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Statement to the Fourth Committee

23 Oct 2009
UN Senior Officials on Peacekeeping

Statement by Under-Secretary-General for Field Support,
Susana Malcorra, Before the Fourth Committee


Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

I am most honoured to come before this Committee today as it begins its consideration of this agenda item. It also gives me great pleasure to sit here on the podium with my colleague and friend Alain Le Roy.

This is also the second time I have come before Committee. I do so in my capacity as Head of one of the UN Secretariat’s youngest departments - the Department of Field Support (DFS), which was created by the General Assembly just over two years ago.  

Primarily, my team in DFS is focused on the very specific and operationally focused mandate of getting the right staff on board, securing sufficient financing and providing the necessary equipment and logistics services to the field in the quickest time possible.

I am very proud to say that DFS has now become an important feature in the institutional landscape - delivering support to 15 peacekeeping missions, 13 special political missions, one AU led mission and administering about 22,000 international and local civilian staff. The combined budgets of these field presences now exceed $8billion per annum. The Department operates and maintains more than 300 medical facilities, almost 300 aircraft, 17,000 vehicles, and 40,000 computers. In the last year, we chartered over 900 aircraft and 20 ships to move cargo and people. The annual procurement bill for peacekeeping now approaches $2.7billion annually.  

Clearly, the business of mission support has become a large, complex global enterprise. It requires a professional, systematized approach, which adapts easily to a variety of operating environments, to the different mandate demands and the various stages of a mission life cycle – planning, deployment, sustainment, reconfiguration and eventually liquidation.  

Today, I would like to take you through our plans to improve the quality and timeliness of support delivery - an important component of the “New Horizons” agenda outlined by Alain. But first I would like to share with you a few specific examples of the support challenges we have faced in the last year.

In Darfur, I have been personally engaged in a tripartite negotiation process with the Government of Sudan and the African Union to secure safe and steady passage of personnel and equipment to UNAMID. As of today, over 19,000 military and police personnel, representing nearly three-quarters of the authorized strength are deployed. Given the ongoing difficulties in securing enablers and transportation assets for use in a particularly harsh and difficult environment, I feel bound to point out that full deployment may be very difficult to achieve.

In DRC, the evolving mandate of MONUC’s mission has had important implications in the area of support.  Specifically, the redeployment of the military component - 95% of which is now in Eastern DRC - has required considerable relocation of mission assets. The absence of reliable roads in this vast country has meant that MONUC continues to be heavily reliant on use of air transport, which of course, pushes costs up. The logistics base in Entebbe has assisted greatly in delivery of support to the East.

In Chad, DFS facilitated the transfer of authority from EUFOR in March. This required a complex set of legal, operational and transitional arrangements concerning the use and development of assets, re-hatting military personnel and providing support services to an enlarged deployment on the ground. The construction of camps in several new locations as well as a logistics base in Abeche is moving at fast speed. But again, not everything has gone according to plan. A few months after assuming the lead, our operations were threatened by a country-wide disruption of fuel supply. We have thankfully been able to restore supplies and reserves to an acceptable level now through various means in order to minimize the impact on the operations.

In Afghanistan, we have been working with UNAMA and UNDP to provide the logistical support required for the recent elections. We are also assisting the mission in opening a number of regional offices throughout the country. However, the worsening security situation is forcing us to harden our protective posture, thereby constraining our mobility and consequently our ability to deliver services and adding pressure to our supply chain.

Finally, let me, if I may, describe in a little more detail the support we have been providing to the AU-led operation in Somalia - particularly since this is a unique, unprecedented arrangement, which signals a new level of strategic engagement with the African Union. As part of the logistics support package approved by the Security Council early this year, DFS has helped put in place a sustainable supply route from Mombasa to Mogadishu to support the AMISOM. The 5,200 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers currently deployed are now consuming UN standard food rations. We have also delivered critical medical supplies as well as prefabricated buildings, field kitchens and ablution units.  Fuel delivery has just commenced. A secure communications network linking Force Headquarters in Mogadishu to Nairobi has been established. The UN Trust Fund for AMISOM has received 80% of its confirmed pledges and the monies will be disbursed shortly. All efforts are being made to ensure the appropriate governance and oversight mechanisms are in place. 

