REFORM OF UN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS A REAL PROCESS WITH REAL BENEFITS, UNDER-SECERTARY-GENERAL TELLS FOURTH COMMITTEE

15 October 2003
GA/SPD/265

REFORM OF UN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS A REAL PROCESS WITH REAL BENEFITS, UNDER-SECERTARY-GENERAL TELLS FOURTH COMMITTEE

15/10/2003
Press ReleaseGA/SPD/265

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

8th Meeting (AM)

REFORM OF UN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS A REAL PROCESS WITH REAL BENEFITS,

UNDER-SECERTARY-GENERAL TELLS FOURTH COMMITTEE

Despite Misperceptions, Significant Expansion, Change Are Afoot, He Says

The reform and revitalization of United Nations peacekeeping capacities was not just a slogan or gimmick, but a real process with real benefits, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning as it began its consideration of the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping.

While much had been done in the last year to implement the recommendations of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the Brahimi Panel, the Brahimi Process was not the end of that effort, but rather a starting point, he said.  “The real test of the efficacy of the whole reform effort would be in the field.”

He recalled that last year he had identified six areas as requiring priority attention:  enhancement of African peacekeeping capacity, development and implementation of comprehensive strategies for complex peace operations, disciplinary issues, training, and effective capturing and application of best practices.  Those priorities should remain in 2004 with a focus, however, on addressing them within the context of new and expanding operations. 

Contrary to misperceptions in some quarters suggesting that an increase in United Nations Peacekeeping activity that had begun in 1999 would be short lived, he said, a period of significant expansion and change was afoot. 

Throughout 2003, United Nations operations in Kosovo, Georgia, Eritrea/Ethiopia and Afghanistan had continued to play a leading and demanding role in helping to facilitate complex and fragile peace processes.  The Security Council had established the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI), to facilitate implementation by the Ivorian parties of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement; authorized an expansion of the military strength of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) from 8,700 to 10,800 troops; and authorized that Mission to use all necessary means to fulfil its mandate in Ituri and North and South Kivu.

In addition, he said, the Security Council had authorized the establishment of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) -– the first large multidimensional peacekeeping operation established since the issuance of the Brahimi Report.  Preparatory work was also underway for a peacekeeping force for the Sudan and discussions in the Council continued on the further internationalizaiton of troops in Iraq, where more than 150,000 coalition troops were now deployed.

However, fundamental questions, such as the “commitment gap” remained unanswered in 2003, she said.  They included where troops were coming from; whether Member States were comfortable with the fact that the developing world continued to provide the bulk of Blue Helmets in Africa, whereas the industrialized countries prioritized the deployment of their military personnel on operations led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union or ad hoc coalitions authorized by the Security Council; and whether the United Nations or another organization should be assigned the responsibility for “robust” military peacekeeping.

On a systemic level, he said, serious discussion was needed on other issues, including the measures required to enhance the safety and security of unarmed civilian personnel deployed in United Nations peace operations.  Recalling the unprecedented events of 19 August in Baghdad, he noted that unarmed United Nations personnel had never been so viciously and deliberately targeted with such devastating effect.  United Nations staff engaged in civilian and humanitarian tasks were not soldiers and their work could not be effectively conducted from behind concrete walls and barbed wire.

He also drew attention to the need for clarity on what it took to successfully carry out a robust peacekeeping operation and called for intensified efforts to enhance African peacekeeping capabilities, form renewed partnerships with developed countries, and consolidate the ambitious reform of the rapid deployment capacities of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

While considerable progress had been made in the face of growing challenges and demands, there was ample scope for further strengthening United Nations peacekeeping capacities.  “It is doable, it is worthwhile, and it is within reach”, he said.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 16 October, to begin its general debate on peacekeeping operations.

Background

When the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to take up the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, it had before it the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (document A/57/767) covering that body’s March 2003 session.

The report contains a summary of the Special Committee’s general debate and working group, as well as proposals, recommendations and conclusions in the following areas:  guiding principles, definitions and implementation of mandates; cooperation with troop contributors; enhancing the United Nations capacity in peacekeeping; lessons learned; system-wide information and analysis; operational planning and Integrated Mission Task Forces; rapid deployment; recruitment; training; civilian police; gender and peacekeeping; children and peacekeeping; public information; comprehensive strategies for complex peacekeeping operations; quick impact projects; mine action; safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel; cooperation with regional arrangements; financial issues; and conduct and disciplinary issues.

