Written Statement by the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations for the High Level UNSC meeting on 'Technology and Peacekeeping' (18 August 2021)

Mr. President,

Innovation and modern technology have immense potential to strengthen UN peacekeeping in the face of mounting challenges. From fulfilling the basic needs of peacekeepers such as access to water, energy and health to improving mobility, communications and camp security, technology could make peacekeeping safer, secure and hence more effective. The COVID-19 pandemic has further ramped up the reliance on technology with ICTs, such as stable internet and efficient interoperable radio systems, becoming vital for timely communication in the peace operations.

Designing Peacekeeping-specific Technologies

Both the Security Council and the C-34 have encouraged the use of field-focused, reliable and cost-effective technologies that are driven by practical needs of end-users on the ground. This means designing peacekeeping-specific technologies which advance the protection of peacekeepers as well as the security of local population.

For example, to improve water access to peacekeepers and communities, advanced technologies focused on water recycling, rain capture and water usage efficiency should be embraced.

Similarly, healthcare technologies are critical enablers for the success of peacekeepers, especially those deployed in remote areas. High-tech air ambulances, video telemedicine and well-equipped medical personnel could serve a two-fold objective: One, reduce casualties and two, boost peacekeepers’ morale by displaying United Nations’ duty of care toward its personnel.

A greater focus should also be on technological solutions that could strengthen camp security, convoy protection and peacebuilding capabilities of peace operations.

As a troop contributing country with current deployment in 8 out of the 12 UN peacekeeping Missions, Pakistan considers improving the field medical system vital for strengthening peacekeeping performance. Agile CASEVAC/MEDEVAC supported by corresponding air assets; optimal level of field hospitals; detailing a medical team with each long-range patrolling convoy; and involving medical personnel in the operational planning, especially in high-risk missions, are the key determinants of life-saving interventions in peace operations.

Accelerating the Introduction of Counter-IED Technology

In recent years, mines and IED’s have become one of the leading causes of peacekeeping casualties with the sophistication of such attacks having risen sharply in several peace operations. To address this pressing challenge, peacekeeping should accelerate introduction of counter IED technologies such as mine resistant vehicles, IED jammers and ground penetrating radars. Matching the scale of the threat with right technological solutions could enhance situational awareness and facilitate safer contingent mobility, thus improving performance while mitigating the risk exposure.

Over the years, Pakistan has made a concerted effort, with significant success, to integrate counter IED technologies and capabilities in its military planning. We have established a counter IED training school and a Police School of Explosive Handling, which offer state-of-the-art courses on detecting and defusing IED’s; on gathering and analyzing forensic evidence; and conducting post blast investigations. Equipped with these capabilities, Pakistan is strengthening its already deployed Engineering companies with Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) and vertical platoons. Given their exceptional mobility skills which enable them to respond swiftly to any threat or developing situation, these platoons offer a unique value in protecting lives of peacekeepers as well as civilian population.

Ensuring a Responsible Use of Technology

The recent A4P+ document rightly envisages an innovative and tech-enabled peacekeeping architecture for the future. Its realization would require strengthening trust between various stakeholders, especially the host states, tech-contributing countries and TCC’s. Using technology to collect, store and access data has always invoked certain sensitivities and concerns. A responsible use of technology, which respects national sovereignty and addresses confidentiality concerns, could expedite the integration of cutting-edge solutions in peace operations. We therefore recommend that the United Nations System explore the options for establishing an inclusive framework for the governance of new technologies, including in the peacekeeping domain.

Pakistan supports the application of new methods, new technologies and new ways of thinking to UN peacekeeping. However, it should be done with full transparency and in consultation with Member States – an approach advocated in the 2021 C-34 report and other key UN documents on peacekeeping operations, such as the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO Report).

Leveraging Technology for Dispute and Conflict Resolution

Based on this approach, ‘technology’ and ‘innovation’ should be committed to improving the dispute and conflict resolution and mandate implementation capabilities of peacekeeping missions. They should not be merely leveraged as tools to advance narrow tactical objectives or promoted as a panacea for overcoming peace and security challenges. Lasting peace is achieved, not just through improving technical capabilities of peace operations, but through political engagement driven by solemn commitment to conflict prevention, peace processes and just political solution to conflicts. A fundamental requirement for sustainable peace is to enable the peacekeepers to fulfill their mandated role in fragile security environments. No amount of technology introduction can bring peace if peacekeepers are denied the ability to operate in accordance with their mandate.

Harnessing technology to strengthen the peacekeepers

Similarly, technology cannot be a substitute for capable and professional peacekeepers. Rather than supplanting the human resource in peace operations, technology should seek to supplement their capabilities. In each Mission, the deployment of an adequate number of professional peacekeepers, equipped with right skills and commensurate resources, should be our collective priority.

Promoting Green Initiatives

As a country deeply committed to climate action, Pakistan welcomes the commitment to “green solutions” set out in this year’s C-34 report. Eco-friendly initiatives combined with resource efficient practices in field missions can contribute to cost savings, improve self-sufficiency and resilience, leaving a positive legacy for the local communities.

My own country’s experience shows that nature-based solutions to environmental challenges can create jobs, promote ecosystem-based adaptation and support economic recovery in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. The catalytic impact of such green initiatives could feed into wider UN peacebuilding agenda centered on sustainable development and addressing the root causes of conflict.

Building Partnerships

Moving forward, Pakistan will continue to contribute critical assets, like utility aviation, signals communication units, engineering companies alongside affordable field solutions to ensure rapid deployment, especially of infantry units. We look forward to strengthening this contribution through innovative partnership projects, both with the Secretariat and Member States, to develop cost-effective, tailor-made solutions for UN peacekeeping. The upcoming peacekeeping ministerial preparatory conference, jointly organized by Pakistan and the Netherlands in October this year, will dedicate a session to digital technology and innovation, paving the way for required pledges at the Ministerial meeting in Seoul.

Bridging the Digital Gap

As a T/PCC, we would also like to underline that training and capacity building will play a crucial part in seamless implementation of the UN’s digital strategy. UN supported training frameworks, such as Triangular Partnership Program and Light Coordination Mechanism, could focus on building self-sufficient training capacities of host states and T/PCC’s. Support in the development of a national cadre of trainers, provision and refinement of training materials and building national capacities to use sophisticated, high-tech equipment are areas that would require consistent focus and priority. Enhanced national capabilities would surely optimize the effective and efficient use of modern technologies in the field.

Thank you.