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UN peacekeeping chief cautions against deploying too many missions

UN peacekeeping chief cautions against deploying too many missions

USG Guéhenno
Although many peacekeeping missions have achieved much more than expected, the United Nations should be careful not to field too many missions over the next decade, the chief of peacekeeping told the special committee that oversees the operations.

Addressing the 34-member Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno said last year was a good year for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) because situations improved beyond expectations in several countries – Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Liberia and Burundi – seen as likely to be impossible to repair.

“In total, 120,000 military and civilian police personnel, drawn from over 100 countries, rotated through our missions in 2004. We generated resources, deployed and sustained them, this time around, in a manner that no other organization in the world could replicate as efficiently or as cost-effectively,” he said.

He noted that the United Nations chartered 319 aircraft and 52 ships, and currently operates an aircraft fleet comprising 57 fixed-wing and 114 rotary-wing aircraft – a 50 per cent increase in 2004. It also transported 580,000 passengers and 470,000 tons of cargo – in over 90,000 flight hours – and runs 14 military hospitals and 120 clinics, as well as more than 4,000 generators with a total capacity of 300 megawatts, enough to supply power to 200,000 homes.

In addition, more than 100 UN peacekeepers died in the service of peace.

Mr. Guéhenno said he wanted to stress that reforms, especially those taken from the Brahimi Report of 2000, and successes should now be consolidated, “instead of growing too fast, or spreading ourselves too thin.”

Despite a recommendation from the Special Committee that only one mission should be launched per year, DPKO had had to field three – in Burundi, Haiti and Côte d’Ivoire – in the first half of last year, just after deploying their largest operation, that in Liberia, at the end of 2003.

Besides, the restructuring and expansion of the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) was as taxing as establishing a new operation, he said.

In addition, DPKO was not only managing its own operations but was being called on to provide services and support to those mounted by others, notably the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), including the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), and now for an operation in Darfur, Sudan, run by the African Union (AU).

“Is this a trend you expect to continue?” he asked the Special Committee.

On the problem of allegations of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers in the DRC, who sometimes paid young teenagers scraps of food, he said that that was a substantive problem, not a public relations problem to be “spun.”

That the exploitation continued even after the UN had conducted an investigation showed that that “some peacekeepers still have not gotten the message,” Mr Guéhenno said.

DPKO needed help from the Committee in sending peacekeepers the right message by taking quick action when allegations were made and in making significant improvements in prevention policies.