6 February 2013
Press Conference

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

PRESS CONFERENCE BY Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping


In a Headquarters briefing today that focused on the role in 2013 of United Nations peacekeeping in Mali, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Head of the Department said there was a shared desire in the international community to do what needed to be done in Mali to end the conflict and resolve the issues that provoked it, and that a United Nations peacekeeping operation was “the way to go”.


Addressing correspondents, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, said that his discussions with the Security Council indicated a common position to “see this operation under way in Mali”, where the deteriorating security, political and humanitarian situation in the overlapping Sahel subregion coalesced last March into the overthrow of the Malian Government and occupation of the country’s northern two thirds by rebel militias.


The Council had spent much of 2012 considering an African-led mission to help reunify the country, proposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, which it finally authorized on 20 December.  Today, Mr. Ladsous said, those regional organizations and a number of United Nations Member States had voiced their support for a Untied Nations operation.


It was clear, he said, that there had to be a peace to keep in Mali, which was a prerequisite for launching any United Nations operation.  He could not speak for the Government, but underlined the need for a collective will to deal with such issues as countering terrorism, restoring security and the rule of law, and stabilizing that country, which only recently was held up as a model of democracy.


On Syria, he said everything depended on how the political processes evolved because a peacekeeping operation might not be possible in light of the inordinate level of violence there.  At the same time, “we have to do all we can to be prepared”, because the United Nations could be called on to help stabilize the country and support the political process, and give a greater sense of security to those who felt threatened.  If a political process under Joint Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi materialized, then longer-term challenges would have to be faced.


Regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he was hopeful that a framework agreement would be signed in the coming weeks.  He had anticipated a positive outcome in Addis Ababa eight days ago, but a matter of process had delayed the signature.  A framework agreement, he explained, would put together commitments by the Democratic Republic of the Congo itself to do what was necessary to reform the security sector and army, and reassert State authority in the eastern provinces.


That cluster of commitments, he added, would be coupled with pledges by countries of the region to respect each other’s sovereignty and engage more deeply in regional cooperation to solve many of the outstanding issues underpinning the recurrent cycles of violence seen in that part of eastern Congo.


Within that framework, he added, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) would be given a fresh look.  An emerging concept was that of an international neutral force to deal with peace enforcement duties in the Kivus.  Through extensive consultations with the countries and organizations of the region, the idea was now taking shape for the creation of an international brigade within MONUSCO.  He briefed the Council on the matter yesterday.


Clearly, enforcement action needed to be taken against those armed groups causing massive suffering of the population in the whole region, he said.  MONUSCO was actively carrying out its tasks, including taking the necessary measures to face possible new military movements and to protect civilians, particularly displaced persons in the camps around Goma, as well as to advance the inquiry, and subsequent prosecutions, of the 126 rape cases that had allegedly occurred there.


Much more progress was needed to implement the agreements made by Sudan and South Sudan last September, he said.  Another summit 10 days ago had been disappointing.  For those two countries to live “in good company”, much more needed to be done to address security, the Abyei issue, and the terrible situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, where large numbers of civilians had fallen victim to the ongoing fighting.  Agreements made had not been implemented and that needed to be faced “very solidly and rapidly by the two countries”.


Turning to what he called “horizontal subjects”, he noted the Security Council’s adoption two weeks ago of resolution 2086 (2013), which he said had been the first all-encompassing text on peacekeeping and peacebuilding in 11 years.  It created a solid framework on which to push that partnership.  In times of global financial austerity, he added, “we need to be good citizens, watchful, mindful of what is given to us”.  His Department was working actively to improve performance and give Member States “good value” for their money.


In that, he noted the deployment of unmanned vehicles for surveillance in the Kivus, which he felt would vastly improve awareness and promote deterrence to those who “move around with bad intentions” in that area.  The concept of creating an inspector general for uniformed personnel was also gaining traction again, as a way to improve performance on the ground.


Additionally, he said, innovative methods were being used in several African countries, including the creation of a common squadron of helicopters, and, whenever possible, inter-mission cooperation was being promoted to make the deployment of assets more nimble.  In line with the Secretary-General’s directive, his Department was striving constantly to do more and better, whenever possible, with less.


Responding to questions about African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and the possible authorization of a United Nations operation in Mali, Mr. Ladsous said that some 2,000 soldiers were deployed there.  Plus, the larger part of the 2,000-strong contingent from Chad now fell under that operation, as it moved into Bamako and areas in the north.  The larger part of AFISMA, subject to Security Council decisions, would be considered for “re-hatting” under a peacekeeping operation.


Was AFISMA slated to become a full-fledged United Nations peacekeeping force because hybrid forces did not work, as seen in Somalia and Darfur?, a correspondent asked.  Mr. Ladsous said one difficulty had been the rapid pace of events and the time needed to train the Malian army, as well as train and equip the AFISMA troops.  As events accelerated, the French intervened, which in turn hastened AFISMA’s deployment.  However, the African Union and ECOWAS representatives had recently agreed in Brussels that the operation should now be a United Nations enterprise.


He said that Somalia highlighted the imperative of sustainable support and resources, adding that a United Nations peacekeeping operation provided a solid framework and set resources, which made it much more predictable for the actors on the ground and the troop contributors.  “All indications are that this is the way this is heading, and we are getting ready for that,” he declared.


To a series of questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said no one would say the deal fell apart — “no, no, no”.  It should be clear that the mission would be within MONUSCO, but the brigade would have a specific mandate to prevent the expansion of armed groups and to neutralize and disarm them.  The concept was taking shape, including among Council members.  It was critical to move against the armed groups.  In the end, the global aim was to have a political process that balanced commitments from the Congo and its regional partners.  A renewed and strengthened MONUSCO would show “we are really trying to address all the root causes of instability for the Congo and for the whole region”.


Regarding sexual exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said MONUSCO had been key to establishing the due diligence policy and many mobile technology experiments carried out in eastern Congo were now being extended to other missions.  Radio was also making it possible to send alerts to people in a particular area that an attack was about to happen.  It had been observed that women were often attacked when carrying their wares to the local market, so they were now escorted.  Also being addressed was the retribution often sought by the armed groups when United Nations troops returned to base.  Protection of civilians, particularly women, was a key part of MONUSCO’s mandate, he added.


Asked about the use of “drones”, he said that was not the right word, as that conjured up the wrong association.  The unmanned vehicles were for surveillance purposes only and the information gathered would be fed first and foremost to force commanders.  However, he was open to share it with regional bodies.  The green light had been given by the Council for this experiment to be used by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbours.  Time would tell whether it was effective.


To a question concerning verification by the United Nations of the Israeli strike on Syria, he said that the Force’s lack of equipment prevented that kind of verification.  The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was now in the limelight as a result of the Syrian situation.  Several recent incidents were cause for concern about the safety of United Nations personnel, but monitoring the Golan was an essential part of the chessboard of the Middle East.  Regarding the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), he said the near-daily airspace violations were not necessarily linked to the current events.


As for what the United Nations had learned about containing disease, especially from its experience in Haiti, he said there had been many quick-impact projects to contain the cholera.  The United Nations had spent $180 million on programmes to provide clean water, and there were also vaccination campaigns.  He had visited Haiti last month to see the work being done by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Several processes should be sped up, he acknowledged, particularly the Senate and local elections.  The Council had issued a presidential statement to that effect and he agreed it was essential to further the legislative process in order to proceed with the much needed reforms.  The penal code, for example, had not been changed since 1835.


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For information media • not an official record