UN Peacekeepers No 'Magic Wand' for Crises, Their Chief Says

UN peacekeepers chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said he supports efforts to develop mechanisms to protect civilians in ever more complex conflict zones. Glody MURHABAZI / AFP
UN peacekeepers chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said he supports efforts to develop mechanisms to protect civilians in ever more complex conflict zones. Glody MURHABAZI / AFP
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UN Peacekeepers No 'Magic Wand' for Crises, Their Chief Says

UN peacekeepers chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said he supports efforts to develop mechanisms to protect civilians in ever more complex conflict zones. Glody MURHABAZI / AFP
UN peacekeepers chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said he supports efforts to develop mechanisms to protect civilians in ever more complex conflict zones. Glody MURHABAZI / AFP

The presence of United Nations peacekeepers, whose shortcomings can frustrate local populations, is not a "magic wand" for conflict zones, said their leader Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who supports an expanded tool kit to protect civilians in increasingly complex territory.
From Lebanon to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), from South Sudan to the Western Sahara, some 90,000 so-called Blue Helmets serve under the UN flag, engaged in 12 separate operations.
These missions do not always meet with unanimous approval on the ground, as in Mali, where UN peacekeepers have been forced by the government to leave, or in the DRC where some inhabitants have expressed hostility.
Yet the peacekeepers protect "hundreds of thousands of civilians" daily, Lacroix, the UN under-secretary-general for peace operations, told AFP in an interview.
Sometimes such protection mandates "raise expectations that we cannot meet, because of the capacities that we have, because of the budget that we have, because of the terrain and the logistical constraint," he acknowledged.
"It raises frustrations from those who are not protected," and such resentments are manipulated "by those who would prefer the continuation of chaos."
According to Lacroix, countries where UN peacekeepers operate face "the weaponization of fake news and disinformation."
Would conditions be better there if such missions were absent? "In most cases, it would probably be much worse," he said.
But "it doesn't mean that peacekeeping operations are the magic wand, or the universal response to every kind of crisis."
The 15-member UN Security Council authorizes the Blue Helmets in "supporting political processes" that lead to sustainable peace, Lacroix said.
But today "we have a more divided Security Council," with members that "don't put their weight behind the political processes" associated with UN peacekeeping, he added.
Lacroix hopes a December 5-6 ministerial meeting in Ghana will prompt a recommitment by members toward the global body's peacekeeping missions.
'Peace enforcement'?
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has already urged reconsideration of the future of such operations, particularly where there is no peace to keep.
Blue Helmets can protect civilians when a ceasefire is already in place. "UN peacekeepers do not do peace enforcement," Lacroix said.
They are not counter-terrorist units, or anti-gang forces.
Yet they are deployed in environments that are "becoming more dangerous," he said, where "non-state actors, armed groups, private security companies," crime syndicates and people involved in terrorism have little interest in creating peace.
The idea then of making room for complementary but non-UN missions is gaining ground.
The international community and multilateral system "need a more diverse set of tools" and responses to address widening challenges, Lacroix stressed.
"New forms of peacekeeping operations to better address the drivers of conflict such as the impact of climate change or transnational criminal activities, peace enforcement operations conducted by the AU (African Union) or other regional (or) sub-regional organization, we need all of that," he said.
Could such forces serve as models in Gaza, after the Israel-Hamas war?
The jury is out.
"I think there are millions of scenarios that one can imagine" for a security mission in the ravaged Palestinian territory, Lacroix said. "But it's very hypothetical up to now."
However missions look in the future, their immediate challenge is finding funding, and volunteers.
After a year of equivocation, the Security Council last month finally approved deployment of a multinational force, led by Kenya, to help restore security in crime-plagued Haiti. Nairobi pledged 1,000 police but wants other members to help cover the cost.



Trump Mocks Democrats in First Campaign Rally after Assassination Attempt

Donald Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance, Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 20, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner Purchase Licensing Rights
Donald Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance, Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 20, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner Purchase Licensing Rights
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Trump Mocks Democrats in First Campaign Rally after Assassination Attempt

Donald Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance, Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 20, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner Purchase Licensing Rights
Donald Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance, Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 20, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner Purchase Licensing Rights

Donald Trump held his first campaign rally on Saturday since he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt one week ago, poking fun at Democrats in turmoil at a heavily secured indoor arena in the election battleground state of Michigan, Reuters reported.

Fresh from his nominating convention where his takeover of the Republican Party was cemented, Trump appeared in Grand Rapids with his new vice presidential pick, Senator J.D. Vance from Ohio. They took the stage in their first campaign event together with the Republican Party unified behind them.

In contrast, it is no longer certain that President Joe Biden will be the Democratic Party's nominee facing Trump in the Nov. 5 election.

Biden has faced calls from some senior Democrats to end his re-election bid after his poor debate performance last month raised concerns over whether he could beat Trump or complete another four-year term.

Trump mocked Democrats, saying they wanted to kick Biden off the ticket after he won their presidential nominating contest.

"They have a couple of problems. No. 1, they have no idea who their candidate is," Trump said to laughter and jeers. "This guy goes and he gets the votes and now they want to take it away."

"As you're seeing, the Democrat Party is not the party of democracy. They're really the enemies of democracy."

He added: "And they keep saying, 'He's a threat to democracy.' I'm saying, 'What the hell did I do for democracy?'

Last week, I took a bullet for democracy."

Opinion polls show a tight race between the two men at a national level but Biden trailing Trump in the battleground states that will likely determine the winner.

Many Democrats fear he may not have a realistic path to victory and that the party needs a new candidate to take on Trump.

There was a heavy police presence at Trump's rally in Grand Rapids on Saturday, with police on every street corner for several blocks.

US Secret Service officers were positioned on the top balconies in the Van Andel Arena, giving them a bird's eye view of the crowd inside.

Bag searches for those entering the indoor arena earlier in the day were long and thorough, and the Secret Service sweep of the building took about an hour longer than usual.

The rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, last weekend was outdoors. At that event, the gunman was able to scale the roof of a building outside the Secret Service perimeter before opening fire on Trump, clipping his ear, killing a rally-goer and wounding several others.

The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, declined to comment on security for the Grand Rapids event. An investigation is under way into the security failures at the Butler rally.

Trump gave a detailed account of his narrow brush with death in his convention speech on Thursday, telling the audience that he was only talking to them "by the grace of Almighty God."

Trump's former physician, Ronny Jackson, said on Saturday that the former president is recovering as expected from the gunshot wound to his right ear, but noted intermittent bleeding and said Trump may require a hearing exam.

The bullet fired by the would-be assassin at the July 13 rally in Pennsylvania came "less than a quarter of an inch from entering his head," said Jackson, a Republican congressman from Texas who had served as physician to Presidents Trump and Barack Obama.