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Remarks to the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations

23 Feb 2009
UN Senior Officials on Peacekeeping

Remarks of the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support,
Ms. Susana Malcorra, to the Special Committee on
Peacekeeping Operations


Madame Chairperson and Distinguished Delegates,

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. Like Mr. Le Roy this is the first time that I have the honor to brief you on the support components underpinning peacekeeping and special political operations at the opening of the substantive session of C-34.

As a department with the sole purpose of providing support to the field, the Department of Field Support receives strategic direction from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and from the Department of Political Affairs in the case of special political missions. All strategic considerations and decisions related to the principles, limits, risks, mission impact and security that apply to field operations are beyond our scope.

DFS has narrow mandate, which, in my view, one of the strength of the Department. We are here to provide what is necessary to support field operations. That is exactly the beauty of our mandate. We just can not entertain any destruction from our very specific objectives of getting things done on the field.

We are actively involved in the New Horizons study as Mr. Le Roy just mentioned. We are trying to contribute to this analysis from the complex support of peacekeeping operations and on the requirements and the pressure underpinning peacekeeping missions.

I want to underscore something that I know of great concerns to you, the Member States. That is on how the coordination and relationship between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, is working. I can assure you coordination between DPKO and DFS is working, I can assure you, not only at the highest level between Alain and myself but at the operational level. We see the relationship is strong and the coordination is getting stronger day by day. There are always areas for improvement. Alain referred to IOTs, for example. We have done a review, and we are working together based on the assessment on what has to be done to improve our work. The objective of retaining single chain of command and retaining seamless relations between the two Departments is of paramount importance for us. We are fully committed to that.

The creation of DFS has increased focus on two critical areas. On one hand, the increased visibility and understanding of support areas to allow Member States more informed political, policy, and strategic decisions. On the other hand, the ability to concentrate on the specific aspects of the delivery of the supports services required to manage and sustain peacekeeping operations. Again, our mandate is very narrow, focused and intense.

We will only be able to strengthen our support capacity through continuous and open dialogues with you, the Member States. There is no other way for us to do what we have to do if we do not engage in continuous dialogues. You, as members of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, are critical to our joint success.

In my view, what is most challenging for DFS is to strike the right balance between the huge operational demands and the need to for us to take sometime to think strategically how better to address demands from the field. We are so much driven by short term demands that we do not force ourselves to think about how better we can deliver.

I will continue to work as much as I can to engage with you as early as possible on the discussion of all areas of support. To that end we are working on a support strategy. What we have to make sure is that strategic concepts are embedded in our vision to allow us to deliver support better.

The Support Strategy focuses mainly on four areas:

  • First, identifying the best means to deliver support services to field operations from start-up to liquidation;
  • Second, identifying the best human resources to deliver support services to the field operations;
  • Third, identifying the means to strengthen the support organization in the longer term;
  • And fourth, identifying the means to optimize the impact on local environment.

Let me go first to the means to deliver support services to field operations. Clearly, we need to optimize the use of technology. We need to discuss how best from the support side to deliver services required. Is it necessary for every single mission to have every component? It makes sense for us to share some of components among missions in the same region. Can we think about hubs that can deliver services across missions and can maximize the opportunity of putting together the highly qualified team for better service approach? Can we do this while retaining effectiveness with the mission and at the same time adding efficiency not just in terms of costs but also quality of services? This is what we try to put together.

Alain referred to our presence in Brindisi, Italy, and how critical Brindisi and the strategic stock there have been to improve our capacity to deliver better. Can we do something that not only takes into account Brindisi as the global hub but also entertains some idea of taking advantage of regional hubs that can serve certain missions around those hubs? We do not have all answers yet but those are the types of questions we are putting together.

Of course human resources are critical for the success of our mission. We are trying to work to strengthen the culture of service. This is something that is not necessarily with us at the level to meet with the quality required by our internal clients. We are really investing on this culture of service among our staff. Once we realize this, we will be able to serve them better. We need to have very high priority on the well-being of staff because they are faced with the extreme situation and environment. Unless we take care of them, it would be very difficult for them to deliver on mandates. We need to deploy technical experts because it is not true that everyone knows what is required to deliver services on the ground; we need to find technical experts to get things done on time. We need to work with local and regional contractors and with local population to better strengthen our ability to get things done on the ground.

We also need to work to strengthen our Organization in the long term. We need to establish a system to measure the success of our work. Again, this is one of the beauties of having such narrow mandate. We have clear objectives that can be measured. We can establish benchmark that would allow us to know whether we are improving our work. We are starting to put those systems and measurements in place. With this, we are intending to increase delegation to the missions because we deeply believe that we can do better closer to the field to take decisions, and in doing so we need to increase controls and training so that we can ensure that people taking decisions are fully empowered and knowledgeable of the decisions they need to take. Last but not the least; we need to identify all means to optimize the impact to the local environment. Local procurement, hiring of local professionals and development of partnership with local institutions will allow us to really build our strength from our support side on what is available locally. And if it is not available locally, we help develop the capacity so that in the long term that becomes investment to the local economy.

