FOURTH COMMITTEE REACHES CONSENSUS ON NEW TEXT SUPPORTING EFFORTS TOWARDS POLITICAL SOLUTION OF DISPUTE OVER WESTERN SAHARA

16 October 2003
GA/SPD/266

FOURTH COMMITTEE REACHES CONSENSUS ON NEW TEXT SUPPORTING EFFORTS TOWARDS POLITICAL SOLUTION OF DISPUTE OVER WESTERN SAHARA

16/10/2003
Press ReleaseGA/SPD/266

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

9th Meeting (AM)

FOURTH COMMITTEE REACHES CONSENSUS ON NEW TEXT SUPPORTING EFFORTS

TOWARDS POLITICAL SOLUTION OF DISPUTE OVER WESTERN SAHARA

European Union, Morocco, Algeria Commend Action, Taken Without

Vote; Debate Begins on Comprehensive Review of UN Peacekeeping Operations

With United Nations peacekeeping operations described as a “work in progress” and a crucial tool for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its debate this morning on the comprehensive review of such operations.

Noting that the reputation of the United Nations lived or died by the quality of its peacekeeping efforts, the representative of Australia said that, while improvements were visible, no one could rest on their laurels.  In the debate that followed, speakers reaffirmed their commitment to peacekeeping operations, highlighting both improvements and challenges in the reform process under way.

Also this morning, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara.  By the terms of that text, approved without a vote, the Assembly would strongly support the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara.

By further terms, reaffirming the responsibility of the United Nations towards the people of Western Sahara, and underlining the validity of the settlement plan -- while noting the fundamental differences between the parties in its implementation -- the Assembly would commend the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy for their outstanding efforts, and the two parties for the spirit of cooperation they had shown in the support they provided for those efforts.  It would also underline Security Council resolution 1495 (2003), in which the Council expressed its support of the peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara as an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties.

During the debate on peacekeeping operations, delegates welcomed the focus during the past year on the assessment of lessons learned, the implementation of best practices and the enhancement of rapid deployment capacity.  However, many speakers agreed that planning, organization and management of United Nations peacekeeping missions had to be adapted to a challenging environment, and that developments at Headquarters in New York needed to be translated into improved operational effectiveness in the field.  New Zealand’s representative, on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, called for improved coordination between United Nations agencies, and noted that a more comprehensive strategy in a post-conflict situation needed to be a part of peacekeeping operations.

The representative of Norway strongly supported the efforts of the Department of Peacekeeping Operation efforts to improve pre-deployment training and to increase inter-operability between field units of troop-contributing countries.  A clearly defined, authoritative, easily understood and responsive chain of command was critical to the success of a military operation, he added.

Several delegates also called for more effective measures to protect the safety of United Nations staff, and said that incidents over the past few months highlighted the need for improved early warning and better threat analysis.  “Having a solid knowledge of the type of situation to which we are committing our people is vital”, said Canada’s representative.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Italy urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to develop close working relationships with regional organizations.  In this context, he pointed to the tangible cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations, and to cooperation between African regional organizations, in particular the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the United Nations.

Regarding the “commitment gap” between developed and developing countries, the representative of Ghana called on developed countries to shed their reluctance to participate in peacekeeping in Africa, and to contribute their share of resources for such operations, not only materially, but also in human terms.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of South Africa, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Peru, on behalf of the Rio Group, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Algeria, Russian Federation, Lebanon, Tunisia and Ukraine.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 17 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of the comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations.

Background

When the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning, it was expected to begin its general debate on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations.  (For background, see Press Release GA/SPD/265 of 15 October.)

The Committee was also expected to act on a new draft resolution it had received on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/58/L.6).

By the terms of the text, the Assembly, reaffirming the responsibility of the United Nations towards the people of Western Sahara, and underlining, in that regard, the validity of the settlement plan, while noting the fundamental differences between the parties in its implementation, would commend the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy for their outstanding efforts and the two parties for the spirit of cooperation they have shown in the support they provide for those efforts.

The Assembly would take note of the report of the Secretary-General (document A/58/171).  The Assembly would also underline Security Council resolution 1495 (2003), in which the Council expressed its support of the peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara as an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties.

