|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
‘we should all be proud’ of peacekeeping achievements, but must also address
failings, says Deputy Secretary-General to New York Meeting
Following are Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s opening remarks at the Annual Conference of Heads of Military Components of United Nations Peacekeeping Missions, in New York, 4 September:
It is a pleasure to join you this morning.
I am delighted to welcome all of you to the 2007 Conference of Heads of Military Components of United Nations peacekeeping operations.
This Conference, organized annually by the Office of Military Affairs, is an important event. It is the only gathering that brings together all our Force Commanders and Heads of Military Components. You play a critical role on the frontlines of our work for peace and human dignity. I salute all of you for your dedication and your hard work, often performed under difficult and dangerous conditions.
This meeting provides a unique opportunity to share your experiences, not only with each other but also with senior managers and staff from United Nations Headquarters. Some of the challenges you face concern all field missions, all troop-contributing countries, and Headquarters departments alike. But each field mission also has its own unique challenges. This Conference provides an ideal forum to discuss all of these issues.
Officials from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support are here to help address your concerns. Together, you should identify the strengths and weaknesses of our current peacekeeping system, and determine areas needing additional impetus. The objective is to enable military components to contribute even more effectively to this key endeavour of our Organization.
Today, the United Nations has more operations, and more men and women in the field, than at any time in our history. Over 74,000 military personnel are serving in 18 field missions on four continents. They come from 117 troop-contributing countries. There has been a 28 per cent increase in uniformed personnel deployed to United Nations peacekeeping operations since 2005 alone.
And their numbers keep growing. Most immediately, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, approved by the Security Council in July, will be one of the largest operations in the history of United Nations peacekeeping. This unique hybrid operation also reflects a new era of cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union.
With the unprecedented surge in United Nations peace missions, the capacity of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support to plan and manage our operations is obviously overstretched. That is why Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed a bold package to restructure and strengthen our ability to fulfil the crucial peacekeeping tasks assigned by the Security Council.
Two months ago, the General Assembly approved the thrust of the Secretary-General’s proposals. The reform package entails a major increase in working-level resources for both the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support, as well as in other parts of the Secretariat. The restructuring is expected to be fully effective by the beginning of next year.
There are several reasons why peacekeeping has become such a flagship undertaking for the United Nations.
Our peace missions are a vital tool to fulfil one of the United Nations’ most important responsibilities. That is the maintenance of international peace and security. United Nations troops provide space and breathing room that encourage warring parties to cool down. They also enable political processes to take root, and peace dividends to bear fruit.
United Nations peacekeepers are impartial and enjoy unparalleled credibility. They are an expression of the international community’s will to end the immense suffering brought on by violent conflict.
Although peacekeeping is not cheap, it remains a relatively cost-effective means of resolving conflicts and consolidating peace. It also allows the burden of peacekeeping to be shared among all Member States.
And today’s multidimensional, integrated peacekeeping operations provide support for an entire spectrum of post-conflict needs: from institution-building to disarmament and demobilization of combatants, from the protection of human rights to the removal of mines and the rebuilding of schools.
We should all be proud of these achievements. But we must also address our failings. First and foremost, we must ensure that all our peacekeepers exercise the highest standards of integrity and ethical behaviour. The upstanding behaviour of the vast majority of United Nations staff and uniformed personnel should not be undermined by the small number of individuals who engage in acts of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Sexual exploitation of the vulnerable populations we are sent to help is entirely unacceptable. It also jeopardizes the trust of the countries and people we serve. The Secretary-General and I count on your vigilance, as field commanders, to ensure implementation of our zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
Please remember that our zero-tolerance policy also extends to other forms of misconduct. The world expects the best from us across the board. We must ensure that those expectations are not shattered.
We are also concerned by the large number of vehicular accidents in our field missions. These accidents often result in fatalities or serious injury among United Nations personnel and the local population, as well. Here, too, we count on you to help tackle this serious problem.
We need your help in ensuring that your forces are fully aware of all relevant codes, rules and regulations of the United Nations. As military men -- and I regret that there are still not enough women among our field commanders -- you know that this requires constant drilling and constant exercising.
Member States are asking for enhanced accountability from all of us. We are being called upon to improve managerial practices, instil better discipline in the field, and reach time-bound mission accomplishments.
We count on you to help us meet the daunting challenges of contemporary peacekeeping. And we at United Nations Headquarters stand together to provide you with our support for the success of our noble, shared mission.
I wish you a very productive Conference, and look forward to learning about its outcome.
* *** *For information media • not an official record