Welcome to the United Nations

Statement to the Fourth Committee

23 Oct 2009
Alain Le Roy

Agenda Item: Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects Council

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

I am honoured to address the Fourth Committee as it begins its consideration of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects. Having completed one year at the helm of DPKO, I am especially grateful to have this opportunity to take stock with you, and to chart the way forward together.

During the past year I have visited most of our 17 missions and their host governments, as well as most of our regional partners. I have also had the benefit of discussing the challenges and opportunities facing peacekeeping with you here in New York, and in the capitals of many of our major troop and police contributing countries. 

I have seen firsthand how United Nations peacekeeping is a flagship endeavour of the United Nations and represents the whole of the Organisation. Millions of people depend, every day, on UN peacekeepers. It is an increasingly complex and dangerous undertaking, and it is a shared endeavour. Peacekeeping rests on the partnership of the Member States of the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the Secretariat.  Together, we have faced difficult challenges in the field over the past year. We have also renewed our longstanding dialogue on how, together, we can strengthen peacekeeping. 

Today, I would hope to continue our dialogue and outline some priority areas in which, I believe, we can strengthen our common peacekeeping machinery to better deliver modern mandates. My remarks this morning will therefore focus on: first, key developments in missions during 2009; second, feedback from the field; third, messages from you and your capitals; fourth, a vision for the way forward to sharpen the tool of UN peacekeeping to meet twenty-first century challenges.

Review of key developments in missions during 2009

As you know well, United Nations peacekeeping continues to embrace a wide spectrum of operations, ranging from more traditional monitoring missions to large multi-dimensional operations.

More traditional missions like the ones in Cyprus and the Golan continue contributing to peace and security, providing stability. They are cost-effective and benefit from clarity of tasks. However, they often witness little, or slow, political progress.

The challenges for our biggest, more recent and complex missions – UNMIS and UNAMID in Sudan and MONUC in the Democratic Republic of Congo - are of a different nature and scale.

In Sudan, the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is facing serious tests. Delays in the preparation of the referendum and the Sudan-wide elections, in combination with escalating inter-tribal violence in Southern Sudan could represent a threat to the stability of Sudan as a whole.  

In Darfur, the need for a political solution remains critical. Despite UNAMID's efforts, displaced civilians remain vulnerable. Furthermore, troop and equipment capacities still lag behind the ambitious provisions of the mandate.  

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a new political and security landscape has emerged in the eastern part of the country over the past year. New opportunities have arisen to address the presence of the FDLR - who are being repatriated to Rwanda in increasing numbers - as well as the LRA and residual Congolese armed groups. A number of serious challenges remain, including in protecting civilians. Yet this new landscape also presents opportunities to re-establish state authority in the east and to build a credible national army and police. 

Some of our other, more mature peacekeeping missions - UNMIL in Liberia, UNOCI in Côte d’Ivoire and MINUSTAH in Haiti, for example - face a different set of challenges. They must consolidate gains made on the security front and advance the peacebuilding effort on the ground

In Liberia, UNMIL works closely with member states to support the training of national police and military. Reintegration of the remaining combatants was completed this year. Nonetheless, significant challenges remain in building the national security sector, promoting good governance, and fostering economic recovery and job creation. The 2011 elections will be a critical test of the stability attained so far. UNMIL’s current troop levels, at some 8,000, will be maintained to ensure adequate security for them.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the parties have made significant progress in the preparations for the critical presidential elections that were scheduled for 29 November. However, the limited capacity of national institutions and, in some instances, the lack of political will have resulted in serious delays. Although UNOCI’s influence on the pace of implementation has been constrained, the Mission continues to play a key role in helping the national institutions to overcome their capacity limitations.

In Haiti, MINUSTAH continues to provide critical security support while assisting national efforts to strengthen the rule of law and foster economic development. Haiti's recovery and governance agenda has enjoyed significant international support, not least through the efforts of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, President Clinton. This momentum must be maintained to protect the recent progress and deliver tangible peace dividends to the people of Haiti.

What I am hearing from the field

Traveling to missions I hear first hand from our senior leaders and staff on the ground about these challenges. Each situation has its own complexity, but mission personnel also point to common denominators.

