Peacekeeping under severe strain

United Nations peacekeeping operations, faced with unprecedented demands and extreme constraints, will undergo a thorough review in the coming year.
That`s the word from Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy, the chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).
“2009 will be a crucial year for peacekeeping,” told the General Assembly`s Special Committee on Peacekeeping, in his first appearance before that body since he replaced Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who had held the top post from 2000 until last August.
The UN News Centre adds Le Roy said that operations were not only stretched in terms of the size and number of missions – totalling 18 and deploying some 112 000 blue helmets – but also in terms of the challenges posed by complex mandates and difficult logistical and security environments.
“A number of our missions face risks that are so significant that I cannot discount the potential for mission failure, with all the consequences that would entail for the United Nations,” he warned.
Among the most challenging factors, he said, was the requirement to use force to protect civilians in areas beset by continuing conflict such as Darfur and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“This situation begs an analysis of mandates and the capabilities needed to implement them,” the official said, offering as an example the difficult contradictions the DRC Mission (MONUC) faced when it was mandated to both protect civilians and support the national armed forces in their operations – which themselves posed a threat to civilians.
For such complex mandates, the resources needed had become increasingly hard to mobilize, he said, citing the continued lack of air transport in Darfur over a year after the deployment of the mission, and the shortage of troops in many missions.
Le Roy was confident, however, that the necessary analysis could be done and the challenges could be met, because of the dire need for peacekeeping and the ability of DPKO to perform the restructuring needed.
After all, the previous phases of restructuring DPKO, and the division of labour between it and the recently-created Department of Field Support (DFS), has already been accomplished 18 months into the process, though work remained to be done “to achieve the full benefits of the approved reform measures.”
The Brahimi, Peace Operations 2010 and DPKO/DFS restructuring processes, underway for nearly a decade, had strengthened the UN`s capacity to plan manage and sustain UN peacekeeping operations.
Through further analysis and evolution, “we must look to the horizon, but we must also continue to implement mandates and build on the significant strengthening of our capacity…,” Le Roy said.
Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, last month confirmed the “great strain” that peace operations faced on the support side. She said that a support strategy was being developed that will explore such issues as greater delegation of authority to managers in the field, the use of regional support hubs, a smarter approach to technology and the provision of goods and services from diversified sources.
Le Roy`s predecessor in July told reporters lasting peace after armed conflicts could only be achieved when there was genuine political will by the parties involved, and not simply when a United Nations force had intervened.
“What you can do is deter spoilers on the margin of a conflict, but peace has to be made by those who made war,” he said. “You can help them – you can provide a measure of trust in that transition where they`re tired of war but not yet convinced of the good intentions of the other side, and that`s where a robust peacekeeping force can make a real difference – but you`re not going to impose peace with a UN force.”