17 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by Department of Peacekeeping Operations


The Department of Peacekeeping Operations consisted of “great, committed and motivated people”, the newly appointed Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy said that, having had a lot of field experience in Mozambique, Bosnia, Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, he did not plan to start changing everything in his first day on the job, but the ongoing reform within the Department would be pursued on the basis of best practices and lessons learned.

Noting that the Department had a budget of $7.2 billion for 18 peacekeeping operations, and that the number of peacekeepers on the ground was now seven times higher than it had been 10 years ago, he said that, based on independent studies, the United Nations remained very cost-effective.  The operation in Haiti, for instance, would have been twice as expensive if the United States had carried it out, according to studies by that country’s General Accountability Office and the RAND Corporation.  While trying to fulfil the mandated deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the Department was also planning for the replacement of the EUFOR mission in Chad and a possible operation in Somalia.

Turning to the issue of conduct and discipline, he said that while “huge efforts” were being made on the ground, there were still cases that attracted a lot of attention, for legitimate reasons, and he looked forward to working with the newly created Conduct and Discipline Unit in the Department of Field Support, which had a division in all field missions.  There was a need for greater focus on how to ensure more collective responsibility among officers for the United Nations’ zero-tolerance policy.  It was necessary to ensure that all force commanders were invested in the matter of conduct and discipline.

Answering questions about that issue, he said there were no legal means to force troop-contributing countries to pursue cases of misconduct by their peacekeepers in national jurisdictions, but the Department tried to engage and press them as much as possible to follow up on such cases.  Last week, France had imprisoned a peacekeeper for nine years for sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Also present at the press conference was Assistant Secretary-General Edmond Mulet, who pointed out that there was an ongoing judicial process in Sri Lanka against peacekeepers sent home from Haiti.  However, the Department had no information on the Moroccan peacekeepers expelled from Côte d’Ivoire.

Mr. Mulet went on to say that the Department engaged with troop-contributing countries in order to ensure that peacekeepers received pre-deployment training. However, if incidents occurred and troop-contributing countries did not follow up, they would no longer be welcome as troop contributors.  At present, no country had been “disinvited” to participate in peacekeeping operations.

Answering questions about Georgia, Mr. Le Roy said the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia only covered Abkhazia and was to expire on 15 October.  Hopefully, it could be extended for a couple of months so that the upcoming conference in Geneva could establish a new international monitoring mechanism.

In response to another question, the Under-Secretary-General said he was not optimistic that 80 per cent of the mandated troops would be deployed in Darfur by the end of the year.  However, there would be 3,000 more troops and police, mainly from Ethiopia and Egypt, by the end of November, which would bring the total to some 13,000 personnel, about 50 per cent of the mandated deployment.  The Department would send a report on deployment to the Security Council by the end of September.

He said that, as with any peacekeeping operation, a contingency plan was in place for Darfur and UNAMID was prepared in case the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of the Sudan’s President Omer el-Bashir or if the Security Council did not invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute.

Asked what the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) would do about Hizbullah’s claims that it now had twice the number of missiles than before its 2006 conflict with Israel, Mr. Le Roy said the Force had found no evidence of such claims, but if evidence were to be found, UNIFIL would handle it with the greatest transparency.

The Department’s growth was not merely the result of the failure of preventive diplomacy, he said in reply to another question.  The United Nations went to places where no other organization wished to go.  It was often the last resort and the demand for its peacekeeping operations was a consequence of the world body’s successes.

Mr. Mulet added that preventive diplomacy could not be applied in cases of internal conflict and failed states, where there were no parties to talk to, as had been the case in Haiti.  In such cases, it was a matter of capacity-building.

Responding to another question, he said the notion that peacekeeping operations were only possible if there was a peace to keep had arisen from the Brahimi Report.  The Department was hesitant to go where there was no peace, but it was the Council that decided whether to send an operation or not.  In Somalia, for instance, the situation was deteriorating.  The Department should prepare for a multinational force to go in at an appropriate time, pending progress in the political and security situation.  The chances for failure in Somalia were immense, while those for success were “almost nil”.

In response to other queries, he said that some issues, including one on the Department’s sharing of information with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, were difficult questions to be looked into.

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For information media • not an official record