Welcome to the United Nations

Remarks to the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations

23 Feb 2009
Alain Le Roy

Distinguished delegates,

I am very pleased to be here with you today at the opening of the 2009 annual substantive session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. It is the first year I attend the opening of this Committee and I am looking forward to continuing the active and fruitful engagement DPKO has always enjoyed with you. I want to say, at the outset, that I consider that for UN peacekeeping to be successful, it must draw support and commitment from four key constituencies: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat and the host countries and people served by the missions on the ground. You represent a critical pillar on which peacekeeping stands.


Since I joined DPKO last August, it has been increasingly apparent to me that UN peacekeeping is at a critical cross-road. On the one hand, it has become a flagship of the United Nations. It is a tool which the Organization increasingly calls upon to address threats and challenges to international peace and security. This is a clear sign of confidence, and a testament to the successes of UN peacekeeping. Yet, on the other hand, UN peacekeeping is today stretched to the limits. We are often unable to find the resources we need, and we grapple with increasingly complex, robust mandates in difficult, often hostile environments.

Clearly, the world does not look the same as it did when UN peacekeeping first saw the light of day. Over the years, peacekeeping has suffered periods of severe turbulence followed by reflection and adaptation to the evolving demands for complex, multi-dimensional peacekeeping. In so doing, it has proven to be a flexible tool, assisting states to make the difficult transition from conflict to peace. This Committee has for the last decade played a critical role in the evolution of the tool of peacekeeping. Since the High-Level Panel on United Nations Peace Operations - the so-called Brahimi report, and the ensuing strengthening and restructuring of peacekeeping, you have taken an active part in this debate, articulating policy goals and guiding DPKO, and now also DFS, in the overall effort to strengthen and professionalize the UN's peacekeeping architecture.

In the year after the Brahimi report the number of UN peacekeepers deployed in the field leapt from less than 14,000 to almost 40,000. Today, nearly a decade later, we have 112,000 UN peacekeepers deployed to 18 missions around the world. A new mandate was adopted in January for Chad. We are still in a deployment phase in Darfur and mustering a major expansion in the Eastern DRC. The Council has further mandated support to the AMISOM mission in Somalia, and expressed its intent to consider a UN peacekeeping operation there. I should recall that the Brahimi reforms envisaged a DPKO able to launch one new operation a year. We have, for many years now, been operating far above that pace.

In some respects it may be argued that peacekeeping is a victim of its own success. It offers unique qualities of legitimacy, burden-sharing and relative flexibility. Peace is always fragile after conflict and one must be careful not to prejudge success, but still I think that one can point to Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Haiti and Kosovo as places where UN peacekeeping has made a real difference. The missions there provided a basic security guarantee and responded to crises. They supported political transitions and helped buttress weak and fragile new state institutions. Those UN operations have essentially helped countries to close the chapter of conflict and open a path to normal development, even if major peacebuilding challenges remain. What is more, the missions have offered the international community a common platform upon which to support post-conflict transitions and early peacebuilding.

I think this record is one the United Nations can be proud of.

And yet today, UN peacekeeping faces new questions and new risks, as it operates at unprecedented levels. Challenges emanate from sheer overstretch. A wide gap is opening between supply and demand both for the numbers and types of personnel we need and for the critical enabling capabilities and air assets that allow our peacekeepers to succeed. For example, over one year since UNAMID was mandated in Darfur, it lacks air assets critical to carrying out its robust protection mandate. Some member states also feel that we do not have the information to conduct robust missions with the required level of security for our troops. We have to ask if we are properly equipped for the demands we face. And, even fully equipped, there remains a question as to what are the limits of robust UN peacekeeping.

There is also a gap in the commitment of troops across the member states. We continue to rely on a small group of countries for the bulk of the troop contributions. While we are most grateful for their commitment and contribution, the United Nations as a whole must ask itself if this situation is tenable. With increasing demands for ever more robust mandates, can the Organization manage without more burden-sharing, and broader participation of its members in contributing troops?

UN peacekeeping also faces new risks. It is increasingly used in situations where the scale of hostilities threatens to overwhelm peacekeepers' capacities to respond. As we saw recently in the Eastern DRC, we have limited reserve capacities to call on when faced with extreme hostilities. Eight of our missions are mandated to protect civilians. Three missions operate in an environment of an ongoing conflict. We have increasingly found ourselves operating in non-permissive environments and even under conditions of withdrawal of consent. In many cases, state authority is weak or non-existent. In these challenging circumstances, UN peacekeepers are increasingly called on to use force to protect civilians. This situation begs an analysis of mandates and the capabilities needed to implement them. In late 2008 MONUC faced difficult contradictions in its mandate to both protect civilians and support the DRC armed forces in their operations - which themselves posed a threat to civilians.

There are questions too, as to whether peacekeeping mandates are becoming too broad, too all encompassing, and whether we need to revisit the Brahimi recommendations on crafting clear and achievable mandates. And as peacekeeping is deployed where there is little peace to keep, there is often a need to consider what other tools the international community has at its disposal, both military and diplomatic, to address the challenges.

And there are new demands on the Secretariat to enhance the effectiveness and impact of the investments Member States make in our missions. With the budget well over $7 billion and the pressures of the global financial crisis growing, this is a most reasonable demand. We must find new, more efficient ways of doing business. We also continue to find that to deploy and manage large operations with tight timelines across large and often inhospitable terrain, we are not well served by the current system of administrative rules. Can we find better systems to allow greater delegation of managerial and administrative authority, while improving training, monitoring and oversight to ensure that we achieve the goals you expect?

The international peace and security architecture and the wider environment surrounding UN peacekeeping are also evolving. We have intensive partnerships on the ground with regional organizations including the AU, through the hybrid operation in Darfur, and with the EU, in Kosovo and in Chad. We are called upon in Afghanistan to take on increased coordination of bi-lateral and multilateral donors. At the macro level, new realities surround UN peacekeeping. Operations face new threats and a more unpredictable security environment.

Distinguished Delegates,

The expanding demands and new challenges I have outlined pose broad and fundamental questions regarding the state of UN peacekeeping. To begin a process of addressing them, the Secretariat has begun an internal review. Through this "New Horizons" study, we hope to have the opportunity to look at elements of the Brahimi process and Peace Operations 2010 that need review in light of new challenges and new realities. The review will build on the Brahimi report and Peace Operations 2010 agenda, not replace them. The review is in its early stages, and we intend to come to you, the Member States, with our findings and to engage in a dialogue with you about them. Ten years ago, the Brahimi process provided the basis for a consensus on the role of peacekeeping and how it should be equipped and supported in order to achieve success. Our hope is to renew that consensus and, together with you, to respond effectively to today's challenges.


Distinguished delegates,

As the mandates and dimensions of peacekeeping have continued to evolve, so too must our structures, mechanisms, policies, capacities and resources. And yet at full operational pace, we do not have the luxury of reflection alone. We must look to the horizon, but we must also continue to implement mandates and build on the significant strengthening of our capacity to plan, manage and sustain UN peacekeeping operations gained through the continuum of the Brahimi, Peace Operations 2010 and DPKO/DFS restructuring processes underway for nearly a decade. We are grateful for the sustained commitment and support of Member States to these efforts.

This Committee will receive a detailed briefing in two day's time from the Chief of Staff, Ms. Donna Maxfield, on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 61/279 on the strengthening of our capacity to manage and sustain peacekeeping operations, principally comprising the restructuring of DPKO and the establishment of the Department of Field Support. You will learn about the benefits of the restructuring that are already accruing, but will also hear that, only 18 months into the restructuring process, much work remains to be done to achieve the fuller benefits of the approved reform measures. Without pre-empting the briefing, I will highlight this morning a few key elements of the restructuring.

I am pleased to report that the restructuring measures are nearing completion. All new structures have been established and new capacities created. All appointments have been made for new positions at the leadership and senior management levels, and selections for all but four of the additional 152 posts approved have been made. Those remaining are undergoing new rounds of recruitment to ensure the selection of fully qualified candidates. The increased delegation of authority granted to the Field Personnel Division in the area of human resources management is also being fully exercised.

