Welcome to the United Nations

Remarks to the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations

10 Mar 2008
Jean-Marie Guéhenno

Distinguished delegates

On behalf of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, the Peacekeeping Group, I am very pleased to be with you at the opening of the 2008 annual substantive session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. I extend a warm welcome to our colleagues who have traveled from capitals to be with us today. 
UN peacekeeping is, today, a flagship enterprise of the United Nations. For many, particularly those people we serve in countries that have been affected by conflict, the “Blue Helmets” are the United Nations.  They expect that with the arrival of the Blue Helmets, violence and despair will no longer rule their lives.   I would like to share with you my assessment of the state of UN peacekeeping today, the challenges that together we face in our deployments around the globe, and the steps we are taking to ensure that our operations meet these high expectations. 


As of January this year, DPKO manages 20 peace operations, composed of nearly 130,000 authorized military, police and civilian personnel.  Over the past four years we have deployed or expanded 11 missions, and two new missions were started during the past six months alone. The 2007-08 budget for DPKO-led operations stands at $6.65 bn.  UN peacekeeping has never been as large, complex or demanding as it is today.

As one surveys these global efforts, some key themes emerge. For reasons of time, I cannot discuss all our 20 missions in detail, but will focus on a few missions to illuminate these themes.

In a number of missions, the prospects for peace are improving and there is real hope that these countries long affected by violence may have turned the tide from conflict to stability. In Liberia, UNMIL continues to assist the Government to maintain stability and security throughout the country. This, in turn, enables the Government to focus their energy on national recovery and reconstruction objectives, such as implementation of anti-corruption and poverty reduction strategies, security sector reform and increasing state revenue.

In Sierra Leone, UNIOSIL provided technical support to both the National Electoral Commission and the Political Parties Registration Commission, which in turn played key roles in the presidential and parliamentary elections considered a successful step in consolidating democracy last August.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the signing of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, in March 2007, has generated a new momentum for peace and for elections in the past year. UNOCI plays a critical role in ensuring that the key processes leading to elections this year are conducted in a transparent and inclusive manner, and consistent with the international standards.

In Timor-Leste, national institutions remained resilient and the constitutional order prevailed following the tragic attempted assassination on the President and Prime Minister. UNMIT continues to work closely with the institutions to strengthen their capacities to implement the rule of law.

Distinguished delegates,

While good progress in missions such as these has contributed to rising confidence in UN peacekeeping, we must pay close attention to the challenges facing peacekeeping today. Indeed, a serious failure in one of our missions would be enough to put at risk the credibility of the whole of peacekeeping, which we have worked so hard to restore over the past few years. It would reverberate over the whole UN.

Let me share with you what I consider to be the two major risks threatening the implementation of peacekeeping mandates today.First, in a number of peacekeeping operations, it is not clear whether the minimum conditions essential to the success of UN peacekeeping are fully met. These conditions are:

  1. A peace to keep and a viable peace process;
  2. Clear, credible and achievable mandates;

  3. The cohesive political support of the Membership, especially the Security Council and neighbouring states;

  4. Resources and capabilities to undertake mandated tasks; and

  5. The consent and cooperation of the host state and of key parties to the conflict.

Previous failures have painfully taught us the lessons of deploying peacekeeping operations when such conditions are not met. We must be mindful then, as we deploy multiple operations in the Horn of Africa and grapple with the complex political, humanitarian, human rights and security situation confronting this entire region.

In Darfur, as you are aware, the previous deployment of the light and heavy support packages to AMIS and the current deployment of UNAMID are facing great difficulties. Where UNAMID is deployed, it is not fully equipped to carry out its mandated tasks. Some of this is due to the logistical and operational difficulties inherent in the large-scale deployment to such remote and inhospitable terrain. These difficulties are exacerbated, however, by the fact that UNAMID lacks key support in areas which only Member States have the capacity to deliver. This includes providing critical air and ground transport assets necessary to carry out UNAMID’s protection mandate, and coherent diplomatic and political engagement with the parties, for instance, on the long drawn-out negotiations on force composition. Third, UNAMID faces obstacles and inconsistent cooperation from the host state. Finally, the conflict is worsening, with increasing regional implications, thereby underscoring the lack of a viable political process.

We continue to work with troop contributing countries to reinforce UNAMID with new fully trained and equipped troops and enabling units.  However, we must remember that - even at full strength UNAMID - cannot substitute for a political process, nor can it impose peace.  After more than three years of painstaking negotiations, the deaths of over 200,000 people and the displacement of more than 2.5 million people, should we not do better?