The Assembly would continue to strongly support the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in order to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara.  Additionally, it would commend the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy for their outstanding efforts and the two parties for the spirit of cooperation they have shown in support of those efforts.

The Assembly would call upon all the parties and the States of the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, and would reaffirm the responsibility of the Untied Nations towards the people of Western Sahara.

The Assembly would call upon the parties to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in its efforts to solve the problem of the fate of the people unaccounted for, and would also call upon the parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to release without further delay all those held since the start of the conflict.

The Assembly would request the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to continue to consider the situation in Western Sahara and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its fifty-ninth session.  It would also invite the Secretary-General to submit to that session a report on the implementation of the present resolution.

Statements on Peacekeeping

WARREN SNOWDEN (Australia) said the Organization’s reputation lived or died by the quality of its peacekeeping efforts.  While improvements were visible, United Nations peacekeeping was still a work in progress and no one could rest on their laurels.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations needed to live by an ethos of continuous improvement, as it was the hallmark of any successful organization.  Successful peacekeeping involved partnership between many players, principally the Secretariat and Member States.  Regional organizations, multinational forces and coalitions of the willing were also increasingly important.  Those roles must not be regarded as competitive or mutually exclusive, but rather as complementary.

While the various actors had different functions, there was an underlining unity of effort, he said.  Countries that did not feature highly as contributors to Blue Helmet operations could be substantial contributors to peacekeeping.  In that regard, it was necessary to reconsider whether it was useful to talk of a “commitment gap”.  It might be more useful to work out the best possible way to bring together the different capabilities.  In the case of Australia –- one of the top ten contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations -- there was no commitment gap, he continued.

Serious capability gaps remained, however, some of which could be met through better management and greater commitment, he added.  The ability to rapidly deploy civilian and law and order experts required greater attention.  In some areas, a different way of thinking was needed, including for the acquisition of field intelligence.  Peacekeeping operations occurred in highly complex and volatile situations, and early field intelligence could mean the difference between success and failure.

GRAHAM MITLAND (South Africa), speaking for the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, said peacekeeping operations should abide strictly by the existing guiding principles.  The establishment of any new peacekeeping operations, or the extension of an existing mandate, should be based not only on the consent of the parties, but also on the non-use of force except in self-defence, impartiality, clearly defined mandates and secure financing.

The non-aligned countries, he said, continued to uphold the belief that peacekeeping was an instrument important to the maintenance of international peace and security.  However, it could not be a substitute for a permanent solution.  He said he endorsed the Secretary-General’s view that the credibility of United Nations forces was enhanced by the deployment of capable forces by all Member States.  The Non-Aligned Movement fully agreed that developing countries could not continue to bear the burden of a task that should be carried by the entire membership of the United Nations.

On the issue of “robust” peacekeeping, he said he supported the call of the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, for achieving clarity on what “robust” peacekeeping meant, for enhancing African peacekeeping capacities, for consolidating rapid deployment capabilities and for pursuing coordinated, coherent and integrated training.

The Non-Aligned Movement was pleased to note the Secretariat’s objective of accelerating the reimbursement of troop-contributing countries, and it commended activities undertaken by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in support of efforts to enhance African peacekeeping capacity.

He reiterated the view of the non-aligned countries that for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes to succeed there should be adequate and predictable funding at all stages.

OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group of countries, called peacekeeping operations the most valuable and effective tool to confront the current security crisis, consolidate a sustainable peace after internal conflicts and promote human rights.  As a result, members of the Rio Group had decided to become active participants in such operations, he added.

He said there was a need to strengthen peacekeeping operations through effective coordination between the main organs of the Organization and the Secretariat, and he noted that efforts had been hampered by difficulties in the rapid deployment of troops in the timeframe established by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  This situation had prompted the Rio Group to present specific proposals on the issue to the Special Committee and the Department.

He said it was essential to clearly understand what were the circumstances that limited the contribution of the States in peacekeeping operations.  The Rio Group, he continued, highlighted in January 2003 the need to initiate consultations with potential troop-contributing countries before approval of the mandate for a new peacekeeping operation.  The Group noted with satisfaction that the suggestion had been applied to the recent peacekeeping operation in Liberia.

