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Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding

 

Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding

 

The first article of the United Nations Charter, signed on 26 June 1945, defines as the primary purpose of the Organization the maintenance of international peace and security. This paragraph provides the foundation for the UN peacekeeping missions. Since 1948 there have been 69 operations, in which hundreds of thousands of peacekeeping troops, in addition to tens of thousands of police officers and civilians from more than 120 Countries, have served the peace and the ideals of the UN. More than 3,270 of them have lost their lives in the line of duty: a number that sadly continues to grow with each passing day. Today the UN’s peacekeeping activities have reached an unprecedented volume: 16 missions underway, more than 120 thousand women and men in military and civilian service, and a current annual budget of seven billion US dollars.

In the past ten years, the costs of peacekeeping operations and the number of blue helmets has increased almost tenfold. A phenomenon due to the multiplication of crisis hotbeds but also to the growing expectations posited in the blue helmets, whose duties and mandates are growing in complexity. In this sense, special mention should be made of the responsibility to protect civilians. Since the mid-1990s, after the tragedies of Srebrenica and Rwanda, the Security Council has started to equip peace operations with more robust mandates.

In this framework, we can say with pride that Italy and its Armed Forces have done their part. The first participation of an Italian contingent in a UN mission dates back to 1960, when Italy took part in the United Nations Operation in Congo (ONUC). During the mission thirteen Italian aviators were murdered barbarously. They were the crew members of two twin-engine transportation aircraft. The first peacekeeping mission in which the Italian Armed Forces played an active role, from 1982 to 1984, was ITALCON (under the command of General Franco Angioni) in the framework of the first Lebanese war. The Mission was originally born as a UN initiative, but the veto of a member State broke the international consensus while the contingent was already on its way to Lebanon. As a result, ITALCOM was transformed into an Italian effort, with the backing of the USA and France.



Italy’s intervention in Lebanon, characterized by respect for the local culture, impartiality, credibility, and closeness to the civilian population, was a successful model that would serve as a reference point for later peacekeeping missions, Italian and otherwise. Today Italy is the top troop contributor among Western nations to UN peacekeeping operations, and the seventh contributor to the peacekeeping budget. The UNIFIL mission, which operates in the south of Lebanon to maintain a fragile peace in a war-torn region, is commanded by an Italian, General Luciano Portolano. Significantly the UN Secretary-General wanted command of the operation to remain in Italian hands, after the positive examples set by General Claudio Graziano and General Paolo Serra. Rarely at the United Nations has the leadership of a mission been repeatedly assigned to officials of the same nationality.

The work that is being done on a daily basis at the Brindisi Logistics Base represents another high-quality contribution of Italy to peace missions. The Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (COESPU) in Vicenza is also Italian. It is a training center based on the model piloted by Italian carabinieri during peacekeeping operations abroad. It involves training police officers from all over the world slated to lend service to peacekeeping missions. The first high-technology experience in a peacekeeping mission bore an Italian imprint: the Unmanned Unarmed Aerial Systems assigned to the MONUSCO operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo belong to the Finmeccanica group. These systems help in the difficult tasks of the blue helmets in the Country, particularly in fulfilling the mandate to protect civilians by predicting attacks on them.

There is a net increase in Italy’s commitment to promote the tools of preventive diplomacy, such as mediation and good offices, and to make them more widespread at the United Nations. Italy returned to the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission in 2015. One of Italy’s goals is to assure that the UN gives greater priority to peacebuilding, crucial in still fragile contexts. Italy has a consolidated tradition in the field of promoting dialogue as well as a tradition and characteristic as a bridge between various civilizations from different continents. We also pursue this vocation through the efficient and successful action of the Community of Sant’Egidio in various African Countries, from Mozambique to Burundi to the Central African Republic.

Watch Ambassador Cardi explain Italy's contribution to UN peacekeeping:


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