On behalf of the government of the United States, the U.S. Department of State, and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, let me say thank you to Commissioner Qiliho and our good friends up at the Police Special Response Unit, the Fiji Police Force, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for making this occasion possible.
Thank you also to our U.S. Embassy in Suva and our Regional Security Officer, Shawn Gray, who has proven himself a great friend of Fiji and an excellent colleague.
Ladies and gentlemen: It is a great honor to open our inaugural training with the Republic of Fiji as an International Police Peacekeeping Operations Support Program partner. The U.S. government is a strong supporter of UN Police, and I have no doubt this training will be the first in a long and fruitful partnership.
As we review the last seven decades, the importance of peacekeeping cannot be understated. We are all here because we agree peacekeeping is a powerful tool for promoting peace and security. In fact, researchers from Uppsala University found peacekeeping reduces the duration of conflict, increases the duration of peace following conflict, and limits the risk that conflict in one country spreads to neighboring countries. This is pretty compelling!
Service in peacekeeping operations has a celebrated place in Fiji, and I can think of many remarkable Fijians, in uniform and out, who have distinguished themselves through peacekeeping service. I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the Republic of Fiji on 40 years of contributions to UN peacekeeping. It is a testament to your commitment to international peace and security.
Your Honorable Prime Minister, your Honorable President, your Foreign Secretary – these are just three distinguished alumni of peacekeeping. While no longer in uniform, these public servants have brought valuable experiences gained through peacekeeping service to higher office. And, I know that you yourself, Commissioner Qiliho, served in Sinai, Lebanon, East Timor, Kuwait, Iraq, and most recently in the Golan. That is an impressive resume, sir.
While considering the importance of peacekeeping to the United States, to Fiji, and to the United Nations, it is important also to acknowledge the challenges faced by today’s peacekeepers. This is particularly and increasingly true today.
The past several years have seen a dramatic increase in fatal attacks on peacekeepers, and Fijian peacekeepers are no exception. We remember the 60 Fijian peacekeepers who have given their lives over the past 40 years, and recall the 45 Fijian peacekeepers who, in 2014, were abducted for two week. We pay tribute to the sacrifice and bravery of those who gave their lives for the sake of peace, and recognize those on the ground who are bravely executing the mandates of the Security Council.
Meeting these challenges requires troops and police to perform at the highest levels of operational effectiveness. We continue to turn to UN peacekeepers to create the space for peace to take root. We recognize that their sacrifices are as real as their work is essential. But, we have the responsibility to ask: what can we do better to help peacekeepers protect civilians, restore peace, and return home safely to their families? What changes should we make? What reforms can we advance to help peacekeepers turn mandates for peace into reality?
For the United States, a critical component of peacekeeping reform is raising the bar for the performance of troops and police. We have long been a champion of peacekeeping reform, as evidenced by our landmark resolution on peacekeeper performance and accountability adopted by the Security Council on September 21.
We also welcome the Secretary-General’s commitment to improving peacekeeper performance in his Action for Peacekeeping initiative, which seeks to develop an integrated performance policy framework based on clear standards for all actors, and to ensure performance data the basis for mission planning.
Our training partnership is one of the many ways in which we can work together to create a strong culture of performance geared toward effectiveness in missions and strong leadership. Police in UN missions play a critical role in helping combat criminal and terrorist organizations that act as spoilers in post-conflict situations. Police peacekeepers offer an important component of the transition from a military presence to stabilization and civilian leadership.
The blue beret represents hope to vulnerable people in distress across the globe. We are honored to partner with you as you meet this call. We want to support you to be as prepared as possible for the crucial missions you will face.
We owe this to those you will protect and to you, the peacekeepers. We know that the safety and security of peacekeepers is directly linked to performance. Each peacekeeper who lays down his or her life is one too many. If we strengthen performance, we save peacekeeper lives. It is that simple.
We also know that visible support from trained and dedicated women leaders, uniformed personnel, and staff makes peacekeeping more effective. To this end, congratulation to Fiji on the appointment of Unaisi Bolatolu-Vuniwaqa who is first woman Police Commissioner to the UN Mission in South Sudan.
The United States looks forward to our partnership with the Republic of Fiji as you deploy well-led, well-qualified, well-trained police who can carry out their mandated tasks and distinguish themselves in the proudest Fijian tradition.