23 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/SPD/435

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

15th Meeting (AM)


It May Not Generate Headlines, but United Nations Peacekeeping Succeeds Quietly,


Every Day Mitigating Harm to Thousands of Civilians, Fourth Committee Told


Peacekeeping Head Says People Look to United Nations to Deliver on Civilian

Protection Mandate; If It Fails, Impact is Severe, Both on Ground, Internationally


United Nations peacekeeping was an increasingly complex and dangerous endeavour that rested on the shared partnership of Member States, the Security Council and the Secretariat, succeeding quietly, every day, in mitigating harm to thousands of civilians around the globe, Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today, as it began its comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping in all its aspects.


Mr. Le Roy said that the daily protection afforded by a deterrent blue helmet presence was a major contribution, even if it did not generate headlines.  A robust peacekeeping operation would be one that demonstrated, at the operational and tactical level, a willingness, capacity and capability to deter and confront spoilers that aimed to obstruct the implementation of a mission’s mandate.


Having completed more than one year at the helm of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and visited most of the 17 United Nations missions, he said he had seen first hand how millions of people depended every day on United Nations peacekeepers and how peacekeeping represented the whole of the Organization.  Everyone agreed that the missions must do their utmost to protect civilians.  People looked to the United Nations to deliver on that mandate, and if it failed, the impact was severe, both on the ground and internationally.


Yet, while there was very broad, unanimous support for peacekeeping, the strains on the system were real, he said.  There were “real limits” to what could be done, in the midst of ongoing conflict and across vast territories, so it was necessary to set the bar high, but realistically so. 


Some contributors struggled to meet the equipment and mobility requirements needed to operate in many of the current environments, while others felt the need for greater clarity on the tasks required of their personnel or improved training to deliver those tasks, he said.  For others, reimbursement was insufficient or slow to meet the performance levels demanded of personnel and equipment.


His discussions with senior leaders and staff on the ground in different missions had underscored that a successful peacekeeping operation required –- for its entire duration -– a comprehensive political process supported by all stakeholders, including the Security Council, the General Assembly, troop and police contributors, host Governments and regional partners.  Other messages from the ground were that clear and achievable mandates were needed; the commitment and determination of military, police and civilian personnel remained very strong; and that personnel wanted to implement their mandates related to civilian protection.


Noting with sorrow that there had been 86 fatalities among United Nations peacekeepers in 2009, he underscored the Organization’s obligation to ensure that risks to mission staff were at acceptable levels because, in many locations where peacekeepers operated, there was increasing risk to United Nations personnel, who were directly targeted.  Initiatives were being undertaken to improve security threat and risks assessments, as well as protective measures in United Nations facilities, and a realistic occupational safety programme was also being planned.


Also addressing the Committee was Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support, who said that her “young” department – which was formed in 2007 as part of a restructuring of the Peacekeeping Department – was focused on getting the right staff on board, securing sufficient funding, and providing the necessary equipment and logistical services in the field as quickly as possible.  The department now delivered support to 15 peacekeeping missions, 13 special political missions, and one African Union-led mission, as well as administered about 22,000 international and local civilian staff, with a budget that exceeded $8 billion per year.


Providing an overview of her department’s activities during the past year, she emphasized that the large, complex global enterprise of mission support required a professional, systemized and easily adaptable approach.  Such an approach must fit with each mission’s operating environment, as well as its lifecycle -- planning, deployment, sustainment, reconfiguration and, eventually, liquidation.


Turning to the department’s future activities, she stressed that the department must improve its response to increasing support needs in a holistic manner, and also develop a working business model, which recognized the need to evolve from mission-centric support to a “global and integrated delivery system”.  That approach must be based on, among other things, an updated operating framework to balance delivery demands with compliance to rules and regulations; a balance between the risks of delay and the risks from increased operational empowerment and decentralized authority; and an improved capacity for immediate response.


Opening the meeting, Fourth Committee Chairman Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser ( Qatar) said that given the vital importance of peacekeeping operations, to which all Member States attached great value, he was certain that everyone was eager to learn of the new developments and progress made in the field of peacekeeping.  He reminded Member States that the Committee had last taken up the item in May to consider the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (document A/63/19).  In addition, he highlighted the non-paper prepared by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, entitled “A New Partnership Agenda:  Charting the New Horizon for United Nations Peacekeeping” and issued in July, which had been distributed today in the Fourth Committee.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 26 October, to begin its general debate on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.


Statements


ALAIN LE ROY, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that during the past year, he had visited most of the 17 United Nations missions and their host Governments, as well as most of the regional partners.  Having completed more than one year at the helm of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, he had seen first hand how United Nations peacekeeping was a flagship endeavour of the United Nations and represented the whole of the Organization.  Millions of people depended every day on United Nations peacekeepers.  It was an increasingly complex and dangerous undertaking, and it was a shared endeavour.


He said that peacekeeping rested on the partnership of Member States, the Security Council, and the Secretariat.  Together, difficult challenges had been faced in the field during the past year.  The longstanding dialogue on how, together, peacekeeping could be strengthened had also been renewed.


Turning to a review of key developments in missions during 2009, he said that United Nations peacekeeping operations continued to embrace a wide spectrum of operations, ranging from more traditional monitoring missions to large multidimensional operations.  More traditional missions, such as the ones in Cyprus and the Golan, continued contributing to peace and security, providing stability.  They were cost-effective and benefited from clarity of tasks.  They often, however, witnessed little or slow political progress.


The challenges for the biggest, and more recent and complex missions –- the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), as well as the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) -– were of a different nature and scale.  In Sudan, the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was facing serious tests, and in Darfur, the need for a political solution remained critical.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a new political and security landscape had emerged in the eastern part of the country during the past year.  That new landscape also presented opportunities to re-establish State authority in the east and to build a credible national army and police.


Travelling to missions, he had heard first hand from the senior leaders and staff on the ground about challenges, he said.  Each situation had its own complexity, but mission personnel also pointed to common denominators.  First was that for a peacekeeping operation to succeed, it must be accompanied by a comprehensive political process supported by all stakeholders -– the Security Council, the General Assembly, troop and police contributors, host Governments and regional partners -– throughout the whole life of the mission.  The leaders on the ground struggled most when they lacked clear, active and unified support from all the international stakeholders.


The second lesson from the field was that the commitment and determination of the personnel -- military, police and civilian -- had to remain very strong.  They willingly deployed in extremely difficult environments, and worked hard to win the trust of local stakeholders to help advance tenuous peace processes and to deliver on wide-ranging mandates.  They deserved praise for their dedication.  The third lesson was the need for clear and achievable mandates.  Clearer priorities from the Security Council were crucial.  He had heard from mission leaders the keen desire for mandates to be better prioritized, for expectations to be scaled against the realities on the ground.  MONUC, as one example, currently had 41 tasks in its mandate.


The fourth lesson was that the personnel wanted to implement their mandated tasks related to protection of civilians, he said.  That was an overwhelming message from the ground.  The personnel needed support and resources to implement that highly challenging task in volatile environments.  Other lessons from the field concerned the gap between mandates and resources, which was a key concern for the missions.  Also, the missions did not want to stay forever.  It had also been learned that the creation of the Department of Field Support and the sharpened focus on support issues had clearly already yielded benefits.


He said he was especially grateful that there was very broad, unanimous support for peacekeeping.  Yet despite a commitment and will to provide, the strains on the system were real.  Some contributors struggled to meet the equipment and mobility requirements needed to operate in many of the current environments.  Others felt the need for greater clarity regarding the tasks required of their personnel or improved training support to deliver them.  For others, reimbursement was seen as insufficient to meet the levels of performance now demanded of personnel and equipment, or reimbursement simply came too slowly.


Referring to a non-paper issued last July by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support presenting a broad outline of the key challenges, he said that his department had “listened carefully” to the ongoing dialogue that had taken place this year and it believed that there were four priority areas requiring a concerted effort.  Those areas included: developing practical guidance on critical roles for modern United Nations peacekeeping; building the capabilities needed to meet today’s challenges; putting in place stronger United Nations field support arrangements; and ensuring more consultative and effective arrangements for mission planning and oversight.


