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Press conference by Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support

15 Sep 2009

Noting that Member States had lauded the United Nations’ recently announced plan to chart a new, improved course for peacekeeping, Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said this afternoon that it was vital that all peacekeeping actors work in the coming weeks and months to ensure those operations were robust and that they adequately protected civilians.

“There is still a lot of work to be done,” Mr. Le Roy said during a Headquarters news conference.  “We have to ensure that all troop-contributing countries and police-contributing countries are aligned on very important issues.”

Member States had thus far reacted very positively to the non-paper A New Partnership Agenda:  Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping, released in July by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, Mr. Le Roy said.  In a 5 August statement issued by its President, the Security Council had committed to carefully consider the strategies set forth by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support to better prepare, plan, monitor, evaluate and carry out peacekeeping missions in the field.

That would require real dialogue between Council members, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Field Support and troop- and police-contributing countries to ensure consensus on altering and renewing peacekeeping mandates in accordance with the situation on the ground, Mr. Le Roy said.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations would meet on Thursday with the Non-Aligned Movement, and it would continue to work with other stakeholders in New York and in nations’ capitals to more quickly provide more efficient support services.

“It is clearly the right time to revisit the Brahimi report,” he said, referring to the sweeping institutional changes proposed in 2000 to make peacekeeping stronger, more effective and comparatively cost-efficient that had paved the way for a five-fold growth in peacekeeping in the last decade.

Mr. Le Roy pointed to growing recognition of the efforts of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ 17 missions, comprising 115,000 military and police personnel from 117 countries worldwide.  For example, more than 35 Member States had expressed full support during last week’s Council debate on Haiti for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), praising the drastic improvements MINUSTAH had brought to that country.  During a recent visit to Liberia, Mr. Le Roy had witnessed the local population’s praise for the increased security and rule of law brought by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).  While the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained very complex and challenging, it had improved dramatically in the last year.

Susanna Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Field Support, said in August the Departments had issued a non-paper on ways to improve support to field operations based on the “New Horizons” strategy and Member States’ discussions on the annual peacekeeping budget, which was $8.2 billion, including $7.4 billion for peacekeeping plus $800,000 for special political missions.  Member States, cash-strapped due to the global financial crisis, were devising ways to better manage and get the best value out of resources assigned to peacekeeping missions.

The Department of Field Support and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations would discuss those matters with Member States, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to guide a Secretary-General proposal to be discussed next year, she said.

Ms. Malcorra also briefed correspondents on her recent trips to meet with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).  She had also visited Uganda to discuss that country’s involvement in the African Union Mission in Somalia, and travelled to Tripoli in late August to participate in the African Union Summit.  During her visit to the Kivus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she met with local villagers who said the presence of peacekeepers had made it possible in the last two months to reopen local markets.

During the ensuing question-and-answer period, a correspondent asked the United Nations officials to comment on the United States contribution to peacekeeping and its decision announced on Monday that President Barack Obama would meet with troop-contributing and police-contributing countries.

In response, Mr. Le Roy said he was “thrilled” with that announcement, as well as the Obama Administration’s decision to pay all its arrears to peacekeeping operations.  The United States had not committed to send more troops, but it was expected to help strengthen peacekeeping forces by providing more equipment and airlift support.

Concerning major demonstrations planned during the General Assembly session to protest inadequate United Nations support for civilians in Darfur, Mr. Le Roy said the protests were a reminder that the Darfur crisis was not over.  Despite improvements since 2003, including a round-the-clock United Nations presence in the internally displaced persons camps, the situation was still unstable, characterized by violence and 2.5 million people living in camps, and it could deteriorate rapidly.  United Nations authorities continued to push for an inclusive peace agreement in Darfur.

Ms. Malcorra said 75 per cent of the military component and 63 per cent of the police component of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) had been deployed.  Since last year, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support had removed logistical and supply roadblocks and it was now poised to send the remaining requisite troops.  It aimed to have 92 per cent deployment of UNAMID by year’s end, taking into account the current supply constraints of some troop-contributing and police-contributing countries.  Still, at 92 per cent capacity, key enablers such as helicopters and transport companies would still be missing.

In terms of the number of United Nations helicopters in Darfur, she said the Organization had civilian helicopters on the ground, but no military ones.  It planned to soon deploy five helicopters from Ethiopia, but it had not received any more pledges for such equipment for Darfur nor for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad.

Regarding the United Nations efforts to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as eliminate the exploitation of natural resources there by foreign companies, Mr. Le Roy said the United Nations was trying to help the Government armed forces, or FARDC, and international actors remove groups that were illegally exploiting minerals and other resources.  That was also part of a wider ongoing discussion in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.

Concerning reports of a MONUC weapons truck being looted in the Rift Valley in Kenya, Mr. Le Roy said he did not have information on that incident.

As to the proposal to have a United Nations standing army, he said the United Nations would indeed love to have one, but no progress had been made in that regard.  At present, the Organization had a small standby police capacity.

In terms of how to erase the gap between the mandate of United Nations peacekeeping operations and the resources provided to implement them, Mr. Le Roy said that issue was being addressed in the “New Horizon” paper.  Ms. Malcorra said the Council was also considering the matter, including in its dialogue with troop-contributing and police-contributing countries.