According to the report, since the end of the cold war, there has been an increase in the number of complex peacekeeping operations and that the Security Council has recently mandated peacekeeping operations that have included, in addition to the traditional tasks of monitoring and reporting, a number of other activities.  In that regard, the Special Committee stresses the importance of an effective, efficiently structured and adequately staffed Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

According to the report, peacekeeping operations should not be used as a substitute for addressing the root causes of conflict in a coherent, well-planned coordinated and comprehensive manner, using political, social and developmental instruments.  The Special Committee stresses the importance of providing peacekeeping operations with clearly defined mandates, objectives and command structures, as well as secure financing.

The report emphasizes the need to strengthen the relationship between those who plan, mandate and manage peacekeeping operations and those who implement the mandates.  A true, sustainable partnership must develop between the Security Council, the Secretariat and the troop-contributing countries.  In the critical area of cooperation between the Council, the Secretariat and the troop contributors, the Special Committee reiterates the need for substantive and meaningful consultations.

Regarding rapid deployment, the Special Committee reiterates the validity of enhancing United Nations capacity to deploy peacekeeping operations within 30 days or 90 days in the case of complex peacekeeping operations, after the adoption of a mandate.  It also reiterates that in order to meet these time frames, the Secretariat must have the capacity to act in a timely manner on the three critical and interdependent aspects of rapid deployment –- personnel, material readiness and funding -– once it becomes clear that a peacekeeping operation is likely to be established.  There is a need to further improve the rapid-deployment capacity of the military, civilian police and civilian components and to start consultations with potential troop contributors once it becomes clear that a peacekeeping operation is likely to be established.

In the area of training, the Special Committee supports enhancing the coordination of the Department’s military, civilian police and civilian training activities and encourages the strengthening of training coordination at United Nations Headquarters.  It also fully endorses the establishment of mission training cells and would welcome more detailed information on how these will function.  It supports the Department’s new focus on providing national and regional peacekeeping training centres with the necessary guidance for training peacekeeping personnel.  Also welcome is the introduction of Standardized Generic Training Modules.

With respect to comprehensive strategies for complex peacekeeping operations, the Special Committee acknowledges the need for additional research and analysis on the interrelated areas of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; security sector reform; and the strengthening of the rule of law in post-conflict environments.  These are among the many challenges faced by complex peace operations, including in the political, social, economic and humanitarian areas.  While the missions themselves may not be responsible for any or all aspects of such efforts, there is a need for conceptual clarity and an appraisal of the expertise and capacities existing within and outside the United Nations system to ensure operational coherence on the ground.

The Special Committee places the highest priority on the safety and security of the United Nations and associated peacekeeping personnel.  It is gravely concerned about the continuing attacks and other acts of violence against them and stresses the need for host countries and others concerned to take all appropriate steps to ensure their safety and security, including a legal regime that ensures there is no impunity for the perpetrators of such attacks.  Noting that 63 States have ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, the Special Committee urges those States that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the Convention as soon as possible.

According to the report, the Special Committee encourages the Secretariat to pursue a policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in the Department’s activities, noting the need for further action in systematically integrating a gender perspective in the mandates of peacekeeping operations and in adequately addressing the specific needs of women in conflict situations.  It is also important to ensure full participation by women at the decision-making level and in the negotiation of peace agreements at the national, regional and international levels, wherever possible.

The Special Committee recognizes that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes are a critical part of peace processes and peacekeeping operations and actively supports their strengthening and coordination both at Headquarters and in the field.  The success of any programme depends on the political will and mutual trust of the parties in conflict.  The Special Committee also reiterates the importance of timely funding for such programmes; the need to take into account the special needs of child and women soldiers; the importance of a coherent public information programme in the implementation phase; and the importance of effective disarmament measures, including the collection, safe storage, disposal or destruction of arms from ex-combatants.

With respect to enhancing Africa’s peacekeeping capacity, the Special Committee reiterates that efforts towards that goal are complementary to the obligations of Member States under the United Nations Charter with regard to their contribution to maintaining international peace and security, including in Africa, and are not intended to replace the engagement of non-African countries in peacekeeping operations on the continent.  The Special Committee encourages, in particular, a close relationship between the United Nations, the African Union and subregional organizations.

