Welcome to the United Nations

Statement to the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly

23 Oct 2008
Alain Le Roy

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues

1. I am delighted to be here with you today as the Fourth Committee begins its annual consideration of Peacekeeping. Of course this is also the 60th year of United Nations peacekeeping and I look forward to the Special Session of the General Assembly to commemorate this anniversary on 11 November.

2. As you are aware, I took up my position as the Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations just under two months ago. Though I have served as a peacekeeper before, I am nevertheless struck by the enormity, the breadth and the complexity of United Nations peacekeeping today.

3. This realization brings with it recognition of the exceptional work and commitment of current and former peacekeepers at headquarters and in the field who have so successfully advanced peacekeeping as a cornerstone of the work of the United Nations. They are too many to mention them all here, but I would like to express my deep appreciation to the previous leaders of DPKO and DFS, Mr. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and Ms Jane Holl Lute, for their outstanding leadership and vision of UN peacekeeping at a time of unprecedented growth and continued challenge.

4. I wish to also place on record my great satisfaction in working closely with Ms Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Field Support. I think I speak for us both when I assure you that, under the overall guidance and leadership of the Secretary-General, DPKO and DFS will continue to provide management, direction and support to peacekeeping operations through a partnership closely aligned at all levels.

Distinguished delegates,

5. Today we have 18 operations deployed across twelve time zones in 5 continents, comprising 140,000 authorized personnel, of which 110,000 are currently deployed, including 75,000 military, 11,500 police and 23,500 civilians. This compares to 30,000 deployed personnel from just 10 years ago. Two operations have been deployed during 2008, to Darfur and Chad/Central African Republic, and these deployments are still ongoing. 11 of these operations have been either deployed or strengthened in the past 5 years.

6. In the past 6 months alone, two operations have closed down, UNMEE and UNIOSIL, and other missions are on a downsizing trend, such as UNMIK and UNMIL. The situation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Kosovo is radically different from when the guns were silenced a few years ago. This is due in no small measure to the enormous contributions made by peacekeepers and the wider UN family to help stabilize the situation and address some of the causes of conflict. Though they may not resolve all post-conflict issues or challenges, peacekeeping operations certainly can play a central role in reducing the likelihood of future conflict and creating a framework in which normal development can resume.

7. Some of our missions continue to go through extremely testing times, including UNAMID, UNAMA and MONUC, where progress on the political, security and reconstruction fronts remains sporadic and fragile. Still other missions face pivotal moments in the months ahead, such as MINUSTAH which must help protect the recent advances achieved in Haiti against the devastating impacts of the global financial crisis, food crisis and the devastation wrought by hurricanes, amidst a fragile political consensus there. Haiti will likely need a major infusion of support to maintain its progress.

8. Across our missions, UN peacekeepers are engaged in a huge range of tasks. In DRC, we are supporting political dialogue and seeking to widen political space while providing security in the East. In Lebanon, Blue Berets assist the Lebanese Armed Forces to extend state authority and security throughout the south, and as part of the UN- assisted mine action activities, have so far cleared more than 30,000 items of unexploded cluster munitions and other explosive ordnance, which has contributed greatly to economic recovery and reconstruction in the area. In Darfur, our peacekeepers are working to increase the scope and frequency of patrolling in order to prevent and ensure the protection of civilians. In Côte d'Ivoire, we advised the authorities and civil society in developing DDR programmes. In southern Sudan, the mission promotes local efforts to re-establish courts and rehabilitate correctional facilities.

9. In Liberia and Haiti, the missions work with the UN Country Team to deliver integrated reconstruction and early recovery assistance. In Sierra Leone, UNIOSIL assisted national efforts to incorporate gender equality within national legislation, whilst in Burundi the mission works hard to strengthen national capacities to promote and protect human rights. In Timor-Leste and Chad, the missions support local efforts to reform the armed forces and police. In Afghanistan, whilst the conflict continues and security deteriorates, the mission has recently assumed a new lead role in coordinating aid effectiveness of the international community.

10. Even though there remain daily challenges, setbacks and ongoing suffering, the actions of the United Nations help to improve the lives of millions of people living in or emerging from brutal and devastating conflict,. This is one of the most significant achievements of this organization, and it is in large part your achievement. UN peacekeeping can work only with the direct support of Member States and strong cooperation, understanding, and mutual trust between them and the Secretariat. With this in mind, the ongoing agenda of restructuring and reform must be continued. I intend to consolidate the restructuring of peacekeeping, together with USG Malcorra, and to deliver on the Peace Operations 2010 professionalization agenda.

