For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/SG/2528
Release Date:  28 March 2000
 Addressing Shirbrig Meeting, Secretary-General Says International
Community Must Remain Vigilant and Maintain Preparedness

 NEW YORK, 27 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address, “Peacekeeping in the Twenty-first Century”, to the Standby High Readiness Brigade Ministerial Meeting, which was held at Rockefeller Center in New York this morning:

 I would like to begin by thanking you for coming to New York to give new impetus to our efforts to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping.  As you know, I have long been a supporter of the Standby High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) initiative, and admired your determination to turn words into deeds.  You have recognized the vital importance of providing the United Nations with the capacity not only to act effectively, but also promptly whenever a peacekeeping operation is called for.

 As peacekeeping veterans, we all are familiar with the main challenges facing peacekeeping today.  From the changing nature of conflict to the changing nature of sovereignty, we know that we must think anew in order to meet successfully the challenges to peacekeeping in the twenty-first century.

 As I indicated in my report on the fall of Srebrenica, we have all, over the last decade, learned painful lessons about the sheer difficulty of succeeding in the field of peacekeeping.  We have come to recognize, as never before, the reality of evil; the limits to impartiality; and the impossible demands made upon a peacekeeping force when there is no peace to keep.  These are among the lessons that we will explore further in the forthcoming report on peace operations that I have commissioned, under the leadership of Ambassador Brahimi.  I have asked the panel to take a broad look at the entire spectrum of challenges, and I hope that it will serve as the basis for discussion among Heads of State at the Millennium Summit.

 Today, I wish to emphasize two key issues that I believe must be addressed if we are to get peacekeeping right in the years ahead.

 The first, with which you are very familiar, is that the nature of conflict has changed.  We are rarely faced with inter-State violence any more.  But, in truth, we are rarely dealing with purely internal conflicts either.  Rather, conflicts today are often a complex mix of the two:  their roots may be essentially internal, but they are complicated by cross-border involvement, either by State or non-State actors.  And their consequences can quickly become international, because of destabilizing refugee flows as well as the dangers posed by factions pursuing each other across borders.

 The second major change to which we have had to adapt is the decline in the kinds of leverage that peacekeepers could draw upon, not only to push parties to abide by their commitments, but also to insist on respect for themselves and their mandate.  Until the end of the cold war, peacekeeping operations rarely exercised leverage directly. Whenever negotiation and persuasion failed, the next step was to report violations to the Security Council in New York.  At that point, after a quiet call from the Secretary-General of the Secretariat, the great Powers could (usually) be counted upon to exercise influence on their respective client States in order to prevent themselves from being dragged into the conflict.  Their sources of leverage were usually economic and military assistance programmes, but with the end of the cold war, these programmes dried up -- and the leverage in large part dried up with them.

 In response to these two big changes, peacekeeping has had to transform itself in important ways.  In response to the first -- the fact that conflicts had a major internal dimension -- a new strategy of peacekeeping was required.  Of course, that strategy has to be tailored to each individual case, but in very broad terms, our aim in every case has been to channel conflict from the military to the political arena.  In other words, to ensure that differences are settled peacefully and democratically.

 Let me be clear about the limits to this strategy.  We cannot and do not presume to remove conflict from the societies that we are trying to assist.  Conflicting interests are inherent in any society.  Rather, we seek to remove those conflicts from the battlefield and into legitimate institutions, so that all groups have -- and feel that they have -- meaningful access to political and economic decision-making.  Much of our task, therefore, is to assist the parties in strengthening existing institutions, or even in creating new ones.  This is the rationale behind multidimensional operations of today.

 In such cases, the military component is essential, but it is not sufficient.  Other components are required for institution-building.  Examples include the electoral component, to assist in the reform of electoral institutions, and then to provide international monitoring of elections to ensure that the reforms will take effect.  Another example is the police component, which assists, through mentoring, monitoring and training, to help create a new police force that people see as their protector against crime rather than as an instrument of oppression by one side against another.  A third example is a human rights component, which is normally involved both in monitoring violations and in strengthening local capacities.  All of this must be accompanied by economic development.  If people see no prospect for material improvements in their lives, they will quickly become disillusioned with fledgling democratic institutions.

 At the end of the spectrum of multidimensional operations, of course, is interim administration, in which we actually govern while indigenous institutions are being developed, as in East Timor and Kosovo.

 This strategy may not only be called our entry-strategy, but our exit-strategy as well.  It aims to provide the conditions in which a peacekeeping operation can withdraw, and expect to leave behind a country or territory that will remain at peace.

 Let me now turn to the second big change to which we have had to adapt, and are still adapting:  the changing nature of leverage.  I do not want to suggest that the political support and behind-the-scenes leverage of Security Council members is no longer important.  It is essential.  But it is not enough.  Today and into the future, peacekeeping operations must have their own sources of leverage, which they can utilize in the field directly.

 The first source of leverage, of course, is the military component.  Its principal role is not to shoot its way into accomplishing a mandate.  However, as we learned painfully throughout the 1990s, military credibility is vital in peacekeeping today.  Even when a political agreement exists, we can expect one group or another to want to test the international community?s will, as manifested in the peacekeeping operation.

