The more than 87,000 personnel in U.N. peacekeeping missions are confronting greater threats today because conflicts have become more complex and are driven by an increasing number of factors ranging from ethnic tensions and the impact of organized crime to illegal exploitation of resources and terrorism, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said Friday.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix said in an interview with The Associated Press that even compared to two or three years ago, “most of our peacekeeping missions have a political and security environment that has deteriorated.”

In addition and “equally important,” he said, is that the conflicts are “multi-layered” and very often local and national, but also regional and global. He pointed to Africa’s impoverished Sahel region, which is seeing increasing terrorist activity, as an example.

What is causing this change in how U.N. peacekeepers have to operate are a number of factors starting with increased political divisions among the U.N.’s 193 member nations, he said.

The drivers of conflict are increasing, Lacroix said, and there are also what he called “conflict enhancers,” including digital technologies, the impact of fake news and misinformation on conflicts, and “armed groups using increasingly sophisticated means to undermine our actions.”

The U.N. currently has 12 far-flung peacekeeping operations — six in Africa, four in the Middle East, one in Europe and one in Asia — with the more than 66,000 military personnel from 121 countries joined by over 7,000 international police and 14,000 civilians.

Lacroix said peacekeepers continue to make “a huge difference” in countries where they oversee cease-fires like Cyprus and south Lebanon in terms of preventing conflict, and “they also make a huge difference in terms of protection of civilians, even though we would like to be able to do more.”

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But the undersecretary-general for peace operations said the drivers of conflict “are massively impacting the conflicts in which we’re involved.”

“They pose increasingly important threats to countries in which our missions are deployed, and frankly to the region where we are operating,” he said.

“Are we equipped enough as a multilateral system to address these threats?” Lacroix asked rhetorically. “I’m not sure. I think there’s probably more that should be done in those areas.”

He called an upcoming ministerial meeting on U.N. peacekeeping in Seoul, South Korea on Dec. 7-8 an important opportunity to improve the performance and impact of peacekeepers and “the effectiveness of our tools,” and to mobilize international support for these efforts.

Lacroix said “a significant number” of ministers and senior officials from all U.N. member states are expected in Seoul, stressing that high-level participation is “critically important” as an expression of support for U.N. peacekeeping, which is funded by a separate U.N. budget amounting to $6.38 billion for the year ending June 30, 2022, as well as voluntary contributions.

He said the peacekeeping department has circulated a list to U.N. member nations of what it needs to improve the protection of peacekeepers against ambushes, improvised explosive devices and attacks, and to protect their camps. The list also includes improved medical support and equipment to make peacekeepers more nimble, …read more

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