Over the past year, we have also focused on deploying MINURCAT to Chad and the Central African Republic. The recent attempt by rebels to overthrow President Deby illuminates the considerable political and security challenges facing Chad. The engagement of the European Union, through a one-year deployment of EUFOR, is welcome, but it is limited, considering all the unresolved issues of the region, and the deterioration of relations between Chad and Sudan. 

Meanwhile, the recent temporary relocation of UNMEE from Eritrea is a serious challenge to the authority of the Security Council and a painful reminder of the dangers of letting a peace process wither away without sufficient, concerted international effort to encourage both parties to stay engaged with the process.

The second risk facing peacekeeping is that peacekeeping gains may be lost and conflict return if the peacebuilding effort flounders.  A number of UN peacekeeping operations are deployed in countries, which have made the initial political transition from conflict but have yet to consolidate security. Until basic capacities for security and order are in place, social and economic development cannot proceed.  And yet, in some of these countries, at the very moment when international assistance is most needed, the attention of the world is waning. It is essential that the international community sustains and even expands support for institution building, so as to ensure that the substantial investments already made do not unravel.

In DRC, for instance, the security gains brought about by the deployment of MONUC provide a limited window in which Congolese institutions must be strengthened. This will require the sustained engagement of the international community over the longer term. If the DRC can be stabilized, it will anchor peace and development in the entire region, but recent instability in Western DRC points to the fragility of the gains made.

In Afghanistan, we have seen the coherent and strategic engagement that the international community brought to bear during the implementation of the Bonn process weaken in recent years.  Without it, UNAMA’s efforts also suffer, in particular, its support to the extension of state authority and its good offices in support of greater political dialogue.

In Haiti, MINUSTAH’s support to national authorities has brought security to areas previously off limits to the state and has allowed progress in other arenas critical to consolidating the peace, including strategies to strengthen rule of law institutions. Now in our sixth mission, the international community must follow through on its commitment to Haiti, so that Haitians can finally enjoy the dividends of peace.

Now, let me update you on the steps we are taking to strengthen the deployment, management and support of peace operations. This includes the restructuring of peacekeeping capacities, and the implementation of our broad agenda for peacekeeping reform, Peace Operations 2010.


We have made considerable progress on the restructuring of peacekeeping capacities at headquarters, including the establishment and functioning of the Department of Field Support. As you are aware, the Secretary-General had invited Member States to nominate candidates to the position of Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Field Support. A decision on the selection is expected shortly. In this regard, I want to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution that Jane Lute is making. Without her efforts, progress in professionalizing and strengthening UN peacekeeping would not be possible.

In advance of the detailed briefing on restructuring to take place on Wednesday, I wanted to share with you my preliminary assessment of the impact of the Integrated Operational Teams, IOTs, a central feature of the restructuring package aimed at ensuring unity of command and integration of peacekeeping efforts across the two Departments.

I considered it essential to ensure that Headquarters provided integrated support to UNAMID as it was being established, and therefore an IOT focusing first on Darfur was set up in October 2007, composed of political, military, police and support elements. In the past few months, the IOT has become an effective tool to deliver integrated support to the mission, resolve operational issues at the working level and provide integrated advice to senior management. For example, the IOT played this role in developing UNAMID’s budget. The IOT has received strong support from both DPKO and DFS, including from DPKO and DFS management and through the provision of highly qualified specialist officers from both Departments. 

The Peacekeeping Best Practices Section has been conducting a real time evaluation of the IOT. Whilst pointing to its positive impact, the exercise has also confirmed that work processes and responsibilities of other DPKO and DFS units need to be further clarified and adapted with respect to the IOTs. We will continue to incorporate lessons learnt as we stand up the other five IOTs, expected to be completed by end May, following the recruitment of all personnel.  I am confident that the IOTs will significantly enhance headquarters support to all DPKO field operations. I also welcome a continued and frank dialogue with you as we implement the IOT concept. 

Another key element of the restructuring was the creation of the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, OROLSI, to bring together and make more effective the rule of law and security related functions undertaken in peacekeeping operations.  There has been good progress in developing the pillar and creating coordinated and balanced strategies and plans in support of field missions.

A cornerstone of this effort is to improve support to national authorities in developing their capacity to deliver security.  This Committee last year recognized the central role that security sector reform, or SSR, plays in the transition to peace and, correspondingly, the need for a holistic and coherent approach within the UN system. You requested the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report on UN approaches to SSR and how the UN might improve its support to national authorities in achieving their SSR goals. This was submitted last month, following broad internal and external consultations, and I look forward to discussing it with you during the course of your session.

