Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted a new effort to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping at a time when the demand for the Organization’s services is at an all-time high and the global economic crisis threatens to further limit its ability to respond effectively.
In an address at Ireland’s Dublin Castle, Mr. Ban noted that the UN is the only body that can deploy comprehensive peace operations integrating military, police and civilian components.
There are currently 16 peacekeeping operations and 27 special political missions deployed around the globe, supported by 78,000 military personnel, more than 11,000 police and more than 23,000 civilian staff, he said.
At the same time, he noted that peacekeeping has experienced serious setbacks. “Today we face mounting difficulties in getting enough troops, the right equipment and adequate logistical support,” he said. “Supply has not kept pace with demand.”
He added that the global economic crisis could further limit the Organization’s ability to respond effectively, and that a number of missions struggle to operate amidst stalled peace processes and ongoing violence.
“These gaps and constraints should concern all of us,” he stated, noting that they have led the UN to undertake what it is calling a “new horizon” process for peacekeeping. “We want our efforts to be more cohesive. And we want a renewed consensus on the direction peacekeeping should take.”
The UN Departments for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and for Field Support (DFS) have been working on the New Horizon initiative, which focuses on critical peacekeeping tasks and functions that require a renewed consensus; measures to improve mission design, resourcing and deployment; proposals on assessing and building the capacities needed for future peacekeeping; and a strategy to create a stronger, more flexible support system.
“The objective is to arrive at a set of achievable immediate-, medium- and long-term goals to help configure UN peacekeeping to better meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges,” UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said last week, as he outlined the initiative to the Security Council.
The Secretary-General, who is on his first official visit to Ireland, praised the country’s “dynamic presence” at the UN, including its contributions to peacekeeping for more than half a century.
Today, there are nearly 500 Irish men and women serving with UN operations in the Middle East and Africa, he noted. In addition, 90 of the country’s citizens have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the world body.
Ireland has also participated in military and civilian missions of the European Union, which is present together with the UN in many situations to help maintain peace and security.
Mr. Ban said this kind of solidarity is more important than ever today amid multiple crises – food, fuel, flu and financial. “These are times of trial. We are living through an era like no other,” he stated.
The Secretary-General also met today with Irish President Mary McAleese and Prime Minister Brian Cowen, with whom he discussed Ireland’s contributions to UN peacekeeping efforts, as well as development aid, the fight against hunger and public health.
In addition, he met with members of the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, stressing to them the important role played by parliamentarians in addressing some of today’s toughest challenges.
“Through your legislative power, you can give domestic meaning to international standards and agreements. Through your power of the purse, you can put resources behind global causes. And through your deliberations, you can set an example of dialogue, democracy and the peaceful resolution of differences,” he stated.
After concluding his trip to Ireland, Mr. Ban will head to L’Aquila, Italy, to meet with leaders attending the summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations.