UN report backs peacekeeping changes in face of deaths

A South African armored personnel carrier belonging to the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) patrols in the streets of Munzambayi, near Beni, on January 15, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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UN report backs peacekeeping changes in face of deaths

UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN peacekeeping forces need to change the way they operate and not shy away from using force to reverse a worrying trend of escalating fatalities, according to a new report made public Monday.
The recommendations were submitted to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in December by a team of experts headed up by Brazilian lieutenant general Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, a former UN commander in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The United Nations and troop- and police-contributing countries need to adapt to a new reality: the blue helmet and the United Nations flag no longer offer ‘natural’ protection,” the report stated.
“Unfortunately, hostile forces do not understand a language other than force. To deter and repel attacks and to defeat attackers, the United Nations needs to be strong and not fear to use force when necessary,” it recommended.
Casualties have spiked since 2013, with 195 personnel in UN peacekeeping missions killed by acts of violence — more than during any other five-year period in history. Last year saw the highest number of fatalities since 1994, with 56 deaths.
“These numbers go beyond a normal or acceptable level of risk,” the report said. “Something needs to change to reverse the trend.”
As missions face threatened budget cuts from the Trump administration, the report said troops are often too “in a defensive posture” and need to “take the initiative to neutralize and eliminate” threats to their security.
The report recommended that the United Nations start replacing officials, contingents and units that lack capacity to carry out their mandate.
Deficient pre-deployment training is a main cause of fatalities, it said. Among the recommendations were “surprise exercises and tests” to verify troop readiness.
The report also called for missions to be strengthened with sophisticated equipment such as mine-protected vehicles, special weapons and night-vision goggles.
Missions in Africa are the most vulnerable: the UN mission in Mali has lost 91 people since 2013, 29 in the Central African Republic and 26 in Sudan’s war-torn region of Darfur.
The vast majority of the victims were from Africa. Chad and Tanzania have suffered the heaviest losses since 2013, followed by Guinea, Niger and Ethiopia, the report said.


Floods close airport in Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala

Updated 1 min 33 sec ago
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Floods close airport in Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala

KOCHI: Flights in and out of the Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala were canceled for three days Wednesday as severe monsoon flooding ravaged the region.
At least 39 people have been killed in the past three weeks and more than 50,000 displaced in an area famed for its palm-lined beaches and tea plantations.
Authorities have opened the gates of 34 reservoirs as water reached dangerous levels.
Hundreds of villages have been flooded and the military has been called in to help with rescues.
More than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state, officials said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office announced on Twitter that Kochi International Airport — the main gateway to the region — would be closed until Saturday “due to heavy rains and resultant flooding.”
A Kerala State Disaster Management Authority official said that the death toll was expected to rise.
A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people, the official added.
“Our state is in the midst of an unprecedented flood havoc,” Vijayan said earlier this week. “The calamity has caused immeasurable misery and devastation.”
The US embassy last week advised Americans to avoid Kerala, which drew more than one million foreign tourists last year, according to official data.