With strengthened leadership and senior management, we are increasing our focus on strategic and policy issues to strengthen our direction of and guidance to peacekeeping operations. The creation of DFS has given greater prominence to mission support as a key strategic enabler for our field missions. It is also working towards a more responsive and streamlined approach to delivering the full range of administrative and logistics support to field operations. The significant strengthening of capacities at the working level has allowed us to more effectively support the increased number, scope and complexity of our field operations. New capacities are already resulting in more effective support to specialized activities, such as in the areas of security sector reform, partnerships, self-evaluation and information management. Integrated structures for decision-making, planning, management and support to peacekeeping operations, rule of law and security related issues, and organizational learning and development are also resulting in the greater coherence and streamlining of our efforts. Shared resources between DPKO and DFS have contributed to greater organizational coherence, as well as economies of scale.

While we have achieved significant progress in a number of areas during the past 18 months, the restructuring process has not been without its challenges. This has perhaps been most evident in our efforts to establish Integrated Operational Teams as the principle structure for the integration of DPKO and DFS. Although benefits have been clearly evident for IOTs engaged in mission planning and start up, the benefits have been less tangible for our more stable missions. We are aware that the full benefits of the IOT structure have not yet accrued, and have taken concrete steps to both evaluate the IOT structure and its implementation and make mid-course adjustments. These adjustments are based on the findings of three assessments of the establishment and functioning of IOTs during the past 14 months. We have, for example, developed guiding principles and operational definitions to ensure unity of purpose, and have more clearly defined the division of labour of the IOTs and the specialist functional areas in DPKO and DFS. We are currently in the process of reviewing the Terms of Reference for all IOT officers.

Work also continues to finalize the operationalization of the Integrated Mission Planning Process in order to ensure coherent planning, proper co-ordination and optimal use of resources within the UN family. Strengthened guidelines on IMPP implementation should be finalized by mid-2009. A key element of the process is for the field mission and UN Country Team to complete an integrated strategic framework to establish joint priorities in pursuit of peace consolidation. Improving our ability to plan strategically, and deliver together on common goals is also part of our overall effort to do more with less in this fiscal climate.

An important structural change is the ongoing strengthening of the Office of Military Affairs. The strengthening is being carried out in two phases of recruitment. The first phase is almost complete and will further strengthen the Military Planning, Force Generation and Current Military Operations Services of OMA. The first officers are expected to arrive in the coming months. The second phase is underway now and will recruit new and additional specialist capacities to OMA. The approved increase in staff will enhance the capacity for strategic and operational planning and to generate and monitor the military components of peacekeeping operations. It will allow for the development of essential policy and doctrine documents. It will also enable the Office to dedicate more time to liaise with troop contributing countries.

The creation of the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions is helping to bring stronger strategic coherence and support to colleagues in the field, in areas critical to the success of our missions. OROLSI brings together the Police Division, the Criminal Law and Judicial Advisory Section, the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) Section, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), and a small security sector reform (SSR) capacity. The approach of this Office is to ensure that complex Missions take a holistic approach to supporting national authorities with regard to policing and police reform, the building of judicial and prisons capacities, the reincorporation of ex-combatants into civilian life, and the clearance of mines and explosive ordnance. Our focus is on strengthening - not replacing - national capacities, in accordance with the legal traditions of the host-country. DPKO's guidance to field missions also focuses on the importance of national ownership of rule of law and security sector reform initiatives. To date, the Office has been active on a number of fronts, including developing integrated technical guidance materials for rule of law staff, strengthening international cooperation among rule of law actors, and developing new initiatives to improve rule of law programming and the rapid recruitment and deployment of expert personnel.

The new Policy, Evaluation and Training Division leads the "New Horizon" process while continuing to conduct other valuable projects. DPET supports specialist areas to develop guidance for all aspects of peacekeeping. This ongoing effort is critical to the professionalisation of peacekeeping and to ensuring that our staff has the necessary guidance to carry out their complex and demanding jobs. With regard to training, the Integrated Training Service of DPET undertook a strategic training needs assessment undertaken in 2008. The findings were translated into a UN peacekeeping training strategy that has been shared with Member States. The development of a set of minimum training standards is a key component of the strategy, which aims to maximize the impact of the relatively small Service across the broad range of peacekeeping training needs.


