International Day of UN Peacekeepers Conference 2021

Enhancing the UK Contribution to Peacekeeping - jointly organised by RUSI, UNA-UK and the UNA Westminster Branch

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Our annual conference, jointly organised by RUSI, UNA-UK and the UNA Westminster Branch, has established itself as one of the UK’s most authoritative reviews of UN peacekeeping activities.

Marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, this virtual conference is both an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice made by those who have died in the service of humanity, and to analyse developments in peacekeeping operations.

The UK government’s recently-released Integrated Review sets the context for this year’s discussions. The document casts the UK as a problem-solving and burden-sharing country with a global perspective, and invokes the country’s responsibilities as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council. It also promises to play a more active part in sustaining the international order and protecting human rights and global norms.

While the ambition is welcome, details about how such objectives might be achieved remain scarce. Our conference aims to consider how the UK might match its ambitions with action. It will reflect on the lessons from the deployment of UK forces to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, and assess how this might influence future contributions to peacekeeping. Building on this experience, the conference will address opportunities for the UK to engage more with peacekeeping, both in terms of the capabilities it provides as well as how it could harness its interest in training and partnering to greatest effect. We will also assess how peacekeeping itself is changing to a more human-centred approach.


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    Introduction and Welcome

    Paul O’Neill, Senior Research Fellow, RUSI
    Dr Karin von Hippel, Director General, RUSI

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    Session One: The UK’s role in Peacekeeping

    The UK’s Integrated Review sets out a high level of ambition for Global Britain. Whilst the Review does not go into specifics, statements by the Prime Minister and details included in the subsequent Defence Command Paper suggest a Government desire to contribute more to the United Nations, and particularly to peacekeeping. The panel will consider what the UK is already doing, including the lessons from the deployment to Mali, and the opportunities for Global Britain to enhance its peacekeeping contributions.

    Chair: Bryony Pike, Senior Finance & Campaigns Officer, UNA-UK

    Harriet Mathews CMG OBE, Deputy Political Director, UK FCDO
    Ivo Werneck, Strategic Force Generation and Capability Planning Cell, United Nations Headquarters Lieutenant Colonel
    Tim O’Brien, Former School Commandant, United Nations Training School Ireland

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    Session Two: The Folke Bernadotte Memorial Conversation

    Dr Karin von Hippel will be in conversation with the Special Representative of the Secretary General to the UN Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), Bintou Keita. Their wide-ranging discussion will cover the current mission, its challenges and opportunities, and how peacekeeping itself is changing from the perspective of one who is leading peacekeepers in the field.

    Chair: Dr Karin von Hippel, Director General, RUSI

    Speaker: Ms Bintou Keita, Special Representative of the Secretary General, MONUSCO

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    Commemoration Ceremony and Reflection

    To commemorate International Peacekeepers Day, a short film will be screened, showing the small wreath-laying ceremony held at the Cenotaph the previous week and film of current UN peacekeeping missions. We hope to return to the traditional diplomats’ wreath-laying ceremony in 2022.

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    Session Three: Margaret Anstee memorial seminar

    'Tthe future of peacekeeping'

    The UN Peacekeeping Ministerial conference taking place in December 2021 seeks to strengthen the effectiveness of missions. To inform the meeting, the panel will consider the evolution of peacekeeping, and what reforms might contribute towards improving operations, from the elaboration of the mandate, through deployment, to draw-down. The panellists will explore how peacekeeping might become more people-centred and how missions can ensure the protection of civilians through all phases. It will also consider how transitions should be managed to work towards sustainable peace.

    Chair: Giovanna Kuele, Non-Resident Researcher, Igarape Institute

    Castro Wesamba, Chief of Office, UN Genocide Prevention and Responsibility to Protect, United Nations Headquarters
    Abi Watson, Conflict and Security Policy Coordinator, Saferworld
    Dr Comfort Ero, Interim Vice President and Africa Programme Director, Crisis Group

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    Closing remarks

    Ms Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director, UNA-UK

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