He said he agreed with the “fast cash” initiative. However, it was hard to understand why the Secretariat had not presented a report on this issue as requested by the Special Committee.  The objective was to find out the difficulties faced by Member States in complying with rapid deployment requirements.  He welcomed the creation of a working group on this issue, and trusted it would convene before the next session of the Special Committee.

He stressed the need to continue the strengthening of security measures for the United Nations personnel and humanitarian workers.  The issue had an impact on the morale of United Nations officials and should remain a priority for the Organization.

MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy), speaking for the European Union and associated States, said the Peacekeeping Department had, in the last three years, undergone wide organizational changes.  While major reforms had been made to its structure, processes and procedures, more needed to be done.  The planning, organization and management of United Nations peacekeeping had to be adapted to a challenging environment.  Developments at Headquarters in New York needed to be translated into improved operational effectiveness in the field.

The United Nations was increasingly called upon to launch complex and multidimensional peace operations, he said.  In such operations, there was a need for close cooperation between United Nations departments and organs, as well as with other actors.  Some operations under the Peacekeeping Department did not have a United Nations military component, but rather carried out a mandate alongside a regional or multinational force.  The European Union urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to develop close working relationships with those organizations.  One such example was the great progress in tangible cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations.  Another example was cooperation between African regional organizations, in particular, the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the United Nations.

He said another area needing attention was the rule of law.  The United Nations should ensure a comprehensive approach to its establishment in mission areas.  To that end, he supported the strengthening of United Nations capacities in the rule of law, the enhancing of system-wide coordination, and the improving of consultations with Member States.  Rule of law elements should be included in mission mandates.  In that regard, he called for effective coordination in the planning of peacekeeping operations with civilian police, judicial and corrections components and the formation of pre-deployment assessment teams.

He reiterated the support of the European Union for the principle of gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping, particularly as set out in Security Council resolution 1325.  Adequate technical expertise was necessary for implementing gender mainstreaming.  The Union also requested a broadening of the Peacekeeping Department’s information capacity and encouraged more systematic sharing of information between United Nations departments. 

He said rapid changes in United Nations peacekeeping operations had led to new operational requirements.  Rapid deployment, mission support, material readiness and pre-deployment training required the establishment of the appropriate management mechanisms, policies and procedures.  To ensure the timely deployment peacekeeping contingents, the European Union called on the Secretariat to review the policy and mechanisms for civilian and military pre-deployment training, and to ensure the effective use of strategic deployment stocks for those purposes. 

The European Union attached particular importance to the issue of civilian police and civilian personnel, he continued.  Police personnel were deployed in about half of the United Nations peace missions currently under way, and civilian personnel were present in all of them.  More attention should therefore be devoted to training, preparation and pre-deployment training of such personnel.   He also attached great importance to the safety and security of United Nations personnel.  It was crucial that future peacekeeping operations include that need in their mandates to prevent and address threats against personnel.  In that context, the authority of the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator should be reinforced.

While peacekeeping would continue to be an important tool to manage crisis situations, he said, it was also important to see the whole continuum from conflict prevention to crisis management to peace building.  In that regard, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration should be dealt with in an integrated approach, together with security sector reform and the rule of law.  The European Union was participating in peacekeeping operations from the Balkans to Africa.  Conflict prevention and crisis management were essential components of its contribution.

GLYNN BERRY (Canada), stressed his country’s expectation that the major recommendations and conclusions in the Special Committee report would be acted upon, including progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the Rule of Law Task Force.

He said the continuing challenges faced by the international community in Afghanistan reinforced the importance of a holistic approach to peacekeeping. While the work on HIV/AIDS and the uniformed services was welcomed by Canada, he encouraged the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to enhance their collaboration in this area.

He noted that significant progress had been made regarding training, but said it remained important to respond to the Special Committee’s request for a report at its next session on means to improve coordination of the military, civilian police and civilian training activities of the Peacekeeping Department.

He said the difficult challenges faced by the United Nations in Iraq had reinforced the need to undertake proper threat and risk assessments.  “Having a solid knowledge of the type of situation to which we are committing our people is vital”, he added.

He highlighted the fact that African nations had made clear their desire to do their part to prevent and manage conflict on their continent.  While he welcomed this development, he said the international community had to play a role in supporting capacity-building efforts by African nations if they were to realize this goal.  A key challenge in this respect was the lack of mechanisms to provide financial support to Africa’s participation in ongoing United Nations-mandated missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi and, initially, in Liberia.