I would now like to turn to our implementation of the Peace Operations 2010 agenda. We have continued to build up the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping through reforms and institutional strengthening in the key areas of personnel, organization, doctrine, partnerships and resources.

In response to this Committee's recommendations the Secretary-General last year put forward a number of human resources reform proposals aimed at improving the Organization's ability to attract, recruit, retain and rapidly deploy skilled and experienced civilian personnel to peacekeeping operations. They included the streamlining of contractual arrangements and the harmonization of service staff in the field with the rest of the UN family and the establishment of 2,500 civilian career peacekeepers. The General Assembly approved the proposal only partially at the beginning of this year, but even as it stands the new policy will promote mobility and offer staff in the field a more predictable contractual basis.

The United Nations policing is the fastest growing component of UN peacekeeping operations worldwide. Across our 18 missions, UN Police, including formed police units, in addition to performing traditional police peacekeeping tasks, is increasingly being called upon to help reform, restructure and rebuild police institutions, as well as assist in fighting organized crime in the aftermath of conflict.

In light of the growth and the evolving role of police components of peacekeeping operations a comprehensive analysis of the Police Division has been conducted, which the Special Committee will be briefed on. The review points to the increasingly complex demands that are being placed upon UN police in the field. The nearly three-fold increase in deployed police and the rapid growth in the use of Formed Police Units in complex peacekeeping environments call for increased operational and policy support from headquarters. In order to support this field activity in an effective and efficient manner the review found that the Police Division will need to be strengthened. This strengthening is essential if the Division is to deliver on a robust and comprehensive vision for international police peacekeeping in the twentieth century, and I would encourage the Special Committee to give full consideration to the issue.

The newly established Standing Police Capacity has continued to provide a rapid start-up capability for police components in new peacekeeping operations as well as an expert advisory mechanism to support institutional police and other law enforcement capacity-building activities in existing operations. Among its principal achievements, the SPC established the MINURCAT police component in 2007/ 2008 in a professional and timely manner. The SPC has also supported the UN police components in UNMIL and UNMIT in their delivery of police-development programmes to host state counterparts and they participated in an inspection of the police component in MINUSTAH as well as in several Technical Assessment Missions. A report on the SPC's first year of operations was prepared by a Panel of Experts and was issued in mid-January 2009. The Expert Panel underlines the need to strengthen the SPC if it is to be able to respond to the ever-increasing demand for its services.

The Standing Police Capacity has proven to be an effective rapidly deployable tool to help standing up new operations and reinforcing existing ones. For the criminal justice system to be addressed in a holistic and balanced way under our mandates, similar capacities are required in the justice and corrections areas. Therefore, the Secretariat would suggest to create a small Rule of Law Standing Capacity, comprised of justice and corrections experts, so as to make assistance available to peacekeeping host countries as early as possible in the process. The Capacity should include a range of experts from civil law, common law and Islamic legal systems, reflect important cultural and linguistic diversity, and be gender balanced.

DPKO also continues engage with troop and police contributing countries to increase the deployment of women uniformed personnel. This is not only an issue of equal representation. In countries where women and children have suffered the traumas of war it can make all the difference for the ability of our peacekeeping operation to successfully reach out to them and gain their trust if there are women among our peacekeepers.

The Secretary-General has designated DPKO to lead the preparations on a report on the Security Council Resolution 1820 on women, peace and security with a focus on sexual violence in situations of armed conflict. The report should be presented to the Security Council this summer.

During 2008 the development of specialist doctrine has continued in a wide range of areas from mission start-up to civilian-military coordination. DPKO and DFS will also have to develop cross-departmental key doctrine including on high-level field support, mission integration and management, security and crisis management and security sector reform. The ongoing DPKO/OCHA study on protection of civilians could also contribute to guidance development in this area.

