The head of the United Nations peacekeeping department today praised the role played by blue helmets in recent months in Sudan, Haiti and Côte d’Ivoire, saying their presence made a critical difference during difficult operating circumstances.
Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, noted at a media briefing at UN Headquarters that the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) had facilitated the successful holding of the referendum for the self-determination of Southern Sudan in January, despite fears that the vote would have to be delayed and that war could break out again.
In Haiti, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), helped bring under control the unrest that followed the first round of presidential elections last November and facilitated the successful conclusion of the second round of the poll last month, Mr. Le Roy said.
This month, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), while implementing its mandate under Security Council resolutions, took action to prevent the use of heavy weapons against civilians in the city of Abidjan by forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo, Mr. Le Roy added.
“In the three cases, the peacekeepers made a huge difference,” Mr. Le Roy said. “The UN one more time stood firm in conformity with what the Security Council asked us to do and we were able to clearly make the difference,” he added.
He paid tribute to UN members of staff who have died during the past 10 days, the majority of them working in peacekeeping missions. The staff were killed in Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where a plane crash in the capital, Kinshasa, on 4 April claimed the lives of 32 people, including many UN staff.
Anthony Banbury, Assistant Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support (DFS), told the media briefing that the his department, in coordination with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), has embarked on major reforms on how to support peacekeeping missions.
“We are working very hard to improve our operational capability,” said Mr. Banbury, explaining that the reforms include such measures as the setting up of a global service centre in Brindisi, Italy, and a regional service centre in Entebbe, Uganda.
The department is also implementing cost reduction. “We are looking very hard at where we can reduce the cost of peacekeeping operations without compromising our operational capabilities,” said Mr. Banbury. Cost-cutting steps include regionalization of the use of aircraft, inventory reduction and keeping vehicles for longer periods.
“These measures that are being implemented by the United Nations now are going to have a very important medium- and long-term impact on our ability to deliver on the expectations of our host populations and governments, on the mandates of the Security Council, taking into account the very difficult financial situations that some of our Member States are facing,” said Mr. Banbury.