UNITED NATIONS, Dec 30, CMC – The United Nations said that despite many challenges, its peacekeepers in Haiti and other places saved several lives in 2017.

It said despite a particularly deadly year for United Nations peacekeepers – with more than 60 “blue helmets” killed in hostile acts – it completed its peacekeeping objectives in Côte d’Ivoire, refocused its work in Haiti and will soon complete its mandate in Liberia.

“We do protect civilians every day. We do save lives every day. We often do it under very difficult and stressful circumstances,” said Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

Haiti UN“I think it’s more than warranted to pay tribute to them and their achievements. But, certainly, we have to work hard to overcome the challenges we are facing,” he added.

The UN said one of the challenges facing UN peacekeepers, as they operate in increasingly complex and dangerous areas, is the need for better training and equipment, particularly when it comes to intelligence gathering and enhancing situational awareness.

It said this includes the use of modern technologies, such as unmanned aerial services, radars and tethered balloons.

The head of the UN Department of Field Support, Atul Khare, said the UN is also looking to borrow or purchase more equipment related to security reinforcements, accommodations, vehicles and communications tools, among others.

The needs also extend to gaps in working closely with local communities, which means that, in some areas, more peacekeepers are needed who speak French, he said.

“We must do even more on the side of prevention and risk mitigation when seeking to protect our colleagues. Providing for the safety and security of deployed personnel in volatile environments is an absolute necessity,” Khare said.

The UN said one of the main challenges in peacekeeping operations has been grappling with allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres unveiled his strategy for eradicating the scourge, and appointed Jane Connors as the first Victims’ Rights Advocate.

The new UN strategy to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse puts more pressure on governments to investigate and prosecute wrong-doing.

In addition, 17 countries volunteered an estimated US$1.8 million for a trust fund to aid victims get medical, psycho-social, legal or socio-economic support, the UN said.

All UN peacekeeping operations this year launched Environmental Action Plans, which have, for example, led to 80 wastewater treatment plans being installed in peacekeeping operations.

“We are constantly looking into keeping our own house in order, and leave the place better than we found it,” Khare said.