Senior UN officials highlight need for strengthening capabilities of peacekeeping operations

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous.

Senior UN officials highlight need for strengthening capabilities of peacekeeping operations

Innovating and strengthening the capabilities of United Nations peacekeeping operations is essential to ensure safety and security, to adequately protect civilians, and to modernize mission postures in line with the evolving nature of conflict, the top officials from the UN peacekeeping and field support departments told a special review committee today.

“Flexibility and innovation at Headquarters and within our missions is no longer an option, but an acute necessity,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations told the opening of the 2014 session of the General Assembly body charged with reviewing all aspects of those operations.

“Taken together, growing demand and high expectations, coupled with constrained resources, must lead to an equally high international responsiveness and commitment.”

Known informally as the “C34”, the Special Committee, established by the Assembly in 1965, works through the Fourth Committee on Special Political and Decolonization, and this year has reports before it on issues ranging from implementation of the global field support strategy, to special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, and civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict.

Providing some statistics, Mr. Ladsous said nine peacekeeping operations covering 95 per cent of the Department’s total field personnel currently have mandates to protect civilians, often in extremely challenging conditions and in the face of high expectations. In addition, he said that studies revealed that when peacekeeping missions are deployed in post-conflict situations, countries are 50 per cent less likely to experience an outbreak of conflict again.

He went on to say that the breadth of missions the UN is currently required to conduct and support is more diverse than ever, involving distinct partners, diverse operating environments, and widely varying mandates, each demanding a distinct mix of skills and capabilities.

As such, he set out five factors that, taken as a whole, impact how peacekeeping operations can effectively carry out their mandated tasks: continued high demand for UN peacekeeping; a heightened level of new threats; continuing high resource constraints; the complexity of contemporary threats requires close and enhanced partnerships; and the need for high political engagement and support.

“Peacekeeping remains a vital tool for international peace and security and a flagship of the United Nations,” he said, underscoring that peacekeeping it is a collective effort demanding that the highest standards of conduct are upheld by all UN personnel.

“It rests upon strong cooperation between the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Secretariat; between the Member States contributing personnel and financial support. The C34 brings together the full range of Member States in support of peacekeeping.”

“Your voice and guidance in policy matters is an important signal of the political commitment and support of the UN for our peacekeepers,” he told Special Committee members.

In her address, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Ameera Haq, spotlighted peacekeeping activities over a year that “clearly, has been anything but business as usual.” She said 2013 and the first months of 2014 have been marked by an uninterrupted sequence of new challenges and operational demands. New missions have been set up in complex operating environments and existing operations have undergone profound, historic change.

“A critical driver of our work over the past year has been the growing security risks faced by our colleagues in the field,” she said, emphasizing that the policy implication is that “we must do more on the side of prevention and risk mitigation when seeking to protect our colleagues. Providing for the safety and security of deployed personnel in volatile environments is an absolute necessity. And it is a necessity that will almost certainly increase the cost of doing business.”

Continuing, Ms. Haq said the conceptual backdrop for all of efforts of the Department of Field Support (DFS) in improving the timeliness, quality and cost-effectiveness of mission support is the Global Field Support Strategy (GFSS). “As the overall budget of UN peacekeeping for 2013-2014 is nearing the $8 billion mark it is all the more important that we apply the GFSS, and its spirit of responsible stewardship of resources, in all that we do.”

“A top priority for DFS is to achieve continuous improvement in the services we provide to our troops,” she explained adding that another key priority for both DFS and DPKO is to address delays in the provision of critical enablers during mission start-up and reconfiguration.

“Experience makes unequivocally clear that critical assets such as engineering capability, air assets, medical facilities, and signal companies take more time to generate and deploy than ‘boots on the ground.’ We need them both and we need to ensure that they arrive when needed,” said Ms Haq.

Peacekeeping, she said, requires a shared vision backed by strong cooperation between Member States and the Secretariat. “When it has the necessary resources to deliver in the field, when it is empowered by the membership to be flexible, and when it is focused on the achievement of results as the guidepost for its efforts, UN peacekeeping is a powerful resource for conflict management and peace consolidation.”