He said Canada did not see a contradiction in supporting the role of regional organizations in peace support operations, as well as the role of the Untied Nations.  Indeed, these operations were often complementary

He said that, although Canadian peacekeepers were serving in United Nations-mandated coalitions, or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led missions, Canada remained committed to enhancing the ability of the United Nations to deploy a robust peacekeeping presence in a timely manner.

HARON HASSAN (Jordan) agreed on the importance of the rule of law and welcomed the suggestion to use Liberia as a test case in that regard.  He said that while, on the issue of rapid deployment in the case of United Nations Mission in Liberia, he welcomed the need for a “over a horizon force capability”, he would need to know what the “trigger” for deployment of such a force would be, and who controlled that trigger.  He welcomed further elaboration on the criteria for deployment.  He also agreed with the Secretary-General’s analysis on the commitment gap.  Security Council Members should do more to participate in peacekeeping operations.

Regarding disciplinary issues, he said he welcomed the issuance of the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on the appointment of a senior focal point to receive reports on cases of sexual exploitation in responsible missions.  On the issue of safety and security, following the death of a Jordanian military observer in the Bunia area in May 2003, he proposed that the Secretariat consider the feasibility of providing military observers in dangerous operations with a light aerial reconnaissance capability. 

Addressing the issue of “robust peacekeeping”, he said the strength of the traditional peacekeeper lay in his inherent weakness; the fact that the peacekeeper posed no threat to any of the warring sides reinforced the peacekeeper’s neutral standing and legal status as a “civilian”.  While he recognized that operations must be properly equipped, so as not to be caught off guard, the United Nations should be nimble in its thinking and not adopt a doctrine in one way or another.  All Member States, he concluded, must pay their assessed contributions on time, in full and without condition.

DON MACKAY (New Zealand), speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum Group, welcomed the focus, over the last year, on assessing the lessons learned, implementing best practices and enhancing rapid deployment capacity.  Improving coordination between United Nations agencies was also essential, he added.  Peacekeeping needed to be seen as part of a more comprehensive strategy in a post-conflict situation.

He spoke of the role of regional arrangements in promoting peace and security, and noted that the Pacific region had risen to the challenge of maintaining peace and security, specifically in Bougainville and, most recently, in the Solomon Islands.  Those interventions demonstrated the region working together to assist one of its members in restoring the security of its people. 

He called for more effective measures to protect the safety of United Nations staff, and said that incidents over the past few months highlighted the need for improved early warning and better threat analysis.

He welcomed the positive comments in the Secretary-General’s Millennium Summit report on the valuable peacekeeping role that could be played by coalitions of the willing and noted that reliance on such coalitions underlined the need to improve the capacity of the United Nations for rapid deployment.

The call to focus on strategies for implementing the rule of law in peace support operations should be supported, he said, and he called for a seamless transition from peacekeeping to nation building.  In this context, he said he looked forward to a graduated transition next year in Timor-Leste.

ABDULHAMID YAHYA (Libya) said peacekeeping forces played an important role in maintaining international peace and security.  The deployment of forces should be a temporary measure to mitigate conflicts.  The preventive strategy should be at the top of United Nations priorities.  He paid homage to the Organization’s efforts in that area, including the creation of a special group responsible for conflict prevention in Africa.  He welcomed better cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in all aspects of peacekeeping.  Given the increasing number of conflicts in Africa, he welcomed the willingness to provide the African Union with all forms of assistance, including training, transport and technical assistance. 

Peacekeeping forces should be able to meet the challenges facing the United Nations in the area of peacekeeping, he said.  The rule of law and the conduct of peacekeeping personnel should be taken into account by both troop-contributing countries and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  Sexual exploitation committed by such forces must be prevented. 

Among the challenges facing peacekeeping operations was the need to establish peace following periods of armed conflict, he said.  Adequately financed programmes must be established to implement disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.  Mine clearances was also one of the most important tasks facing the United Nations.  Every effort should be made to ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel.  United Nations peacekeeping forces were making noble efforts, and the troop-contributing countries deserved full support.  United Nations forces symbolized the hope that all nations placed in the Organization.

RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) said it was heartening to note that significant advances had been attained in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in terms of strengthening the standby arrangements for military and civilian police personnel, the efficient management of peacekeeping missions and the management of strategic deployment stocks.

Malaysia, he said, associated itself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement but wanted to highlight some important aspects of concern.  He said peacekeeping operations remained a relevant and indispensable mechanism for the United Nations and other international organizations, in the maintenance of international peace and security.  However, peacekeeping operations should be carried out strictly in accordance with the principles and purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter, international law and international humanitarian law.

He noted that Malaysia was currently participating in seven United Nations peacekeeping missions, and had made contributions to civilian police deployment.  In that context, he called for increasing the numbers of qualified and experienced civilian police personnel.

He said he welcomed the Draft Handbook on United Nations Multidimensional Peacekeeping Operations.  However, he added, the generic guidelines and procedures contained in that Handbook should be reviewed at regular intervals, and he called for analyses at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.

He said procurement of supplies and services for the peacekeeping operations should give priority to the local and regional markets, if that were deemed effective.  He hoped more procurement opportunities would be given to vendors from developing countries, and countries with economies in transition.

IDIRISU M. BIYIRA (Ghana) said that while he welcomed the Secretariat’s emphasis on the need to recruit the highest quality staff to fill key senior-level vacancies, greater efforts should be made to redress the imbalance in senior-level field appointments.  He urged the Secretariat to adopt a more rational and holistic approach to recruitment procedures.  Misconduct, even by a few, could not be accepted, he said, and he agreed that a single standard of behaviour must apply to all personnel serving in peacekeeping missions. 

He said there was a need for the United Nations to directly focus on the requirements of the African continent, in terms of equipment, financial resources and recruitment.  Regarding the commitment gap between developed and developing countries, he urged the developed countries to shed their reluctance to participate in peacekeeping in Africa and to contribute their share of resources for such operations, not only materially but also in human terms.  He said he was pleased to note the Secretary-General’s emphasis on the need to enhance regional training capacities, particularly in Africa. 

The return of peace to Liberia should help to consolidate peace in the neighbouring regions, he said, and to that end, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Liberian combatants should be an integral part of the peacekeeping operation.  The United Nations peacekeeping budget should include the effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of thousands of displaced youth in the war-ravaged West African subregion.

NADJEH BAAZIZ (Algeria) said the changes in peacekeeping during the last decades had confronted the United Nations with new challenges.  Member States now had to adapt to the complex nature of the missions and to their proliferation. 

She noted the importance of progress made between troop-contributing countries, the Security Council and the Secretariat and called for the strengthening of this triangular cooperation.  She said she also wished to stress the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in the areas of conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict development.

Africa should be focus of special attention, she said.  African countries had shown willingness to address the conflicts in their continent by establishing the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, which was designed to expand cooperation between the United Nations and that organization.  The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was also proof of Africa’s commitment to peacekeeping in the region.

Algeria, she said, hoped that cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations would result in new momentum in peacekeeping operations.

GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said effective measures had been taken to improve the conceptual framework of peacekeeping and to increase operational capabilities of crisis prevention and management.  There had been positive shifts in the ability of Member States, the Secretariat and the entire United Nations system to carry out peacekeeping operations.  The recommendations of the Brahimi Panel should be implemented as part of the Organization’s daily practices.  He supported the Secretariat’s efforts to improve the professional training standards of personnel.  Russia supported basic principles of United Nations peacekeeping activities, including the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security. 

He said he believed the legal framework of peacekeeping needed to be strengthened, pursuant to the United Nations Charter and Security Council decisions, thereby providing a real alternative to one-sided approaches in managing crisis situations.  Operations in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone demonstrated the inseparable link between peacemaking and socio-economic reconstruction of conflict areas. 

Continuing, he said the United Nations should develop the capacity to rapidly deploy peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations.  “Innovative partnerships” must be further developed between the United Nations and regional organizations.  Each crisis situation was unique and required the selection of an appropriate “set of tools” to manage it.  That process should strictly comply with the Charter, which clearly defined the Council’s key role from the establishment of operations to their completion.  The issues of justice and rule of law could not be treated separately from a more general problem, namely the supremacy of law in international relations.  Russia rejected the idea of humanitarian intervention beyond the United Nations Charter.