Regarding the first area, he pointed to an urgent need to clarify policy and guidance for the protection of civilians, robust peacekeeping and on the linkages between peacekeeping and peacebuilding.  On the protection of civilians, a policy dialogue would be sought about what United Nations peacekeeping operations must accomplish.  Everyone he had consulted on that matter had agreed that the missions must do their utmost to protect civilians.  There was also broad agreement that that mandate, when entrusted to peacekeeping operations, was at the core of their deployment.  People looked to the United Nations to deliver on that protection mandate.  If it failed, the impact was severe -- both on the ground and internationally.


Yet, it was necessary to recognize that there were “real limits” to what could be done, in the midst of ongoing conflict and across vast territories, he said.  Hence, it was necessary to set the bar high, but realistically so, and to manage expectations accordingly.  It was necessary to establish a common understanding among the Security Council, troop contributing countries and the Secretariat of what could and could not be achieved, so as to inform mandates, capabilities and expectations.  Any policies and concepts must be based on sound analysis of the Security Council’s intent and on what the current contributors were willing, able and resourced to undertake.


To begin the process of gathering lessons, he said that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had commissioned an independent study on the protection of civilians in United Nations peacekeeping operations.  The study was in its final stages and should be ready by the first week of November.  The study was part of an ongoing process of gathering operational lessons and good practices, particularly from Member States whose personnel served in operations.  Those lessons would be built on to enable a productive dialogue on protection of civilians during the coming session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34).  He had also tasked the Department of Peacekeeping Operations staff to develop and circulate a draft concept paper, so that there would be a common point of discussion.


There was much practical experience of which to be extremely proud, he said.  United Nations peacekeeping operations succeeded quietly, every day, in mitigating harm to thousands of civilians.  The daily protection afforded by a deterrent blue helmet presence was a major contribution, even if it did not generate headlines.  Although there was not always success in fulfilling protection mandates, there were good cases and lessons worth learning from and replicating.  In addition, on the issue of robust peacekeeping, good strides were being made to define and develop policy.  A robust peacekeeping operation would be one that demonstrated, at the operational and tactical level, a willingness, capacity and capability to deter and confront spoilers that aimed to obstruct the implementation of a mission’s mandate.


He said that another area of focus on the policy front was to clarify and develop guidance on early critical peacebuilding tasks undertaken by peacekeepers.  The United Nations and international and regional partners must have the ability to get civilian capacities on the ground early and fast.  As had been learned through the deployment of the Standing Policy Capacity, rapidly deployable justice and corrections experts deployed alongside police capacities were essential to the effort to provide assistance to national rule of law institutions from a mission’s outset.


New policies and guidelines alone would not ensure effective delivery in the field, he said.  Troop- and police-contributing countries must be assisted in their ongoing efforts to provide well-trained and prepared personnel.  Moreover, it was necessary to provide support systems to assist them in implementing critical tasks.  With that in mind, another priority for further discussion during the C-34 was on strengthening the systems for building and managing the capabilities needed for modern United Nations peacekeeping.  Certainly, the base of United Nations troop contributors must be expanded, especially to ensure that specialized capabilities were available.  It was also necessary, however, to better define the capabilities that United Nations peacekeeping units were expected to provide.


Another priority area was to improve how the United Nations supported missions and contributing countries, in order to sustain and deliver on the ground, he said, adding that a critical dimension in that regard was the development of a wider support framework.  Another priority was the need for strengthened cooperation between the troop- and police-contributing countries, the Security Council and the Secretariat through the entire cycle of mission planning and implementation.  That had been a recurrent theme in various debates this year in the C-34, as well as in the Security Council.


Turning to the issues of safety and security, he said that recent security incidents had underscored that, in many locations where peacekeepers operated, there was increasing risk to United Nations personnel, who were directly targeted.  The Organization had the obligation to ensure that risks to staff were at acceptable levels.  Initiatives were being undertaken to improve security threat and risks assessments, and to improve protective measures in United Nations facilities.  Ways to move mission functions that could be performed at distances away from high-risk areas were also being examined.  In addition, a realistic occupational safety programme was being planned to be put in place in all peacekeeping missions during the next several years, with a relatively low financial investment.