11. Indeed, I join the UN Peacekeeping Group as it continues an impressive, ongoing effort to reform, evolve and professionalize to meet the challenges of 21st century peacekeeping. The Peace Operations 2010 agenda lays out our priority areas for strengthening peacekeeping at the levels of Organization, Resources, Doctrine, Personnel, and Partnerships. At the Organizational level, coherence and integration continues to be strengthened. This includes new business processes, and joint decision-making structures at the strategic, policy and operational levels. It also entails the establishment of integrating functions, such as the role of the Chief of Staff, Ms Donna Maxfield, and shared resources, including the Situation Centre, the Public Affairs Section, the Division of Policy, Evaluation and Training, Conduct and Discipline, and Audit functions. We are also starting to receive positive feedback from our missions on the support provided to them through the 7 Integrated Operational Teams, established within the Office of Operations, under the great leadership of Assistant Secretary-General Edmond Mulet. USG Malcorra and I will continue to prioritize this integration of efforts across DPKO and DFS.

12. With regard to resources, the Office of Military Affairs is also currently being strengthened to respond more effectively to contemporary military peacekeeping needs under the command and direction of the Military Adviser, Lieutenant General Obiakor. With the support of Member States, it should be fully staffed by summer next year, with enhanced capacity to plan, generate and monitor the military components of peacekeeping operations, as well as to liaise closely with Troop Contributing Countries.

13. The Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, under the direction of Assistant Secretary-General Dmitry Titov, has already had a qualitative impact upon the ability of field missions to provide more comprehensive advice and support to national and international counterparts in the area of rule of law and security institutions. This integrated approach seeks to ensure the early deployment of strategic rule of law and security-related initiatives, to bring both immediate benefits to the safety and security of people's lives and lay the groundwork for longer-term peace building. This approach, which entails close coordination with a wide range of UN partners, is essential if we are to maximize the momentum for peace created by the deployment of a peacekeeping operation.

14. The Standing Police Capacity, under the leadership of the Police Adviser, Mr. Andrew Hughes, has played a critical role in rapidly establishing the core police component of MINURCAT and has also provided police advisers to Timor-Leste and Kosovo. I view the SPC as a critical and innovative tool capable of responding effectively to the diverse needs of UN peacekeeping today.

15. Policing in peacekeeping has grown exponentially in size, complexity and importance. Most recently, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the Audit Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on 'The Management of UN Police Operations' articulated the need for a strategic review of the management of United Nations police. Therefore, the Police Division is undertaking a review of its functions and responsibilities to identify current gaps that hinder its abilities to fulfil police-related mandates. The review will be shared with Member States early in next year.

16. The Peacekeeping Group continues to place a priority on identifying lessons and good practices and developing guidance, under the new Director of the Division of Policy, Evaluation and Training, Ms Izumi Nakamitsu. DPET is developing practically-focused guidance for staff and identifying innovative approaches to problems. For instance, some of our missions are tasked by the Security Council with ensuring the protection of civilians whilst conflict rages. I witnessed your soldiers and police grappling with this difficult challenge during my recent mission to Sudan and Chad. Guidance in this area is all the more urgent given the adoption earlier this year of Security Council resolution 1820 on sexual violence in conflict. We must together find ways for peacekeepers to be more effective in preventing and responding to such acts and to manage expectations regarding what is possible. DPKO is undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at reviewing current practice in this area.

17. On the make-or- break issue of Personnel, I can already tell you that this is the number one issue of concern that SRSGs raise with me. We continue our efforts to ensure that peacekeeping is able to attract and retain the most highly qualified and experienced candidates. I urge you to approve the human resource reform proposals before you as they will help to ensure that peacekeeping is served by the highest caliber of personnel. I am also pleased that the Integrated Training Service is making good progress in implementing the new Peacekeeping Training Strategy, to improve the training of civilian, military and police personnel.

Distinguished delegates,

18. We continue to be bedeviled by the challenge of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN peacekeepers, both uniformed and civilian. These acts, some of which may amount to crimes, bring great dishonour, not only to the Blue Flag but to Troop and Police Contributing Countries. We, the Secretariat and the Membership working together, have made some progress in combating this issue. However, much more needs to be done. The Secretariat must do its part. Senior mission leadership must implement the zero tolerance approach and when abuse occurs, take prompt and decisive action. For their part, Troop and Police Contributing Countries must ensure that sexual exploitation and abuse is treated with the severity it deserves - both in its prevention and in investigations, prosecution and punishment, in accordance with due process. It is also vital that Member States inform us of any follow up actions they have taken. There can be no other way to deal with this terrible problem which harms individuals and communities alike and threatens to overshadow the generally positive influence and impact of peacekeeping operations.

