‘Peacekeeping Actually Works’, Under-Secretary-General Says of United Nations Flagship Activity, in Briefing to Fourth Committee

1 November 2012
GA/SPD/516

‘Peacekeeping Actually Works’, Under-Secretary-General Says of United Nations Flagship Activity, in Briefing to Fourth Committee

1 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/SPD/516
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

14th Meeting (AM)

‘Peacekeeping Actually Works’, Under-Secretary-General Says of United Nations

Flagship Activity, in Briefing to Fourth Committee

 

‘Ambitious Experiment’ Begun 50 Years Ago Proceeds Unabated,

As Multilateral Efforts Undergo Profound Change, Says Field Support Head

Despite the low cost of peacekeeping, its rewards were very high, as evidenced by the decline of casualties in conflicts and the restoration of confidence for economic activities, the Fourth Committee heard today as it began its comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations, with briefings by the heads of the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support.

“Peacekeeping actually works,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said as he updated the Special Political and Decolonization Committee on his Department’s operations and strategy.  Peacekeeping was the main tool in the broader architecture of international peace, he said, pointing out that the resources used by the international community for peacekeeping were a small part of the global defence expenditures.

Highlighting the striking diversity of the missions deployed, he noted that a single model could not be applied to every single mission.  Since 1948, there had been 67 operations, 16 of which were still deployed.  Recognizing the strategic and dynamic character of peacekeeping, it was crucial to revise the design and configuration of the operations in as flexible a way as necessary.

Even in the most challenging environments, he said, peacekeeping could respond, with Member State support.  Last April, the Security Council had requested a mission to be deployed to Syria at extremely short notice.  Despite the tight timelines and uncertain conditions, a wide range of troop-contributing countries had promptly offered personnel, following which observers from 60 countries were quickly deployed and operations commenced.

Though the mission’s mandate had not been renewed due to difficult conditions, United Nations peacekeeping remained ready to support the efforts of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi in bringing peace and stability to that region.

The Department had also achieved tangible results in such operations as the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), where, following the peaceful and orderly conduct of two rounds of presidential elections and the parliamentary elections, the mission was expected to move towards closure by the end of the year.  On the other hand, grave challenges to peace operations remained, he said, citing as one example the ongoing conflict between Government and opposition forces in Darfur, increased criminality and banditry, and restlessness among militia.  Close to one-third of all peacekeeping troops were currently deployed in Sudan, South Sudan, and Abyei, he noted.

Among the biggest priorities of the Department in the year ahead, he said, was the introduction of an overarching quality assurance framework, supported by guidance and training, as a means to improve performance while also enhancing safety and security.  The Department would also focus on boosting civilian capabilities, in particular, concerning the rule of law and security institutions.

Clarifying the role of peacekeepers in peacebuilding was another crucial task and one in which the Department had made significant progress, by using an early peacebuilding strategy and focusing on advancing security for laying the foundation for institutional strengthening.  Further, the Department was putting in place more effective and efficient arrangements that would enable it to respond “flexibly and rapidly” to evolving needs. 

Multilateral efforts in peacekeeping were “undergoing profound change”, driven in no small part by the vision of the Fourth Committee, declared Ameerah Haq, addressing that body for the first time as Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.  Endeavours to reach agreement in recent weeks had proven that the ambitious experiment of United Nations peacekeeping – a process of discovery initiated half a century ago – proceeded unabated.

She highlighted three factors – economic, technological and managerial - that would push United Nations peace operations to the next stage of their evolution over the coming two to three years.  Economically, there was a greater emphasis on efficiency and cost sensitivity, and a greater appreciation of the value of financial and human resources.  Technologically, hitherto unimagined advances in communicating, planning and monitoring had rendered many existing practices obsolete.  And management, for its part, was rightly recognized today as a science that should be informed by past experience.

It was in that context that there would be improvement in services to the field, but also progress towards greater economies of scale and efficiency gains, she pledged.  The relationship between results, implementation and resources underpinned everything that the Organization did, she said.

Speaking of the year ahead, she anticipated several milestones in the evolution of support to peace operations, which would include taking stock of the Global Field Support Strategy and articulating the next phase of its implementation, continuing to break down barriers between the various United Nations entities concerned with peacekeeping efforts, and strengthening relationships with relevant regional and subregional organizations.

Underscoring that the foremost concern in all of those efforts must be for the countries receiving assistance and for United Nations personnel, she recalled the 73 United Nations peacekeepers who had lost their lives in the past year, and the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia, who continued to suffer casualties with tragic frequency.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 November, to begin its general debate on the question of peacekeeping.

Background

As the Fourth Committee met today to begin its consideration of the question of peacekeeping, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict (document A/67/312-S/2012/645), which describes progress in that initiative.  At the country level, the United Nations system organizations had been working together to support national ownership of priorities in post-conflict and post-crisis transitions.  In accordance with resolution 66/255, in which the General Assembly encouraged the United Nations to broaden and deepen the pool of civilian expertise, the United Nations had worked closely with Member States and civil society organizations to develop a new online platform, CAPMATCH, which provides a simple mechanism to connect those seeking experience and capacity with potential providers.

Speaking of country-level work and partnerships over the past year, the report notes that country engagements had demonstrated continuing capacity gaps in the areas of safety and security, justice, inclusive political processes, core Government functionality and economic revitalization.  Initial consultations regarding the online platform have revealed the value and variety of new sources of experience and expertise in those areas, but further targeted work will be needed to access those sources, particularly the capacities from the global South, which are currently insufficiently documented and disseminated.  There was also the need for sustained financing, including innovative models of voluntary funding, which can more systematically support South-South and triangular cooperation in the aftermath of conflict or crisis.

The report also states the need for the internal arrangements of the United Nations to be coherent and sufficiently nimble in order to respond in volatile post-crisis circumstances.  Further, work over the past year has underlined the importance of responsiveness to evolving national and operational requirements and of the scope for enhancing agility within the current regulatory framework.  Relevant measures included supporting mission leadership in assessing unfolding civilian capacity needs and redeploying resources to meet them.

Briefings

HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, stated that United Nations peacekeeping remained one of the Organization’s most viable and critical activities.  Last April, the Security Council had requested that a mission be deployed to Syria, on extremely short notice.  That experience had demonstrated that peacekeeping could, with Member State support, respond even in the most challenging environments.  Despite the tight timelines and uncertain conditions, a wide range of troop contributing countries had promptly offered personnel, and observers from 60 nations were quickly deployed and commenced operations.  Despite their efforts, security conditions on the ground made their work unsustainable, and the Council had decided not to renew the mandate beyond August.  United Nations peacekeeping remained ready to support the efforts of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi in bringing peace and stability to the region.

He said that close to one-third of all peacekeeping troops were currently deployed in Sudan, South Sudan, and Abyei.  In Darfur, though large-scale conflict had largely abated since the African Union - United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) had been established in 2008, challenges remained, with conflict continuing between Government and opposition forces, increased criminality and banditry, and restlessness among militia.  Progress had been slow in the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.  However, in view of the prevailing and projected security situation, the Security Council had endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendation to rightsize the Mission’s military from 19,555 to 16,200 personnel and that of its police from 3,722 to 2,310 personnel.  In its second year of independence, South Sudan faced significant internal security and State-building challenges, which United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) was helping to address.

Turning to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said that the situation had significantly deteriorated with the armed mutiny of the M23, which had begun in April.  The mutiny had taken a heavy toll on the civilian population, already suffering from the activities of other armed groups.  Countries of the region, under the auspices of the International Conference for the Great Lakes (ICGLR), had proposed arrangements to address the situation, including a border monitoring mechanism and the creation of a neutral international force.  The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) would support those efforts, while continuing to back the Government’s capacity to effectively protect the population.

In Côte d’Ivoire, he added, despite progress towards restoring normalcy since the violent post-election crisis in 2010 and 2011, the root causes of instability were yet to be addressed.  The security situation had deteriorated over the past months, particularly in the west and along the border area with Liberia, as well as recently in Abidjan and the east.  The Secretary-General had recommended that the reduction of the military strength of United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) by almost a thousand troops be deferred to next year.

In Liberia, the progress in the consolidation of peace allowed Department of Peacekeeping Operations to consider the reduction of the United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) military component by approximately 4,200 troops in three phases, between August 2012 and July 2015, during which efforts aimed at supporting the Government should continue.  During that period, UNMIL would support the people and Government of Liberia to take forward the reforms critical for the sustainability of the fragile peace.  The gains achieved in West Africa were extremely vulnerable to reversal.  The situation in the border area between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia remained very unstable, due, in particular, to cross-border movements of armed groups.  UNOCI and UNMIL had increased inter-Mission cooperation arrangements.

In Afghanistan, he said, following the Security Council-requested comprehensive review in 2011, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had reviewed its activities and posture to optimize resources and focus on priority core mandate areas in an increasingly supportive role of its Afghan counterparts.  The Mission was also preparing for the post-2014 phase, including its support to the Afghan authorities in the planning and organizing of the presidential elections that year.

Progress had been made towards strengthening Haiti’s democratic and rule-of- law institutions, as well as in the overall maintenance of security throughout the country, he noted.  That should translate into a phased withdrawal of approximately 1,000 personnel.  Finally, in Timor-Leste, following the peaceful and orderly conduct of two rounds of presidential elections and the parliamentary elections, the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) had started a phased drawdown, which was expected to lead to the closure of the mission on 31 December.  That was a formidable achievement, he added, paying tribute to those who had served in Timor-Leste and to the Timorese, themselves.

Looking ahead, he added that the international community must be prepared for potential future roles for United Nations peacekeeping whether in Mali, Syria, Somalia or elsewhere.  While it was impossible to predict where the next operation might be mandated or in what configurations, it was necessary to be proactive in planning for a range of contingencies.  In terms of the strategic context of the operations, the diversity and types deployed were very striking.  Since 1948, there had been 67 operations, 16 of which were still deployed.  It was necessary, therefore, to follow the principle that a single model could not be applied to every single mission.  Also crucial was to recognize peacekeeping’s strategic and dynamic character.  Revising the design and configuration of the operations in a flexible way was a tradition he would maintain and strengthen.

Setting up a periodic evaluation to ensure the right-sizing of missions was also extremely important, he added.  Each mission had to be considered on its own merits and, when circumstances required, additional resources would be called in.  The evaluations would ensure not only that each operation had the right number of personnel, but also that that the personnel had the right skills.

Peacekeeping was very dependent on global partnership, he said, adding that the Special Committee had a critical role to play in strengthening peacekeeping and in improving it.  The issue of reimbursement was a very complex and difficult one, and he hoped that the deliberations of the advisory groups would provide a consensual solution.  The 116 countries that provided uniformed personnel were key actors.  High-level officials from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had conducted several visits and sought to expand the contributors’ base by participating in regional meetings.  The Department was committed to triangular cooperation, he said, thanking countries for contributing personnel.  He had personally observed the courage and sacrifice of those men and women, he said, stressing that the international community must honour the memory of the dozens who had sacrificed their lives this year in the service of peace.

Turning to policy and reform priorities, he said that there were five issues that would be of the utmost importance in the year ahead.  The first was the introduction of an overarching quality assurance framework, supported by guidance and training, as a means to improve performance and enhance safety and security.  Boosting civilian capabilities was the second priority, particularly in rule of law and security institutions.  Strengthening the performance and structures of police, justice, and corrections institutions; conducting disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and supporting national security-sector reform were ongoing priorities.  His Department and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would consolidate their expertise and co-locate some existing capacities as part of the Joint Global Focal Point arrangement.

As for the third priority area, he said that work to improve guidance and training on critical aspects of peacekeeping continued, with important progress last year on clarifying the role of peacekeepers in peacebuilding.  The early peacebuilding strategy was a tool to guide mission prioritization and to ensure a focus on advancing security for laying the foundation for institutional strengthening.  On civilian protection, regional courses had been conducted, so far, in Latin America and Asia to prepare Member States’ military, police, and civilian trainers.  Four of the eight missions with protection of civilian mandates had developed strategies, and two had undergone training.

The fourth priority area was Global Field Support Strategy through which that Department was putting in place more effective and efficient arrangements with the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to evolving needs.  The fifth area of priority was the conduct of United Nations personnel.  Just one incident of misconduct could overshadow the otherwise exemplary behaviour of all peacekeepers, and due to the collective efforts of the United Nations and contributor countries, misconduct allegations in missions continued to decline, in particular those charges involving sexual exploitation.

Peacekeeping was the main tool in the broader architecture of international peace, he said, adding that the resources used by the international community for peacekeeping were a small part of the global defence expenditures.  Yet, despite its low cost, peacekeeping played a significant role in reducing casualties and in eliminating the suffering of innumerable individuals.  Further, it restored confidence in international and local investors by promoting economic activity in those regions.  In other words, he concluded, “peacekeeping actually works”.

AMEERAH HAQ, addressing the Fourth Committee for the first time as Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, declared that multilateral efforts in peacekeeping were “undergoing profound change”, driven in no small part by the vision of the Committee.  Partnership, she said, was the compass that guided the work of the department, and in that regard she welcomed the adoption of the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping and the agreements captured therein.  Partnership with Member States was the “lifeblood” of peace operations, and endeavours to reach agreement in recent weeks had proven that the ambitious experiment of United Nations peacekeeping – a process of discovery initiated half a century ago – proceeded unabated.

The next two to three years would be a “rare window of opportunity” to achieve more effective peace operations, she said, citing three factors – economic, technological and managerial – that were exerting an “unusually powerful influence” on peacekeeping.  Economic factors had introduced a greater emphasis on efficiency and cost sensitivity, and a greater appreciation of the value of financial and human resources.  Hitherto unimagined technological advances in communicating, planning and monitoring had rendered many existing practices obsolete.  And management was rightly recognized today as a science that should be informed by past experience.  Those three factors should push United Nations peace operations to the next stage of their evolution and obliged the Organization to learn from the past.

