Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

22 October 2012

Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

22 October 2012
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

From being on the verge of open war to neighbours living together in stability, Sudan and South Sudan had made remarkable progress in their relations, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said today at a briefing at Headquarters.

Reporting on specific peacekeeping operations around the world, as well as on some recent trends in peacekeeping, Mr. Ladsous said that Sudan and South Sudan had signed nine agreements in September which had since then been ratified by the parliaments in both countries.  It was now up to the countries to implement those agreements, and he commended the African Union for enabling the two nations to stand together as viable neighbours.

However, the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States continued to be a matter of grave concern to the United Nations, he said.  The tripartite proposal put forward by the African Union, the Arab League and the United Nations had not been implemented, the fighting continued, and there was no ceasefire.  The international community must continue to press the Governments to resolve that conflict, he declared.

“A dangerous situation” was continuing to develop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, moving on to other issues.  The rebel group M23 was destabilizing an entire Great Lakes region. It was therefore crucial that all external sources of support to the M23 ceased and that a regional dialogue was developed.  He went on to note that two ideas had been proposed:  a joint verification mechanism on the border, and an international force to work alongside the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

He said that with as many as 260,000 internally displaced people in the region, civilians were suffering terribly.  MONUSCO was working hard to implement its mandate but clearly there was a limit to what they could do in the face of such violence.

Turning to the situation in Mali, he said that the Deputy Secretary-General had headed a United Nations team that travelled to Bamako last week and met with Malian authorities, as well as partners in the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  There was broad consensus within the international community that it was necessary to pursue a political solution to address restoration of order in the country.  There was also agreement that at some stage, a military element would have to enter the picture to enable the country to regain sovereignty over its territory.  The United Nations stood ready to assist the Malian authorities in finding a sustainable solution to that crisis, he added.

As for the situation in Syria, he said that at the moment, the focus was on the efforts of the envoy, Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi.  The Security Council had withdrawn the mission in Syria since it could not operate successfully under the circumstances.  Peacekeeping forces stood ready to assist further whenever conditions on the ground changed.

Moving on to commend the leadership and the people of Timor-Leste for recent achievements in structuring their State and institutions, Mr. Ladsous pointed out that by the end of the year, the United Nations would be closing its integrated mission in that country, known by the acronym “UNMIT”.  “Right-sizing” was one of the current trends in peacekeeping operations and at least once every two years, all missions would be reviewed to ensure that they were at the optimal size to fulfil their mandate.  For instance, in Darfur, while there was still some violence, a reduction in the volume of the mission was reasonable.  The same would be done for Haiti and Liberia, he added.

In the light of financial constraints, peacekeeping operations increasingly had to be flexible, nimble, and creative, he emphasized.  Peacekeeping was, above all, a global partnership between the Security Council, all Member States and the Secretariat.  Concluding, he expressed sadness over the deaths of 73 peacekeepers that had lost their lives this year in the service of peace.

Responding to a number of questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he stated that the M23 forces were solidly established in the area around Rutshuru, where they had established a de facto administration and were collecting taxes and levies.  Civilian mistreatment was widespread, with “women fleeing because otherwise they would be raped and the children [would be] recruited as child soldiers.”  That was a violation of the sovereignty of a Member State of the United Nations and it was clearly necessary to deal with the problem of support being provided M23 from outside the country.

Cautioning that the situation could take another turn for the worse, if the M23 moved south towards the city of Goma, he stated that the mandate of MONUSCO was “one of the strongest mandates in the whole apparatus of peacekeeping operations.”  It was not at liberty to launch an offensive attack but when there was a situation in which civilians were being killed, it was necessary to protect them by all means available, including with the use of attack helicopters.

Replying to a question about the origins of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, he stated that the Secretary-General’s panel of experts had concluded that it was impossible to establish the origins of the disease.  Regardless, the issue of hygiene and clean water was central to the action of United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Quick impact projects such as small water treatment programmes were helping Haitians to access this basic service.

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