Press Releases

    SG/SM/9311
                                                                                                                            SC/8096
                                                                                                                            18 May 2004

    To Succeed, UN Peacekeepers Need Sustained Political Engagement of Governments, Clear Mandates, Necessary Resources, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

    NEW YORK, 17 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks as delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on UN peacekeeping operations to the Security Council today:

    Mr. President, let me start by thanking you and your delegation for arranging this important discussion on a key topic for all of us.  And it is also good to welcome you back in New York.

    Let me, in my turn, add my word to yours in thanking Ambassador [Inocencio] Arias (Spain) for the contribution he has made to the United Nations and to this Council.  Mr. President, you’ve said it all, but I also agree with you that we will miss his sense of realism and his wit.  With that wit, he often pulls us back to what is possible, what is real, and for us not to drift too far into wishful thinking.  And I think that is a quality that we are going to miss.  And I think I speak for all of us if I say that it has been a pleasure in working with you, Ambassador.  We will miss you, and I understand you’re going back to Madrid to arrange a championship match.  I hope we will all be invited.  All the best, Ambassador.

    Mr. Chairman,

    We are facing a time of surging demand for United Nations peacekeeping.  Last month there were more than 53,000 troops, military observers and civilian police serving in 15 UN missions around the world -- the highest number of personnel since October 1995.  Many of these missions are large and complex.  Most go beyond the limited military functions that have marked traditional peacekeeping missions.

    Even more missions loom on the horizon.  The Security Council has recently authorized a new mission in Haiti and has expanded the existing mission in Côte d’Ivoire.  Missions are being planned for Burundi and Sudan.  By the end of this year, to absorb the new and enhanced missions, we may need an extra $1 billion for the UN peacekeeping budget, which is currently $2.82 billion.

    Our duty must be to meet this demand and to seize the opportunities to bring long-standing conflicts to an end.  For millions of our fellow human beings, UN peacekeeping missions offer their best -- and sometimes only -- hope of emerging from conflict towards a safe and stable future.  A recent study by Oxford University economists points out that the economic cost of civil wars, in terms of lost revenue and local and regional output, averages $128 billion a year, and that, measured against the costs of conflict, peacekeeping is extremely cost-effective.

    Mr. President, your laudable initiative in organizing this Security Council debate leads me to ask two broad questions:

    --  First, what is the nature of the peacekeeping challenge that we face?

    --  And second, is the UN able to do it -- which really means, are you, the Member States, ready and willing to do it?

    Peacekeeping today has become increasingly multidimensional.  The missions you mandate are implementing peace agreements, helping manage political transitions, building institutions, supporting economic reconstruction, organizing the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, assisting humanitarian aid programmes, supervising or even organizing elections, monitoring human rights, clearing minefields, disarming and demobilizing militias, and reintegrating their members into the civilian economy.

    As the complexity of mandates increases, so too have public expectations about what these missions can achieve.  Peacekeeping operations are called to assist when peace is often new and fragile, but they must be part of a longer-term strategy to solidify the foundations of peace, lest we find that, as in Haiti and Liberia, we must return again.  To this end, the international community must better integrate the security, political, economic and social levers that it has at its disposal to keep and build peace in the immediate post-conflict period and beyond.  All the UN’s departments, agencies and programmes -- not just the Department of Peacekeeping Operations -- have their part to play in the peace-building process.  We must also ensure that our efforts to build peace never lose sight of the fact that we are there to assist, and it is the local population that must take a lead in the decision-making that affects their lives.

    Especially as the UN moves into non-traditional aspects of peacekeeping, our peacekeepers become targets for people who seek to disrupt the political process, in the hope that further violence will enable them to achieve their aims.  It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that those who serve the UN Charter in peacekeeping missions are protected.  To assess, guard against and manage such threats, the United Nations needs to have a clear picture of the environments in which we are operating.  UN peacekeeping operations need not only information but the capacity to analyse what this information means to the conduct of their mission.