He said implementation of conflict-specific peacekeeping mandates must be insured by a properly organized peacekeeping mission with highly qualified staff.  While some progress had been made, the problem of lack of forces and logistical assistance remained unresolved. 

WEGGER STROMMEN (Norway) said 2003 had seen ample proof of the need for a continued role by the United Nations as the global peacekeeper, and not only as a provider of mandates of missions led by others.  Liberia was the latest case in point.  There had been considerable progress in the last few years.  Notable results had been achieved in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Timor Leste.  The brutal attacks on the United Nations mission in Baghdad were a serious reminder of the need to ensure the safety and security of all United Nations personnel.  Strengthened partnership between the Council, the Secretariat and troop- contributing countries needed to be strengthened. 

He said the situation in West Africa illustrated the challenges facing present-day peacekeeping, including the need for a rapid response.  A conflict situation in one country could not be seen in isolation from regional developments; more often than not it had a negative spillover in neighbouring countries.  Developments in Liberia demonstrated the need for cooperation between different organizations in the interests of peace and stability.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo was another example of the importance of inter-organizational cooperation.  The role or Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in West Africa was very much in line with the need to strengthen regional peacekeeping capacity. 

Peacekeeping was part of a wider peace-building process, he continued.  Norway’s engagement in Liberia was in line with that approach.  Norway strongly supported the efforts of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to improve pre-deployment training and to increase inter-operability between field units of troop contributing countries.  Unity of command was an indispensable principle for any military operation.  A clearly defined, authoritative, easily understood and responsive chain of command was critical to the success of a military operation.  The division of key responsibilities at the operational level between a force commander and a chief administrative officer might constitute a problem, and he urged the Peacekeeping Department to consider that issue.

He said successful DDR had proved to be essential for an effective transition from civil war to sustained peace.  The supporting Member States for the United Nations Standby Arrangements System was another way of strengthening the Organization’s capacity for rapid deployment.  Flexible coordination models between the United Nations, regional organizations and ad hoc coalitions needed to be established.  Recent experiences in Africa highlighted the need for robust mandates.  Peacekeepers must abide by the same code of conduct, based on the principle of zero tolerance.  Norway attached great importance to an overall policy on gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping activities. 

IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) said his country fully supported the work of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  Peacekeeping, he added, was a responsibility of the United Nations and since its creation, more than 56 peacekeeping operations had been undertaken, and more than 32,000 nationals from a wide variety of countries had taken part in them.  However, peacekeeping operations were pragmatic and temporary solutions to conflicts, but were not a durable solution.

He called for improved security for peacekeepers and noted that 1,817 “blue helmets” had lost their lives since peacekeeping operations began.  In this context, he said, better intelligence was needed in order to assess the threats and better protect those who took part in those missions.

He said participation in peacekeeping operations should not be limited to developing countries, who currently contributed 70 per cent of the staff to these missions.

He said he regretted that the world spent $750 billion on military expenditure, while the budget of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was in permanent deficit.  He recalled that the first peacekeeping mission was the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), created in 1948, which sent 51 observers to Lebanon.  The need to continue that Mission was even more urgent today.  The fact that UNTSO was in place did not prevent the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which led to United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  Since its deployment, UNIFIL had lost 246 members and Lebanon asked that its troop levels not be reduced, so that it could reach its objective of peace and security in the region. 

KAIS KABTANI (Tunisia) welcomed the ceaseless efforts of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and called for more cohesion, a precise definition of each mission’s objective, and enhanced credibility for the United Nations.

He noted that Tunisia attached great importance to the strengthening of cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union regarding the Union’s institutional capacities and conflict prevention mechanisms.  The multiplication of the number of conflicts in Africa required a continuous commitment of the international community.  In this context, Tunisia welcomed the interest demonstrated by the G8 group of countries in increasing the peacekeeping capabilities of African States.

He said he welcomed progress made in rapid-deployment and in the rapid availability of funds and stock for the logistics base in Brindisi.  He said there should be better representation of troop-contributing countries in Headquarters and field posts.

He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to peacekeeping operations and noted that Tunisia had doubled its participation in the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).

MARKIYAN KULYK (Ukraine) said that last year, on 29 May, the International Day of Untied Nations Peacekeepers had been observed for the first time as a tribute to the men and women who had served in United Nations peacekeeping operations.  Ukraine appreciated the Secretariat’s work in arranging a number of events during the Day, which her country had initiated.  Ukraine had always supported United Nations peacekeeping as one of the Organization’s main instruments in discharging its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. 

