'We are going where others do not want to go' – UN peacekeeping chief

Alain LeRoy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

28 November 2008 – The 18 United Nations peacekeeping operations worldwide are carrying out their work well under circumstances that are often extremely difficult and in areas where no other major organizations or countries are prepared to be involved, the head of the world body's missions says.

“We are going where others do not want to go,” Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy says in an extended interview with the UN News Centre to mark the first of its Newsmaker profile series. “Sometimes we are easy scapegoats. [But] on the contrary, on my field visits I see missions that in the vast majority of cases are being executed well.”

Mr. Le Roy, who took up his post in August, last month visited the Darfur region of western Sudan – now home to the joint UN-African Union mission known as UNAMID – and then this month travelled to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the UN mission known as MONUC is responding to fierce recent fighting that has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.

In the interview he notes the scale of the task facing UN peacekeeping missions, which collectively have about 110,000 personnel and a budget of more than $7 billion.

“That is huge. There has been a very great increase in our engagements in recent years. Some think that we have perhaps reached the limits. Of course, it is the Security Council that decides on the missions and troop levels it gives us.”

Mr. Le Roy says the recent decision by the Security Council to boost MONUC's numbers by another 3,000 troops and police officers “is clearly very important to help us fulfil our mandate,” especially in North Kivu province, the scene of much of the recent fighting.

But he adds that the mission's current total of blue helmets – about 17,000 – is comparatively small given the sheer size of the DRC, one of Africa's largest countries.

In Darfur, the Under-Secretary-General says the administrative problems experienced by UNAMID, which replaced an under-resourced AU-only monitoring mission at the start of the year, are in the process of being resolved.

“On the other hand, the logistical aspect remains extremely complicated: the region is 2,500 kilometres from its nearest port and there are very few access roads.”

He adds that the mission is still waiting on 18 transport helicopters and six attack helicopters from Member States, despite earlier authorization for the craft from the Security Council.

“The States we have asked say they don't have any available. It's very damaging because that diminishes the effectiveness of the force. We sincerely hope that certain countries will supply us with these helicopters.”


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