If our operations deployed today succeed, the vicious circle of conflict and bad governance which
holds countries back will be broken.
Africa is our greatest peacekeeping challenge, with eight operations, mobilising 80% of our capacity, currently underway. The continent's three points of conflict have reached a turning point: the Great Lakes region (DRC and Burundi), East Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea) and West Africa (Sierra Leone, Côte d'lvoire and Liberia). In these three subregions, there are signs of hope amid the alarm signals. The stakes are enormous. If the operations deployed today succeed, tomorrow the vicious circle of conflict and bad governance will finally be broken.
How do we go about this? First, by creating a solid partnership between the AU and the UN. For a number of years, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has reinforced its political and technical co-operation with the AU and the continent's subregional organisations (like EGOWAS and SADC). Our interest in reinforcing the AU's peacekeeping capabilities does not mean an abandonment of responsibilities by the Security Council or the international community. Rather, it stresses the importance we place on the establishment of regional partnerships.
During the coming decade, Africa will continue to require a strong international commitment and it is preferable that the Blue Helmets deployed on African soil come from different countries. This is not the case at present, as there are way too few European Blue Helmets in Africa.
The genocide in Rwanda taught us the importance of reacting in time, politically and militarily, with adequate means. Today, on all fronts, the UN is tested and is sometimes limited in its capacities. It is nevertheless striving to give itself every chance of success.
On the political front, it is essential to build on a viable peace process and to remain vigilant so that it does not deteriorate. This is the case for inter-state conflicts like that which pitted Ethiopia and Eritrea against each other, and for intra-state conflict situations. In Cote d'lvoire there were strong doubts about the will of the various parties to see the political process through. In the DRC, the prospect of elections inspires immense hopes but, also, fears. In Sudan, the north-south agreement opens new perspectives. In all these situations, the fear of losing everything or the will to win everything are the enemies of peace.
The role of the UN is to facilitate compromise, to keep the international community mobilised and to consolidate an integrated peace process.
Those states destroyed by years of conflict need the international community's help in reconstruction. The long-term success of missions in war-torn countries depends largely on the capacity to reconstruct security (police and army), to pay it (manage resources), and to give it legal support reconstruction of judicial or prison systems).
A necessary element for a PKO's success is an adequate military capacity. Force is an essential component of peacekeeping and we have to remember the 1990s and the double lesson that was learnt. A UN force can only be efficient if there is peace to keep. Imposing peace requires a far greater military capacity than any that the UN could hope to muster.
An agreement is required between the principal protagonists, an accord which puts an end to the conflict. It is on this basis that the UN was deployed in the DRG, Burundi, Liberia, Côte d'lvoire and Sudan. It is on this basis that we hope it will be deployed in Darfur. On the other hand, it is clear that many peace accords, signed with armed groups rather than with states, are fragile and can be easily sabotaged. And for this reason, sufficiently numerous and robust forces are required to prevent cer¬tain groups from taking the peace process hostage. PKOs cannot possibly be successful without the consent of the principal players in a conflict, but this consent can sometimes be ambiguous and it doesn't always include all the protagonists.
It is clear that the challenges faced by the UN PKOs are numerous and complex. It is difficult to find the right tone: in the face of human tragedies that have hit too many African countries, PKOs are the imperfect but essential response of an international community that is slowly starting to realise the demands of solidarity. This response is, for millions of victims of violence, their last hope. Let's not betray it.