In closing, he noted with sorrow that, so far this year, there had been 86 fatalities among United Nations peacekeepers.


SUSANA MALCORRA, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, said that her “young” Department was focused on getting the right staff on board, securing sufficient funding, and providing the necessary equipment and logistical services in the field as quickly as possible.  The department now delivered support to 15 peacekeeping missions, 13 special political missions, and one African Union-led mission.  The department also administered about 22,000 international and local civilian staff.  The budget for those services exceeded $8 billion per year.  The department also operated and maintained more than 300 medical facilities, almost 300 aircraft, 17,000 vehicles, and 40,000 computers.  The annual procurement bill for peacekeeping now approached $2.7 billion annually.


She said that the large, complex global enterprise of mission support required a professional, systemized, and easily adaptable approach.  That must fit with each mission’s operating environment as well as its lifecycle –- planning, deployment, sustainment, reconfiguration and eventually liquidation.


Turning to the Department’s activities over the past year, she said that the tripartite negotiation process in Darfur with the Government of Sudan and the African Union had aimed to secure safe and steady passage of personnel and equipment to African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). More than 19,000 military personnel were now deployed in the area, but given the ongoing difficulties, full deployment would be very difficult to achieve.  The MONUC had lent important support in the military redeployment -- 95 per cent of which was now in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo -– requiring considerable relocation of mission assets. Due to poor road conditions, the mission was still heavily reliant on air transport, which was costly.


In Chad, the department had facilitated the transfer of authority from the European Union Force (EUFOR) to the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) in March, she said.  However, that required complex manoeuvres and had not gone entirely according to plan.  The country had been threatened by a fuel supply disruption, but supply had since been restored in ways that minimized impact on operations.  In Afghanistan, the department had worked with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to provide logistical support for the recent elections. The department was also helping UNAMA to open regional offices in the country, but mobility and services had been constrained, owing to the worsening security situation.  That put added pressure on the department’s supply chain.


For the African Union-led operation in Somalia, she noted that the department had helped ensure a sustainable supply route from Mombasa to Mogadishu to support the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  The 5,200 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers deployed in the area were now receiving United Nations standard food rations, along with critical medical supplies, prefabricated buildings, field kitchens, and ablution units.  Fuel delivery had just commenced, and a secure communications network linking the Force Headquarters in Mogadishu and Nairobi had been established. Additionally, the United Nations trust fund for AMISOM had received 80 per cent of its confirmed pledges.  Those would soon be dispersed. Unfortunately, attacks against AMISOM facilities and United Nations-contracted ships continued, which slowed delivery.


Speaking to other missions, she also mentioned the re-sizing of United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the “unexpected” liquidation of United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), and the upcoming transitions of the offices in Guinea Bissau and Central Africa to integrated peacebuilding entities.  The “less volatile” missions in Haiti and Timor-Leste also required continued support.


Turning to the department’s future activities, she said that the Support Strategy would chart its work for the next five years.  She stressed that the department must improve its response to increasing support needs in a holistic manner and develop a working business model, which recognized the need to evolve from mission-centric support to a “global and integrated delivery system”.  That new, fresh approach must be based on several key factors:  an updated operating framework to balance delivery demands with compliance to rules and regulations; a balance between the risks of delay and the risks from increased operational empowerment and decentralized authority; an improved capacity for immediate response; maximizing safety of staff; strategic investments for missions, when needed; improved timeliness of deployments; and a more productive, economical impact on the operating environment, by contributing to local economies.


She said that it was unacceptable to use operational demands to justify shortcuts, or to hide behind the existing framework “without questioning its continued applicability”.  Quite often, support operations were hindered by processes that had not been revisited for a long time.  Additionally, any efforts to attract or retain talented and skilled staff would only be successful if sound management, appealing conditions, and a competitive environment were offered. Missions should strive for a more environmentally-friendly and ecologically-minded “footprint”.


In closing, she noted that change would not happen overnight, but required sustained commitment by all. The department’s team would strive for a mindset of getting things done.  It was ready to focus on delivering the Support Strategy, as soon as Member States endorsed it.


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For information media • not an official record