Let me here just highlight the key points of this report. First, it notes that security is primarily the responsibility of national authorities, and the UN would work in support of them. The UN’s engagement on this issue would only be at the request of national authorities, or on the basis of Security Council or General Assembly mandates. Second, the contribution that the UN can make in real terms is limited. What we can do is articulate the principles for transparent, accountable and effective security sector reform. And in post-conflict contexts, we can support national actors in restoring security, in identifying needs, and in helping them chart a course of reform.  Third, while we have had mandates to engage in these activities for many years, particularly in police, law enforcement and the rule of law, we have a long way to go to being an effective supporter of national authorities. Faced with the huge demand for peacekeeping operations around the world, we need to get better at delivering this support, to ensure the sustainability of transitions, and the timely withdrawal of our peacekeeping operations. This will require modest capacities in the field, where we have mandates, as well as at Headquarters, so as to provide the technical expertise and backstopping that our colleagues in the field continue to request.

Distinguished delegates,

UN police deployment continues to grow exponentially. In real terms the number of authorized police officers has gone from 8,315 in January 2006 to 16,900 in January 2008, with Darfur and Chad deployments significantly boosting the demand. The Standing Police Capacity, developed by DPKO in close cooperation with your Committee, undertook its first deployment to Chad late last year. The operational benefits of this rapid deployment capability have been clear, with early development of training programmes for Police tchadienne pour la protection humanitaire (PTPH), a detailed portfolio of police projects and engagement with donors. Next week the Police Adviser will lead an assessment team, including elements of the SPC, to Timor Leste. A comprehensive report on initial Standing Police Capacity activities and key organizational issues will be prepared by a panel of experts, including Member States, in mid-2008.  We are at this time proceeding with plans to redeploy the SPC to the UN Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy, in early 2009. 

UN police are increasingly tasked to play a significant role in complex reform, restructuring and rebuilding mandates within integrated rule of law frameworks. UN policing has increased in size and complexity over the past few years. The Police Division, however, has experienced a growth of less than 20%. In real teams, we have a Headquarters to field ratio of 1:600. We are increasingly challenged to meet new demands placed upon us and it may become necessary to review what is needed to meet the scale of demand. 

Another key element of the restructuring was the creation of the Office of Military Affairs and the upgrading of the level of the Military Adviser to Assistant Secretary-General. A candidate had been identified to assume this position but was unable to take up the position. We therefore requested new applications from top troop contributing countries.  We hope to be able to announce the selection of the new Military Adviser shortly within the coming weeks.

As requested by the General Assembly, we have conducted a comprehensive analysis of the Office of Military Affairs, taking into account the experience of the Strategic Military Cell. This analysis has taken as its starting point the scale and complexity of UN peacekeeping. I should draw your attention to the current total authorized strength of 85,000 military personnel, a deployment figure comparable to the military operations of the largest national operations, but with a global presence that is unsurpassed by any other international or national effort, often deployed in higher threat environments, and requiring increasingly robust approaches.  To deal with the increased scope, scale and complexity, we are proposing to provide enhanced specialist capabilities to all our missions along the lines of what has been done for UNIFIL.

Against this backdrop, the review strongly recommends a strengthened military headquarters in the Secretariat in order to effectively address the challenges of 21st century peacekeeping.  This is based upon a tried and tested military headquarters structure, with functional branches, which loosely resembles the existing structures in peacekeeping operations. The strengthened Office of Military Affairs would provide strengthened strategic direction and oversight from this headquarters, as well as specialist and crisis response capacities and mission start-up and surge capability. The proposal before you addresses this need and I would urge you to give it every consideration.  


I would now like to turn to progress on implementation of the key components of our peacekeeping reform agenda, Peace Operations 2010, the unifying vision for the continued strengthening of the DPKO and DFS approach to peacekeeping.


Our personnel are our most important resource. Ms. Lute will update you in detail on the status of the human resources management reform proposals, which aim to ensure that we deploy the most professional, well-trained and dedicated peacekeepers possible. Let me stress, however, that these proposals, currently before the Fifth Committee, are extremely important to the success or failure of UN peacekeeping. We count upon your full support.

Peacekeeping requires engagement.  Our personnel must be in close contact with the people they have come to help.   So it is essential that we, the Secretariat and the Membership, make every effort to ensure their safety and security.