First: For a peacekeeping operation to succeed, it must be accompanied by a comprehensive political process supported by all stakeholders – the Security Council, the General Assembly, troop and police contributors, host governments and regional partners - throughout the whole life of the mission. Our leaders on the ground struggle most when they lack clear, active and unified support from all the international stakeholders.

Second: The commitment and the determination of our personnel - military, police and civilians - remains very strong.  They willingly deploy in extremely difficult environments. They work hard to win the trust of local stakeholders, to help advance tenuous peace processes and to deliver on wide ranging mandates. They deserve our praise for their dedication. 

Third: There is a need for clear and achievable mandates. We need clearer priorities from the Security Council. I hear from mission leaders the keen desire for mandates to be better prioritized, for expectations to be scaled against the realities on the ground. MONUC, just to take an example, has currently 41 tasks in its mandate.

Fourth: Our personnel want to implement their mandated tasks related to protection of civilians; that is an overwhelming message I hear from the ground. But, they need support and resources to implement this highly challenging task in volatile environments. To carry out this task and provide for the safety and security of its personnel, the mission leadership needs clear guidance, adequate capabilities and the information to deter and respond quickly.

Fifth: The gap between mandates and resources remains a key concern for our missions. We continue to face significant challenges in terms of deploying certain capabilities; most notably in providing critical aviation assets for our biggest missions in Chad, Sudan and DRC. This is a serious concern, as these shortages impair the ability of missions to react rapidly and to act robustly to implement their mandates. 

Sixth: Our missions do not want to stay forever. We look to others to take on the aspects of the peacebuilding process that UN peacekeeping cannot and should not deliver. We can make begin some critical early peacebuilding tasks, but as security is stabilized and peace processes advance, we need to pull back and handover to other actors in predictable and sufficiently well-resourced frameworks. To do so, we need to define better the peacebuilding tasks which peacekeeping operations should focus on, and plan better with our partners to achieve transitions from peacekeeping to other types of assistance, making sure that early gains are sustainable.

Seventh: The creation of the Department of Field Support and the sharpened focus on support issues has clearly already yield benefits, including the development of the DFS Support Strategy which Susana will elaborate on. We can not underestimate the logistical challenges of getting the right people and the right equipment to the right place on the right time. DFS is focusing on delivering a stronger client orientation towards military, police and civilian clients in missions, and for troop and police contributors.

What I am hearing from you and from your capitals

I have been privileged to travel to many of your capitals and to hear innovative ideas from you on how to improve peacekeeping. I am especially grateful that there is very broad, unanimous support, for peacekeeping. Many Member States are considering how they can increase their contribution. Even at these historic deployment levels, some troop and police contributors of the United Nations are telling us that they are ready to contribute more. This expression of commitment has come from the highest levels of your Governments, and from your officers, police and soldiers. This is indeed remarkable. 

TCCs and PCCs are ready to contribute more to UN peacekeeping, but they have also clearly conveyed that they wish to see some improvements. They have expressed the desire to be better consulted in the planning of missions and in the development of policy. They are looking for clear and achievable mandates. 

Yet despite this commitment and will to provide, the strains on the system are real. Some contributors struggle to meet the equipment and the mobility requirements needed to operate in many of our current environments. Others feel the need for greater clarity on the tasks required of their personnel or improved training support to deliver these tasks. For others, reimbursement is seen as insufficient to meet the levels of performance now demanded of personnel and equipment, or reimbursement simply comes too slowly. I have met donors who are willing to support new and emerging contributors, but want to do so within the framework of clear UN standards for peacekeeping.

We aim to engage with you and to propose ways by which we can, together, address these pressures on the UN peacekeeping system. Let me turn to that agenda now.

A way forward

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

DPKO and DFS issued a non-paper last July presenting a broad outline of the key challenges we face. The non-paper builds on the Brahimi report and previous reforms, yet it also takes into account new challenges that have arisen at the current, historic scale of demand for peacekeeping around the world.  It is a proposal, very much open for discussion.  It proposes a new agenda on which our peacekeeping partnership might focus. A new horizon, if you will - for us to steer towards together. Some of the proposals would have to be implemented by the Secretariat, some by the Security Council and others by the General Assembly.  