Under other matters, the Special Committee welcomes the appointment of the Department’s HIV/AIDS Adviser and looks forward to the standardization of awareness and prevention programmes in peacekeeping operations.  It further welcomes the establishment of HIV/AIDS focal points within missions.  Recognizing that HIV/AIDS is a major health concern for both peacekeepers and local residents, and is also a politically sensitive issue, the Special Committee approves the education and protection efforts developed by the Department and endorses its proposed research projects to measure the impact of AIDS intervention at the mission level.  The Special Committee recommends the continuation of the policy precluding the deployment of prospective peacekeepers displaying clinical AIDS symptoms.

Statements

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, noted that, contrary to misperceptions in some quarters suggesting that an increase in United Nations peacekeeping activity that began in 1999 would be short-lived, a period of significant expansion and change was afoot.  Throughout 2003, United Nations operations in Kosovo, Georgia, Eritrea/Ethiopia and Afghanistan had continued to play a leading and demanding role in helping to facilitate complex and fragile peace processes.  On 13 May 2003, the Security Council had established the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI), to facilitate implementation by the Ivorian parties of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and to complement the operations of the peacekeeping force comprising the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and French troops.  On 28 July 2003, the Security Council had authorized an expansion of the military strength of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) from 8,700 to 10,800 troops, and authorized the Mission to use all necessary means to fulfil its mandate in Ituri and North and South Kivu.  Subsequently, in Bunia, United Nations peacekeeping forces had taken over from the multinational European Union force –- Operation Artemis –- on time and as envisaged.

On 14 August 2003, he continued, the Security Council had authorized the establishment of United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), just four days prior to the devastating attack on United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad.  On 19 September 2003, the Security Council had established the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), to support the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace process; protect United Nations staff, facilities and civilians; support humanitarian and human rights activities; and assist in national security reform, including national police training and the formation of a new, restructured military.  The UNMIL would consist of up to 15,000 United Nations military personnel, including up to 250 military observers and 160 staff officers, and up to 1,115 civilian police officers, including formed units to assist in the maintenance of law and order throughout Liberia, and the appropriate civilian component.

He noted that on 1 October, UNMIL had taken over from the ECOWAS force on schedule, although conditions were far less than ideal for such a transition.  The tight deadline set by the Security Council had presented some challenges.  There was still no adequate security coverage and the United Nations was operating in a very risky environment.  As a result, it continued to need help, including an over-the-horizon force.

On 10 October 2003, he said, the Security Council had requested the Secretary-General to initiate preparatory work on how the Untied Nations could best fully support the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement reached in the Sudan.  Such an agreement could be concluded in the near future and it would be essential for the international community to support the implementation of that accord.

In parallel, he said, on 13 October 2003, the Security Council had authorized the expansion of the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, to deploy outside Kabul.  Insecurity in Afghanistan was a great concern and fundamentally threatened the Bonn process and regional stability. 

He said that fundamental questions about peacekeeping remained unanswered, including where troops were coming from; whether Member States were comfortable with the fact that the developing world continued to provide the bulk of Blue Helmets in Africa, whereas the industrialized countries prioritized the deployment of their military personnel on operations led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union or ad hoc coalitions authorized by the Security Council; and whether the United Nations or another organization should be assigned the responsibility for “robust” military peacekeeping.  Those questions required serious debate among and between Member States, he said

Noting that the enhancement of United Nations rapid deployment was a partnership between the Secretariat and the Member States, he said the Secretariat had made real progress in areas in which it had the lead, such as Liberia.  The great advantages of closer consultations between the Security Council, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat had been made abundantly clear.  There were, however, some things that could not be done by the Secretariat and needed to be addressed.

There had also been great progress in the area of strategic stocks, he added.  The Strategic Deployment Stocks in Brindisi had been established and drawn upon to ensure that vehicles, communications and computers were available in Liberia from the outset.  Despite that success, replenishment of the stocks needed to take place quickly in order to have the same success in the next mission.  In addition, Galileo, a new inventory management system had been introduced and was a significant advance on its predecessor, the Field Assets Control System (FACS).

He said the recruitment and deployment of civilian personnel still needed improvement.  The Department was currently mounting an effort to build up staffing capacity in specialized functions for which the United Nations did not have sufficient expertise, namely for the myriad civilian components that now made up multidimensional peacekeeping.  The initial staffing needs of UNMIL had been met by a multilateralism-tack approach, but improvement was needed. 

