Peacekeeping, under severe strain, to undergo thorough review – UN official

23 February 2009
Alain Le Roy

United Nations peacekeeping operations, faced with unprecedented demands and extreme constraints, will undergo a thorough review in the coming year, the chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) said today.

“2009 will be a crucial year for peacekeeping,” Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy told the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping, in his first appearance before that body since he replaced Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who had held the top post from 2000 until last August.

Mr. Le Roy said that operations were not only stretched in terms of the size and number of missions – totalling 18 and deploying some 112,000 blue helmets – but also in terms of the challenges posed by complex mandates and difficult logistical and security environments.

“A number of our missions face risks that are so significant that I cannot discount the potential for mission failure, with all the consequences that would entail for the United Nations,” he warned.

Among the most challenging factors, he said, was the requirement to use force to protect civilians in areas beset by continuing conflict such as Darfur and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“This situation begs an analysis of mandates and the capabilities needed to implement them,” the official said, offering as an example the difficult contradictions the DRC Mission (MONUC) faced when it was mandated to both protect civilians and support the national armed forces in their operations – which themselves posed a threat to civilians.

For such complex mandates, the resources needed had become increasingly hard to mobilize, he said, citing the continued lack of air transport in Darfur over a year after the deployment of the mission, and the shortage of troops in many missions.

Mr. LeRoy was confident, however, that the necessary analysis could be done and the challenges could be met, because of the dire need for peacekeeping and the ability of DPKO to perform the restructuring needed.

After all, the previous phases of restructuring DPKO, and the division of labour between it and the recently-created Department of Field Support (DFS), has already been accomplished 18 months into the process, though work remained to be done “to achieve the full benefits of the approved reform measures.”

The Brahimi, Peace Operations 2010 and DPKO/DFS restructuring processes, underway for nearly a decade, had strengthened the UN’s capacity to plan manage and sustain UN peacekeeping operations.

Through further analysis and evolution, “we must look to the horizon, but we must also continue to implement mandates and build on the significant strengthening of our capacity…,” Mr. LeRoy said.


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