With your agreement, the Secretariat is fully ready to do its part. Today, I propose that we begin the work of setting the pathway towards that horizon by identifying the priorities for the coming session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping (the C34) as well as the ACABQ and Fifth Committee deliberations during the resumed sixty-fourth session.

Introduce the priority agenda
We have listened carefully to you throughout the ongoing dialogue that has taken place this year, before and since the non-paper was released. We believe that there are four priority areas requiring a concerted effort. They are:

  • Developing practical guidance on critical roles for modern UN peacekeeping;
  • Building the capabilities needed to meet today’s challenges;
  • Putting in place stronger UN field support arrangements, and;
  • Ensuring more consultative and effective arrangements for the planning and oversight of missions.

With regard to the first, the development of practical guidance for modern peacekeeping, there is an urgent need to clarify policy and guidance for the protection of civilians, robust peacekeeping and on the linkages between peacekeeping and peacebuilding.  

On the protection of civilians task, we will seek a policy dialogue with you about what UN peacekeeping operations must accomplish. Let me say at the outset that everyone I have consulted on this matter agrees that our missions must do their utmost to protect civilians. All agree that, where peacekeeping operations have this mandate, it is at the core of what they are deployed for.  People look to the United Nations to deliver on this protection mandate, and if we fail to do so the impact is severe - on the ground and internationally. 

And yet we must recognize that there are real limits to what can be done, in the midst of ongoing conflict and across vast territories.  Hence, we need to set the bar high, but realistically so. And we need to manage expectations accordingly.  We need to establish a common understanding among the Security Council, TCCs and the Secretariat of what can and cannot be achieved so as to inform mandates, capabilities and expectations. Any policies and concepts must be based on sound analysis of the Security Council’s intent and on what our current contributors are willing, able and resourced to undertake.

We seek to engage with you in an active lessons learning effort on the protection of civilians between now and the first part of next year. To begin the process of gathering lessons, DPKO and OCHA commissioned an independent study on the protection of civilians in UN peacekeeping operations. This study is in its final stages and should be ready by the first week of November. 

The study is part of an ongoing process of gathering operational lessons and good practices, particularly from Member States whose personnel serve in our operations.

We will build on these lessons to enable a productive dialogue on protection of civilians during the C34.

As a contribution to our dialogue, I have tasked DPKO staff to develop and circulate a draft concept paper, so that we have a common point of discussion. We will consult with member states, with the goal of circulating a draft at the beginning of the Committee’s session. I would hope to receive the Committee’s guidance in order to produce detailed concepts and guidance, based on practical experiences in the field. 

There is much in that practical experience that we can be extremely proud of. UN peacekeeping operations succeed quietly, every day, in mitigating harm to thousands of civilians. The daily protection afforded by a deterrent blue helmet presence is a major contribution, even if it does not generate headlines. We are not always successful in fulfilling our protection mandates, however, there are good cases and lessons worth learning from and replicating.

MONUC for example has taken proactive and innovative steps to enhance the protection of civilians, including by establishing Joint Protection Teams, night patrols and quick reaction military units, as well as early warning networks amongst the local populations. In Southern Sudan, UNMIS is working with international and national partners to strengthen the protection of civilians through enhanced monitoring and patrolling activities, as well as conflict mitigation and prevention measures at the local level such as early deployments to hotspots before violence breaks out. Round-the-clock patrolling by UNAMID of the Kalma camp has greatly improved security and serves as an important model for other Darfur camps.

On the issue of robust peacekeeping, we are making good strides in defining and developing policy. Robust peacekeeping operates strictly within the basic principles of UN peacekeeping and the UN Charter. These include consent of the main parties and impartiality. Within those parameters though, a robust peacekeeping operation would be one that demonstrates, at the operational and tactical level, a willingness, capacity and capability to deter and confront spoilers that aim to obstruct the implementation of a mission’s mandate. 

