Time now to ensure success, viability of UN missions – peacekeeping chief

23 January 2009

With no end in sight to a massive surge in peacekeeping operations, now is the time to make sure ongoing missions are successful and fully supported and, at the same time, to tackle systemic challenges needed for the future, the United Nations peacekeeping chief said today.

“2009 needs to be a year of ideas as much as a year of operational success,” Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council as it began an open debate on the topic this morning. “It needs to be a year of cooperation and problem-solving,” he added.

On the one hand, he said, enormous current challenges – such as those in Sudan’s Darfur region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – must be dealt with successfully, and current gaps in troops and materiel must be closed through both short-term fixes and the mobilization of new troop contributors.

In addition, he said, innovative ways must be found to draw on the kind of support that only Member States can provide, which has recently allowed accelerated deployment in Darfur, for example.

Contingency plans for the eruption of crises must be built, he said, and in missions where the peace process has been stabilized – such as Haiti, Liberia and Afghanistan – critical resources were needed to shore up peacekeeping efforts.

At the same time as those current challenges are met, the global cooperation needed to deploy successful peacekeeping missions needed to be revitalized, stressed Mr. Le Roy, who last August replaced Jean-Marie Guéhenno of France, who had held the top peacekeeping post since 2000.

“We need to bolster, and in some instances mend, the global partnership that we need for a healthy and well-functioning United Nations peacekeeping system. UN peacekeeping is effective only if all actors have a shared vision of what this instrument can and cannot achieve,” he said.

In that light, he recalled that over the past decade, profound changes had occurred in UN peacekeeping, following the release of reports on the failures in stopping bloodshed in Srebrenica and Rwanda and the collapse of peacekeeping in Somalia.

Beginning in 2000, he added, a surge in peacekeeping saw deployment figures leap from less than 14,000 personnel to nearly 40,000 that same year. That surge had not abated with operations spread more widely than ever before, more robust mandates and 112,000 deployed.

Corresponding to those developments, the past decade has been a time of resurgent thinking on UN peacekeeping, which has seen many improvements and clarified thinking on how to generate and conduct modern UN peace operations.

Now, however, with 18 operations on the ground, unfinished deployment in Darfur and the DRC, new mandates for Chad and Somalia and greater expectations all around, he maintained that the further changes needed must be addressed immediately.

“It is my deep hope that this time we will not need a new generation of reports full of regretful lessons, such as those that followed the tragedies in Rwanda and Srebrenica, before we address the challenges that face us,” he said.

Also briefing the Council today, Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, confirmed the “great strain” that peace operations faced on the support side.

She said that a support strategy is being developed that will explore such issues as greater delegation of authority to managers in the field, the use of regional support hubs, a smarter approach to technology and the provision of goods and services from diversified sources.

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