DPKO and DFS are engaged in the continual review and improvement of safety and security measures and crisis management procedures at Headquarters and in the field. Following a request by the Special Committee, we have developed, in close consultation with DSS and DPA, a policy guidance that outlines the particular arrangements of the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS) specific to military and police officers deployed in the field in an individual capacity, and thus not covered by security arrangements for contingents. Furthermore, we have initiated a review of the JMACs in field missions including their capacity to provide adequate security risk assessments.

Notwithstanding these efforts, peacekeeping remains an activity that entails risks. I regret to inform you that since January 2007 to date, we have lost 116 peacekeepers. The helicopter crash only one week ago in Nepal in which we lost 10 colleagues is a tragic reminder of the risks involved in serving under the blue flag, and I pay tribute to the peacekeepers who lost their lives.

A key aspect of our efforts to strengthen our personnel includes the strengthening of our training capabilities. Following wide consultations, the Integrated Training Service has developed a Peacekeeping Training Strategy. The strategy has four key elements: First, Integrated Training Service will operate at the strategic level - setting standards, developing policies and providing oversight and guidance. Second, given the enormous demands of peacekeeping today, the Service will only address priority needs that cut across functions or affect large areas of peacekeeping. Third, substantive or technical training will be decentralized to specialist trainers in DPKO and DFS. And finally, all peacekeeping training will be linked to doctrine to ensure that it is coherent, relevant and linked to lessons learned. 


We have made important strides in the area of doctrine development. UN Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines, which was finalized in January, constitutes the first attempt in more than a decade to provide peacekeeping practitioners with a comprehensive overview of the basic principles and concepts underpinning UN peacekeeping operations. I would like to thank the Special Committee for their contribution to the development of this key document, which will better equip our peacekeepers to face the complex challenges of peacekeeping today.  I hope that you will encourage your staff colleges and peacekeeping training centers to make use of this document, which will be kept alive by incorporating new lessons as they emerge, and keep the dialogue open with all Member States.


Distinguished Delegates

Partnerships are essential for the success of UN and, indeed, global peacekeeping. Our cooperation with regional actors, such as the African Union, European Union and NATO, is a case in point. The United Nations is working with these partners in hybrid, joint or co-located missions and in all cases we are seeking to take maximum advantage of our comparative strengths, often to very good effect.  But partnerships are also challenging. Although we have overlapping memberships, Member States sometimes bring different perspectives and criteria to different multilateral organizations, complicating our common efforts to coordinate operations. Different organizational structures and processes can also complicate practical cooperation, with cumbersome procedures that undermine effective action and may put our personnel at greater risk. We have made a good start, however, in elaborating modalities for joint planning and coordination with the AU and the EU.  But we have a long way to go and we need Member State support in so doing.

The fundamental goal when Member States decide that several organizations should become involved in the resolution of a conflict should always be to mobilize more resources.  Member States are the ultimate purveyor of the political and material resources necessary for success and no combination of multilateral organizations will substitute for their commitment of each and every Member State.

We also need to continue to improve our ability to work with humanitarian and development partners that provide critical support in consolidating long-term peace. We need to link earlier and more effectively. In 2007, we made progress in developing modalities for coordinating with the World Bank in countries such as Liberia, Haiti and the DRC. Within our integrated missions, we are working with UNDP, OCHA and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in clarifying roles, developing policies and implementing joint programmes in areas such as DDR, rule of law and protection of civilians.  We need the support of Member States to tackle the financial and administrative obstacles to integration within the UN. Equally, we need donor countries to consistently back an integrated UN approach in post-conflict contexts.

Briefly updating you on the Integrated Mission Planning Process, DPKO is currently coordinating a system wide effort to develop operational guidance notes on key steps of the process to ensure standard practice in planning.  Four guidelines are now under review with UN partners.  The first of these guidelines, on the Strategic Assessment phase of planning, was used as a baseline for an integrated assessment mission that traveled to Somalia in January. 

During the past few years, we, the Secretariat and the Membership, have made every effort to tackle the issue of misconduct comprehensively and decisively. Considerable efforts have been made in the past 12 months to prevent and address misconduct and, in 2007, incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse decreased from previous years.

But it remains essential that the Secretariat and the Membership continue to exercise constant vigilance, so as to prevent and to respond to sexual exploitation and abuse. I therefore count upon your continued support to ensure that your troops and police fully understand the behaviour expected of them as UN peacekeepers; that commanders ensure good conduct, and that appropriate disciplinary or criminal action is taken against perpetrators after repatriation.

