Statement at the UNSC Open Debate on Strategic Communications in Peacekeeping
Statement12 July 2022
Thank you very much, Mr President, and I wanted to welcome you, Minister, to the Chamber today.
I’d like to thank Brazil also for organising this discussion, and we certainly look forward to the adoption of the Presidential Statement later this morning. I would also like to thank our briefers this morning.
Ireland shares with Brazil, and with many others here today, a deep and longstanding commitment to peacekeeping.
This Council deploys peacekeepers to the most difficult contexts and too many have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace.
We therefore around this table have a real responsibility to ask what more we can do to ensure that peacekeepers come home safely. Effective strategic communication is an essential tool in this regard.
The deployment of a peacekeeping mission should send a clear message of hope to populations on the ground in conflict environments. A message that the international community stands with them. That we are working to give them the chance of a better life in their own countries. But for such missions to succeed, it is critical that the missions can communicate effectively and systematically with local communities, with host countries, and with all parties to conflict.
The importance of strategic communications is clearly reflected in the UN Secretary-General’s own A4P plus implementation strategy. Peacekeeping operations are deployed to complex environments, often with competing narratives around the conflict. Clearly explaining to populations on the ground, particularly to those that are hard to reach or most at risk of harm, why peacekeepers are there, the role they can play, and managing expectations in this regard, is quite simply critical.
This requires a concerted, whole of UN approach, from the highest strategic levels to the operational and tactical levels. We have learned through experience the hugely negative impact misinformation, disinformation and hate speech can have both on peacekeepers and on the civilians they are sent to protect. Put simply, effective strategic communications enhances force protection, and can reduce violence and help to sustain peace.
Irish troops serving in UN peacekeeping missions have always placed strong emphasis on outreach operations to ensure effective communications with local authorities and populations. In UNIFIL, for example, this is done through key leader and community engagement, and through civilian and military cooperation projects. In UNDOF it’s done through Quick Impact Projects.
Strategic communications cannot take place in a knowledge vacuum. Peacekeeping intelligence should inform coherent strategic communications strategies. This in turn will help to enhance the safety and security of our peacekeepers, while also improving mandate implementation.
We see this as particularly important for the protection of civilians. We must take every opportunity to raise our voice in the name of those who cannot raise their own. We must oppose narratives of hate, we must refute misinformation and disinformation, and we must ensure a zero tolerance policy for all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. Creating protective environments requires engagement; engagement with local actors, including youth, as well as the promotion of women’s participation and leadership. And we want to underline and commend the work being done in some of the most challenging contexts to promote women’s role in peace and security.
We believe that strategic communications are particularly important during UN transitions. It is vital that transition planning incorporates the design of an effective communications strategy to ensure the roles and responsibilities of a reconfigured UN presence are clearly understood by all, particularly the local population. It is vital that no group feel left behind, and that we see engagement with civil society as key.
As I conclude, President, I also want to note that the digital revolution has fundamentally changed, of course our world, and importantly how audiences receive their information. Peacekeeping operations are no exception and must adapt to these new realities.
Effective use of strategic communications can play a significant role in mandate implementation, and in ensuring that our peacekeepers, and those they are deployed to protect, are safer.
As a country with a long-standing record of contributing to peacekeeping, Ireland is fully committed to building strategic communications capacity in peacekeeping. And we thank the Brazilian Presidency again for raising this issue.