He outlined the steps that UNMISS has taken, including the provision of handwashing facilities and personal protective equipment, regular disinfection of vehicles and premises, 14 days’ medical observation for troops returning from operations, restricting the number of personnel in Mission vehicles and helicopters, and stress management initiatives. He suggested that missions might support host countries’ responses to the pandemic, within their respective mandates and upon request from national Governments. Through joint efforts, the risk of transmission within missions can be fundamentally reduced. Voicing concern about the expanding threat of COVID-19 in South Sudan, he asked Mr. Tinaikar to evaluate the effectiveness of the UNMISS awareness-raising campaign. Also participating in the meeting were representatives of Estonia, Germany and the United States. Yahoo is part of Verizon Media. The United Kingdom’s representative joined other speakers in paying tribute to those peacekeepers who lost their lives in the field, including those who died recently of COVID-19 in Mali. In the discussion that followed, speakers echoed their support for United Nations peace missions, paid tribute to those blue helmets who have died in the service of peace, and put questions to the Force Commanders that reflected their concern about COVID-19’s impact on operations and, more widely, the future of peacekeeping operations. Expressing support for broad efforts to increase the number of uniformed women and to bolster cooperation with host States, he stressed: “Without their consent, no life-saving goods and equipment will reach the missions.” Offering Germany as a possible medevac destination, he welcomed MINUSMA’s Force Adaptation Plan and highlighted Germany’s recent decision to further expand its unmanned aircraft system into Gao. Around 200 American troops are to remain in Syria on a peacekeeping mission after the rest of its forces are withdrawn. The Dominican Republic’s representative spotlighted the link between capacity-building and the security and protection of peacekeepers, while noting that they are often deployed in deteriorating, complex environments and face asymmetrical threats. South Africa’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, emphasized the need to improve the safety and security of peacekeepers by adopting the use of modern technology in peace operations, amongst other measures. There are positive signs that inspections of Syrian military positions in the Area of Limitation on the B side, which had been stopped for security reasons, may resume on a phased basis. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, delivered opening remarks, saying that over the past few months, peacekeeping operations have demonstrated their capacity to adapt to the new context imposed by the pandemic. Noting that the mindset of MINUSMA’s peacekeepers must also adapt, he stressed that the force is not, nor will it ever be, a counter-terrorism unit. Extending his condolences to the families and colleagues of the MINUSMA peacekeepers who lost their lives to COVID-19, he said the loss underscores the importance of closely monitoring and assessing the pandemic’s impact on peace operations — especially on the protection of civilians — and of prioritizing, readapting and likely expanding resources.
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