    How do we deal with these challenges?  First, and above all, we have to show commitment.  The international community must be prepared to stay the course with political will and resources, particularly during times of trial, to ensure that peace processes do not falter and give way to renewed conflict.

    This Council bears a heavy responsibility as the body which mandates these difficult and dangerous missions.  To succeed, our peacekeepers need your sustained solidarity and mandates that are clear, implementable and achievable.  It is up to you to give a lead to other Member States in ensuring that each mission receives the troops and resources it needs.

    Your support is especially important when a mission faces challenges to the legitimacy of its mandate from would-be spoilers.  UN peacekeepers must be equipped to withstand such challenges and to do their work effectively.  For this, they need a robust mandate, shaped by clear political objectives and backed by a strong international consensus.

    Furthermore, they must be provided with adequate resources and appropriate reinforcement so they can protect civilians, keep the peace and maintain security even when confronted by significant opposition.

    With your help, and that of the General Assembly, we have been able to implement many of the recommendations in the Brahimi report.  We are definitely more efficient and better coordinated than we were five years ago.  We are also better equipped, both here at Headquarters and at our logistics base in Brindisi, to support our field operations and to respond more rapidly to sudden developments.

    Notwithstanding these advances, the scale of the current surge may well outstrip our capacities to backstop the operations, and we will have to look at augmenting these capacities.

    UN missions remain hampered by a lack of specialized military capacities, generally available from the military forces of developed countries.  Unfortunately, these countries today make only limited contributions of troops to UN peacekeeping operations.  At the same time, many States that are willing suppliers of troops have great difficulty in deploying staff within the necessary time frames.

    I urge Member States to do their utmost to help fill these gaps so that UN peacekeeping operations are able to draw on specialized capacities and to deploy rapidly.  The UN is also working with regional, subregional and multinational arrangements to ensure complementary capacities, for example, with early, temporary force deployments that can bridge the gap until UN peacekeepers can deploy.

    Another critical gap is our urgent need for French-speaking personnel, especially police, to tackle assignments in Francophone countries.  As we add or expand missions this year -- Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire and possibly Burundi -- that pressure will only intensify.

    Mr. President, there is work to be done.  I have outlined only some of the challenges.  The Non-Paper before the Council provides a more comprehensive picture of the whole range of challenges that must be overcome if we are to meet the goals that we have set ourselves.  Both in theory and in reality, peacekeeping embodies the spirit of the United Nations.

    Through UN peacekeeping, the international community comes together in a unique way to pursue peace, using some measure of military means.  This was not originally envisaged in the Charter as we all know, but it is entirely in keeping with the Charter’s vision.  Peacekeeping sends a powerful signal of the international community’s intention to ensure peace is preserved.  But to have real effect, this signal must be reflected in Member States’ presence on the ground.  Peacekeeping does not relieve nations of their responsibilities.  Rather, it pools national responsibilities for the greater good.

    The presence of peacekeeping troops sends a signal that is all the more powerful when they come from across the international community, from countries rich and poor.  So I urge Member States across the UN to contribute troops.

    The signal sent by a peacekeeping operation must also be backed up by political commitment from Member States.  They play a key role in supporting peace processes and encouraging the parties to continue on the path to peace.  Especially in these difficult days, when our focus is on a few major crises, the surge in peacekeeping will stretch the international community’s attention.  Each new mission, each new effort to resolve conflict, will depend for success on the sustained political engagement of Member States, participating directly in peacekeeping operations and through diplomatic, political and other channels.

    Our peacekeeping missions have a long history, one that includes times of great pride and times of great difficulty if not failure.  We must recall the hard lessons of the past and ensure that as we enter this new period of surge, everything that can be done to ensure success is done.  Today’s new missions must be guaranteed the necessary resources and commitment to handle the uniquely complex and challenging tasks to which they are called.

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