Press Releases

    21 October 2005

    Current Peacekeeping Operations Affect Lives of 200 Million People Worldwide, Under-Secretry-General Says in Address to Fourth Committee

    He Details Department's Achievements, Challenges, Needs a s Delegates Take up Comprehensive Review of Peacekeeping Operations

    NEW YORK, 20 October (UN Headquarters) -- Current United Nations peace operations had a direct effect on more than 200 million men, women and children whose lives had been torn apart by the scourge of war, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon as it began its comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

    He said that those 18 peace operations, deployed around the world, comprised 83,000 troops, police and civilian personnel out of an authorized total capacity of 87,250, a five-fold increase in field personnel since 2000.  Over the last 18 months there had been 15 new police-contributing countries and eight more States contributing troops.  United Nations peacekeeping was the expression of Member States' collective will to assist societies to make the transition from armed conflict to self-sustaining peace.

    Member States' commitment to that goal was the raison d'être of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and it could come at a high cost, he said, paying his deepest respects to the 86 peacekeeping personnel who had paid that price with their lives in 2005.  The relationship between Member States and the Department had deepened since the start of his tenure as Under-Secretary-General five years ago, with significant results for United Nations peacekeeping.  That period had seen increased consultation with troop-contributing countries, which had translated into substantial improvements in United Nations peacekeeping, particularly with regard to implementation of the comprehensive reform process initiated by the Brahimi Report.

    He said United Nations peacekeepers were also making a qualitative contribution to conflict resolution as the Organization continued to support the stabilization of fragile peace agreements and assist political transition processes.  In 2005 alone it had supported elections in five post-conflict countries, negotiating volatile environments through robust, responsive peacekeeping, in addition to carrying out comprehensive disarmament.  It had successfully completed its mandate in Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, and was responding to evolving, complex political environments in Côte d'Ivoire and Kosovo.

    Requests by Member States for the effective use of peacekeeping resources had led to innovative new practices, he noted, citing the inter-mission cooperation in West Africa.  Another example was the Organization's integrated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration standards.  The Strategic Deployment Stocks mechanism was continuously refined, and a "Fly-Away" kit enabled the rapid deployment of mission headquarters.  In addition, a comprehensive policy on Joint Operations and Joint Mission Analysis Centres was being developed.  Currently 28 simultaneous audits and reviews of Headquarters and field missions were being undertaken by United Nations oversight bodies.

    Furthermore, the Department supported a growing number of field activities other than peacekeeping operations, such as the provision of logistics support to 13 United Nations special political missions and offices, he said.  Another high-priority task was the provision of support to the African Union, particularly that regional body's mission in Darfur.  The Department had also upgraded its support to the enhancement of African Union peacekeeping capacities.

    Notwithstanding all those innovations, the Department remained seriously over-stretched, he pointed out, adding, "We run the leanest field operations organization in the world.  Our personnel in the field -- your troops and police -- operate in many instances on a more or less permanent state of shortfall."  That was possible due to improvements generated by the Brahimi Report and to the dedication and quality of United Nations peacekeeping personnel.  Yet, gaps in the Brahimi reform process continued to weaken operations as not all its recommendations had been implemented, including the development of a system for the rapid deployment of brigade-sized forces.

    Over-stretch also undermined the capacity to manage operations effectively, he said.  That had been borne out over the past year in one of the most shameful episodes in United Nations peacekeeping:  the alleged and proven instances of sexual exploitation and abuse by military, police and civilian United Nations peacekeeping personnel.  The Department was committed to implementing a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.  Over the past 20 months, more than 221 peacekeepers had been investigated, 10 civilians had been fired, and over 88 uniformed personnel repatriated.  Conduct and discipline units had been established at Headquarters and in eight peacekeeping missions to put preventive strategies in place that would eradicate sexual exploitation and abuse.

