REPRESENTATIVES IN SPECIAL PEACEKEEPING COMMITTEE EXPRESS CONCERN OVER RECENT SETBACKS AND CLOSURES OF PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS

GA/PK/161
26 March 1999

REPRESENTATIVES IN SPECIAL PEACEKEEPING COMMITTEE EXPRESS CONCERN OVER RECENT SETBACKS AND CLOSURES OF PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS

26 March 1999


Press Release
GA/PK/161


REPRESENTATIVES IN SPECIAL PEACEKEEPING COMMITTEE EXPRESS CONCERN OVER RECENT SETBACKS AND CLOSURES OF PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS

19990326 Unexpected and premature decisions of the last month to close down and withdraw the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) and the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) from the regions of ongoing or potential conflicts were deplorable, the representative of Ukraine told the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations this morning.

As the Committee continued its general debate, several representatives expressed concern over recent setbacks and closures of missions. The representative of Bulgaria said that serious challenges, if not addressed properly, undermined the credibility of the United Nations. The impact of UNPREDEP in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had been mostly 2positive, and his country deeply regretted that the Security Council had been unable to reach a decision on the extension of its mandate.

The representative of Nepal said that the overall readiness of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in the areas of planning, operations and logistics of peacekeeping should be preserved. On the whole, his delegation was satisfied that, despite the departmental streamlining and the phasing-out of gratis personnel, the overall efficiency of the Department had not been palpably impaired. The Department must maintain razor-sharp readiness, and the legislative bodies should provide it with all the tools it needed.

Expressing dissatisfaction with delays in providing information to Member States on developments in the field, the representative of Zambia said that after the tragic air crashes in Angola involving United Nations aircraft, Member States had only learned of the loss of Flight 806 from the media and not from the Secretariat. At the first briefing on that matter, the information had been very sketchy, raising many questions.

The representative of Malaysia shared the view of other troop contributors on the need for immediate information about any such mishaps. He said that during the recent crises in Sierra Leone and Angola, many permanent missions had experienced delays in getting information from the Secretariat. Such temporary holding back of information had generated great anxiety among governments and even more among the families of personnel serving in the mission areas.

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Also referring to weaknesses of peacekeeping operations, Fiji's representative said that lack of transparency was hindering disciplinary proceedings against personnel charged with misconduct. Unless such proceedings were transparent and fair, troop contributors would have difficulty meeting the legal challenges of disciplinating peacekeepers and civilian police. Closer consultations between the Secretariat and troop- contributing States were essential in that respect.

Also speaking in this morning's debate were the representatives of Peru, South Africa, Slovakia, Morocco and Algeria.

The Special Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. this afternoon to conclude its general debate.

Special Committee Work Programme

The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations met this morning to continue its general debate. (For background information on the documents before the Committee, see Press Release GA/PK/157 of 24 March.)

Statements

FRANCISCO TUDELA (Peru) associated himself with the statement made previously by the representative of Jordan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and said that peacekeeping operations were an important instrument for the solution of conflicts. As they were an important means to maintain international peace and security, the existing peacekeeping machinery must be preserved. His country participated in international peacekeeping operations and was interested in the possibilities provided by the United Nations in training peacekeeping personnel. His country was also prepared to contribute to peacekeeping operations in the future.

Commitment to preserving peace should not only manifest itself in contributing troops, but must be guided through formulating principles of peacekeeping in the Special Committee, he said. His delegation supported the idea that peacekeeping operations should be conducted by well-trained and well-equipped personnel. Lately, civil components were becoming more important, as well as cooperation with other agencies and organizations.

Highlighting some aspects of special interest to his country, he said that the Organization should take special care to safeguard the security of the peacekeeping personnel. For that reason, his delegation supported all actions for demobilizing combatants and collecting weapons. Those measures should be supported by proper training to reduce the risks. It was also vital to get the commitment of the parties involved in the conflict and to clearly define the challenges for the military contingents and other participants in peacekeeping operations to avoid duplication of roles. Under relevant provisions of the Charter, it was necessary to establish unambiguous linkage between regional organizations and the United Nations to increase the efficiency of peacekeeping operations. It was indispensable to reform the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and objective criteria should be developed to pursue equitable geographical representation when hiring new personnel for the Department.

HIRA BAHADUR THAPA (Nepal) said that in the 50 years of peacekeeping operations, their nature, setting, functioning and mandate had vastly changed, but certain time-tested principles could not and must not change. They included full regard for the purposes and principles of the Charter, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, non-interference in their internal affairs, authorization by the Security Council and the consent of the States concerned.

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Partnership between the United Nations and regional arrangements or organizations had at times bolstered the capacity of the Organization in the maintenance of international peace and security, he continued. However, no regional arrangement could replace the primary responsibility of the United Nations in that area. The United Nations Charter recognized the role of regional arrangements and encouraged them to make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of disputes, but the Charter also specifically stated that no enforcement action should be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the Security Council.

Another important concern to his delegation was that the overall readiness of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in the area of planning, operations and logistics of peacekeeping be preserved. On the whole, his delegation was satisfied that despite the departmental streamlining and the phasing-out of gratis personnel, the overall efficiency of the Department had not been palpably impaired. The Department must maintain razor-sharp readiness, and the legislative bodies should provide it with all the tools it needed. In particular, the rapid deployment capacity of the United Nations must be strengthened.

LESLIE M. GUMBI (South Africa), associating himself with the statement by the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while his country had had to develop a philosophy in the absence of direct peacekeeping experience, it had learned lessons from the very dynamic international debate which had taken place following the genocide in Rwanda, the United Nations experience in Somalia, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) experience in Bosnia.

He said that South Africa's approach to peacekeeping had had to take cognizance of the changing international security environment, the eruption of almost intractable violent conflicts in so-called "failed States", and the lack of political will to participate in peacekeeping in Africa by the main players within the Security Council. South Africa had also had to take note of the sad reality that peacekeeping operations without the consent of the belligerent parties held little prospect for long-term success and that peace enforcement by parties unrelated to the conflict seldom enticed warring parties to the negotiating table. Prime examples were Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

South Africa's peacekeeping philosophy was that no conflict could be solved by addressing only the symptoms, he said. While immediate relief of the symptoms might be a short-term priority, South Africa's approach would always be to delve into the causes of such conflicts in order to prevent the escalation or a recurrence of violence. South Africa's participation would, therefore, always be informed by an assessment of the possible outcome of any peace mission, be it in the more conventional Chapter 6 operations, more robust operations or operations with totally new rules of engagement. Further, early action based on proper analyses of the early warning signals

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would serve better than retarded, and often misguided, reaction in a more confrontational manner.

He said that in an effort to facilitate its participation in peacekeeping internationally, the South African Government would establish a National Office for the Coordination of Peace Missions within the Department of Foreign Affairs. At the capacity-building level, some 6,000 military personnel and about 15 foreign affairs officials had undergone training in peacekeeping, conflict resolution and civil/military relations over the last three years. A number of humanitarian peacekeepers had also received training. From 19 to 26 April, some 2,000 troops, police officers and civilians would participate in Exercise Blue Crane, which would bring together 14 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, 10 non-SADC countries and about 15 non-African partner countries. They would test their individual and collective capacity for peacekeeping in an integrated and holistic manner.

PETER TOMKA (Slovakia), aligning itself with the statement made previously by Germany on behalf of the European Union, said that the decline in peacekeeping activity, without a parallel decline in the level of conflicts requiring international attention, was disturbing. The international community could not afford the luxury of passivity and disregard. While each conflict had to be treated individually, an integrated, multidimensional approach should be observed in all cases. All stages of peacekeeping required the same attention -- preventive, peacekeeping, and post-conflict peace- building. The latter was of crucial importance, as those following the situation in the Balkans or in some African countries knew.

In recent years, the reconstruction of a post-conflict society had involved a number of actors and a variety of actions, he said. Enhancing the role of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, with authority over all United Nations entities in cases of multidimensional peacekeeping operations, was a step in the right direction. It was also vital to ensure effective coordination between the political and military components of United Nations operations on the one hand, and the human rights and humanitarian components on the other. Common guidelines for engagement in humanitarian operations in accordance with established principles should also be developed.