In May we brought together high-ranking military officers from over 30 TCCs and governments, senior officials from the UN and regional organisations as well as peacekeeping experts for three days to discuss key challenges to robust UN peacekeeping. Some of the conclusions of this discussion were that:

  • Robust peacekeeping is a political issue and therefore strategic guidance is needed;
  • Greater consultation with TCCs and PCCs is required both prior to and during deployment;
  • Static peacekeeping forces are no longer a sufficient response to deter and prevent spoilers that threaten the mission, its mandate or local population;
  • Flexibility in operational conduct as well as a coherent and accountable chain of command are required;
  • An increased capacity for intelligence must be gained through strengthening both the military component and the support to the Joint Mission Analysis Centers, JMACs, at mission level; and
  • The delivery of robust logistics in theater needs to be improved.

Here again, we will proceed only in close dialogue with you. We will develop a draft concept note to inform our discussion. I would then hope to have the support of the C34 to proceed with further guidance development. Ultimately, I believe we must all be driven by the need to ensure that the men and women on the ground have the necessary guidance and support to fulfill their mandates.

The third area of focus on the policy front is to clarify and develop guidance on critical early peacebuilding tasks undertaken by peacekeepers. The Secretary-General´s recent report on Peacebuilding pointed out that the UN’s efforts to strengthen national security and rule of law capacities face a number of challenges and require the active support of Member States. We will develop a strategy for the execution of critical early peacebuilding tasks in post conflict situations, including efforts to establish the rule of law and strengthen security institutions, with clear benchmarks that are crucial to any peacekeeping exit strategy. Guidance and operating procedures are required to ensure consistent, high-quality work across our missions and, ideally, across the UN system. The Police Division is developing a Strategic Doctrinal Framework on International Police Peacekeeping. The Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards(IDDRS) are being expanded and updated to take into account linkages with other post-conflict processes such as transitional justice and SSR. A forthcoming study on Second Generation DDR seeks to identify new approaches to DDR in the increasingly complex contexts in which we are deployed.

The United Nations and international and regional partners must have the ability to get our civilian capacities on the ground early and fast. New Horizons and the Secretary-General's report on peacebuilding affirm that rapid deployment is critical to the early establishment of security and to the credibility of peacekeeping missions. As we have learned through the deployment of the Standing Police Capacity, rapidly deployable justice and corrections experts deployed alongside police capacities are essential to our effort to provide assistance to national rule of law institutions from the outset of a mission. As mandated by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Special Committee and this Committee we will be presenting proposals to build on the successful experience with the Standing Police Capacity to ensure, from the outset, a coordinated and reinforced approach to strengthening the rule of law that results in the equally rapid deployment of justice and corrections capacities, while also being consistent with the human resource management reform approved by the General Assembly in its resolution 61/279 and 63/250.

Mr. Chairman, 
Distinguished delegates,

We realize that new policies and guidelines alone will not ensure effective delivery in the field. We must assist TCCs and PCCs in their ongoing efforts to provide well-trained and prepared personnel. And we need to provide support systems to assist them in implementing critical tasks.

With this in mind, the second priority for further discussion during the C34 is on strengthening our systems for building and managing the capabilities needed for modern UN peacekeeping. Certainly, we must expand the base of UN troop contributors, especially to ensure specialised capabilities are available. However we must also better define the capabilities that we expect UN peacekeeping units to provide. 

Our field commanders need to know what capabilities and what performance they can expect from UN staff, staff officers and contingents. With 118 troop and police contributors, naturally the units we deploy draw upon a wide range of training and standards. We need to agree on the baseline capabilities that are expected for each core component of a UN peacekeeping operation. TCCs and PCCs can then train to that standard.  Guidance can be developed accordingly. Incentives can be matched appropriately. 

This is what we mean by a “capability-driven” approach - a framework that links baseline operational standards for each, core element of a UN peacekeeping operation with training, equipment, support and incentive structures. We are engaged with our commanders in the field to define the priority components of a capability-driven approach to UN peacekeeping. Such a process will take time and a collective effort. As a first step, we are identifying generic task lists for different components of a peacekeeping operation. We will then seek your support in taking forward pilot projects for the development of operational standards and associated training guidance in specialist military and police areas, based on the real scenarios facing contributors in the field. 