She herself intended to apply the lessons she had learned since she began her career in the United Nations system some 37 years ago, she said.  First and foremost among those lessons was the importance of prioritizing the field, as ”that is where things get done”.  It was also where those who relied on the Organization’s support were the most vulnerable.  Effective stewardship of resources – based on a shared understanding of the results to be achieved – was also an important obligation, and she lamented that too often resources were taken for granted, leading to supply-driven approaches that did little to make the lives of colleagues in the field any better.  She also underscored the importance of strengthening the post-mission capacity of State-building in the aftermath of the conflict and of ensuring that citizens and governments of host nations were in a position to take the baton from the peacekeeping operations and continue seamlessly on a path of sustainable growth and development.

It was in that context that there would be improvement in services to the field, but also progress towards greater economies of scale and efficiency gains, she pledged.  The relationship between results, implementation strategy, and resources underpinned everything that the Organization did.

The proposition that the Organization could achieve both better results and greater cost-efficiency underpinned the Global Field Support Strategy, she said, adding that it would remain the foundation of the Department’s work.  Updating the Committee on the Strategy’s progress, she highlighted various innovations that had strengthened support in Syria, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere.  The Global Service Centre, which included the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi and the Support Base in Valencia, had played a central role in responding to immediate operational demands.  In Libya, for example, the Centre had supported the start-up of the mission there, allowing a small team to be operational in Tripoli within a few days of the adoption of the Security Council resolution, thereby saving the Organization nearly $1 million.

With regard to the Regional Service Centre, she said her immediate focus was to ensure that the model for the centres, namely the one in Entebbe, functioned as a truly integrated hub of transactions support.  Only after “getting it right” in Entebbe would it be prudent to establish centres in other regions.  “We are getting there,” she said, citing improvements such as a reduction of the average response time to client queries from five to three days.

Ultimately, she said, the Global Field Support Strategy would bring about a clearer division of labour between United Nations Headquarters, the Global Service Centre, the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, and the missions.  Today, operational, transactional and strategic functions too often took place alongside one another at all four levels of activity.  The desired division of labour was known as the “GFSS end state”, and Member States would be receiving a progress report on its implementation within the next few weeks.

Turning to several areas of the Department’s work where there were both opportunities and a need for better service, she noted that an aviation contract had been signed recently, which was expected to save the Organization about $8 million in the first year and result in fewer stopovers and reduced travel time for troops headed home.  Regarding food rations, new standards and a recently awarded contract was producing a “win-win” situation in which better quality food was provided at a 30 per cent lower cost than previous contracts.  Despite such progress, there were still significant gaps in the provision of medical, engineering and transportation support, especially with regard to helicopters.  Greater workforce diversity was also needed, especially with regard to women, who constituted only 13 per cent of mission leaders, a decrease from 17 per cent in 2011.  She had initiated a review of the field service category to address such issues, as well as to assess the potential of “nationalizing” field service functions to bolster national ownership of peacekeeping efforts.

Accountability was vital to the effectiveness and credibility of the peace operations, she said, and to that end, various measures were being taken, including requiring that heads of missions employ risk management practices in their decision-making.  An Integrated Conduct and Discipline Framework had been noted by the General Assembly, and available data suggested that this year there might once again be fewer allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse than in previous years.  Nonetheless, the Department remained very concerned by allegations regarding the most egregious forms of such exploitation and abuse – those involving minors and non-consensual sex – and she called for swift responses.

She said that in 2013 and 2014, her Department would pilot the roll-out of two system-wide initiatives aimed at strengthening accountability.  The first was the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, which would bring greater transparency in financial planning and resource management.  The other was the Office of Enterprise Resource Planning (“UMOJA”), which would help the Department better manage its global supply chain, ensure that missions were properly equipped through effective inventory management, and reduce the time and effort required to carry out human-resources-related and financial transactions.  Accountability with respect to ensuring a lighter environmental footprint must also be improved.  That required closer engagement with host countries and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In the year ahead, she concluded, several milestones in the evolution of support to peace operations could be anticipated.  It was time to take stock of the results of the Strategy and to enunciate a clear “End-State” vision that would lead into the next phase of implementation.  It would also be a time to continue breaking down barriers so that all United Nations departments, funds and programmes worked together from the outset of mission planning until the handover to United Nations Country Teams.  There was also an opportunity to strengthen the relationship with the African Union and other regional and subregional organizations.  In all of those efforts, the foremost concern must be for the countries receiving assistance and the personnel serving the United Nations.  On that note, she recalled the 73 United Nations peacekeepers who had lost their lives in the past year, and the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia, who continued to suffer casualties with tragic frequency.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.