BEIJING – The United Nations‘ incoming secretary-general said Monday that he wants U.N. peacekeepers to be better trained and more respectful of human rights, amid pressure on the organization to address a series of sexual abuse allegations.
Antonio Guterres, who takes over from Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 1, also said the U.N. needs to be more nimble and less bureaucratic.
He spoke after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing. China is one of the U.N.’s largest financial backers, and Guterres said it could be an important peace broker in conflicts around the world.
Guterres told a news conference that he wants to make sure the different parts of the U.N. “work for the same purpose” without duplicating efforts. He said they also need to be subject to independent public evaluation.
The U.N.’s peacekeeping forces need to be better equipped and trained in order to avoid violating the rights of women and children, Guterres said. They also need to be able to better co-operate with regional organizations such as the African Union, he said.
The United Nations has been in the spotlight over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, particularly in Central African Republic and Congo.
Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal and head of the U.N.’s refugee relief agency, said the world faces challenges from enduring conflicts, climate change, population growth and water scarcity that are “making more and more people suffer in different parts of the world.”
“We see that economic progress and technological progress have not been able to reduce inequalities and inequality is becoming an important factor in instability in the world,” he said.
Wang said the 193-member U.N. needs to be more efficient in its governance and better able to respond to emergencies.
China is the biggest contributor of U.N. peacekeepers among the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, having sent more than 30,000 on 29 separate missions.
President Xi Jinping said last year that China would also set up a permanent peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops to be deployed whenever necessary.
He also said China would provide $100 million in military assistance to the African Union over the next five years to support the establishment of an African standby peacekeeping force and to bolster the AU’s ability to respond to crises.