All four divisions within the DFS are working together to try to think through and put in place a Support Strategy. We are doing this with full engagement with all missions, and we are doing this while we have to deliver in the short term some of the most challenging missions the Security Councils has put before us.

To develop our Support Strategy we are working with the following assumptions. The first is the effects of the financial and economic crisis that will continue next 3 to 4 year during the period covered by this Strategy. Impact of costs, availability of funds and the status of suppliers may be the key driver in our future ability to deliver. One of the things we have found is that many suppliers are badly hit by the economic and financial crisis, impacting our capacity to have multiple suppliers to deliver services.

As a result, presser for efficiency in resources (human, financial and others) as well as in management will continue in the foreseeable future.

We also pay attention to environmental concerns which will also continue. Fuel, water and land resources will all have impact in our policy regarding operations and equipment, and must be put together in our approach to support strategy.

Without any doubt, safety and security must be of paramount importance, and this must inform our Strategy. How many people do we deploy to the most extremely and harsh duty stations is something that informs our strategy. Is it necessary to deploy all support people to those places, or is it possible to do something while locating them in a little bit remote hub to ensure the availability of right talents to deliver the right services?

Request for fasters, larger, "more with less" operations will continue and will require integration with other actors on the ground. Again, this is another challenge. Troops, without any doubt, will require greater support and will continue to require more equipment. All of this should be done with increased oversight of operations in order to ensure compliance with the requirement of transparency which Member States place upon us. Particularly when financial and economic crisis becomes more and more evident, and Member States are under the pressure of their own taxpayers, we need to deliver on that.

Within this complex environment, DFS is focused on professionalizing our delivery capacity. In this regard, the General Assembly resolution 63/250 approved last December is a good step in the right direction. The Secretary-General proposed a comprehensive reform that was, as we all know, partially approved by the General Assembly. This is indeed a very good improvement.

  • One set of Staff rules (3 types of appointments)
  • Unification of HQ and Field conditions
  • Partial harmonization with Agencies, Funds and Programmes
  • Financial inventive for mobility and hardship
  • Overall compensation improved for majority of staff (including measures to compensate, as a transitional measure, for loss of remuneration)

We hope this package will allow us to strengthen our linkage with our staff in the field who were treated as second class citizen but now we are able to start as part of single system. This is an important first step to strengthen our ability to recruit and retain qualified staff. As the General Assembly stated, we will continue to review conditions of service in the field missions. All of these are on our plate. We are trying to think ahead and strategize at the same time as we work on the ground on some of the most challenging deployment.

You may not need to hear from me the details on the deployment in Darfur. Supply chain is one of most difficult ones among any organization can manage in the world. On the development of local economy, we need to find ways to provide services through the use of local and regional contractors. This has become the central piece of our design but is also a huge challenge. The fact that we have a hybrid operation in UNAMID led us to a decision to work on the deployment and support issues through the tripartite mechanism, with the Government of Sudan and the African Union, which has taken me back to Sudan five times in the last couple of months. The need for support from Member States (TCCs and PCCs) is great. We have achieved 60 % of deployment by the end of December last year. The remaining deployment is still a huge challenge. We can not do it without you, and we can not do it on our own.

As Alain mentioned, Chad is another challenge. From the view point of supply chain, it is equivalent to the one we have in Darfur. When we see Duara Corridor, bringing goods from the port of Duara into East Chad, we can see the mirror of what we have going into Darfur from Port of Sudan. The same complex set of legal operational and transitional arrangements make our demands coming from Chad very high and difficult to address.

Needless to say, DRC poses huge support challenges. The difficulty on the ground where we are deployed requires investment and continuous efforts from the logistical point of view.

On top our expanding operation in Afghanistan which now added six new provinces to the coverage of the Mission, which will bring lots of logistical challenges, we now have Somalia. Somalia, as you are aware, represents a very innovative approach where we will be providing support to the African Union through the AMISOM directly. That means that we need to establish a new level of partnership with an external entity. Though we have learned from the deployment of UNAMID, this is a very different game. And the requirements set on us, not only to deliver services in extremely difficult conditions where security is not present, but also to address accountability questions. Resources given to be the United Nations will be used by the third party. There is a requirement for us to have at least minimum presence on the ground to ensure that we can set up the control mechanism to be able to report back to Member States. That is in total contradiction with the fact that Mogadishu is at this point in time is phase V of security environment.

These are some of day-to-day demands we have. I don't want to burden you with details, but I just want to say that the stress and stretch Alain mentioned was absolutely the case on the DFS side. How to be able to better manage resources we have and how to be able to enhance quality of resources we have to get to the point where we can say that we have quality support service, is our main thrust. That is what we are trying to do with our Support Strategy.

We are fully committed to keep our eyes on basic conduct and discipline issues which has always been the center of the SG approach, the zero-tolerance policy, which we continue to work on. We keep on trying to make sure as partner of you, Member States, we stress our work together, so that we can make sure not only that we are on the ground to do our work but that we work within the framework of the zero-tolerance policy.

The only way for us to be successful is to work in close partnership with you. In listening to you, we try to make sure that we improve our support approach through this continuous dialogue.

Thank you very much, Madame Chairperson.