Top UN officials stress need to strengthen and sharpen peacekeeping

UN peacekeepers

22 June 2010 – United Nations officials today stressed the need to ensure that the world body is equipped with the requisite human, material and financial resources, and the backing of Member States, to field successful peace operations, as they marked the 10th anniversary of a landmark report on the issue.

The General Assembly’s thematic debate, entitled UN Peacekeeping – Looking into the Future, examines the challenges and opportunities for peacekeeping since the 2000 report produced by the panel on UN peace operations, chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi, former Special Adviser to the Secretary-General and former Special Representative for Afghanistan.

The Brahimi Report, as it has come to be known, is “a milestone in the evolution of United Nations peacekeeping operations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told today’s meeting, noting that it came after a period of unprecedented challenges for the Organization, including a rise in the number of deployed personnel and increased complexity in mission mandates.

The first UN peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine in May 1948. Today there are more than 124,000 personnel serving in 16 operations on four continents, doing everything from clearing landmines and delivering aid to helping refugees and supporting free and fair elections.

“Thanks to the reforms proposed by the panel, UN peacekeeping has been able to grow, incorporate the lessons learned from those experiences, and continue to serve as a cost-effective and flexible tool – a flagship UN activity, a mission of hope for people caught in armed conflict,” he stated.

Mr. Ban added that it is necessary to continue to strengthen the Organization’s peacekeeping machinery, and said that he is encouraged that the Assembly’s different committees have expressed general support for the proposals that are part of the New Horizons agenda to reform peacekeeping.

“The process has helped to reinvigorate the peacekeeping partnership through dialogue between troop- and police-contributing countries, the Security Council and the Secretariat,” he stated. “Today we have reached a better understanding of what UN peacekeeping should and can do.”

Peacekeeping has been “a unique and uniquely successful experiment,” but there is a perpetual need to sharpen our tools, he added. “We can do this, but only with continued engagement from Member States, not only in terms of contributions of personnel and financing, but with strong and consistent political support.”

Noting that peacekeeping is a collective undertaking, Assembly President Ali Treki stated that the debate is intended to not only provide guidance on policy but also to galvanize the full engagement, participation and commitment of Member States for the smooth and effective functioning of peacekeeping operations.

“The bulk of UN peacekeeping presence today is in integrated missions, mostly deployed in complex crises and conflicts often having military, political, humanitarian and other dimensions,” he noted.

“To build and sustain peace in such complex and fragile situations, we require a broader, holistic strategy that synergizes the peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts to address the interlinked issues of security and development in a comprehensive manner.”

He noted the need to reassess the ways in which the UN and other partners engage in assisting countries emerging from conflict. “The record of the UN and the international community is mixed and we are all struggling over how to get it right.

“We must uphold the principle of ‘do no harm.’ We must candidly review how we operate in these situations, to ensure that our actions and support do not undermine the national authorities. One size fits all approaches do not work. We must do better in catering to the specific requirements of individual situations keeping the national priorities and perspectives in the forefront,” said Mr. Treki.

Among those participating in today’s meeting is Mr. Brahimi, via videoconference from Paris, as well as Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy, Joint Special Representative for the African Union-UN mission in Darfur Ibrahim Gambari and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Liberia, Ellen Margrethe Løj.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Le Roy noted that peacekeeping remains one of the flagship activities of the UN and cited achievements in such places as Timor-Leste and Liberia. Today UN peacekeeping is facing more and more complex situations and the challenges associated with that.

“That’s why we want from our side to increase the dialogue between the three main partners – the Security Council, the Member States and the Secretariat,” he said.


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