations. I hope my presence here today – and just those few words that I’ve shared with you – is a message of commitment from our country and from the U.S. Military. Again, we firmly believe that these missions play a vital role in international security, and reform and adaptation will allow us to be more effective in the future and meet what we see as an absolutely growing demand for the kinds and capabilities that UN peacekeeping missions offer.
Thank you, very much.