15 September 2009 The United Nations is pressing ahead with efforts to boost its peacekeeping capacity, from ensuring sufficient personnel and equipment for operations to providing effective support on the ground, to help transform the lives of people worldwide, top officials said today.
The heads of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) described how they are seeking to improve the way they operate through the New Horizons initiative and fresh thinking on a support strategy for field missions.
Issued in July as a non-paper, New Horizons highlights the need to strengthen command and control systems at every level, including through more robust accountability frameworks between Headquarters and mission leaders.
It identifies three key challenges currently underpinning operational dilemmas for blue helmets: robust peacekeeping, protection of civilians and critical peacebuilding tasks.
“So far the reaction we received from Member States is altogether extremely positive,” Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told a news conference in New York.
In particular, he highlighted the presidential statement issued by the Security Council last month, in which it endorsed the non-paper and encouraged the Secretariat to continue provide planning and support for peacekeeping missions.
In addition to New Horizons, DFS has issued another non-paper on a support strategy that, among other matters, emphasizes the need to protect UN personnel and to ensure appropriate living and working conditions in missions, while maximizing safety and security.
All of this is taking place at a time when the services of UN peacekeepers are in greater demand than ever, noted Mr. Le Roy. Deployment is at a record high, with more than 113,000 peacekeepers serving in 18 operations on four continents. Also, Member States recently approved an $8.2 billion peacekeeping support budget.
“Member States are under a lot of pressure because of the financial crisis. They have really focused on us thinking ‘out-of-the-box’ on how to better manage the resources that are assigned to missions, and how to get a best value out of those resources,” said Susanna Malcorra, Head of Field Support.
“We are trying to get up to speed and make sure that we align ourselves not only in how to better manage the resources but also how to set up better frameworks to be more accountable, which is one of the key issues that Member States raise,” she said.
Both officials acknowledged that several missions, including in the Darfur region of Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), still lack vital personnel and equipment.
Despite the difficulties, Ms. Malcorra, who recently visited the UN mission in DRC (MONUC), said that the results achieved on the ground with the help of the world body have been “absolutely incredible.”
Residents of a small village in the volatile eastern region of DRC told her how only two months ago they could not hold their traditional weekly markets due to insecurity. Today 1,500 people come to the market thanks to the members of an Indian contingent – serving with MONUC and living in the village – that escorts people coming from the surrounding areas.
“To me that was an example of how we can help transform the lives of people,” said Ms. Malcorra. “Despite the problems, we need to remind ourselves that what we do, at the end of the day, is about real people, and we are making big progress in that regard.”
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