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Statement to the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly

23 Oct 2008
UN Senior Officials on Peacekeeping

Statement of Susana Malcorra,
USG Department of Field Support,
to the Fourth Committee


This is a great opportunity for us, both Alain and I, to start the engagement with you, Member States, on the issues, problems and challenges which we face and have to address in coming months and years. Clearly this is a dialogue that needs to be alive and needs to continue and remains at the heart of how we address issues before us. 

I would like to start by thanking both Mr. Jean Marie Gueheno and Ms. Jane Holl Lute, because they are the ones who brought to the fruition the creation of the Department that I now lead. Of course, you, Member States, after a long discussion, I know, finally decided that this was the way forward.

I have the challenge before me of having the youngest Department in the United Nations, trying to shape it, trying to find a right space for it, and trying to make sure that we deliver on your mandates.

It has been a very, very busy five months since my arrival. I put the priority on understanding the issues from the perspective of the field. It is not useful, neither for you nor the missions that I remain at Headquarters for too long. This is the Department of Field Support, and unless we make the right connection between what we need in the field and how we can support that from New York, we are not doing the job we are called to do. Having now been in field, I understand the huge logistical challenges we have before us. Alain has already covered some of the issues pertaining to Darfur which is the mission where we have to show progress. Our issue of logistics is really critical. This is the heart of what we have to address. Of course the complexity of mission mandates also affects what we have to get on the ground. The more complex the missions are and the more sophisticated they become, the more difficult it becomes for us to be able to support them, not only with the right infrastructure but also with right profile of staff to enable the missions to deliver their mandates. On top of all of these, the security situation is becoming an increasing concern and more of a constraint in our efforts to obtain and retain the right staff profile. Combined, these factors add to the naturally complex process of a hiring staff - and - as Alain has said, this is a top priority as we move forward.

The second priority for me has been to get to know my own team at Headquarters and our teams throughout the field operations. I have tried to make sure that we get a shared view on how to work together and how to move forward on all issues we have before us.

There is a very difficult balance to strike between strategic positioning, strategic vision and the urgent operational demands. How to properly respond to short term pressing questions is, of course, our most immediate concern. And we do not always have answers. We have to think ahead at the same time and adjust the support model in order to better deliver in the short term. It's not enough for us to be able to deploy fast. We really need to do a better job in Darfur and Chad and whatever next mission we will have before us. We need to think through how the support model can be improved in order to have more effective and efficient delivery.

Clearly, Peace Operations 2010 is our framework. The high level strategy has been laid out, and we will proceed and continue in the same direction. From the support side, it is clear that we also need to drill down into more detail. We have to come to a comprehensive understanding on how better to adjust to a changing environment: an environment that demands growth while recognizing that most of the time resources are not there to keep up with demands.

I am fully aware that there were a lot of questions around the creation of the Department of Field Support. I have to come back to you, Member States, not very far from now with an assessment on how things have gone so far. I have to tell you this presents itself as an opportunity but also as a concern. We have not had much time to prove the case and now we have to come back to you and demonstrate the added value. I am sure that we are going to make a strong case, and I will tell you why. At the same time, we are going to fall short in some of the key indicators of progress.

What is critical is that we retain a very strong management system that allows the DPKO and DFS to work together. As Alain said, he and I are working very strongly, hand-in-hand, moving forward. We need to ensure that there is a systemic approach that allows both departments at all levels to work together. The IOT is a critical way to produce that. I think this was a very good improvement and we have seen some positive results. But we need to do more; we have to work together, both Alain and myself, to strengthen the IOT, which is the heart of how we see both Departments working together.

It has been clear that discussions on the creation of DFS have brought forward different views. Concerns over the chain of command were expressed. I think that we are putting all means together to make sure that the chain of command is not "broken".

It is also clear that the complexity of the context in which we operate means that the responsibility of the head of DFS is very broad, with support demands also increasing. My department has this responsibility. In a certain sense, it is also a very narrow mandate, perhaps more than other Secretariat departments. But it has beauty in being narrow. There is no lack of clarity over the objectives we have to deliver on. There is no excuse; there is no parallel discussion on the political questions. I have to make sure that our Department remains absolutely down to the earth. In that regard, we become sort kind of 'reality check' in some of the political discussions. We are trying to add value in informing the political dialogue.

We also have to bear in mind to distinguish out clients, DPKO and DPA. We have both peacekeeping operations and special political missions. It is our duty to find a model that delivers quality and service for both types of missions. We need to adopt and adjust so we have a way of answering demands from both types of clients. We really have before us an opportunity to focus on this clearly defined mandate and aim to enhance support in a manner that allows missions to deploy fast and in an efficient manner.