    Ultimately, the eradication of sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping missions depended on the enforcement of established standards by troop-contributing countries, he stressed.  "I urge you to hold your commanders accountable for enforcing standards in the field.  We will likewise hold to account mission managers."  As the capacity to address sexual exploitation and abuse improved, the number of cases coming to light would increase.  The Department would need the continued commitment of Member States so as to rid United Nations peacekeeping of sexual exploitation and abuse, including the solicitation of prostitutes.

    He recalled that during the 2005 World Summit, Heads of State and Government had articulated key elements that must be pursued in addressing the peacekeeping challenges of the twenty-first century.  They had underscored that peacekeeping was one of the Organization's core activities, and emphasized also that United Nations peacekeeping must be able to respond robustly to challenges on the ground.  Commitment to a comprehensive, integrated approach to post-conflict countries and to the deployment of integrated missions in complex situations had been reinforced, and the importance of regional organizations in support of peace activities reiterated.  The Secretary-General had been mandated to initiate reforms in human-resource and financial-management practices, so as to make them more effective and accountable to the membership.

    In order to respond to those demands, the Department's response must be organized around five priorities, the first being people, he said.  The Department was a hugely decentralized operation with many individuals in the field who brought commitment, experience and skill to peacekeeping.  Yet civilian peacekeepers had not benefited from such basic services as security provision; training; standards and guidance; attractive conditions of service; mobility across the United Nations system; and opportunities for advancement.  Leadership was also suffering as a result of that lack of investment.  At present there was no systematic approach to the recruitment and preparation of mission leaders.  The Department had already initiated two steps to address that:  the creation of a Senior Leadership Induction Programme to better prepare senior mission officials, the first of which had been held in June this year; and a review of the selection and appointment of senior officials.

    The second priority was doctrine, he said.  As peacekeeping mandates grew and the Organization engaged increasingly in partnerships with other contributors to peacekeeping missions, it was crucial to define and articulate issues that were central to peacekeeping.  Many of the core questions identified in the Brahimi Report remained, for example:  what was meant by terms like "robust" peacekeeping and what that meant for a police officer or soldier serving in a United Nations mission; whether there were clear standing responsibilities to facilitate effective interaction between diverse organizations in multidimensional missions; and how peacekeeping operations could help improve international capacity to deliver a rapid "peace dividend" to societies emerging from conflict.  To answer those questions the United Nations must harness its operational experience from diverse missions of past decades and learn from the experiences of others.

    A third priority was partnerships, he continued.  It was time to move beyond a focus on "integration" to a more holistic concept of partnership.  In that regard, the Department was undertaking an inter-agency review of the Integrated Mission Planning Process which, when completed, would be institutionalized throughout Headquarters and the field.  Beyond the United Nations family, there were many partners with whom to cooperate in order to maximize efforts in post-conflict countries.  Regional organizations, in particular, were key partners for United Nations peacekeeping, including the immediate priorities of partnerships with the African Union and international financial institutions.

    Organization was the fourth priority, he said.  It was imperative to have a structure that provided the field with clear, responsive and accountable direction and support.  That structure must be responsive to Member States, and have the ability to engage as an effective partner in integrated peace operations.  The Department was currently reviewing how it could institutionalize an integrated team approach, and proposed to establish fully integrated, cohesive teams to direct and support field operations from Headquarters. Those teams would bring together military, police and civilian personnel to provide substantive support, guidance and direction to the field.

    The fifth priority was resources, he said.  The Department's goal was not to expand peacekeeping structures but to equip them better in so as to support comprehensive mandates in an effective and resource-efficient way.  Additional resources were needed in several areas, the first being related to operational capacity.  Since the request in March by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations for the development of the Standing Police Capacity, the Department had collaborated closely with that body in elaborating such a framework.  An indicative budget had been prepared for a proposed start to implementation in January 2006.

    Another area where additional resources were required was personnel support, he said.  Over the next six months, the Department would implement an Integrated Training Service to ensure consistent, thorough training for all military, police and civilian personnel in the field.  But to be effective, it must have adequate capacity, and while most resource requirements would be met through the existing Department capacities, some additional support would be necessary in the start-up phase.

    The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 21 October, to start its general debate on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

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