31 October 2007
General AssemblyGA/SPD/382
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Fourth Committee

13th Meeting (AM)



Under-Secretary-General Says Viable Ceasefire, Political Process, Avoids Renewed

Conflict, Reduces Risk to Peacekeepers, Civilians; Field Support Chief Also Spoke

Saying it had been a momentous year for United Nations peacekeeping, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) that the Peacekeeping Department had initiated a major reform of the support aspects of peacekeeping, and had begun mounting two new, highly unique and complex operations in Darfur and Chad/Central African Republic, while continuing to support 18 current operations.

Opening the Committee’s comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, Mr. Guéhenno said that the two operations would be deployed almost to the centre of Africa over extended supply lines in inhospitable terrain.  Without a viable ceasefire and political process, however, there was a real risk that hostilities might continue, endangering the lives of peacekeepers and the civilian populations they were helping protect.

Also addressing the Committee today was Jane Holl Lute, Officer-in-Charge of the Department for Field Support, formed when the General Assembly approved the restructuring of the Peacekeeping Department earlier this year.  The Field Support Department’s task was to provide “responsive expertise” in the areas of personnel, finance and budget, communications, information technology and logistics.  Outlining the complexity of that task, she explained that each mission represented the intersection of three entities:  troop and police contributing countries; the personnel, processes and procedures of the United Nations; and sub-contractors.

Mr. Guéhenno underscored the unprecedented scale and complexity of today’s peacekeeping operations, and said the trend in peacekeeping over the last several years of ever-increasing scope, complexity and size continued.  Providing a sense of the scope of the Peacekeeping Department’s mandate, he said it maintained 140,000 men and women in the field and managed a budget of nearly $7 billion. 

He highlighted the fact that the number of troop-contributing countries and police contributing countries had risen to 119, a new record in United Nations peacekeeping.  He also welcomed the return of Western troop-contributing nations as a sign of international solidarity with their long-standing troop-contributing partners from the South.

“We are making progress in professionalizing United Nations peacekeeping,” Mr. Guéhenno said.  “However, as we continue to meet the surge in complex demands as new challenges loom on the horizon, it is essential that we remain cognizant of the risks.”

Nowhere were those risks more apparent than in Darfur, he said.  That operation -- the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) -- carried the greatest risk in the past 10 years of peacekeeping and it was imperative that the United Nations rose collectively to the meet the challenges, or it would fail.

His Department was fully engaged in establishing the initial operating capabilities of the hybrid African Union-United Nations operations in Darfur, he said.  The multidimensional presence in Chad/Central African Republic -- United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) -- would also be deployed by year’s end in close concert with the European Union.  Such a presence had not been on the Department’s horizon a year before.  Because both operations called for intensive collaboration with partner organizations, they would be especially challenging. 

Peacekeeping operations overall faced three broad challenges, he said.  First, it had to deliver full support to the 18 operations under way and ensure that its two new operations to Darfur and Chad/Central African Republic were planned, equipped and deployed on time.  Second, it had to implement the restructuring of the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, as approved by the General Assembly this year.  Third, those efforts must be accompanied by broader reforms, as set out in the Peace Operations 2010 vision.

Besides those new missions, United Nations peacekeeping operations continued to carry out a huge variety of mandated tasks in volatile and uncertain environments, he continued.  They linked with a range of other actors providing various forms of assistance.  The troops and police -– the blue berets -– provided critical security related support, which underpinned a host of interdependent strategies and complex programmes. 

He said that such demands included:  the political and security support United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) provided to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the Sudan; the coordination of international donors and support of local political dialogue provided by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Afghanistan; the assistance provided by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to that country’s newly installed Government; the close collaboration and joint planning with all stakeholders to prepare for a successful transition once Kosovo’s final status was determined in that region; the provision of stability by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL); and help consolidating the new State institutions by United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

Great strides had been made by two peace operations in West Africa, he said, underlining the progress by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in implementing its mandate and supporting the political process and transition in that country, which had led to a gradual drawdown of troop strength.  Sierra Leone had concluded free and credible elections and a peaceful handover of power to a new Government -- with minimal support provided by the United Nations Integrated Office in that country (UNIOSIL).  That constituted a milestone for Sierra Leone and the continuance of a UNIOSIL exit strategy.

Completing the restructuring would take significant investments of time, effort and resources, and in that light, the full restructuring of peacekeeping headquarters would be effective as of June 2008, he said.  The launch of “Peace Operations 2010”, the restructuring package adopted over the summer, had so far led to the establishment of Integrated Operational Teams, which were designed to ensure integrated support to peace operations.

He said it was essential to launch an Integrated Operational Team for Darfur immediately, with five other Teams expected to be functional by January 2008.  Moreover, the Department had decided that, in light of UNAMID’s authorization and the lower number of posts approved by the General Assembly, six, not seven, were the minimum number required to effectively implement this key pillar of the restructuring package.  Those six would ensure that all of the four current Office of Operations’ regional divisions had Integrated Operational Team capacity, although not all would enjoy the full capacity of specialist resources.

Meanwhile, he explained that the new Office for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, headed by Assistant Secretary-General Dmitry Titov, comprising the Police Division, Criminal Law and Judicial Advisory Section, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Unit, Mine Action Service, and a security sector reform capacity, would provide strategic advice and guidance to missions and Headquarters in the areas of rule of law and security institutions.

