Press Releases

          26 October 2004

    Present-Day Peacekeeping Demands Exceed Capacity of any Single Organization, Under-Secretary-General Says in Briefing to Fourth Committee

    United Nations Peace Operations at Crossroads Once Again, He Says as Delegates Take up Comprehensive Review of Peacekeeping

    NEW YORK, 25 October (UN Headquarters) -- Today’s peacekeeping demands exceeded what the United Nations or any other regional or subregional organization by itself could meet, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning as it began its comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

    Briefing the Committee, Mr. Guéhenno said that peacekeeping was again at a crossroads.  Four years ago, the “Brahimi Report” had addressed the lessons of the 1990 to ensure that peacekeeping would be operationally ready to meet the challenges of the future.  In 2001, the staff of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) had been strengthened, and in 2002, the focus had been on rapid deployment.  The question of the rule of law within peacekeeping efforts had also been examined, and last year, wide-ranging discussions had addressed coordination with regional organizations and gender issues.

    Noting that August 2005 would mark five years since the launch of the Brahimi process, he said that the soon-to-be-issued report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change would certainly contribute to the discussions leading up to the review of the Millennium Declaration to be held in September 2005.  It was necessary to address questions such as the degree to which the world of peacekeeping had changed, and what peacekeeping might imply for the capacities of the United Nations system.

    The fact that the DPKO had reached a total of 17 operations, with more potentially on the horizon, was ample confirmation of the fact that United Nations peacekeeping remained indispensable, he said, adding that the Organization’s universality continued to offer its peacekeepers a unique legitimacy.  If the current demand remained constant over the next five years, there would be a serious resource deficit in the field.  That there would be demand for peacekeeping was one of the few predictable things, but as for the rest, the unexpected should be expected.  There was a need to be equipped for “nimble, competent, quick and flexible responses”.  Each operation mounted faced unique political, economic, social and security challenges, with different mandates and a different array of partners and spoilers. Also, the complexity of post-conflict transitions meant that operations must advance concurrently on many tracks -- political, humanitarian, development, human rights and security -- often in high-risk environments.

    Those realities presented some difficult dilemmas, he said. Should United Nations peace operations work at the scale that was currently demanded and if so, were resources available?  Or should they focus on a more limited number of niche tasks?  The cases of Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone illustrated the nature of the crossroads at which the United Nations found itself.  In Afghanistan, the security challenge went beyond the means available to the Organization and, in line with the recommendations of the Brahimi Report, the mandate was therefore limited in scope.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there had been no such alternative option and a greater quantity of force was needed to achieve basic security.  There were at least two areas “crying out to be addressed as a matter of priority”:  the first concerned processes by which to get the right capabilities on the ground in time; and the second related to how best to organize those capabilities and how to integrate and rationalize the joint efforts of the United Nations system and the rest of the international community to help consolidate a sustainable peace.

    Despite winding down in Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, peacekeeping over the past year had grown from 32,200 troops to 54,200 and from 9,700 civilian staff to 11,600, with a budget of operations approaching $3 billion a year, he said.  Of the 17 current operations, five had yet to reach their mandated troop strength, and there were key gaps where the United Nations lacked critical enabling and niche capabilities, including in the maritime, helicopter, communications and special forces fields.  Rapid deployment of capable military forces was needed to help in the start-up of new missions and to assist when existing missions were significantly challenged. The current United Nations standby arrangements did not provide for any such strategic reserve. The mere existence of such a capacity could deter spoilers in the first place, besides allowing for more certain risk management regarding the size of missions.

    He said that he envisioned a similar picture in terms of meeting civilian police requirements, particularly in francophone missions, where 960 more police were still needed.  In addition, merely training police officers was not sufficient; there must be a sustainable law-enforcement institution to support them and bolster the rule of law. Such an approach might require fewer civilian police, but more highly qualified police officers and civilian experts, for which a small standing body of professional staff was being considered, since the “On Call” listing was not working well.

    In general, doing a better job of identifying, selecting and recruiting the range of necessary civilian specialists would be a priority in the coming year, he said.  It had become imperative to review the conditions of service in the field, starting with the offer of regular 100 series contracts for staff engaged for six months or longer in functions for which there was a continuing requirement, while short-term contracts would be offered for time-limited activities.

    Turning to mission support, he said that the Brahimi reforms had improved capacity for rapid deployment, but those mechanisms too had been stretched by the surge in demand.  Pre-mandate commitment authority, for example had been effective but the funding had rapidly been exhausted by larger missions.  Strategic deployment stocks in Brindisi, Italy, had worked well for its first mission, but then had become strained.  Replenishment and other mechanisms must be re-examined.

    Regarding the DPKO’s integration with the entire United Nations system, he said there had been progress, such as the first Integrated Mission Task Force, but there was still a long way to go towards offering Special Representatives of the Secretary-General fully integrated advisory and support systems.  In that effort, it was essential that the DPKO at Headquarters not duplicate the capacities of other units.  For full integration, funding must cover the totality of needs on the ground, including reintegration and reconstruction.

    He emphasized that integration was also part of the answer to security, for which specific policies and procedures had been established over the past two years, all carrying the same message -- security could not be dissociated from operational activities and must form an integral part of mandate implementation, with information-sharing as the key. Towards that end, the DPKO was developing a unified integrated security management structure in coordination with the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) and United Nations field agencies. Adoption of the Secretary-General’s report on A Strengthened and Unified Security Management System, under a new Directory of Security, would make important changes in that direction.

    Beyond the United Nations, he said, the DPKO was working to integrate peace operations with the capacities of such regional organizations as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union.  It was important to develop and strengthen dialogue and exchange in that area.  Peacekeeping was at a crossroads; while significant capabilities had been developed, increased demands were straining the system, and more innovation was needed.  The expertise of the entire United Nations system and beyond must be linked in order to keep, consolidate and build peace in post-conflict societies.

    In other business today, the Committee postponed consideration of its agenda item “Programme planning”.

    The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday 26 October, to continue its comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

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