Regarding on-call lists, he said there had been mixed results.  The pledges to the military list had been good and while the system had been of some use in establishing the United Nations missions in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, they had been unable to meet response times and to address the lack of familiarity with United Nations processes and procedures.  As a result, United Nations peacekeeping operations were examining ways to provide more experienced staff without limiting its own headquarters capacity in the Military Division.

On the other hand, he said, the civilian police roster had few submissions by Member States.  The mixed results could be explained by the very different surge capacities of Member States in their respective military and police forces.  However, the United Nations Mine Action Service had been successful in its efforts to develop a rapid response capacity to meet emergency needs in the field of mine action.

He said the Department had undertaken a number of actions and developed mechanisms to support the enhancement of African peacekeeping capacity.  It had worked with the Group of Eight (G-8) and the African Union to coordinate assistance and finalize proposals for the establishment of an African Standby Force (ASF) and a Military Staff Committee (MSC).

He said that African chiefs of defence staff had made some specific requests to the United Nations for assistance, including reinforcement of the African Union strategic headquarters capacity; exchange of information, doctrine and training material; cooperation in logistic support; and organization of African standby force brigades in accordance with United Nations standards.  To do its part, the United Nations needed enhanced legislative authority and additional resources.  A report of the Secretary-General was being prepared on that issue.

On disciplinary issues, he sad the Department was taking a number of steps to raise awareness of the standards of conduct and to improve monitoring of personnel conduct in field missions.  It had also strengthened its internal procedures for dealing with cases of serious misconduct.  Preventing sexual exploitation and abuse by personnel serving in peacekeeping missions was particularly important.  Men, women and children caught up in violent conflict were among the most vulnerable people on earth and the United Nations had a special duty of care towards them.  Anyone employed by or affiliated with the United Nations who broke that sacred trust must be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

Describing challenges, opportunities and priorities, he said much had been done in the last year to implement the recommendations of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the Brahimi Panel.  While the six priority areas identified last year should remain priorities in 2004, the focus should shift towards addressing them within the context of new and expanding operations. 

On a systemic level, he stressed the need to revisit measures required to enhance the safety and security of unarmed civilian personnel deployed in United Nations peace operations.  The events of 19 August in Baghdad had been unprecedented.  Never before had unarmed United Nations personnel been so viciously and deliberately targeted with such devastating effect.  At the core of that concern must be the questions of how much United Nations civilian personnel could accomplish in environments where they were being singled out for direct attack.  United Nations staff engaged in civilian and humanitarian tasks were not soldiers, and their work could not be effectively conducted from behind concrete walls and barbed wire.

He said the Secretary-General had commissioned an independent investigation of the Baghdad incident and the Secretariat was conducting an evaluation of the United Nations Security Management System, which was under review.  The Department was leading an interdepartmental review of the Secretariat’s response to the Baghdad bombing and the outcomes of those exercises would be used to improve departmental capacity to identify, prepare for and respond to threats to the safety and security of its personnel.

There was also a need to achieve clarity on the meaning and requirements of successful robust peacekeeping operations, he said.  Consent was still the principle under which the Department operated, otherwise, it was simply not peacekeeping and the United Nations was not the right organization to do it.  For a peacekeeping mission to succeed, a shared understanding was required of the need for a robust force, deployed and configured not only to be able to use force, but also to defend itself when challenged.  Such an escalation capability was essential to project credibility.  “The more you have it, the less you will need to use it”, he said.

He said a renewed partnership had to be forged with the developed countries, including the European Union, with which the United Nations had recently issued a joint declaration on developing further cooperation in the areas of planning, training, communication and best practices.  The European operation in Bunia -– Operations Artemis –- was a reminder that developed countries might be willing under certain conditions to support United Nations operations.  However, new models were needed to ensure effective partnership.

Considerable progress was being made in the face of growing rather than diminishing challenges and demands, he said.  The reform and revitalization of the United Nations peacekeeping capacities was not just a slogan or gimmick, but a real process from which all concerned were deriving real benefits.  The Brahimi Process was not the end of that effort, but rather a starting point.  There was ample scope for further strengthening of the United Nations peacekeeping capacities.  “It is doable, it is worthwhile, and it is within reach”, he said.

He concluded by announcing that on 24 October at 11:30 a.m. a memorial to the United Nations personnel who had given their lives in the service of peace would be unveiled at Headquarters.  The monument would be built thanks to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to peacekeepers in 1988.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.