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11 December 2000
|Under Secretary-General Guéhenno Expresses Guarded Optimism for
UN Peacekeeping in Austrian Parliament
VIENNA, 11 December (UN Information Service) -- Following is the text of an address by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, to the special event of the Austrian Parliament commemorating forty years of Austrian participation in UN peacekeeping, delivered here this morning:
In light of Austria’s long history in peacekeeping, I am sure that many here today have come to realize that these are challenging times for peacekeepers. Unlike the peacekeeping operations undertaken during the Cold War, where the UN was usually requested to deploy forces to monitor or supervise a cease-fire between two warring states, UN missions of the 1990s have been tasked with a much wider range of roles and objectives, often in the context of civil wars.
This shift in nature and character of peacekeeping which we have witnessed in the post-Cold War era is a reflection of the shift in the nature of conflicts themselves in which the UN has been asked to assist. Instead of a state-to-state conflict, we are now more likely to be confronted with an intra-state conflict with various numbers of warring parties which in turn, might be supported by an equal number of external actors. In some conflicts, such as those in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we have seen massive refugee flows, arms/contraband trafficking and cross-border troop movements, as well as the government’s loss of control over part of its national territory and borders. Spill-over effects such as these prove destabilizing for the afflicted country’s neighbors and the sub-region as a whole. They also underscore the need to move away from a state-centric approach to peacekeeping, to an approach which is more broadly conceived in the sub-regional or larger regional context.
In this new context, peacekeepers have found themselves facing irregular fighting units who are loosely controlled by weak central command structures and rarely abide by recognized rules of war. Motives for many warring parties vary from the political, religious, ethnic or economic, or a combination of these. In some of these cases, we have seen the United Nations’ resolve to carry out its mandate challenged by some parties to the conflict, who are either holding out for more favorable terms or have few interests to be served by ending the hostilities. These would-be spoilers of peace processes present the Organization and its membership with some fundamental questions which go to the heart of what peacekeeping is and how it should be conducted. Since peacekeeping’s earliest days, it has been guided by three principles:
In essence, with the emergence of each new spoiler to a peace process and the challenges they pose to a UN peace operation, it has been asked how useful or relevant the three fundamental principles are to peacekeeping in this new era. Do these principles still apply? Has peacekeeping become synonymous with low-intensity combat, or more simply, war fighting? We believe that the three principles most certainly do still apply, and that peacekeeping is an activity still very distinct from war fighting. However, it is clear in this new era that robust rules of engagement must be applied if UN operations are to be taken seriously in the field by any potential spoilers. To be sure, I do want to leave you with the impression that we want to see a UN operation establish itself by shooting its way into a situation. On the contrary, we still abide by the three principles when we are faced with a new crisis. But, it is our view that an operation must project a certain degree of military credibility in the eyes of all involved parties if it is to deter challenges from would-be spoilers. If one accepts this realization, then the need for well-equipped and well-trained troops, to say nothing of the prerequisite political will to provide those assets and a sufficient mandate, become obvious.
These challenges are given additional texture by another recent development concerning Security Council mandates. It is unmistakable that the UN has been charged with implementing mandates which are broader and more demanding than those of ten or twenty years ago. While this trend first took root in the late 1980s, it has culminated in 2000 with the UN exercising interim executive authority in two different territories. Challenging multidimensional mandates are an everyday reality for the UN and those Member States that participate in peacekeeping missions. This reality, however, need not be viewed as yet another obstacle to be overcome. Rather, multidimensional mandates are simply the result of the Security Council recognizing the need to address not only the symptoms of the conflict but also its underlying causes. When the parties have been prepared to cooperate and the international community has been willing to provide the necessary support, we have had some of our most notable successes. A multidimensional framework lays the groundwork for the parties to manage a peaceful country and this allows the peacekeeping operation to withdraw sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the “old-fashioned” operations have not become completely obsolete; the United Nations mission currently deploying Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) clearly illustrates that we must also remain prepared to address classic, inter-state conflict.
The closely related issue of capacity was a prominent element in the Report of the Independent Panel on Peacekeeping Operations, the Brahimi Report, which was commissioned last year by the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan. In the report, the Panel noted that at the time of writing, 77% of UN peacekeepers were contributed by countries from the developing world. While this level of participation by a wide range of Member States is heartening, it has led to an unfortunate perception that countries from the developed world are less and less likely to contribute their own forces to UN operations, especially when the theater of operations is Africa. This is a source of concern for those of us who must implement Security Council resolutions because it means that Member States with the necessary resources and expertise are often less inclined to come forward.
I would like to express the hope that Austria’s forty-year tradition of supporting peacekeeping will not waver, and that the Government will remain actively engaged in United Nations peacekeeping. I am pleased to note, in this context, that Austria is currently participating in ten UN peacekeeping operations around the world.
I would also like to address briefly the European Union’s recent announcement of its plan to create a rapid reaction force of 60 000 troops and a pool of some 5 000 civilian police officers by 2003, both of which would be capable of quick deployment to crisis area. The United Nations welcomes this plan because it is in keeping our long-standing call for groups of states to develop capabilities which can be used, in cooperation and coordination with the UN, to respond to unfolding emergencies with greater effectiveness and timeliness than is currently possible. We assume that this instrument will be used under the authority of a Security Council resolution, and it could also be deployed as part of a UN operation.
By way of a conclusion, I would like to say a few words about the Secretariat’s management capacity for peacekeeping operations. The number of uniformed personnel serving under the UN flag totals close to 40,000 and the mandates continue to broaden. As a newcomer to the UN, I have been pleasantly surprised to find a rebounding sense of confidence, despite the well-publicized trials of the recent past. There is a guarded optimism that we might soon be able to enhance our resources and capabilities for responding to crisis and conflicts. I am referring to the generally positive reception of Member States to the Brahimi Report since it was tabled in late August of this year. I raise it here today so that I may ask for Austria’s continuing support for the implementation of the Report’s recommendations. These recommendations embody many improvements to UN peacekeeping which have been sought by the Secretariat and Member States alike for some time now, and, in light of the challenges I highlighted earlier, the urgency we attach to them cannot be overstated. I know that with forty years of partnership between Austria and United Nations we can look forward to your continued support as we adapt peacekeeping to this new era.
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