The Military Division had been formally reconstituted as the Office of Military Affairs, he said, while a Policy, Evaluation and Training Division would provide a common platform for policy, guidance material, training and evaluation at Headquarters and in the field.  A Public Affairs Unit had been created in the Under-Secretary-General’s Office, and the newly created position of Chief of Staff had been filled.  The front office had been restructured to include the Situation Centre. 

He said recruitment for two new regional Africa Directors was under way, following approval to divide the Africa Division into two Divisions. 

Safety and security of personnel was a continuing concern, he said.  To date, there had been 67 fatalities in 2007, including the deaths of 6 UNIFIL personnel by a roadside bomb and 2 UNMIS personnel killed in Darfur.  The 2004 Security Management Model, developed by the Department of Safety and Security and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and endorsed by the Interagency Security Management Network, remained the system-wide tool to identify emerging threats and determine areas of vulnerability.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations was preparing a report on behalf of the Secretary-General on Security Sector Reform, as sought by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the Security Council, to be issued in December.

Mitigating measures were identified and implemented under the authority of the Designated Official/Head of Mission, he noted.  Risk assessments were systematically conducted prior to the establishment of a mission, while threats to United Nations personnel, premises and equipment were regularly reviewed.  Further to a request by the Special Committee, the Department had also prepared, in consultation with the Department of Safety and Security, a draft policy outlining arrangements of the United Nations Security Management System that could be made applicable to military and police officers, such as military observers, police officers and staff officers who were deployed in an individual capacity.  The draft was expected to be finalized later in the year.

He said political demands and expediency might, on occasion, lead to joint operations with other international organizations, as was the case of UNAMID and MINURCAT.  Joint operations were inherently complex:  an “After Action Review” had been held on last year’s European Union-led peacekeeping force (EUFOR) deployment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so as to develop modalities for future cooperation.  The African Union military and police officers had been involved in generating UNAMID’s police and troop components, and an African Union military liaison officer had been deployed to New York.  Assistance had also been provided to the African Union in planning their mission in Somalia.

The Department had also intensified its dialogue with the World Bank, which was critical since national authorities repeatedly faced challenges that were not only political, but also had complex economic and social dimensions, he added.

He said that the Department continued to receive allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, which he regretted.  The United Nations counted on Member States to help ensure that contingent commanders understood, and took seriously, their responsibilities and that they were accountable.  “Without your assistance, this battle will not be won.”

Ms. Lute said that, with 18 Missions in nine time zones, there was bound to be at least one United Nations flight in the air at any given time, using $1.75 million in fuel every day.  Peacekeeping missions generated enough power to support the equivalent of Ottawa, Brussels or Phnom Penh.  A vast array of telecommunications equipment needed maintaining, including 450 satellite earth stations and thousands of computers, in order to support -- among other things -- the 3.5 million emails sent daily and the 200 video sessions that took place each month.

While some had suggested that it might be too soon to tell what impact the Department was having after only 120 days, she said it was already possible to see that its establishment was providing more field support.  In combination with other initiatives, it was providing the ability to identify unanticipated needs earlier, all of which would lead to better direction, better “backstopping” and better oversight.

Performance targets would have to be more meaningful now, she said.  Member States could expect improvements in planning, forecasting and resource management; better understanding of “support needs” through templates and benchmarking; and improved responsiveness to the needs of field operations.  They could also expect better information sharing with Member States.

In terms of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, she noted that the United Nations and Members States had been responding with a greater unity of purpose than in the past.  A policy on victim assistance would be taken up before the end of year, and a policy on welfare was expected to be ready by the time of the next meeting of the Special Committee.

She stressed that Member State involvement was the key to the success of Field Support.  Around 50 per cent of peacekeeping procurement was done locally in host countries, but with the possibility of new missions arising overnight -- as

the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon had done last year -- the United Nations peacekeeping operations needed a more responsive procurement system.  Also, qualified candidates must be identified on short order to lead missions, which were growing in complexity and number. 

More generally, the Peacekeeping Department needed a better way to filter the job applications it received from around a quarter of a million applicants, she said, adding that a business design initiative had been undertaken to explore how to meet staffing and other needs.

20 percent of the Department’s staff came from troop and police-contributing countries, 38 per cent of which were from developing countries, she said.  Also, 48 per cent of the leadership came from developing countries and 53 per cent were women.  The goal was to increase the number of women in the ranks and broaden the geographic representation.

Mr. Guéhenno had earlier said that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Liberia, and the Deputy Special Representatives in the Sudan, Burundi and Liberia were women, as were nearly a quarter of those in the new Standing Police Capacity.

In terms of support to the field and unity of command and efforts, Ms. Lute said support would be managed through the Integrated Operational Teams and would be key in managing each mission’s daily functions.  As of 1 July, communication on technical or longer-term support and other issues of general administrative nature would come directly to the Department of Field Support.  Headquarters would provide backup support.

She welcomed, and was grateful for, the extensive engagement seen from Member States so far, and said the Department would ask for help in personnel recruitment and other areas.  Indeed, the Department recognized that it had to be accountable to Member States and other stakeholders in ensuring that the personal behaviour of peacekeeping staff was at its highest; that peacekeeping operations were managed in a transparent manner; that it submitted accurate budgets on time and used its resources well. 

As for its responsibilities towards those in the field, she said it was the Department’s job to see that planes landed safely; that the telephones worked; that the food was hot; that troops were well supplied; and that staff in leadership positions were engaged with the rest of the staff. 

The Committee will begin its general debate on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 1 November.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.