The United Nations, which currently deploys some 110,000 personnel in 18 peace operations worldwide at a price tag of $7.2 billion, remains the most cost-effective option for global peacekeeping, the senior official leading those efforts said today.
Speaking at his first news conference since taking up the post of Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy cited a 2006 study by the United States Government Accountability Office which estimated that it would cost the US about twice as much as the UN to conduct a peacekeeping operation similar to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
He also recalled a separate study by the RAND Corporation which found that the UN is far more cost-effective at nation-building than individual governments.
“While $7.2 billion may seem like a lot,” stated Mr. Le Roy, “if we compare the figures that UN missions cost to the costs that other institutions would incur… the UN remains cost effective.”
He highlighted the important role UN peacekeeping operations have played in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Haiti and Timor-Leste. “It is very clear that the UN has made a positive contribution, has had an impact and made a difference.”
At the same time, the new peacekeeping chief expressed concern that the same could not be said as yet in Darfur, the strife-torn region of Sudan where a five-year long conflict between the Government and rebels has claimed the lives of about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.7 million.
Recent weeks have witnessed fresh violence in the region, despite the deployment of a joint African Union-UN force – known as UNAMID – which is slated to become the world body’s largest peacekeeping operation with some 26,000 personnel at full strength. Currently, it has only 9,900 personnel on the ground and still lacks essential equipment, including helicopters.
“So far UNAMID, to my eyes, is clearly not making enough difference on the ground,” Mr. Le Roy stated, adding that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) will continue to work with the Department of Field Support (DFS) to make sure the deployment happens as soon as possible.
Although the target to have 80 per cent of the mission deployed by the end of this year is “a bit over optimistic,” he did note that 3,000 additional personnel – mostly from Ethiopia and Egypt – will be joining UNAMID in the next two months. This will bring the total number of troops by the end of November to about 13,000, or 50 per cent of the estimated 26,000 expected at full deployment.
Aside from attaining the needed troops and equipment, a challenge for UN peacekeeping in recent years has been dealing with sexual abuse and exploitation by personnel deployed in the world body’s missions.
Mr. Le Roy acknowledged that while the UN is “making huge efforts on the ground,” there are still cases of misconduct, such as those alleged to have been committed by members of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known as MONUC.
The UN has a strict “zero-tolerance” policy on the matter, and a conduct and discipline unit was established last month within DFS, with branches in all peacekeeping missions in the field.
Mr. Le Roy noted that while the UN does not have the legal means to force any troop contributing country (TCC) to pursue a trial for someone who has been accused of misconduct, it can engage the government concerned as much as possible to ensure that the matter is followed up.
Last week a French court sentenced a former UN employee to nine years in prison for sexual abuse committed while working in Africa. “I will use that as an example to convince other countries to do the same,” said Mr. Le Roy, a French national.
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet noted that the UN is engaging more and more with countries that contribute troops on this issue.
“If an incident of this kind happens, we are also now making sure that the countries that do not follow up, do not apply sanctions, do not apply disciplinary measures against the people who are involved in these incidents… those countries will not be welcomed as TCCs in the future,” he stated.