Distinguished delegates,

19. On the issue of Partnerships, I am impressed by the wide range of partners with whom the UN Peacekeeping Group works. These partners bring expertise, experience and perspectives that complement our efforts and facilitate achievement of our broad, multidimensional mandates. They include our partners in the UN system with programmatic or cross-cutting expertise, such as the OHCHR, UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, UNIFEM, and WFP to name only a few. They include the World Bank, and our bilateral national partners. They include our humanitarian partners - UN and NGO alike - whose work is often critically inter-linked with the role of peacekeepers. Without these partnerships and others, it is clear to me that we simply would not be able to implement the broad mandates entrusted to us by the Security Council. Nevertheless, effective cooperation in the field doesn't just happen - it takes learning, knowledge of each other, and concerted efforts to align structures, plans and programmes. We need a sustained approach. That is why I am personally committed to leading a senior level group here at UN Headquarters to provide leadership and oversight for UN integration in post-conflict contexts. And its also why we are working with regional organizations and financial institutions to establish frameworks for predictable cooperation that encompass coordinated planning, as with EU-UN efforts in Chad, as well as effective communication on our respective activities, as with NATO and the EU in Afghanistan. Our relationship with the African Union is particularly intense, as we seek to support the AU in building its own capacities for peacekeeping and to ensure that together, we construct a mutually reinforcing network of capabilities.

20. As I stand back and look at the vast challenges arrayed before us, it is clear that there is no let up in demand for UN peacekeeping. The range and breadth of mandated mission tasks continues to grow ever wider. At the same time, in Darfur, at least, we lack the resources required to get the job done. And we are being tasked to work where there is no peace to keep.

21. It seems clear to me, therefore, that we will need to collectively consider how to address these demands more effectively, and, most importantly, the political and resource problems that lie at the root of the conflicts, and consider more deeply how we respond to the various inter-related aspects of conflict resolution; political, security, humanitarian, and early recovery. Allow me to continue in French.

22. Bien que les défis soient nombreux, je suis convaincu que le maintien de la paix est un bon investissement pour la communauté internationale. Nombre d'études indépendantes ont salué le bon rapport cout-efficacité des opérations de maintien de la paix menées par l'ONU. Nous devons également nous rappeler qu'en contribuant à la stabilisation politique, nos opérations participent à la relance et au développement des économies, tant régionales que nationales. Enfin, les coûts liés aux opérations de maintien de la paix sont minimes au regard de ce que coûte une guerre, à tous égards.

23. Il est évident que la crise financière globale actuelle aura un impact sur l'Organisation des Nations Unies et sur la manière dont les Etats membres choisissent d'affecter leurs ressources. Compte-tenu des demandes croissantes auxquelles nous sommes soumis, le budget des opérations de maintien de la paix n'est semble-t'il pas prêt de diminuer. Nous passons actuellement en revue, de manière systématique, nos activités afin de voir où nous pouvons encore améliorer l'efficacité de nos dépenses, et nous vous présenterons les conclusions de ce travail. Nous sommes déterminés à travailler de manière toujours plus transparente, responsable, efficace et effective.