What are our immediate operational priorities? Of course, the first one is the short-term; that is to ensure that the key deployments take place properly. Darfur is the top of our list. We are fully engaged in what is happening in Darfur. I have already been there twice and I am going to go there again in three weeks time. We have launched a tripartite dialogue between the Government of Sudan, the African Union and ourselves to ensure that all the key inhibiters which have hindered us in deploying are removed. We have signed an agreement on this matter. We have signed a very concrete set of steps forward. We have also agreed to check this on a regular basis every four to six weeks. We do that at the highest level. We just cannot allow ourselves to fail on this deployment. There is too much at stake; there are too many needs on the ground.

The second short-term priority is, of course, MINURCAT II. We have an equivalent situation in Chad to the one in Darfur. In Darfur we are coming from the East to get to the West. We will have to do the exactly the same in Chad, coming from the West to the East. The distances are enormous, particularly for building activity. Of course, we will hopefully be able to take, as much advantage as possible from what EUFOR has built there. But we will still have a lot to add given the mandate that is being established.

We also have Afghanistan, a different type of mission but also a growing one in a very difficult environment. Security is the key inhibitor there. MONUC represents an additional challenge. What is happening today in DRC means that we will have to strengthen our support; we will have to strengthen our aviation capacity; we will have to strengthen our presence in part of the Eastern DRC where we have not been present until now.

On top of all that, we are working on the scenario planning and options in Somalia, which from the logistical stand point poses huge challenges and puts real pressure on us to think how we will deploy ourselves there.

As Alain said, human resources is at the top of our list in the medium and long term questions. If we can not build a solid human resources framework, we will not be able to sustain what is asked of us. There is no way we can build a team that would be sustainable in the long term. We have our people working hand in hand with the rest of the UN system in the field, and we have totally different conditions of service and we have totally different types of contracts. It is just unfair to our people. We can not ask them to stay there long periods of time and just to accept that this is the reality. This is where we lose staff as we are losing them now. This is why our retention rate is so low. This is why we have vacancy rates at 25%. It is totally unacceptable. It is very difficult for us to build a sense of belonging when our people do not have long term perspective and long term commitment to the organization. So I really urge Member States to take a deep look into the proposal before them this session and come with solutions that will at least help us address the problem.

It is also our priority for us to fully develop a Support Strategy. It is really important that we strike the right balance between effectiveness and efficiency. Resources are not infinite in the context of the present financial constraints that we all face. We need to think through how better to establish a Support Strategy and how better we construct a new support model. Demands for fast deployment are there. We need to come up with more standardized solutions. We need to work on a more comprehensive sourcing strategy that recognizes the existence of local markets, regional markets and international markets. This is something I have heard loud and clear from many Member States that we have to balance our sources between different markets. And we are working on that. But we also have a very short planning horizon when we need to procure. Most of the turnaround time is short. So this calls for a total rethinking of procurement model before us. We need to rethink rules and regulations, which Alain has already referred to. We need to rethink how to better delegate. We need to rethink what are the terms of reference that allows us to tackle this big hurdle as an enabler, not as a disabler, for deployment. We need to work on achieving economies of scale. We need to find all opportunities to maximize the scale in our support.And of course we need to maximize the capabilities for technology and telecommunications to do that.

And of course, the security question is huge challenge. Getting our people to live in some of the places where we have missions is very difficult.

The last priority, I would say, not the least priority, is the question of sexual exploitation and abuse. Alain has already referred to that. I think we all know we have established Zero Tolerance Policy, but we need to ensure that the policy is engraved within our system but also fully shared by all Member States. This is not a problem of the UN Secretariat alone; this is a challenge that we have together. We can only solve it if we work together. We have established Conduct and Discipline Teams in all missions. We have reached out to broader UN family to make sure that we establish a victim assistance policy. We are putting in place many pieces of the puzzle. But unless we have a shared commitment, any individual case can go in the wrong direction. We have zero tolerance policy; we need to ensure that this is enforced. Otherwise, we will face again and again criticism that we are not doing enough.

In short, Member States have entrusted us with a very focused mandate. We need to build a strong support team to deliver this mandate. We, of course, have to do this, working closely with DPKO. We also need to recognize that we have different customers within our service arena. We need to remain very sound and much attuned to bring the 'reality-check' to political discussions. We always need to bring options to the table; always trying to address alternatives and trying to make sure that decisions are taken with the full knowledge of reality on the ground.

We must remain focused on results, very much focused on what is happening now, on the short-term demands. At the same time, we have to think strategically so that we can build a model that is sustainable over the long-term which includes adequate financial resources, human resources, logistical demands, and the necessary technology behind them. All this will ensure that we have a sustainable model for the long term.

Thank you.