I would not wish to minimize, however, the highly challenging security environment in which we are delivering this support - with continued attacks against AMISOM facilities and UN-contracted ships. Such attacks may impact and potentially slow our capacity to deliver.

These are just a few examples of the work we have been undertaking.

We must also not forget the significant re-sizing of UNMIK, the unexpected liquidation of UNOMIG and the upcoming transitions of the offices in Guinea Bissau and Central Africa to integrated peace building entities.  All these require careful handling - particularly when dealing with people losing their positions or re-locating, or with valuable equipment and assets that need to be disposed in a proper manner. 

And of course, we mustn’t forget the less volatile missions such as Haiti and Timor l’Este, which continue to require sustained quality support services.

Now if I may turn to the future. Alain has briefed you on the New Horizons process we both launched over the summer. One of its pillars relates to the provision of support services: the Support Strategy that will chart the work of DFS over the next five years.

Over the last sixteen months - since I took office - I have become absolutely convinced that DFS must improve its response to the increasing needs for support, and to do so in a holistic manner. We need to develop a business model that works - equal to the demands I just described. We must develop a business model that recognizes the need to evolve from a Mission centric support to a Global and Integrated delivery system.

We need a fresh approach to supporting field missions, based on the following key drivers:

  • The need to update the operating framework.  We must balance the demand for effective delivery with the requirement to comply with rules, regulations and internal procedures:  As much as it is unacceptable to use operational demands to justify shortcuts, it is also unacceptable to hide behind the existing framework without questioning its continued applicability and, where relevant, to seek the appropriate empowerment to do a better job. Quite often, support operations are hindered by processes that have not been revisited for a long time, or have not been adjusted to the current realities on the ground and high-paced operational tempo. 
  • The requirement to strike a balance between the risks of delay (and the negative impact on mandate delivery) and the risks stemming from increased operational empowerment and decentralized authority. While it is easier to quantify financial exposures, it is rather more challenging to assess the possibility of not meeting the needs of the individuals and societies we are mandated to serve. We must do more to find the right balance. And in fact, we are in the process of doing the necessary “risk management” analysis right now, as we finalize the detailed business case work for the strategy and develop the necessary mitigating measures.
  • The need to augment the "readiness" capacities which allow for an immediacy of response to any current or future need in the field. Building on the foundation set by the human resources reforms approved in General Assembly resolution 63/250, we strive to increase the ability of the organization to recruit and deploy qualified staff rapidly where and when they are needed the most. Any efforts to attract and/or retain talents and skills will only be successful if we are able to craft, together, a sound succession management process, and appealing conditions of services in a highly competitive environment.
  • The need to maximize the safety and security of our personnel, while ensuring acceptable living and working conditions in field locations. Concepts such as modular delivery and the delivery of support from global and regional service centers will achieve clear benefits in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. We expect that these initiatives will also lead to a reduction in the quantity of support staff required in difficult, unsafe locations.
  • The recognition that missions go through a life cycle.  Consequently, strategic investments at critical stages will have an important effect on the ability of missions to show real results in a shorter time span.  Again, we anticipate that this will result in greater efficiency over the longer term and a more strategic investment of scarce resources.
  • The need to improve the timeliness of our deployments.  A full review of some of our toolbox already approved by Member States is underway, including an enhancement to the Strategic Deployment Stocks to address, to the extent possible, some of the gaps TCC’s and PCC’s face with some critical COE.
  • The desire to have a more productive, economical impact on our immediate operating environments in the field. This can be achieved by contributing to the local or regional development of industry and individuals. We should also strive to achieve a more environmentally sensitive, ecologically mindful mission “footprint”. We must also strike the right balance between global, regional and local procurement to effectively deliver our support services.

I will not delve into the detail of the Support Strategy here. But I can assure you that it will have a significant impact on how we are organized, how we are staffed, and how we are resourced.

We are currently working on a Secretary-General’s report which will outline the elements of the strategy in detail. This document will go through the proper channels of intergovernmental review early next year - including with the C-34 and the Fifth Committee.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, change will not happen over-night. It will require a sustained commitment on all our parts. It will also require the mindset of “getting things done” by my DFS team. Once this Support Strategy is endorsed by Member States our main focus will be on delivering it.

I look forward to engaging with you, and my partners in the Secretariat, as we embrace the challenges before us.

Thank you