 If we show up looking small and weak, we are inviting trouble and I think we have learned that.  If, on the other hand, we arrive quickly, with strength and obvious determination, we will invite and earn respect.  We must show force in order not to use it.  A credible deterrent capacity, in such circumstances, is fundamental to success.  While a credible military force is the foundation of our success, other sources are necessary to achieve it.

 The first is positive incentives aimed at the sources of conflict.  A good example of the use of positive incentives may be found in the area of disarmament and demobilization.  Even when leaders sign agreements, the rank-and-file combatants are often reluctant to lay down their arms.  Many were recruited as child soldiers, are now young adults, and have never known anything but fighting.  They need a reason to join in the peace process.  And we must help provide it, through food, clothing, education and job training.

 A second form of leverage is our ability to help willing parties pursue their interests peacefully, and within the context of constitutional rule.  A classic example of such leverage is the transformation of a guerrilla army into an effective political party.  From technical assistance to election and political training, we can provide a kind of crash course in democratic politicking.  From El Salvador to Mozambique, this proved to be one of the keys to an enduring peace.  And in Kosovo, too, we are seeking to ensure that the same process takes place.  You all know the difficulties on the ground.

 A third form of leverage that will be important to future successes in peacekeeping is the power of communication with the population living in the mission area. I have described our strategy as the development of effective institutions through which all constituencies can pursue their interests.  This can only work if the people are actively engaged and made a part of the process.  If not, they will have no faith in the outcome, and this lack of faith will quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We must be able to communicate with the population directly, explaining why we are in the country, what we expect from them and their leaders, and what they may expect from us.  We must do that in the country or territory.

 A fourth form of leverage, essential now and in the future, has to do with the links between factional armies and the global economy.  I said earlier that foreign military assistance programmes have largely dried up.  How, then, are factions acquiring the wherewithal to fight?  In many cases, the answer has been export commodities:  gems and timber in Cambodia, diamonds in Angola and Sierra Leone.  There are several ways to sever this link.  One, of course, is economic sanctions.  Depending on the type of commodity, these can be very difficult to enforce, as indicated in the recent Security Council report on Angola.  A fortune in diamonds can be carried out by one individual.

 Other commodities would be operationally easier to intercept.  For example, the logging roads along which the Khmer Rouge exported timber out of Cambodia were well- known and easily spotted.  However, what is operationally easy may be politically impossible, especially when important external partners in the peace process turn out to be economically complicit with one or more of the factions.  Thus, sanctions are one possibility but not always a practicable one.

 A second way to sever this link -- one which may ultimately prove more promising -- is to go further up the chain.  If we go high enough, we are likely to find a major commercial enterprise which has a big interest in maintaining a positive market image, especially among consumers in the West.  Engaging such enterprises proactively, so that they can become -- and be seen to become -- part of the solution rather than part of the problem, may be a promising avenue of leverage to be further explored.  Recent commitments by DeBeers, for example, while they remain to be tested and verified, may prove a useful step in the right direction.  DeBeers would not buy diamonds from Angola.  Corporate codes of conduct and public watchdogs to monitor behaviour could be a useful part of this.

 In the future of peacekeeping as I have described it, the role of a capacity like SHIRBRIG is obvious.  First, SHIRBRIG constitutes a credible military capacity, with the crucial deterrent value that, I believe, will remain essential to peacekeeping.

 Second, in conflicts with a multiplicity of actors, agreements can unravel if the peacekeepers fail to arrive soon to help the parties with implementation.  Hence, the high readiness aspect is essential.  Rapidity is essential.  East Timor 5-6 months later, there would have been nothing to save.

 I would be remiss if I did not address a question that is on everyone?s mind.  Where will the next big peacekeeping operation occur?  What might be the first major test of SHIRBRIG?  Unfortunately, the only thing that is predictable about violent conflict -- and the Security Council’s responses to it -- is that it is unpredictable.  In the last year, we have deployed four new operations, more than doubling our authorized strength in the field.

 Will the next year see another doubling of United Nations peacekeepers?  Or might we go a year or two without a new operation?  It is not a question that can be answered with any certainty.  What I can say is this:  the Secretariat looks forward to discussions with you, when the needs present themselves.

 At this juncture, we are facing an enormous challenge with the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Security Council has authorized a mission to monitor the ceasefire and facilitate the implementation of other provisions of the Lusaka Peace Agreements, including the "national dialogue" between Congolese parties.  

 It has given me the heavy responsibility of deciding when conditions are ripe for deployment of this mission -- and my Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, has just returned from an assessment mission to the region.

 What is clear is that we must all remain vigilant and maintain our preparedness.  Peacekeeping in at least one important respect is like war-fighting: in an ideal world we would always be ready, but never have to be utilized.  Unfortunately, in peacekeeping, we have often suffered from the opposite:  we did not maintain our capacities -- indeed were not ready -- and were thus ill-prepared when the call for action was issued.  If there is one aim that we call can share, surely it is to prevent such a situation from happening ever again.

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