The United Nations actively supported the transition from war to peace in many parts of the world in 2003, whether through dispatching United Nations Blue Helmets, setting up a political mission or authorizing the deployment of a multinational force. In helping to build peace, the United Nations
system also provided humanitarian and development assistance to numerous countries in need.
United Nations activities in peace and security focused on the prevention and resolution of conflict and the provision of assistance to post-conflict societies. The United Nations was also active in providing good offices to keep peace processes on track, assisting in the establishment of viable democratic institutions, monitoring elections, supporting the rehabilitation of war-torn economies, and fostering conflict prevention capacities at local, national and regional levels.
The United Nations played a key role in negotiations to conclude peace agreements that addressed long-term conflicts, such as those in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, and subsequently established peace missions there. The Organization was also active in elaborating peace plans for three long-standing conflicts in areas where United Nations peacekeeping operations were already deployed: Western Sahara, Cyprus and the Middle East. Though not yet implemented, those plans remain the basis for future negotiations.
The heated debate over Iraq among Member States, particularly within the Security Council, and the ensuing military action in Iraq without the Council’s authorization threw open major questions on how to ensure a system of collective security in the 21st century.
This period of major disagreement, followed by war and the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad—the most devastating attack on a United Nations operation in its history—drove home the point within the United Nations that its work in the peace and security area required major review. As a first and most immediate step, the Secretary-General asked an independent investigation team to identify key lessons and make recommendations to improve the security system for United Nations personnel in Iraq and similar high-risk environments.
In November, recognizing the new realities in the international arena, the Secretary-General decided to establish a High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, with former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun of Thailand as its chairman. The Panel is to “provide a new assessment of the challenges ahead, and to recommend the changes which will be required if these challenges are to be met effectively through collective action,” with an initial report due in late 2004.
The Organization’s 14 peacekeeping operations in 2003 consisted of five in Africa, four in the Middle East (including UNIKOM, the mission in Iraq-Kuwait that closed in October), two in Asia and the Pacific and three in Europe. The United Nations also had 15 political and peace-building missions—eight in Africa (including one in Angola that closed in February), four in Asia and the Pacific, two in the Middle East and one in Central America.
Deployment of peacekeepers in these operations reached its high point for the year in December, as did the number of contributors. At that time almost 46,000 military and civilian police personnel from 94 countries were serving in the field. Civilian personnel included approximately 3,700 international and 7,600 local staff.