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Senator Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on “United Nations Peacekeeping and Opportunities for Reform”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

“United Nations Peacekeeping and Opportunities for Reform”

December 9, 2015

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman

Opening Statement

I want to thank our witness [U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power].

I know she has significant responsibility right now at the U.N. Security Council, and I had a chance this week to meet with her and [representatives of U.N. Security Council member states] – [it was] quite educational, I hope on both sides. We certainly appreciate you being here, and I’ll certainly introduce you in just a moment.

Today’s hearing will review United Nations peacekeeping operations and explore opportunities for reform to make UN peacekeeping work better in the U.S. national interest.

As a permanent member of the Security Council and the largest contributor by far to the UN peacekeeping budget, the U.S. has a particular interest in how UN peacekeeping mandates are set and operations are carried out.

The United States cannot be everywhere all the time.  There is an important role for UN peacekeeping in supporting U.S. interests for security and stability around the world. 

Today’s UN peacekeeping is evolving in many ways.  Traditionally, missions have focused primarily on negotiating peace agreements, inserting blue helmets to separate conflicting parties over those agreements, and generally monitoring and keeping the peace.

UN peacekeepers now are being asked to take on new and difficult responsibilities such as civilian protection, disarming active combatants, or developing the capacity to engage on the anti-terrorism front.

These new missions and mandates raise many questions, which we certainly will be exploring today.

What are the risks when UN peacekeepers actively engage combatants in a war zone?  Do UN peacekeepers forgo their neutrality in those instances and, if so, what are the implications for our interests? 

If UN peacekeepers are asked to provide logistics support in humanitarian crises such as the Ebola fight in West Africa, what challenges does that raise?

I am particularly concerned with recent disturbing reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by certain UN peacekeeping troops.  The current UN policy is “zero-tolerance” but such abuses continue with disturbing regularity.

So, it’s our hope to find some common sense ways to address these issues and explore these and other topics such as the U.S. peacekeeping assessment.

We again, want to thank our distinguished witness for being here, and I’ll turn it over to our ranking member for his comments.