Chers Délégués,

24. De retour du Soudan, je voudrais partager avec vous quelques réflexions sur notre opération conjointe ONU-UA au Darfour, la MINUAD. Vous le savez, la mission est confrontée à d'immenses défis. Son déploiement est trop lent. Le Secrétariat, le pays hôte et les pays contributeurs de troupes en partagent la responsabilité. La Mission n'a pas les moyens dont elle a besoin, en particulier en matière de capacité aérienne. J'ai rencontré au Darfour des casques bleus totalement dévoués qui se battent pour accomplir leur mandat envers et contre toutes les difficultés. Ils affrontent des conditions difficiles sur le terrain sans avoir l'équipement et le soutien logistique nécessaires. Ils doivent s'efforcer de protéger les civils alors qu'il n'y a pas de réel accord de paix en vigueur, et interviennent le plus souvent alors que les combats se poursuivent et face à un banditisme lourdement armé. Sur une note plus positive, le Gouvernement du Soudan coopère désormais davantage avec la MINUAD et le Secrétariat pour faciliter le déploiement de la Mission. Nous devrons être attentifs à la manière dont cette coopération se concrétise. Le Secrétariat doit travailler et pousser encore davantage pour achever plus rapidement le déploiement de la Mission. Le déploiement devrait atteindre 60% d'ici a la fin de l'année, 80% a la fin du mois de mars 2009. Certes, ce n'est pas ce que nous espérions au départ, mais je crois que ces prévisions sont les plus réalistes possibles. Les difficultés logistiques liées au déploiement d'une telle force au centre du continent africain sont immenses. Il est évident, même pour un nouveau venu comme moi, que les principes et règles actuellement en cours sont totalement inefficaces pour garantir un déploiement de cette ampleur, de cette échelle et de cette complexité. Ces règles devront être révisées si nous sommes amenés à déployer des opérations d'envergure similaire et dans la même urgence. Dans cette optique, je travaillerai étroitement avec Madame Susana Malcorra, la Secrétaire générale Adjointe, le Département de la Gestion et les Etats membres afin d'identifier les reformes nécessaires dans les domaines de la logistique et de l'administration, et de les mettre en place, tout en assurant le maintien des procédures de contrôles nécessaires.

25. Je voudrais rappeler l'une des premières leçons tirées de l'expérience de la MINUAD, qui est aussi l'un des principes essentiels au maintien de la paix : pour qu'une opération de maintien de la paix puisse avoir un impact, il faut a priori une paix, un accord de paix, à défendre. Nous comprenons que les casques bleus doivent se déployer dans le cadre de conflits armés et doivent faire face de façon robuste à des adversaires de la paix eux-mêmes lourdement armés. Mais pour réussir, les casques bleus doivent pouvoir intervenir dans un environnement où, a minima, les principaux acteurs se sont engagés dans un processus de paix et en faveur du déploiement d'une force de maintien de la paix pour les assister. Tel n'a pas été le cas au Darfour jusqu'à présent, bien que nous soyons plus optimistes quant aux résultats des efforts actuellement engagés pour revitaliser le processus de paix. Les parties doivent cesser le combat si la MINUAD veut avoir la moindre chance de pouvoir accomplir son mandat.

26. La MINUAD met également en lumière le fossé entre mandats et ressources qui existe dans le cadre d'opérations de cette envergure. Nous devrons trouver les moyens pour garantir davantage de ressources - humaines et matérielles - ou bien nous devrons revoir à la baisse nos mandats et nos attentes. Comme vous le savez, nous sollicitons sans cesse les Etats membres pour obtenir de leur part des hélicoptères d'attaque et de transport militaire. Nous continuons à suivre des offres potentielles mais aucune n'est pour le moment effective. Dans des régions aussi vastes que le Darfour, c'est le transport aérien qui permet à des troupes en nombre limité de pouvoir réagir et répondre. Il y a plus de 2,5 millions de personnes déplacées au Darfour et au mieux la MINUAD peut être un instrument de dissuasion. Mais cela suppose qu'elle soit mobile. Les forces statiques ne peuvent espérer se déployer dans toutes les zones où se trouvent les populations déplacées. Sans ces moyens aériens, même une MINUAD totalement déployée ne sera pas en mesure d'atteindre ses objectifs.

27. Sans avancées dans le processus politique, sans un cessez-le-feu respecté et sans les ressources nécessaires, la mission ne pourra pas assurer son objectif premier qui est de protéger les civils. Si une mission d'une telle ampleur, largement médiatisée et si coûteuse n'a pas le soutien et les moyens nécessaires à sa réussite, le futur des opérations de maintien de la paix menées par l'ONU, votre travail, votre engagement, et le sacrifice de vos personnels risqueront d'être remis en question. Nous devons également surveiller de près la procédure mise en oeuvre par la Cour Pénale Internationale et être en mesure de répondre à son impact sur la capacité de nos missions à accomplir leurs mandats.

