Opening Remarks to the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) Worldwide Conference

Puneet Talwar
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Washington, DC
July 9, 2014

Date: 07/09/2014 Description: PM Assistant Secretary Puneet Talwar delivers opening remarks at the GPOI Worldwide Conference. - State Dept Image

Good morning, Deputy Assistant Secretary Holt, Mark Swayne, General Lewis, and colleagues from the Department of State and Department of Defense. And a warm welcome to Major General Foster, Ms. Ben Zakour Man, and Lieutenant Colonel Abbas, who are joining us this morning from the United Nations. It is my sincere pleasure to welcome you all to the ninth annual Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) Worldwide Consultations. The Worldwide Consultations are a valuable opportunity to bring together program managers, implementers, and stakeholders from around the world.

In this forum, we can take stock of today’s challenges and help shape the future of peacekeeping.

From the inception of the United Nations after the Second World War, the United States has demonstrated its commitment to international peace and security. Our support for the United Nations is unwavering. We remain dedicated to the UN’s principles of collective security, to solving problems together with our international partners, to using collective measures to remove threats to peace.

The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, represented in this room today, has made a substantial difference in shaping a world that adheres to these principles. I’d like to commend our UNDPKO colleagues for their tremendous work.

Your organization has overseen dozens of complex peacekeeping operations in countries torn apart by war, dating back to the organization’s founding in 1948. Your current operations, which span four continents, are helping 17 countries make the arduous transition to peace. You not only maintain the peace – you take on the daunting, and at times seemingly insurmountable, tasks of facilitating political processes, supporting the reintegration of former combatants, restoring the rule of law, and ultimately building a more just and equitable global order.

American support for international peacekeeping is borne from impulses both moral and humanitarian. But international peacekeeping is also in our own national security interest. As President Obama recently said at West Point, “we must deepen our investment in countries that support peacekeeping, because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way. It’s a smart investment. It’s the right way to lead.”

GPOI has played a major part in growing these investments around the world. Through your work, we’ve built partnerships for peacekeeping.

We’ve fostered collaboration among the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the United Nations, and our partner countries. The seamless collaboration among our organizations and countries is vital for GPOI’s success, and the realization of our overarching foreign policy goals.

And over the years, we’ve had great success. For instance, in 2013, Tanzania, South Africa, and Malawi – countries trained through GPOI programs -- contributed troops for a brigade that carried out offensive operations against rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – ultimately causing the M23 rebel group to lay down its arms.

With GPOI’s support, Chile became self-sufficient in peacekeeping training this April, and is now partnering with GPOI to host training courses for other countries on the critical role of women in maintaining peace and security. And because of your work, 12 more countries will become self-sufficient by the end of this year. Many of our other partners are committed to reaching this benchmark soon.

But we still have much work to do. The world is perpetually evolving, and the challenges we face are increasingly complex. Peacekeepers must now address transnational threats such as terrorism and organized crime.

These challenges require better access to information, improved contingency planning, and more involvement from our partners abroad.

And so I’d like to briefly discuss four priorities for the GPOI program, moving forward: first, protecting civilians, including through the prevention of gender-based violence; second, focusing on the impact of our programs; third, developing common standards for peacekeeping training; and fourth, maximizing our resources in a constrained fiscal environment.

Protecting Civilians

The protection of civilians remains our most fundamental priority in peacekeeping. We’re constantly refining each peacekeeper’s understanding of their responsibility to protect civilians in peace operations, including through the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence and the protection of children. Specifically, we’re helping to fund UN manuals that outline how to protect civilians. We’re also helping the UN employ new technologies such as UAVs to monitor conflict-zones.

Focusing on the Impact of Our Programs

Second, GPOI will increasingly measure our success by the impact of our programs, vice the numbers of peacekeepers trained or the numbers of missions peacekeepers have deployed to. Since the GPOI’s inception, we’ve had a metrics and evaluation regime to track, review, and improve our activities. Refocusing our efforts on impact, instead of outputs like the total numbers of peacekeepers trained, will help ensure that GPOI resources develop effective peacekeeping partners, who make a real difference in conflict-zones. It will ensure that GPOI partner countries both deploy and execute their mission.

Developing Common Standards

Third, we’re advising and financially supporting the UN in developing common standards for peacekeeping. These standards are essential for assessing the effectiveness of peacekeepers, and are critical in improving their performance.

Maximizing Resources in a Constrained Fiscal Environment:

Finally, recognizing our fiscal constraints, GPOI will continue to build partnerships abroad with countries that have both the will and the resources to contribute to peacekeeping. We will continue to draw on the expertise of these countries, leverage their resources, and strengthen bilateral and multilateral relationships. The GPOI community is actively partnering with countries such as Chile, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom and is currently exploring partnership options with Australia, Brazil, China, and India, among others.

I ask you to continue to consider creative ways in which we can build these partnerships.

In closing, I’d like to reiterate my personal commitment – and the commitment of President Obama and Secretary Kerry – to building global peacekeeping capacity and strengthening UN and regional peace operations. We are dedicated to achieving concrete and sustainable results that contribute to international peace and security.

I want to thank you all once more for your participation in the GPOI Worldwide Consultations. Over these next three days, I ask you to think critically and collaboratively about ways that we can continue to address peacekeeping challenges.

I look forward to hearing more about the outcomes of this dialogue and to working closely with you in the future.

Thank you.