Haiti tests UN peacekeeping’s speed and flexibility, says top official

23 February 2010 – The response to the catastrophic earthquake which devastated Haiti last month has proven to be a test case for the ability of United Nations peacekeeping to respond with speed and flexibility, a senior United Nations official has said.

The world body’s mission in the impoverished Caribbean nation, known as MINUSTAH, was on the front line in both search-and-rescue and humanitarian assistance efforts immediately after the earthquake struck on 12 January, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra said yesterday at the start of the 2010 substantive session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations in New York.

The loss of 102 UN personnel – civilian, military and police – has created a “vast gap at the heart of the United Nations,” she said, with MINUSTAH having lost 92 staff members, including its leadership.

“Our focus remains on supporting the people of Haiti to continue to implement its mandate, even given the constraints on capacities arising from the earthquake’s aftermath,” Ms. Malcorra emphasized.

She noted that the UN Secretariat, together with Member States, is endeavouring to “improve our level of service and to calibrate our tools and procedures to the needs on the ground.”

For his part, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy highlighted the “ambitious forward-looking agenda” that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recently put forward.

“I hope 2010 will set us on a path towards providing our personnel with the necessary guidance, resources, and political and operational support structures to deliver all of their mandated tasks effectively,” Mr. Le Roy said.

A key priority in the Secretary-General’s report is to ensure that mandates are effectively implemented by filling “critical gaps” in peacekeeping operations and that blue helmets are “well prepared, equipped and enabled to deliver against reasonable performance expectations.”

More than 20 speakers took the floor in yesterday’s meeting, with the Special Committee’s general debate continuing today.


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