Boris Johnson – 2016 Speech on Peacekeeping


Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, at Lancaster House in London on 8 September 2016.

It is reassuring to be here for such a distinguished audience. And an audience that is engaged in supporting an activity that is after all one of the most important, and of course one of the most idealistic, causes in which humanity can be engaged. I congratulate you all on what you’re doing.

I am going to try and wrap up for us as the host country today by saying how grateful I am to everybody who has spoken so far, to our co-hosts, to our colleagues from the UN, and of course to all those who have pledged to build on today’s important work, including in France in just a few weeks from now.

I know that you have also heard from those who’ve experienced the sharp end of conflict – both serving peacekeepers and our NGO colleagues doing important work in those countries afflicted by conflict. Hearing these voices is a reminder for us that the decisions we make today can have a real impact on the lives of people around the world.

The number of countries and international organisations in this room today shows how vital this subject is.

I think also today’s meeting has been a testament to how seriously the UK takes its role in international affairs, and its support for the UN in particular. The UK has always been steadfast in its commitment to work with our allies in the pursuit of global peace and security.

Our role at the UN is at the very heart of that international commitment. That’s why I was very glad to visit New York in my first week in this job and I’m very glad to be going back there in just a few days’ time with today’s communiqué in my hand to continue to champion the things we’ve agreed today.

Of course the UK’s commitment to peacekeeping does not begin or end with this Ministerial. We believe in peacekeeping and we will work with you to make it better. The UK is already a leading voice on peacekeeping reform in New York.

And New York is obviously not the only place where we are showing our support. As Michael, my colleague, has said earlier today we are putting more UK troops and police officers on the ground through our deployments in South Sudan and Somalia. And you will have heard that we are increasing that commitment by providing a Role 2 hospital in South Sudan. I’m pleased to see all these UK personnel serving alongside counterparts from a number of countries present in this room today.

We have achieved a lot and there have been a lot of exciting new pledges. A communiqué, signed by so many of you – and we hope many more of you will sign up later on – that sets out a blueprint for the future and a commitment to driving forward what we call the 3Ps of peacekeeping. And what are the 3Ps of peacekeeping? [question to the audience] Planning. Pledges. Performance. The 3Ps of peacekeeping. And as John Lennon said, let’s give the 3Ps a chance.

Our pledges today will swell the ranks of peacekeepers. But we will not have fulfilled our task until the UN can choose the troops it sends into a conflict not just on the basis of who is available, but on what skills are best suited to the task.

We have set out our ambition to increase the number of women serving in our militaries. But we will not have achieved our task until women are fully represented in every aspect of peacekeeping. Until we see Gender Champions like the UK’s own General Messenger in New York and in every member state. Because I want peacekeeping to benefit from the indispensable skills that women bring to resolving conflict.

We have talked today, I know that Michael Fallon has talked earlier on, about instilling a culture of accountability for performance. Accountability to mission commanders. Accountability to the UN and the Security Council. And above all accountability to the people that missions are sent to serve and to protect. But we will not have achieved our task until we can demonstrate to those people that immediate and transparent action is being taken in instances of poor performance and that there has been a genuine attempt to understand why things went wrong.

To do that we need to make reform and to make the desire to do better part of UN peacekeeping’s DNA. We need to continue under the next Secretary-General the great work being done by Secretary-General Ban and his team.

To do that requires all of us to pull in the same direction – the UN, the Security Council and the troop and police contributing countries. Foreign and Defence Ministries. The different Departments and Agencies of the UN. The people in our capitals and the people around the world.

And we, the Member States, must bring the full weight of our political influence to bear on those who seek to fuel and foment conflict. Those who work against the ideals of peace that the UN stands for. We must support peacekeepers in the field with all of our tools, from sanctions, to embargoes to good old fashioned diplomacy. I can tell you now that the UK will always be a part of that collective effort. A staunch defender of the importance of the UN, of the power of diplomacy and of the future of peacekeeping.

If, in the coming months and years, we can continue to build on what we have agreed today – make the 3Ps a reality; stand alongside our peacekeepers as they protect civilians, help people hold free and fair elections, and deliver humanitarian aid – then we can truly hope to reduce conflict. And maybe one day, we will have less need to call on the brave men and women in blue helmets. But for now, we certainly do need them, so together let’s make sure that we have them in the right numbers, with the right skills, and the right equipment to do the job properly.

Thank you very much.