Senegalese soldiers belonging to the MINUSMA mission Senegalese soldiers belonging to the MINUSMA mission  (AFP or licensors)

Vatican condemns attacks against UN peacekeepers

Following an attack in Mali in which three UN peacekeepers were killed and five others were injured, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations expresses condolences and condemns all attacks against peacekeepers, upholding their vital role to provide stability and safety.

By Linda Bordoni

Speaking on behalf of the Holy See, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia expressed his condolences to Senegal and to MINUSMA for the deaths of three peacekeepers in central Mali, and appealed for justice.

In a statement in the wake of an explosion on Tuesday that killed three Senegalese UN peacekeepers and seriously injured five others serving in central Mali, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations said he hopes the wounded peacekeepers make a swift and full recovery.

“The Holy See condemns all attacks against UN peacekeepers and urges that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

MINUSMA, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, is one of the most dangerous peace operations for “blue helmets”. Since its establishment in 2013, 168 peacekeepers have lost their lives in hostile acts.

Archbishop Caccia recalled that earlier this month, Pope Francis travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, both states where peacekeeping operations “aim to provide authorities with support to achieve stability, build the rule of law and sow the seeds of development, while also offering hope to populations burdened by years of war.”

Recognizing this, Caccia added, the Holy See encourages the UN to “adapt its structure and methods of operation to the magnitude and nobility of its tasks.”

Role of politics in resolving conflict

Thus, he offered a series of considerations regarding the primacy of politics in resolving conflict and the need to advance a proper conception of politics “that orients public authority to attain the common good, the source from which its legitimacy flows.”

Role of women

The Permanent Observer also quoted Pope Francis whom, he said, has affirmed “women can offer their unique contribution to the life of society to be the first allies of peace” to be able to transform societies in which they are protected and respected.

“Increasing the number and influence of women peacekeepers provides an effective means to facilitate such a transformation.”

Protection of civilians

Archbishop Caccia noted that the protection of civilian populations from harm constitutes the preeminent concern for peacekeeping operations and noted that this implies the safeguarding of an individual’s personal rights and duties.

“As such, human rights monitoring components should be included in all peacekeeping mandates, whether they establish a new mission or renew an existing one.”

A never-ending task

The Archbishop upheld peacekeeping operations by describing them as “key for stability” but underscored the fact that they “cannot build peace on their own.”

“Peacebuilding,” he said, quoting Pope Francis, “is an open-ended endeavour, a never-ending task that demands the commitment of everyone,” including members of civil society, who “have an essential role to play.”

Thus, he said, his delegation urges greater engagement with all segments of host State populations, especially faith-based organizations, which can provide “genuine opportunities for dialogue and encounter between different peoples and cultures.”

Elimination of abuse

Finally, referring to accusations alleging misconduct of peacekeepers that have been made in the past, Caccia appealed for the elimination of all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse in order to ensure the legitimacy of peacekeeping operations.

“Such conduct not only violates the dignity of victims but also constrains UN action in response to future crises. In this regard, there is an obligation to assist victims and children born from such conduct, who face stigma and severely limited opportunity,” he said.

Tribute to peacekeepers who have lost their lives

In conclusion, Archbishop Caccia expressed the sorrow and gratitude of the Holy See  “for all those peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

“May their sacrifice instil in us a renewed commitment to advance and improve this organization’s ability to ability to safeguard international peace and ensure the security of personnel in the field.”

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22 February 2023, 12:36