Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

230221 - The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34): Statement on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand


21 February 2023

Statement by H.E. The Hon Mitch Fifield, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Australian Mission to the United Nations


I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the CANZ group of countries.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of UN Peacekeeping this year, we reflect on the significant ways in which peacekeeping has evolved since the deployment of the first blue helmets in 1948.

Today, modern peace operations face a more complex environment than ever before. From intractable political solutions and the spread of mis and dis information, to targeted attacks against peacekeepers and restrictions on freedom of movement.

But it is clear the international community still relies on UN peacekeeping as a critical tool to support peace. Blue helmets continue to provide much-needed support to protect civilians, monitor ceasefires and help countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to sustainable peace. 

As the demands on peacekeeping grow, we need a greater focus on innovation and new ways of working.

Peace operations are already benefiting from more diverse and inclusive leadership. We welcome this. We also encourage greater integration of technology, data and a gender perspective across the entire peacekeeping system.

The Special Committee on peacekeeping operations, the C34, has an important role in shaping the future policy direction of UN Peacekeeping.  

CANZ was disappointed that the C34 did not adopt a substantive report last year. Our top priority is to support a consensus-based outcome this year. 

As we look to the upcoming session, I will outline some of the key priorities for Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Chair, UN peace operations are uniquely placed to advance gender equality and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Their mandates and convening power drive progress and support women’s participation and leadership in peace and political processes.  

And while our focus on gender equity must go beyond numbers alone, the data on women’s participation shows important gains have been made.

Through our collective political will and concrete Gender Parity targets, women now comprise 8% of uniformed personnel and over 20% of staff officers. We have begun to shift the status quo. But, we still have a long way to go to reach the critical threshold and ensure meaningful participation.

Now is not the time to lose momentum. This is why CANZ partners are firmly committed to the Elsie Initiative, which promotes innovative approaches and flexible funding to remove barriers to recruitment, selection and deployment of uniformed women. 

With 20 projects already in the pipeline, we are ambitious for the third programming round launching next month and hope to grow and diversify troop and police contributing partners.

Chair, the credibility of UN peacekeeping is directly linked to its ability to protect civilians.

CANZ welcomes efforts to implement comprehensive and integrated protection strategies, to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and early warning systems.

But where failures to protect civilians occur, the UN must be able to investigate and transparently report on these incidents and bring perpetrators to account. 

We also need to improve the safety and security of all peacekeepers and ensure they have the tools and equipment needed to deliver their mandates.

We cannot afford to treat technology and innovation as optional. Those who pose a threat to our Blue Helmets are already harnessing sophisticated, low-cost technologies to disrupt operations and spread disinformation.

We must meet this challenge head-on by ensuring technology and innovation are integrated by design, both in the field and here in New York.

Chair, CANZ welcomes the increased focus on accountability to and of peacekeepers. We remain concerned at the prevalence of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in UN field missions, despite major system wide reforms.

In 2022, 79 allegations of SEA were reported in field missions – but we know the real number is much higher, due to challenges with underreporting.   

We urge continued efforts to implement the Secretary General’s zero-tolerance policy, with a renewed focus on prevention, accountability and support for victims’ rights.

Equal attention is also needed on the issue of sexual harassment and abuse within peacekeeping missions, which currently lacks a system-wide framework.

CANZ also encourages a continued spotlight on peacekeeping transitions and drawdowns.

It is crucial that peacekeeping paves the way for sustainable and lasting peace. Engagement with local actors and the UN Country Team is key to mapping a clear and flexible path towards a drawdown. 

And, we cannot talk about sustaining peace without acknowledging the significant gap that exists between the demand for peacebuilding support – and the current crisis in peacebuilding financing.   

CANZ strongly supports the need for adequate, predictable and sustainable peacebuilding financing. This includes support for the use of assessed contributions for the UN Peacebuilding Fund to help bridge this gap. We look forward to deliberations on this issue in the first resumed session of the Fifth Committee. 

Chair, in closing, I pay tribute to all peacekeepers – military, police, civilian and corrections – serving under the UN flag in the pursuit of peace. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We must keep our colleagues in the field front of mind as we approach this upcoming session. The stakes are simply too high for us to fail to deliver a report for the second consecutive year.

CANZ will engage constructively over the next four weeks to deliver concrete, consensus-based recommendations which make peacekeeping more effective, inclusive and accountable.

Thank you, Chair.