Surge in new missions may strain UN’s capacities, peacekeeping chief says

USG Guéhenno

19 April 2004 – As yearly casualties in armed conflicts in the new century drop to about one-tenth the annual deaths in the 1990s, the international community must prevent new flare-ups by investing time and funds in preparing post-conflict countries for democratic governance and economic development, the top United Nations peacekeeping official says.

With fewer wars beginning and many more ending, the demands of those that are winding down are stretching the UN’s peacekeeping capacities, Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) said in a commentary in the International Herald Tribune newspaper today.

The United Nations must continue to avoid taking part in hot wars, he said. It must follow the recent trend of partnering with such regional organizations as the European Union, NATO and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), use the right tools for the job and persevere until peace takes root in the country.

“Building peace from the ashes of war takes time and the international community must be willing to work with local institutions until they are ready to shoulder responsibility for democratic governance, the rule of law and continued economic development. Peacekeeping operations must be linked to a longer term plan for achieving this sort of stability,” he said.

Support for successful peacekeeping must come from both developed and developing countries, which must provide the men and women in uniform, the specialized military support services from those countries that have them, the financial resources, the strategic force reserves and the sustained commitment, Mr. Guéhenno said.

To ensure that current conflicts end completely, the UN Security Council has deployed new peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, bringing to 15 the number of UN-led missions, with 50,000 soldiers and police on three continents, while in Haiti, a multinational force will soon be replaced by UN troops. The numbers of soldiers and police could rise to 70,000 or more by the end of 2004, he said.

“There is a paradox, though, in this growing peace: The military resources needed to help keep the peace are being strained by so much peace to keep,” he said.

The UN peacekeeping bill could rise to $4 billion a year, but that would be less than 1 per cent of what the United States alone spends each year on defence, he said. Perhaps a more difficult problem would be that for every staff member in the UN peacekeeping headquarters, more than 100 would be stationed in the field, creating major challenges in planning, force generation, logistics, procurement and command and control.

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