Minister Modise says tech innovation is central to improving peacekeeping efforts

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South Africa remains one of the key peacekeeping actors in Africa’s conflict hotspots, and Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, says technology and innovation are central to making the work of the peacekeepers better.

She was speaking at the 6th International Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping Symposium in Pretoria where United Nations officials, military experts and other representatives and stakeholders have gathered to discuss areas of opportunity for technological solutions and innovation to be applied to the real-world challenges peacekeepers confront in their operations.

Minister Modise says this peacekeeping symposium allows the United Nations and its member states to collaborate on improving technology used by peacekeepers.

“Challenges relate to new threats of violent extremism and terrorism, improvised explosive devices, digital-technology-related threats, fake news and misinformation, as well as equipment and financial resource gaps. Thus we need to find both resources and technological solutions to protect the peacekeeper in this ever evolving type of war,” says the minister.

The symposium, which is being hosted for the first time in Africa, will also allow South Africa to showcase its military capabilities which have made the country a significant contributor to peacekeeping missions on the continent since the dawn of its democracy. Furthermore, the country will be able to apply the outcomes of this symposium to its SADC Mission fighting against insurgents in the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique.

Peacekeepers on a daily basis have the fundamental task of establishing security stability, law and order in the most volatile parts of the world. There are several flash points in Africa like the eastern DRC, Central African Republic and other nations.

UN expresses concern over DRC

The Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Operational Support, Atul Khare, has expressed concern about the current violence in the DRC as M23 rebels continue to terrorise communities in the area.

“In so far as the DRC and the eastern region of the continent is concerned, obviously we are concerned about the activities of armed groups,” adding that, “it’s time to ensure our peacekeepers, who protect others, are themselves protected from threats that are emerging, and have the best support from medical caregivers if they are attacked or injured.”

Khare stated that the improved use of data, information gathering, and a decreased environmental footprint would enhance the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations.

The symposium will also be used to examine what the UN looks for when working with suppliers during the UN Procurement Summit which will follow on the heels of the symposium on 24 June.

UN Assistant Supply-Chain Manager Christian Francis Saunders says, “There is a lot of innovation going on in Africa at the moment. We are interested in doing business with those companies.”

Saunders adds that annual business done with South African companies by the UN is about US$14 million.

Minister Modise reflects on the symposium: