19 October 2006


19 October 2006
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Fourth Committee

13th Meeting (PM)



Under-Secretary-General Reviews Scale of Operations,

Notes Ongoing Developments in Approaches, Management, Logistics

The level of United Nations peacekeeping activity, and international attention on it, was unprecedented and it reflected the commitment of Member States to address conflicts in today’s complex and often uncertain global environment through a collective approach, the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told this afternoon, as it began its comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

The comment came from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who said peacekeeping was constantly evolving, never more so than today, with more United Nations peacekeepers deployed around the world than at any time before.  There were 93,000 men and women serving in 18 peace operations, an increase of 10,000 from last year.  He said deployments to Lebanon and Timor-Leste would increase the total to 112,000, and a potential operation in Darfur would raise it to 140,000.

He said he wondered who could have predicted, five years ago, that 110 Member States would be contributing uniformed personnel, or that there would be public demonstrations around the world demanding deployment of “Blue Helmets”.  Who could have foreseen the deployment of 14 naval vessels in a United Nations peacekeeping operation, he asked, or that the annual United Nations peacekeeping budget would be almost $6 billion?

The collective approach to peacekeeping must be implemented in a way that was targeted to the specific conditions on the ground, he said.  Over the past decade, United Nations peacekeeping had demonstrated its capacity to respond flexibly to diverse environments, and the latest surge had been no exception.  In a space of eight weeks, peace operations had been planned and launched in Timor-Leste and Lebanon.  Simultaneously, the largest-ever United Nations elections-assistance effort was taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the mission in Haiti was assisting the new Government establish its recovery and reform priorities and the operation in Kosovo began planning for the transition from a United Nations operation to a European Union operation.

Another reason for the sustained high demand for United Nations peacekeeping was a greater confidence in its capacity to carry out its mandated tasks.  The nine operations launched in the past 36 months were, perhaps, the most tangible proof of improved launching and deploying operations, he said.  Instances of rapid and effective action in 2006 included; the speedy arrival of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) troops in southern Lebanon in the weeks following adoption of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006); the arrest of former Liberian President Charles Taylor; the response, together with the European Union force, to the violence in Kinshasa after the first round of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and the removal of more than 40,000 cluster munitions in southern Lebanon since August.

The Under-Secretary-General said a further reason for the unprecedented level of activity was a better sense of what United Nations peacekeeping could, and could not, do.  United Nations peace operations were an instrument to support the highly political effort of transitioning from conflict to sustainable peace.  But United Nations peacekeeping could never substitute for politics or an alternative to national leadership.  United Nations peacekeeping nowadays had a better appreciation of the imperative of a multi-actor, multi-sector effort at all phases of a post-conflict process.  Transition was not a question of replacing troops with development programmes, but rather working together in a peace operation calibrated, according to the changing needs and the perspectives of the country.

A better understanding of regional organizations was also leading to greater demand for joint action, he added.  The Department’s partnership with the African Union was the clearest example of that engagement, which was dominated by events in the Sudan.  The United Nations support for the African Union’s commitment to build peacekeeping capacity had lead to an agreement on a joint-action plan between his Department and the Peace and Security Division of the African Union.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations was now recruiting for a team to staff a “dedicated integrated capacity” to that end within the Department.  Cooperation with the European Union continued to develop.

The question was what needed to be done to sustain an effective, global response, Mr. Guéhenno continued.  Today’s level of activity and visibility put new demands on all, and the response to them would influence the future of peacekeeping and impact the authority and scope of the United Nations.  Most of all, however, the ability to manage current peacekeeping demands affected the lives of millions of children, women and men, including the troops and police Member States had provided.

He said a first priority for an effective response was to run peacekeeping in such a way that sustained, high demand could capably be addressed.  The latest surge underscored the importance of a reform agenda, presented last year, entitled “Peace Operations 2010,” which intended to increase the professionalism, management and efficiency of peacekeeping.

The quantity of personnel in United Nations peacekeeping today, he said, could not be managed through micromanagement from Headquarters; it was essential to have a core of qualified, experienced people that were retained from mission to mission.  The heart of the reform agenda was the way in which peace operations were staffed through the creation of a 2,500-strong capacity of civilian peacekeepers.  That cadre would provide United Nations peacekeeping with a baseline of professions and technical experts essential to any field operation, from logistical support to public information.

Equally essential, he continued, was the quality and baseline quantity of military and police personnel.  The recruitment for the Standing Police Capacity was under way; its expansion would offer savings.  Of particular concern, he added, were the demands currently placed on the military at Headquarters.  The United Nations operated the second largest global military deployment, with only 12 professional planners at Headquarters.  During the current Assembly session it would be necessary to address, collectively, the strengthening of the Military Division as a matter of urgency.  Good progress had been made in increasing the quality of personnel through the establishment of the Integrated Training Service and the creation of a Brindisi-based team, for accelerating the design and delivery of training products.

The Under-Secretary-General said another area of concern remained the safety and security of field personnel.  Seventeen out of a total of 72 fatalities, spread over five operations, in 2006, were the result of malicious acts.  The Department was working closely with the Department of Safety and Security and through the establishment of structures in the field, such as Joint Operations Centres and Joint Military Analysis Centres, to increase security.  Of the total fatalities, more than 75 per cent occurred as a result of other causes, such as illness and accidents.  There was still no “backstopping” capacity in the Department to address the safety of personnel in the field, or to investigate the causes of serious incidents in the field.

Noting that clear doctrine was the “backbone of effective peacekeeping”, Mr. Guéhenno said his Department’s new doctrine, once complete, would provide a framework for incorporating lessons learned and best practices into actionable guidelines, as well as for replacing very general guidelines in place since 1995.  On an intranet site, launched this year to support knowledge-sharing between field missions and Headquarters, more than 20,000 guidance materials had already been downloaded.

He said that following recent recommendations from the Office of Internal Oversight Services to strengthen management capacity, his Department was planning a department-wide business-process review to identify areas where attention to structural reforms was most needed.  An institutionalized culture of accountability was another crucial component.  Substantial progress had been made in building capacity to address conduct and discipline issues; teams had been established at Headquarters and at eight missions, with additional teams being established to cover all other missions.  The Department was developing further standards and guidelines on conduct, in particular the revision of the draft model memorandum of understanding with regard to the provision of troops.  The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations would meet in resumed session for the third time in 18 months, to consider the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse.

As for resources, Mr. Guéhenno said there was no area in greater need of reform than procurement.  Advances had been made in streamlining and improving oversight of the procurement systems:  in cooperation with the Department of Management, a panel to review requirements, and a dedicated office at Headquarters to advise missions on field procurement, had been established.  Another efficiency measure was increased regional pooling in logistics.  Greater use of outsourcing, where appropriate, was an additional area the Department was focusing on.  A comprehensive review of the Department’s approach to information management had been completed.

A second strategic priority was “to run ourselves out of business”, he said.  It was not possible to take on new demands without “managing down” the case load.  Capacity had to be enhanced to create the conditions for withdrawal.  In some cases, the quickest route to a sustainable exit was reinforced political engagement from international, as well as national, actors.  There was a need to improve the degree and quality of support to the establishment of sustainable national security institutions and processes.  Without the establishment of a security system that was administratively, as well as fiscally sustainable, international assistance might actually sow seeds for future instability, as past experiences in Haiti had shown.

The other dimension to managing down, he added, was effective partnerships; for instance with development partners that provided for economic regeneration and long-term reintegration.  A more streamlined, integrated and operational partnership approach was the best support United Nations peacekeeping could provide to the newly-established Peacebuilding Commission and Peacebuilding Support Office.  Since the 2000 Brahimi Report, a steady shift in perspective had taken place towards viewing peacekeeping operations as a core United Nations activity.

The Fourth (Special Political and Decolonization) Committee will meet again tomorrow, 20 October, at 3 p.m. to continue its comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

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