On 26 May, UNA-UK, together with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and United Nations Association - Westminster Branch, held our annual Peacekeepers Day Conference.
Now in its 19th year, the annual Peacekeepers Day Conference is the UK’s most authoritative public review of UN peacekeeping activities – bringing together UN practitioners, diplomats, civil society, and military personnel for a discussion of the most pressing issues in peacekeeping today.
This year the conference focused on how the UK can enhance its contributions to UN operations, following the 2021 Seoul Peacekeeping Ministerial and the war in Ukraine.
The opening panel was chaired by RUSI’s Simon Rynn, and featured presentations on how effectively the UN address the challenges of Peacekeeping, from Professor Cedric de Coning, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Dr Anjali Dayal, Fordham University, and MINUSMA Deputy SRSG Joanne Adamson.
The panel discussed the importance of being realistic about what Peace Operations can achieve, the need for coordination among a broad range of actors, and the potential future of peacekeeping depending on the political decisions made by Permanent UN Security Council members, both as individual member states, and collectively.
The keynote session - delivered in memory of Count Folke Bernadotte - was given by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations. Together with RUSI Senior Research Fellow Dr Imogen Parsons he discussed the A4P+ initiative and highlighted the importance of Peacekeepers Day:
It is an occasion to pay tribute to the Peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the course of the past years and all peacekeepers serving around the world. Peacekeeping is a dangerous activity. In 2021, there were 25 peacekeepers lost as a result of hostile attacks.
What we want to work on more is integration- making sure we work based on integrated planning in multidimensional missions and partners in the field as well as with humanitarian actors.
This was followed by a panel on the digital transformation of Peacekeeping, Chaired by UNA-UK CEO Marissa Conway and featuring expert speakers Guy Bennett, UNHQ, Lead Enhanced Situational Awareness, Dr Walter Dorn, Canadian Forces College, Dr Georgina Holmes, Imperial College London and Brig (Rtd) Sara Sharkey CBE, Deloitte.
Discussion was wide-ranging, on how data could be used to ensure decisions are evidence-based and reflect a deep understanding of operating environments; hurdles to digital transformation; the importance of education; and how the everyday use of digital technology in Peacekeeping operations is facilitating gender responsive Peacekeeping.
The conference concluded with remarks from UNA-UK’s Chair, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, Chair of the International Relations and Defence Committee.
Peacekeepers' Day memorial
UNA-UK’s annual memorial ceremony in remembrance of peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the service of global peace also took place on 26 May.
Following a restricted format in recent years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year we were once again able to host a ceremony at the Cenotaph on Whitehall with embassy representatives marching together with military contingents and senior UK government officials, to pay their respects to fallen peacekeepers.
See photos of the wreath-laying below: