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‘Peacekeeping Actually Works’, Under-Secretary-General Says of United Nations Flagship Activity, in Briefing to Fourth Committee

Source:  UN General Assembly
Country:  World, Afghanistan, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (the), Haiti, Liberia, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan (Republic of), Sudan (the), Syrian Arab Republic (the), Timor-Leste


Sixty-seventh General Assembly
Fourth Committee
14th Meeting (AM)

‘Ambitious Experiment’ Begun 50 Years Ago Proceeds Unabated, As Multilateral Efforts Undergo Profound Change, Says Field Support Head

Despite the low cost of peacekeeping, its rewards were very high, as evidenced by the decline of casualties in conflicts and the restoration of confidence for economic activities, the Fourth Committee heard today as it began its comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations, with briefings by the heads of the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support.

“Peacekeeping actually works,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said as he updated the Special Political and Decolonization Committee on his Department’s operations and strategy. Peacekeeping was the main tool in the broader architecture of international peace, he said, pointing out that the resources used by the international community for peacekeeping were a small part of the global defence expenditures.

Highlighting the striking diversity of the missions deployed, he noted that a single model could not be applied to every single mission. Since 1948, there had been 67 operations, 16 of which were still deployed. Recognizing the strategic and dynamic character of peacekeeping, it was crucial to revise the design and configuration of the operations in as flexible a way as necessary.

Even in the most challenging environments, he said, peacekeeping could respond, with Member State support. Last April, the Security Council had requested a mission to be deployed to Syria at extremely short notice. Despite the tight timelines and uncertain conditions, a wide range of troop-contributing countries had promptly offered personnel, following which observers from 60 countries were quickly deployed and operations commenced.

Though the mission’s mandate had not been renewed due to difficult conditions, United Nations peacekeeping remained ready to support the efforts of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi in bringing peace and stability to that region.

The Department had also achieved tangible results in such operations as the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), where, following the peaceful and orderly conduct of two rounds of presidential elections and the parliamentary elections, the mission was expected to move towards closure by the end of the year. On the other hand, grave challenges to peace operations remained, he said, citing as one example the ongoing conflict between Government and opposition forces in Darfur, increased criminality and banditry, and restlessness among militia. Close to one-third of all peacekeeping troops were currently deployed in Sudan, South Sudan, and Abyei, he noted.

Among the biggest priorities of the Department in the year ahead, he said, was the introduction of an overarching quality assurance framework, supported by guidance and training, as a means to improve performance while also enhancing safety and security. The Department would also focus on boosting civilian capabilities, in particular, concerning the rule of law and security institutions.

Clarifying the role of peacekeepers in peacebuilding was another crucial task and one in which the Department had made significant progress, by using an early peacebuilding strategy and focusing on advancing security for laying the foundation for institutional strengthening. Further, the Department was putting in place more effective and efficient arrangements that would enable it to respond “flexibly and rapidly” to evolving needs.

Multilateral efforts in peacekeeping were “undergoing profound change”, driven in no small part by the vision of the Fourth Committee, declared Ameerah Haq, addressing that body for the first time as Under-Secretary-General for Field Support. Endeavours to reach agreement in recent weeks had proven that the ambitious experiment of United Nations peacekeeping – a process of discovery initiated half a century ago – proceeded unabated.

She highlighted three factors – economic, technological and managerial - that would push United Nations peace operations to the next stage of their evolution over the coming two to three years. Economically, there was a greater emphasis on efficiency and cost sensitivity, and a greater appreciation of the value of financial and human resources. Technologically, hitherto unimagined advances in communicating, planning and monitoring had rendered many existing practices obsolete. And management, for its part, was rightly recognized today as a science that should be informed by past experience.

It was in that context that there would be improvement in services to the field, but also progress towards greater economies of scale and efficiency gains, she pledged. The relationship between results, implementation and resources underpinned everything that the Organization did, she said.

Speaking of the year ahead, she anticipated several milestones in the evolution of support to peace operations, which would include taking stock of the Global Field Support Strategy and articulating the next phase of its implementation, continuing to break down barriers between the various United Nations entities concerned with peacekeeping efforts, and strengthening relationships with relevant regional and subregional organizations.

Underscoring that the foremost concern in all of those efforts must be for the countries receiving assistance and for United Nations personnel, she recalled the 73 United Nations peacekeepers who had lost their lives in the past year, and the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia, who continued to suffer casualties with tragic frequency.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 November, to begin its general debate on the question of peacekeeping.

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