Press Releases

    DEV/2485
                8 September 2004

    UN Secretary-General: Peacekeeping Missions Rising to New High

    NEW YORK, 7 September (UN Department of Public Information) -- The number and scope of UN peace operations are approaching what may become their highest levels ever, improving prospects for conflict resolution, but also stretching thin the capacities of the system, Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported to the General Assembly today.

    “The increased demand for United Nations peace operations that has arisen in 2004 represents a challenge not seen since the rapid increases in the scale and complexity of operations in the 1990s”, the Secretary-General says, in his annual report on implementation of the year 2000 Millennium Declaration.

    The United Nations, which has bolstered its support to peacekeeping from its headquarters, is administering 17 operations, including in complex and fragile political environments in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Georgia and Kosovo. United Nations forces are now withdrawing from a stable Sierra Leone, where they have helped the Government to consolidate peace. The United Nations is also downsizing according to plan in Timor-Leste, after UN peacekeepers contributed to that country's independence.

    New operations were authorized over the past year in Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti and Burundi.  The United Nations is seeking to double its troop strength in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ensure that tentative progress towards stability is not reversed. At the request of the Security Council or in anticipation of upcoming operational demands, it has also been planning for substantial new or expanded operations in Iraq and the Sudan.

    The Secretary-General projects that more than 30,000 uniformed personnel may be required to meet the surge in demand for peacekeeping operations in addition to some 50,000 currently deployed. This could mean more troops and civilian police would be serving as blue helmets than during UN peacekeeping's peak in 1993, when 78,000 uniformed personnel served, according to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

    Commitments Prerequisite for Expansion

    While welcoming the increased demand for UN missions as a signal of new opportunities for peace, the Secretary-General warns that commitments of political financial, material and human resources are necessary, and that for a clear exit strategy is vital for each operation.

    The United Nations is seeking support for peacekeeping from developing and developed countries alike, the Secretary-General stressed. While it may be possible to find troops, he noted critical gaps in specialized military capabilities, such as tactical air support and field medical facilities, as well as a dearth of francophone police and a pending depletion of strategic reserve stocks for peacekeeping.

    The UN Secretary-General also pointed to the need for steady, ongoing work with local institutions to promote sustainable economic development and good governance and to consolidate the rule of law.

    “Respect for the rule of law brings together several key goals of the Millennium Declaration and is a core activity of the Organization’s efforts in the field, especially in post-conflict societies”, the Secretary-General says in his report, an annual assessment of follow-up on the goals agreed at the September 2000 Millennium Summit in New York.

    UN activities in this area cited by the Secretary-General include tribunals to address past war crimes, technical assistance to justice institutions and facilitation of national consultations on justice reform.

    The global response to drugs and cross-border crime has been bolstered, the Secretary-General’s report says, by the coming into force of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in September 2003, and its ratification by 82 States, as well as by the adoption and opening for signature of the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December 2003 in Mérida, México.

    Organized crime today is taking on the aspect of complex business conglomerates, while hierarchical structures such as “families” and cartels are disappearing, according to the report. A diversification of criminal pursuits, as well as decentralized structures, are posing difficulties for law enforcement, and criminal networks are taking advantage of civil conflicts and political instability, as well as opportunities to service terrorist organizations.

    The frequency of natural disasters, and their impact on the poor and vulnerable, appears to be increasing, the report says. In 2003 alone, 75,000 people lost their lives in 700 natural occurrences, including the Bam and Algerian earthquakes. Six hundred million people were affected, and combined economic losses are estimated to exceed $65 billion. A number of trends, including rising sea levels, more widely varying extremes in temperature and rainfall and changes in agricultural production patterns, suggest continued dangers.

    Fortunately, the international community is applying new strategies for disaster prevention and mitigation of risk. Widespread flooding in South Asia in July, although severe, was less destructive than previous floods due to local preparedness and response capacities. Addressing the structural obstacles to food security in the Horn of Africa has averted a major famine from the drought cycle that began in 2002.

    The annual report from the Secretary-General also includes an assessment of mixed progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (see associated press release).

    For more information, contact Susan Manuel of the Peace and Security Section of the UN Department of Public Information, tel: 1-212-963-1262.

    * *** *