She said her country was pleased with the pace of peacekeeping reform.  The United Nations activities in the area of maintenance of peace and security should be a continuous process from conflict prevention to peacekeeping and peace-building.  Conflict prevention should become pivotal in the philosophy of future United Nations peace activities.  The central element of any peacekeeping operation must be to ensure an adequate level of staff safety and security.  Ukraine would continue to pay special attention to issues including rapid deployment, strengthening the Secretariat’s capacity of information collection, cooperation mechanisms between troop contributing countries, the Secretariat and the Council, increased focus on civilian police components, and rule of law strategies. 

Action on text

The Committee then took up a new draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/58/L.6), which replaced the previous draft on the matter (document A/C.4/58/L.4).

The representative of Honduras congratulated the parties for the agreement reached, saying that consensus on the text was vital, especially for those who contributed to United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).  He noted, however, that the text should have been available in the six official languages and distributed 24 hours in advance.  He would not object to action to the text but, given its importance, he hoped that the proper rules of procedure would be followed in the future.

The Chairman reminded the Committee that it had been decided at the outset of the meeting to lift the 24-hour rule on an exceptional basis.

Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved the draft resolution as orally amended.

Speaking in explanation of position after action, the representative of Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said those countries welcomed the fact that the resolution had been submitted as a proposal of the Chairman, and that it had been adopted without a vote.  The European Union followed the question of Western Sahara closely, and it supported a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara envisaged in Council resolution

1495 of 2003.

In that resolution, he noted, the Council had strongly supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy and their peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara as an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two Parties.  The resolution also called upon the parties to work with the United Nations and with each other, towards acceptance and implementation of the peace plan.  He encouraged the parties to work in that sense.

He reiterated the European Union’s strong support for the tireless efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy.  Humanitarian aspects of the Western Sahara conflict remained a source of great concern to the Union.  Pressing humanitarian needs, such as the detention of prisoners of war, must be dealt with immediately.  He welcomed the release of 243 Moroccan prisoners of war by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) in September, and called on POLISARIO to release all remaining prisoners in compliance with international humanitarian law.

The European Union also called on both parties to cooperate with the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross to solve the problem of the fate of all those unaccounted for since the beginning of the conflict, and encouraged the parties to collaborate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the implementation of confidence-building measures.

The representative of Morocco thanked the representative of Algeria for his efforts, despite his occasional impatience.  He also thanked the countries that had supported Morocco throughout the discussion.  Their efforts had allowed for a balanced and promising text for the peaceful settlement of the regional dispute in the Moroccan Sahara, a dispute which had lasted for years, creating a feeling of weariness.

He said Morocco’s firmest reservations to the peace plan proposed last January were well known and had been published in the document S/2003/565 of 23 May 2003.  Noting the most recent resolution of the Council and the fundamental differences of view between the parties regarding the peace plan, the Fourth Committee’s resolution supported very strongly the efforts by the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy toward a genuine negotiation between the parties to reach a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute.

He said Morocco reiterated its willingness to enter into a negotiating process with Algeria to draft a definitive and realistic solution to the regional dispute and, in that way, contribute to relaunching the development of the entire Maghreb, while respecting the territorial integrity of the States making up that region.  Morocco recalled the urgent demand made on a number of occasions by the Council to the parties to Polisario to immediately liberate all Moroccan prisoners being held in inhuman conditions at the camp in Tindouf. 

The representative of Algeria said he was extremely pleased that the Committee had been able to adopt the resolution, endorsing the justice and legacy of the Saharawi people, who had been waiting for 40 years to exercise their right to self-determination.

He was particularly pleased by the fact that the resolution had been adopted by consensus.  He also noted that the General Assembly had decided to support the decision of the Security Council to approve the peace plan for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  He welcomed the endorsement of this plan, which calls for a referendum, by the General Assembly, and he noted that the agreed upon settlement plan remained fully valid in the meantime.

He thanked Morocco for its willingness to approve the resolution and called it a “great victory for the Special Committee and its mission to eliminate colonialism from the world.”

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For information media. Not an official record.