In an ever increasingly complex and globalized world with limited resources close co-ordination and co-operation with our partners is a necessity. DPKO therefore continues to develop its partnerships with the rest of the UN family as well as with regional organizations, most notably the African Union and the European Union. In Kosovo we handed over the operational responsibility for rule of law to the European Union, under the overall authority of the UN, in December. In Chad we will take over the military operation from the European Union in March. And in Darfur and Somalia we work closely with the African Union and continue to provide support to the development of the capacity of the AU. We have also established a framework agreement with NATO in order to facilitate the cooperation that we are mandated to carry forward on the ground, in Kosovo and Afghanistan. In our experience, peacekeeping and peacebuilding are largely indivisible efforts and, as a result, close cooperation with the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office is also important, as it is with the wider UN common system. To that end, the Secretary-General has directed DPKO to chair a high-level Integration Steering Group, which regularly brings together the main UN partners involved in integrated missions to ensure we build complementary and efficient methods for implementing integrated mandates. We must continue to work closely with our partners to maximize our complementarity, carrying out a common agenda covering a wide range of issues including: security, political, governance, economic recovery assistance, peacebuilding and mediation.

With regard to the challenge of supporting our missions with the adequate and timely delivery of logistical resources, I would like to mention the Strategic Development Stock and the Log Base in Brindisi that has proven to be an invaluable asset in the process of setting up and expanding missions in Africa and the Middle East. However, I will leave it to Under-Secretary-General Malcorra to expand further on this issue.

Finally I would like to say a few words about the serious problem of misconduct that continues to plague our missions, namely sexual exploitation and abuse. DFS is working closely with the Office of Internal Oversight Service to share data on misconduct and the Secretariat routinely provides feed back to concerned member states on investigations conducted. In addition the Secretariat is developing a mechanism to report on the outcome of disciplinary cases to the public. Considerable efforts have been made to address this issue both from the Secretariat side and on the part of the Member States. We will continue to work together in partnership with the Member States on this problem to ensure that this kind of misconduct does not stain the name of the United Nations and the vast majority of peacekeepers who serve honorably and with distinction.


Distinguished delegates,

The demands on UN peacekeeping are greater today than ever before. UN peacekeeping is not only stretched in terms of the size of the deployments, but also in terms of the challenges posed by complex mandates and difficult logistical and security environments.

2009 will be a crucial year for peacekeeping. A number of our missions face risks that are so significant that I cannot discount the potential for mission failure, with all the consequences that would entail for the United Nations. However, there seems to be a growing consensus on the need to take stock of the current situation and address the challenges that UN peacekeeping faces at the current juncture. Several initiatives to review peacekeeping have been launched, and this should be considered as welcome. Peacekeeping is a shared endeavor, and the way forward must be charted together by the General Assembly, Security Council and Secretariat. For our part we will ensure that the Secretariat's review is as inclusive as possible, with a view to developing a consensus view on the way forward in the face of today's demands.

Some of the key questions that we will have to try to answer in this process are:

  • What sorts of mandates are appropriate for UN peacekeeping? When it is the right tool, and what are the other tools that should be available to the international community for conflict resolution?

  • What are the benchmarks against which we will measure the success of UN peacekeeping and how can they help us to prepare for the transition to longer-term peace building activities?

  • How can we be more efficient, and effective? Do we have the right systems and rules and regulations to grapple efficiently and accountably with the challenges of deploying at huge scale and high speed into extremely distant and difficult terrain?

  • How can we ensure that we have sufficient numbers of capable, rapidly deployable and sustainable peacekeepers at the current level of demand? How can we supply them with the critical resources and equipment that they need to succeed?

  • How can we advance our thinking on the relative roles, and interoperability, of the UN and the African Union, European Union, and other regional and sub-regional peacekeeping actors?

If we can jointly answers these questions I think we will be well on our way to best serve the millions of people around the world that looks to UN peacekeeping as their hope for a future in peace and prosperity.

Once again, I am looking forward to working closely with this Committee to achieve our common goals.

Thank you.