16 February 2007 Faced with an “explosive growth” in demand for United Nations peacekeepers around the world coupled with a “dramatically strained and overstretched system,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is proposing to split the current peacekeeping office into two to provide better planning, faster deployment and a more responsive process.
The recommendations, detailed in a letter Mr. Ban sent to the General Assembly yesterday as part of his ongoing consultations on his restructuring initiative, call for splitting the current Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) into a Department of Peace Operations and a Department of Field Support, both headed by an Under-Secretary-General, the managerial level of the current DPKO chief.
“The number of peace operations is at an all-time high with almost 100,000 personnel in the field. It appears that the figure will rise still further in 2007,” he said, noting that reforms in 2000 had aimed to equip DPKO with sufficient capability to launch one new multidisciplinary mission per year.
“Yet, the past 36 months alone have seen the start-up or expansion of nine field missions, with three additional missions currently in active start-up. Over the course of the next year, the number of personnel in UN peace operations could increase by as much as 40 per cent,” he added.
He stressed that the new arrangement would be resource-neutral and that the two new departments would consolidate operations that are now spread among various offices and departments.
Under the plan, the new Department of Peace Operations would consolidate all factors dealing with strategy, planning and deployment while the Department of Field Support would take on the responsibility of the current “impossibly overstretched” management.
“Taken together, these measures would bolster and improve the assistance that Headquarters provides top field missions and to field personnel contributed by Member States,” Mr. Ban said.
“It would mean more and better policy guidance from a dedicated department of Peace Operations; enhanced responsiveness from a Department of Field Support properly equipped and specialized to address mission support needs; and, by equipping the department expeditiously with the human, material and financial resources they need to do their jobs, a better way to ensure the safety and security of personnel and the prospects of successful mandate implementation.”
Mr. Ban also proposed replacing the current Department for Disarmament Affairs headed by an Under-Secretary-General with a new Office headed by a High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, a proposal that at first glance might appear as a downgrade but which in fact will give the portfolio stronger impact, flexibility and a direct line to Mr. Ban himself.
He referred to the failure the 2005 review conference of Parties to the Teary on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament and the need for new impetus for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
“This deeply alarming situation makes clear the need to revitalize the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda through a more focused effort,” he wrote. “I believe in the need for a greater role and personal involvement of the Secretary-General in this regard.”
The Secretary-General today briefed the General Assembly in closed session regarding the proposals, the second time he has done so in the past month.