Koenders: ‘Conference will help enhance UN peace missions’

At the invitation of foreign minister Bert Koenders, representatives of over 40 European countries will attend a conference in Amsterdam on Monday and Tuesday (16 and 17 February) to discuss UN peace missions. The aim of the conference is to explore ways of improving the efficiency and extent of European countries’ contribution to UN missions. Mr Koenders will speak at the close of the conference on Tuesday.

'Together, we have a lot of experience with UN peace missions. By making detailed proposals on how UN operations should function in an increasingly risky world, we can strengthen those operations,’ said Mr Koenders, who has previously headed UN missions in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire. ‘The Netherlands is doing its part in Mali by assisting with intelligence-gathering. Our efforts there can serve as an example for other countries.’

The foreign minister believes that Western countries have as much to offer UN peace missions as non-Western countries. ‘We can deploy our troops or send goods and materiel, such as tents, medicine and helicopters,’ he said. ‘Capacity building is another essential part of these missions. This is why we’ve contributed so much to training UN peacekeepers.’

In Mr Koenders’ view, improving UN missions is in the interests of not only the countries embroiled in conflict, but also of Europe. ‘We, too, benefit from stability in neighbouring countries and regions,’ he remarked. ‘In various parts of the world, people are struggling to establish peace. Now more than ever, it is necessary to take decisive action and support UN peace operations wherever possible.’

The conference in Amsterdam is being organised by the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs. A number of high-ranking UN officials will be in attendance, including Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and José Ramos-Horta, Chair of the UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and former President of Timor-Leste. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Director of UN Women, will also take part, via videolink. Deputy Chief of Defence Hans Wehren will participate on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

The conference on UN peace missions is being held at the same time as another conference, on the role of women in conflicts and peace processes, marking the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325. Adopted in the year 2000, this resolution established that women’s rights must be protected during conflicts and that women must be empowered to substantively participate in peace talks and peace-building efforts. Women from more than 10 countries in conflict have been invited to the conference to share their experiences and thus ensure that diplomatic efforts on this issue better meet their needs.

The Netherlands has already drawn up two specific action plans for the implementation of resolution 1325. At the conference, input will be gathered for the next Dutch action plan, which will be launched in 2016, and for future UN efforts in this area. ‘I’m happy we can offer a platform for experts from different fields to come together to share their knowledge and formulate recommendations to improve the position of women in conflict areas,’ said Mr Koenders.