He said that since the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was a crucial actor in planning, organizing and coordinating operational aspects of peacekeeping operations, Slovakia attached great importance to the restructuring of the Department to ensure its proper and efficient functioning. Structural changes should improve the synergy of efforts within the Department and ensure politico-military coordination at all levels. The same attention should be paid to maintaining continuity of military expertise after the phasing out of gratis personnel.

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The current situation was not satisfactory, he said. The significant decrease in the number of military posts in the Department as a result of the phase-out had brought about a substantially reduced capacity and could have a negative impact on its ability to respond to new demands. At the same time, Slovakia was aware that calling for budget-based staffing of the Department to ensure equitable geographical representation was fully legitimate. Nevertheless, the phasing out of gratis personnel was not supposed to diminish the Department's military expertise.

VLADIMIR SOTIROV (Bulgaria) said that the new widely accepted multifaceted concept of peacekeeping operations based on the inclusion in their mandates of a combination of political, military, humanitarian and human rights components adequately reflected the complexity of the post-cold war conflicts. Bulgaria was committed to the United Nations peacekeeping activities in three of the "hottest points" of the planet: in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan and Angola, where the United Nations Mission was in the process of liquidation. Its efforts were aimed at increasing the quality and expertise of the personnel in accordance with the requirements set by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Being situated in the close vicinity to the troubled area of Kosovo, his country was deeply concerned over the possible repercussions that the escalating conflict might have on the entire region, he said. Bulgaria had welcomed the establishment and the overall activity of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That mission had focused a lot of attention on putting in practice the United Nations capacity and testing the Organization's capability in the preventive field. In his view, the outcome of the preventive deployment as performed by UNPREDEP was mostly positive, and his country deeply regretted that the Security Council had been unable to reach a decision on the extension of the mandate of that mission.

His delegation shared the concerns over recent setbacks and closures of missions due to critical environments in which they were unable to execute their mandates. Serious challenges, if not addressed properly, undermined the credibility of the United Nations, he said. His delegation shared the view that regional and subregional organizations were well suited to help settle regional conflicts. There were still untapped opportunities to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in the field of preventive diplomacy, crises management and peacekeeping.

For that reason, he said, Bulgaria had sponsored the idea of the establishment of a regional peace force as a common initiative of the countries participating in the South Eastern European Partnership for Peace and regional NATO members. Their joint efforts had resulted in the Agreement on the Multinational Peace Force in South Eastern Europe signed in September 1998 in Skopje, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The headquarters of the Force would be based in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv.

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The ability of swift reaction to a rising crisis was essential, he said. Rapid deployment could be deemed a substantive factor for the success of the mission. He welcomed the progress recently achieved with regard to the establishment of the Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters. His delegation was also in favour of further strengthening of the existing United Nations standby arrangement system by setting up national and multinational rapidly deployable units.

VOLODYMYR YEL'CHENKO (Ukraine) said that his delegation deplored the fact that the decline in current United Nations peacekeeping operations, a process which should be stopped, had actually intensified with the unexpected and premature decisions of the last month to close down and withdraw the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) and UNPREDEP from the regions of ongoing or potential conflicts.

In his view, successful cooperation between the United Nations and NATO in Bosnia, the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Croatia, the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Africa was encouraging and should be further developed. Ukraine stood for the development of a realistic and useful division of labour between the United Nations and regional arrangements. At the same time, in all those joint activities the supreme role of the United Nations and the Security Council should remain unquestionable and unchallenged.

His country looked forward to the earliest possible completion by the Secretariat of the compilation of draft guidelines on general principles regarding the role of the civilian police. Ukraine welcomed the expansion of the geographical base for the selection of senior-level civilian police serving within the United Nations over the past year and stood ready to submit a number of candidatures of experienced personnel for those posts.

The African continent needed particular attention and continuous assistance from the United Nations and its Member States in conflict prevention, management and resolution, he said. In that regard, Ukraine welcomed encouraging steps undertaken by the United Nations in that direction. The entry into force of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, the elaboration of which had been initiated by Ukraine and New Zealand in 1994, had been noted with deep satisfaction by his delegation. He proposed for further consideration an idea to include the references to that document in the model status-of-forces agreement.

One of the important steps towards the earliest introduction of the United Nations standby arrangements system would be the establishment of the Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters, he said, and his delegation hoped that the Ukrainian-Polish joint peacekeeping battalion, the formation of which had entered its last stage, would contribute to the standby arrangements.

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He then raised a procedural point regarding changes made to the text of the declaration on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping, which had been introduced without additional consultations with the members of the Special Committee. He expressed hope that members of the Bureau would not let that happen again.

AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco), associating himself with the statement made for the Non-Aligned Movement, said there had been a great upsurge in preventive diplomacy due to the increasingly frequent recourse to the good offices of the Secretary-General, or those of his Special and Personal Representatives. Morocco was pleased to learn that the Secretary-General's recent tireless efforts in search of a solution to the problem concerning Libya had good chances of success.

He said experience had proved that preventing conflict was far easier than trying to resolve it once it had erupted. When preventive diplomacy did not succeed in preventing the eruption of a conflict, and the United Nations had to intervene to re-establish peace, it was up to Member States to support the Organization with all the human and financial resources necessary to carry out that mission, which would otherwise be impossible. Humanitarian assistance, protection of civilians, disarming of combatants, demining and assistance for reconstruction would be inconceivable without the support and generosity of the international community as a whole.

For some years, he said, the international community had witnessed a proliferation of initiatives and an intensification of efforts aimed at enhancing the Organization's capacity, particularly with regard to the rapid deployment of peacekeeping troops, the planning of their activities and the readiness of many Member States to put their peacekeeping troops at the disposal of the United Nations in the shortest possible time. Morocco supported the idea of institutionalizing consultation between troop- contributing countries and the Security Council with regard to the creation of new peacekeeping missions and to the expansion of existing ones. The countries affected by a crisis should also be consulted.

ABDUL KHALID OTHMAN (Malaysia) associated himself with the statement made for the Non-Aligned Movement. He said his delegation had found the comments in the Secretary-General's report in relation to the phasing-out of gratis personnel somewhat inappropriate. The negative impact on the ability of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to respond to new demands, its inability to produce reports on time and its difficulty in producing better results should not be attributed to the phasing-out of gratis personnel. The Secretariat should not give the impression that Member States were to blame and had to bear the consequences resulting from the decision, which had been strongly recommended by the Non-Aligned Movement. Since the issue of gratis personnel had been raised some years ago, the Secretariat should have anticipated the changes and made the necessary adjustments.

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Regarding consultations, he said his delegation appreciated the Secretariat's efforts to keep troop contributors informed on United Nations field operations, particularly during the recent crises in Sierra Leone and Angola. As a troop-contributing country with respect to those two missions, Malaysia shared the view of other troop contributors on the need to be informed immediately about any mishaps. In the case of the downing of United Nations charter flight 806 in Angola, many permanent missions, including that of Malaysia, had learned about the incident long before an official announcement had been made by the Secretariat. That temporary holding back of information had generated great anxiety, not only among governments, but also and even more so among the families of personnel serving in the mission areas. The Malaysian delegation also regretted the inability, for various reasons, of the United Nations to locate the crash sites quickly.

He reiterated Malaysia's commitment to the United Nations standby arrangements system, which constituted a key element to the increased effectiveness and rapid deployment capacity of peacekeeping operations. However, his delegation appreciated the lack of certain key specialized resources in the arrangement, such as air- and sea-lift services and other logistics matters. That situation could be improved if all the Member States were willing to give their full support to the standby system.

SAKIUSA RABUKA (Fiji) said that his country had participated in numerous peacekeeping operations. He welcomed the increasing frequency of briefings by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for the troop-contributing States. The Secretariat should also make available to troop contributors weekly situation reports that were normally made available to the Security Council. On the issue of personnel, his delegation believed that principles of equitable geographical representation and gender balance must be applied in the recruitment of personnel.

Joining those who called for a strong Department of Peacekeeping Operations, he cautioned against any attempts by the Special Committee to micromanage the operations of the Department. On the issue of misconduct in peacekeeping operations, he said that those guilty should be disciplined. The major cause of the difficulty of monitoring misconduct was the lack of transparency in disciplinary proceedings presently undertaken by the Department. Unless such proceedings were transparent and fair, troop contributors would have difficulty meeting legal challenges of disciplining peacekeepers and civilian police through their national courts. Closer consultations between the Secretariat and troop-contributing States were essential in that respect.

The importance of the security of peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel could not be overestimated, he said. Training was another vital aspect of ensuring a competent, efficient and capable peacekeeping force, and the United Nations should play a more active role in the development and maintenance of training standards. On the question of regional arrangements,

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he said that his Government was committed to playing its role under the regional agreement on peace and security in Bougainville. However, while the regional group had been able to bring peace there, the international community could not be relieved of its collective responsibility in that part of the world. For that reason, he urged the international community to provide financial and logistic support to achieve lasting peace and security in Bougainville. He also expressed concern at the continued delays in the reimbursement to troop-contributing States and said that those amounts were substantial to fragile economies.

HUMPHREY B. KUNDA (Zambia) expressed disappointment over the negative tone of the Secretary-General's report on the difficulties caused by the phasing-out of gratis personnel. Not only did the Secretariat had ample time to prepare for the departure of gratis personnel, but it had also worked out the numbers of the staff required to replace gratis officers.

Zambia welcomed the continuing reform of peacekeeping operations through the appointment of resident coordinators to serve as deputies to heads of missions, where appropriate, and establishment of political offices in areas where peacekeeping missions had ended. His country also appreciated the Secretariat's efforts to keep the Member States, particularly the troop- contributing countries, informed of the developments in the field at all times. However, he wanted to place on record his delegation's dissatisfaction with the initial reaction to the tragic air crashes in Angola involving United Nations aircraft -- like most other Member States, his country had only learned of the loss of Flight 806 from the media and not from the United Nations. And later, at the first briefing by the Secretariat, the information had been very sketchy, raising many questions.

The United Nations needed the assistance of regional organizations and arrangements to manage crises in different parts of the world, he continued. His country applauded the efforts of NATO in Bosnia, the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) in Liberia and Sierra Leone and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the former Soviet Republics. However, it was necessary to realize that apart from NATO and, maybe, the CIS, none of the other regional organizations had the capacity to quickly deploy in the requisite numbers to make a difference. What most regional organizations were best placed to do was what the SADC was doing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was peaceful mediation of conflicts. But even in those efforts, there was need for assistance from the international community. Once mediation efforts had paid off and a ceasefire was in place, the United Nations should play a major role.

His delegation wanted to express its appreciation to the Secretariat for its continued collaboration with the OAU, which could only play a pivotal role if and once its structures were strengthened to meet the challenges involved in maintaining peace and security in Africa. His delegation joined the Secretary-General in his appeal for Member States to provide funding to enable

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the OAU to send its military officers and staff members to the United Nations' Headquarters for familiarization with its methods of operation.

NACERDINE SAI (Algeria), associating himself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that peacekeeping operations in recent years had witnessed remarkable developments both in identity and targets, moving from a conventional role to monitoring ceasefires, protecting refugees and post-conflict reconstruction. While recognizing those achievements in their ability to face crises, much remained to be done. Algeria welcomed the draft on the United Nations standby arrangements and hoped the system would facilitate the rapid deployment of United Nations forces and keep them fully prepared to avert the eruption of crises.

Regarding the phasing-out of gratis personnel, he said some of those personnel had become permanent staff members whose salaries were deducted from the United Nations budget. Others had been employed outside the Organization. The manner of their selection and employment had not been transparent. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations should review that situation and abide by the principle of equitable geographical representation. Algeria regretted the tone of the Secretary-General's report, which stated that there were shortcomings in the Department's abilities and indirectly blamed the Member States that had sponsored the related resolution.

Turning to cooperation in the enhancement of Africa's peacekeeping capacity, he hoped that cooperation would go beyond administrative and moral support to real enhancement through the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution so that Africa could eventually resolve its own crises. The growing role of the OAU should not exempt the United Nations from its responsibility of maintaining peace and security throughout all parts of the world, including Africa.

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For information media. Not an official record.