Work is already underway with many of you to review the functions, capacities, and readiness requirements for Formed Police Units. We could explore as well the development of operational standards and training support requirements in such other areas as engineering and, potentially, field hospitals and/or review the standards required for staff officers. Such a capability-driven approach would also help us to better link TCC and PCC needs with ongoing bilateral and global capacity-building programmes, linking donors with new and emerging contributors. It would allow donors and TCCs to work together to develop units that meet commonly agreed UN standards in a sustainable manner. 

The third priority area I mentioned is to improve how the UN supports missions, and our contributing countries, to sustain and deliver on the ground.  A critical dimension in this regard is the development of a wider support framework, including the DFS support strategy.  The work DFS is doing to improve the delivery of support services to our missions is a critical element of the New Horizon process. Susana Malcorra will tell you more in a moment about the DFS Support Strategy and the critical next steps we see over the coming weeks and months.

Our fourth priority is the need for strengthened cooperation between the Troop and Police Contributing countries, the Security Council and the Secretariat through the entire cycle of mission planning and implementation. This has been a recurrent theme in various debates this year in the C34, as well as in the Security Council. 

We are committed to improving the planning and oversight of our missions, and as part of this effort we are strengthening our consultation and reporting practices. As a follow-up to the proposals in the New Horizon non-paper Susana and I issued a directive earlier this month to all staff at headquarters and in the field to institute improved practices in three critical areas. We directed staff to:

  1. Play an active role in systematically engaging troop and police contributors in advance of mandate renewals or changes on the ground and to reflect feedback received in regular reporting to Member States;
  2. Brief affected Member States on the parameters of our Technical Assessment Missions to the field and to report on their findings; and
  3. Take forward the process of developing mission-specific benchmarks to help assess and monitor mission progress.  We have already started to see positive signs from the consultations on UNIFIL, MINUSTAH and UNMIL mandates.

We hope that TCCs and PCCs are already seeing these changes in practice. We will be continuing our work to improve transparent and regular exchanges with Member States in the months ahead, by surveying your priority information requirements and streamlining our reporting practices. We are conducting an internal analysis of information flow and reporting and we will soon seek your perspectives on achieving a more effective information-exchange between the Secretariat and Member States. We are also committed to developing more sound accountability frameworks between headquarters and our field missions – including through the introduction of Head of Mission and Deputy compacts - in the year ahead.  

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Delegates,

With this very much in mind, I should say a world on the issues of safety and security, which are of the highest concern to all of us.  Recent security incidents have underscored that in many locations where peacekeepers operate there is increasing risk to UN personnel, who are directly targeted. The organization has the obligation to ensure that risks to staff are at acceptable levels. The overall objective is to remain in those locations where we must in order to implement our mandates, but with an acceptable level of risk for all mission personnel. To that end, we are undertaking initiatives to improve security threat and risk assessments. We are also working to improve protective measures in UN facilities. And we are looking at ways to move mission functions that can be performed at distance away from high risk areas. While security issues are widely known, a second area of concern is safety. With a relatively low financial investment, we intend during the next several years to put in place, in all peacekeeping missions, a realistic occupational safety programme. Of course, on all such issues we work in close cooperation with the Department of Safety and Security.

Outline the way forward between now and early 2010

Senior DPKO and DFS managers have been tasked to lead the effort to advance our work in each of the areas outlined today. They will seek to work closely with you and to establish a strong dialogue with you. We look forward to sustaining a dialogue and work with the C34, as the key oversight body for peacekeeping issues, as well as with the ACABQ and Fifth Committee on the key elements related to all areas of financial and administrative support.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

Next year is the tenth anniversary of the Brahimi Report. I cannot think of a better way to mark this anniversary than building on its legacy in a practical and focused manner while also taking into consideration the new challenges we are facing. I look forward to continuing our work and seek your active engagement and support. Our focus must be on concrete action that yields measurable and practical improvements to modern UN peacekeeping - this invaluable tool that the United Nations has developed to help  meet deliver peace and security to those who need it the most.

Before closing, I must note with sorrow that until now in 2009 there were 86 fatalities among UN peacekeepers. I wish to pay tribute to those brave souls who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace.

Thank you.