28. Gardant en tête les difficultés rencontrées au Darfour, je crois que nous devons nous interroger avec beaucoup de précautions sur la meilleure réponse à apporter à la situation qui se dessine en Somalie, au regard des plans en cours d'élaboration. Nous, représentants de la communauté internationale, devons résolument agir en Somalie. La question à laquelle nous devons répondre est : comment? Les efforts en faveur d'un accord de paix doivent être relancés et la pression doit être mise sur les parties au conflit. La réponse en matière de sécurité doit également être à la mesure des défis posés. Le Secrétaire Général a demandé le soutien des Etats membres pour mener ou contribuer à la mise en place d'une Force multi-nationale à Mogadiscio ; notre expertise militaire nous indique que les forces classiques de maintien de la paix des Nations Unies ne seraient pas suffisantes pour assurer la stabilisation de la capitale somalienne. Nous sommes dans l'attente de la réponse des Etats membres et préparons également d'autres options comme une opération de maintien de la paix, comme le Conseil de Sécurité l'a requis. Dans ce processus, il est essentiel que nous puissions garder àl'esprit les réalités du maintien de la paix tel que mené par l'ONU: ses principes, ses objectifs, ses capacités et ses limites, et le risque d'un échec auquel les Nations Unies en Somalie seraient vouées dès le départ si les solutions choisies n'étaient pas adaptées aux tâches à accomplir.

29. Enfin, regardant au-delà même de la Somalie, je suis conscient que l'actuelle crise économique a un impact encore plus dévastateur, décourageant et destructeur sur les sociétés et les pays où nous sommes déployés et où les populations vivent d'ores et déjà sous une très forte pression. Je voudrais citer ici l'un de mes plus remarquables collègues, le Représentant Spécial du Secrétaire Général M. Hedi Annabi qui a récemment remarqué, en relation avec la situation que connait Haïti, que l'existence d' « une population pauvre, affamée et désespérée ne peut tout simplement pas être compatible avec la stabilité pour laquelle nous ouvrons ». Ces temps éprouvants nous rappellent que nous devons demeurer particulièrement vigilants face aux risques de revers ou de rechute. Ces temps rappellent également à la communauté internationale qu'elle doit maintenir constants ses engagements en faveur des ces pays fragiles et vulnérables afin de préserver les progrès permis par nos opérations de maintien de la paix et d'assurer une aide plus importante et à plus long terme. Ensemble, nous devons rester déterminés à soutenir les efforts menés localement pour parcourir les chemins dangereux qui s'ouvrent devant nous et pour garantir que les récentes réussites, souvent payées par le sacrifice de femmes et d'hommes, se maintiennent durablement.

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

30. Clearly, UN peacekeeping has come a very long way, and it is at historic levels, thanks in good measure to the Brahimi reform process that you carried forward with DPKO. Now, in many areas we are overstretched, as missions lack the resources - human, material and political - to fully address all the expectations placed upon them. I have outlined some of the implications of this.

31. With only two months in office, it would be presumptuous to offer major new policy initiatives for peacekeeping. I intend to visit the missions, to discuss with colleagues, to listen to you and to consider together with you how to advance UN peacekeeping.

32. All the same, it is clear that DPKO and DFS will need to take stock, together with you, of where peacekeeping has come to, and to address important questions which have arisen in the course of the ongoing surge in peacekeeping demands. I think some of the key questions we must consider are:

. In light of the changed political, economic and security environment in which we find ourselves, do we need to review our comparative advantages and consider the streamlining of mandates and tasks in order to ensure better use our limited global resources? 

. What sorts of mandates are appropriate for UN peacekeeping? When is it 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 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?

. Is the United Nations properly configured, with the right systems and rules and regulations to grapple with the sheer logistical challenges of deploying at huge scale and high speed into extremely distant and difficult terrain? 

. How can we together address the issue of the waning consent from host countries that we see in a number of cases, and what does this mean for the standing of UN peacekeeping?

. And what can we do together to ensure the strong, ongoing political and diplomatic support from Member States that UN operations need in order to succeed?

33. I intend to direct DPKO to engage in forward looking analyses of the evolving and changing environment of the 21st century, so that UN peacekeeping remains a useful and effective tool to address some of the world's most daunting peace and security challenges. We will be returning to you, over the coming months and next few years, to engage in a dialogue and hopefully to arrive at innovative solutions.

34. UN Peacekeeping is very much premised upon a global partnership, most notably with the Membership. I look forward to a close and regular interaction with you and I commit to maintain a constant and transparent dialogue with you. I also hope to have your support in our work ahead.

35. In conclusion, let me reiterate what an honour it is to be with you here today as the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. I pay tribute to the sacrifices and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice paid by your troops and police and of the civilians we deploy to some of the most intimidating and difficult locations on earth, whose efforts make a difference between life and death, between hope and despair.

Thank you.