In advance of Ms. Lute's presentation, I would like to express my appreciation for the inclusion of conduct-related language in the model MOU and for your efforts in contributing to the adoption by the General Assembly of the Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation by UN staff and related personnel.  As part of the package of initiatives aimed at tackling conduct issues, I would also urge you to favorably consider the welfare and recreation proposals of the Secretary-General.
I am pleased that the Special Committee recently had the opportunity to be informally briefed by gender advisers. These gender advisers remind us what it means to look at issues from a gender perspective and of how conflict impacts differently upon women and men, girls and boys.  I continue to learn the many ways in which a gender perspective is crucial to how we go about peacekeeping, be it can increasing the role and contribution of women in the political process, for instance, the election of women officials at the municipal level in Haiti, or the development of strategies to combat gender-based violence, including patrolling of IDP camps by peacekeepers, in Darfur.

Over the coming year, we will focus in particular on addressing gender issues in security sector reform, in electoral processes, and in efforts to support national capacities to address gender-based violence. We continue to count on Member States to ensure that pre-deployment gender training is provided to all military and police personnel and that greater numbers of female personnel are deployed to peacekeeping missions. This will better equip us to respond to challenges on the ground, and allow the UN to serve as a model for the principles for which we stand for. We still have far to go, however, I do believe that progress is being made both at Headquarters and in our field missions.

And indeed, I am pleased to inform you that over the past year there has been a 60% increase in the number of women appointed to key leadership functions in peacekeeping, including such posts as SRSG in Liberia; DSRSGs in Burundi, Liberia and the Sudan; the Police Adviser in Burundi; the Deputy Police Commissioner in Darfur; and the Deputy Police Adviser at DPKO Headquarters, who will be arriving next month.


Distinguished delegates,

The year ahead holds serious risks of major political setbacks and/or severe operational restraints for a number of UN peacekeeping operations, due in particular to the absence of minimum conditions and inconsistent support from the international community. We have not experienced such risks since the mid-1990s. Whilst the Peacekeeping Group continues to ensure support to our 20 operations - in particular to those most at risk - we are also proceeding with restructuring and reform. So we are stretched.

After 8 years heading UN peacekeeping, it is clear to me that peacekeeping works best when the Membership shares a common vision, remains engaged with national actors and views the peace operation as a common endeavour of the international community. This requires a unity of purpose between the Membership and the Secretariat. We need to constantly renew this sense of unity, since when we act together our impact is considerably greater than the sum of our individual parts.  Peacekeeping must be the expression of a common conviction, not the lowest common denominator of a multipolar world.

2008 marks the 60th anniversary of UN peacekeeping. As we confront the challenges and risks that lie ahead, I encourage Member States to reflect upon how we can optimize the unique tool of peacekeeping, so painstakingly crafted over the past 60 years. We must ensure - after 60 years of experience - that UN peacekeeping indeed remains a flagship enterprise of the United Nations, honouring those peacekeepers who have given their lives whilst serving its cause, and capable of fulfilling the huge expectations that the people of the world hold out for it.

The United Nations is more than peacekeeping.    But peacekeeping is at the heart of the United Nations and inextricably tied to public perceptions of this Organization.   Failures in peacekeeping leave an indelible mark on public opinion with dire consequences for the Organization as a whole - and for the Member States that ultimately depend on it.  On the other hand, however, successful peacekeeping - founded on sound principles, with the full political and material support of the Member States - can only strengthen the United Nations as it undertakes its vital political, economic, social and normative work to resolve conflict peacefully and improve the lives of people everywhere.

Colleagues and Friends,

I would like to inform you that I will step down as the head of peacekeeping at the end of my contract in the middle of this year. I would like to thank you for the enormous contribution you have made in supporting the exponential growth of peacekeeping during my tenure. I am proud of the way we have worked in close cooperation with you, seeking to find better ways to implement our mandates and assist national actors to build sustainable peace for their people.

The past 8 or so years have showed me, time and again, that the most important asset in the hands of the United Nations is its personnel. People who, at the price of precious time away from family and friends - and sometimes at considerable personal risk - dedicate themselves to the principles of this Organization. Despite the many obstacles, they never cease to persevere in order to be the voice of those who do not have a voice. This makes me incredibly proud to have served alongside them, and before you today, I pay tribute to the commitment, professionalism, courage and hard work of all of the staff of the UN Peacekeeping Group, both at Headquarters and in the field.  

After nearly 8 years, I feel confident that the structures are in place to guide peacekeeping in the coming years; the Department is in strong shape and ready for my successor and a new generation of peacekeeping under the leadership of the Secretary-General.

Thank you.