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Remarks by External Affairs Minister at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Technology & Peacekeeping

August 18, 2021

I shall now make a statement in my capacity as the Minister of External Affairs of India
Let me begin by thanking the Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres for his briefing.

Excellencies,


Since deploying for the first time in 1948, UN peacekeeping missions continue to operate in a variety of challenging settings. This could involve armed groups, non-state actors and terrorists. Because the nature of peacekeeping missions and their attendant threats have become more complex, it is vital that our capabilities to secure the peacekeepers keep pace. We owe it to them to ensure that our protective efforts meet the highest standards.

21st century peacekeeping must be anchored in a strong ecosystem of technology and innovation that can facilitate UN peacekeeping operations in implementing their mandates in complex environments. After all, it helps them to adapt to changing conflict dynamics and take advantage of increased efficiencies. This is also in line with the Strategy for Digital Transformation of UN Peacekeeping which seeks to advance the use of technology across the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) themes, including performance, safety and security, politics, protection and peacebuilding.

Limited resources make the execution of peacekeeping mandates difficult even otherwise. When such mandates are expanded in an ad hoc fashion, the challenge becomes more complex. In recent years, peacekeepers have experienced a greater level of asymmetric threats, ranging from landmines to IEDs and we cannot remain indifferent to this prospect.

To execute their mandates, peacekeeping missions must be able to move fast to acquire and validate, information from a wide range of openly available sources to enhance situational awareness, augment security, aid operational planning, and support decision-making. UN peacekeeping simply cannot afford to cede the information advantage to those actors determined to undermine prospects for peace by using modern technology to aid their violent cause.

Let me therefore propose a four point framework that would lay out a possible architecture for securing UN peacekeepers to meet contemporary threats:

First, we must focus on operationally proven, cost-effective, widely available, reliable and field-serviceable technologies. These must also prioritize mobility, both in the sense of agile manoeuvrability of mission assets and in the sense of use of mobile digital / IT platforms. Where deployed, technologies should be environment friendly through the use of renewables and fuel efficiency, and use of environmentally-friendly construction materials.

Second, we need a sound information and intelligence foundation. Only this will ensure early warning and mobilizing a coherent and early response. A reliable, high fidelity means to collect, use, process and share information and data will create advantages from the very start of peacekeeping missions. Precise positioning and overhead visualization of mission environments is critically important to provide intelligence and enhance the safety and security of mission personnel.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce that India is supporting the UN in the rollout of the UNITE Aware Platform across select peacekeeping missions. This initiative is based on the expectation that an entire peacekeeping operation can be visualized, coordinated, and monitored on a real time basis. We should ensure that any attack on a peacekeeper or a civilian is predictable, preventable, or responded to immediately.

Thirdly, we must contribute to ensuring that technological improvements are continuous and are available on the ground, in the gear that peacekeepers carry and the weapons and tools that they use to enhance their mobility, performance, endurance, range, and load-carrying capabilities while guaranteeing their safety and security. This also includes strengthening of communication within missions and enhancing overall capacity to take informed decisions at the tactical or operational level.

Fourthly, consistent training and capacity building of peacekeepers in the realm of technology needs attention and investment. It is with this in mind that India is committed to long term engagement with the UNC4ISR Academy for Peace Operations in Entebbe, Uganda, to meet the training needs, link it with available technological capability, and shape future requirements. I am pleased to announce that we have signed an MOU between the Government of India and the UN in support of the 'Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping' initiative and to UN C4ISR Academy for Peace Operations (UNCAP).

We would welcome other Member States to take active interest in this evolving paradigm. Political will, strengthened partnerships, and shifts in organizational culture are required to take it forward. Maximum transparency should remain a principle of the use of peacekeeping technology and in particular when used to enable information gathering and sharing. Peacekeeping requires continuous review, adaptation, and transparent engagement with all stakeholders, as also strong procedural safeguards and effective oversight mechanisms.

Excellencies,

Peacekeeping continues to play a crucial role in India’s vision of ensuring international peace and security. Providing greater clarity, direction and professionalism in our UN Peacekeeping operations is at the heart of this vision.

India has been a pioneer in UN Peacekeeping, deploying more than a quarter of a million troops over the years in as many as 49 UN Peacekeeping Missions. Serving under the blue flag, 174 gallant Indian soldiers have made the supreme sacrifice over the years, the largest number among troop contributing countries. In keeping with this tradition, we have today more than 5000 personnel deployed across 9 missions.

As a reflection of our deep commitment to ‘Protecting the Protectors’, the Government of India provided 2,00,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for UN Peacekeeping personnel worldwide in March this year.

We are pleased that, as the outcomes from our discussions today, the Council has adopted a Resolution on ‘Accountability of Crimes against UN Peacekeepers’ as well as a Presidential Statement on ‘Technology for Peacekeeping’, the first such UN Security Council document on this topic.

It is this Council that sends peacekeepers across continents to "keep the peace” and implement the mandate that it decides. It is therefore the duty of this very august body to also ensure that we provide them the means to implement that mandate.

We have shown today, both in the rollout out of the UNITE Aware Platform, as well as the actionable elements of training incorporated in the MoU, that India believes in walking the talk when it comes to the safety and security of UN peacekeepers. We hope that in our discussions today, we get an equally strong reaffirmation of the UN’s intent.

I thank you all and I now resume my duties as President of the Council.
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