26 January 2006 Challenging a suggestion that the United Nations might be moribund, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today pointed out that the world body has created innovative responses to such post-Cold War issues as expanding peacekeeping and sanctions use, upholding human rights and battling international terrorism.
Addressing a conference session at the University of Quebec in Montreal entitled “Can and will the great powers save the UN?” Ms. Fréchette said, “I was struck by the words ‘save the UN.’ Is one suggesting by them that the UN is moribund? In death throes? Before discussing the role of the great powers, it seems to me important first of all to diagnose the state of the Organization’s health at the beginning of 2006.”
She noted that the UN deployed 13 peacekeeping operations during its first 45 years, but twice as many in the last 15 years. In addition, beyond just monitoring the ceasefire as they did then, missions now facilitate political transitions, provide police services, administer tribunals, organize elections, disarm militias and ex-combatants, and protect humanitarian workers, among other duties.
And peacekeeping troops can now use force not only in self-defence, but also to defend civilian populations if they are threatened by armed elements, Ms. Fréchette noted.
Twice in recent years, the UN was called on to administer territories, East Timor and Kosovo. In Iraq, it had administered a sanctions regime of unprecedented scope. Putting the brakes on the illegal exploitation of natural resources so as to deprive combatants of funds was also a good example of innovation, she said.
The two High Commissioners for Human Rights, Mary Robinson and Louise Arbour, were not content to defend human rights worldwide, but made sure that the office played a substantial role, putting human rights units in peacekeeping missions and placing rights monitors in countries as different as Nepal and Colombia.
Following up on its sanctions which were imposed against Al-Qaida long before 9/11, the Security Council passed a historic resolution after the attack on the United States, imposing strict obligations on all countries and creating the Counter-Terrorism Committee to verify that member States complied with all of the resolution’s provisions, Ms. Fréchette said.
The Permanent Members of the Security Council have special responsibility given their power to intervene but the UN is not only in their hands, she said, calling for the entire international community to back the world body so that it can better face challenges in the future.