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Statement by Ambassador Susan Rice on Peacekeeping, February 2010

Speaker: Susan E. Rice
Published February 22, 2010

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations, gave these remarks on peacekeeping at the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations at United Nations Headquarters on February 22, 2010.

Madam Chair, I am honored to again appear before the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. I congratulate you, as well as Ambassador Normandin and the other members of the bureau on their election. And, I thank DPKO and DFS for their comprehensive briefings.

Distinguished delegates, we meet against the backdrop of a profound tragedy for Haiti, as well as for the United Nations system. More than 100 UN personnel lost their lives in the earthquake in Haiti, 92 of them MINUSTAH personnel. I reiterate the United States’ and my own personal sincere condolences to the people of Haiti and to the families and governments of fallen UN peacekeepers and other personnel. We look forward to hearing the views of the troop and police contributors to MINUSTAH and to all UN peacekeeping operations throughout the next weeks of deliberation.
Today, I will highlight what the United States has done to support and strengthen UN peacekeeping over the past year, and share our reactions to the Secretary-General’s proposed agenda for ongoing peacekeeping reform.

Madam Chair, a year ago, I stressed that strengthening UN peacekeeping was one of the United States’ top priorities at the United Nations.

Since then, the United States has paid off peacekeeping arrears accumulated over the previous four years. We met our financial obligations for 2009, in full. In addition to the approximately $2 billion the U.S. contributed for the UN’s peacekeeping budget in 2009, we provided almost $3 billion in humanitarian and development assistance for the eight countries that host multidimensional UN peacekeeping missions. In 2009, we also provided more than $600 million dollars of training, equipment and logistics assistance to 55 nations to help bolster their capacity to contribute troops and police for peacekeeping operations. The United States is proud to have military and police personnel serving in six UN peacekeeping operations. This includes additional police, corrections and military officers we are soon to deploy to MINUSTAH. In addition, U.S. military forces are temporarily in Haiti, supporting relief operations and providing critical enabling assistance to the Government of Haiti and MINUSTAH.

Our financial and operational contributions have been buttressed by critically important political engagement. The U.S. Special Envoys to Sudan and to the Great Lakes region are strengthening diplomatic support for peace processes central to the success of the UN’s three largest missions: UNAMID, UNMIS and MONUC. I visited a number of peacekeeping missions during the past year to obtain insights into the challenges they face. And, in September of 2009, President Obama signaled his personal commitment to the importance of UN peacekeeping, by hosting a meeting of the leaders of top troop and police contributing countries to UN peace operations. At that meeting, he expressed the United States’ gratitude for these nations’ contributions and sacrifice, and exchanged views on how to make current and future operations more effective.

The White House, in October 2009, launched a process to develop a strategic action plan for U.S. support to UN and international peacekeeping, to include follow-up on issues explicitly raised by TCCs, such as:

  • the need for providing peacekeeping operations with clear, credible and achievable mandates and the resources to match;
  • the importance of peacekeeping operations to be accompanied by and not a substitute for critical peace-making and peace-building efforts;
  • the provision of assistance to troop and police contributing countries to increase the pool of well-trained, well-equipped and highly disciplined troops and police available for peacekeeping operations; and,
  • the pursuit of ongoing institutional reform and strengthening of the UN’s capacity, along with that of key regional organizations, to plan, deploy, manage, sustain, evaluate, and successfully complete peacekeeping operations.

The demands of individual UN peacekeeping missions will command a great deal of attention this year and beyond. Yet, as we mark the tenth anniversary of the issuance of the Brahimi Report, we will need also to pursue the reforms that will make current and future operations more effective. We agree with the Secretary-General that there is a need for priority focus on four areas in particular. I would like to share a few of our observations on each.

First, UN peacekeepers deserve clarity on what is expected of them to implement their mandates. UN headquarters should provide them with practical guidance that is field-tested, updated, and based on lessons learned and best practices. Such guidance is needed to enable peacekeepers to implement their mandates to protect civilians effectively. It is needed for them to provide better support to host governments, which bear primary responsibility for protecting their citizens. By peacekeepers, I mean all military, police and civilian personnel. This is not a burden that can or should be expected to be shouldered by uniformed personnel alone. As the Independent Study produced by DPKO and OCHA highlighted, all mission components must contribute to and be equipped with mission-wide strategies to protect civilians from imminent threat of physical violence, including sexual violence. Ideally, this integrated approach will forestall violence and reduce the need to respond to violence in progress.

Peacekeepers also deserve practical guidance on when to use conciliatory or confrontational tactics in the face of threats to civilians or UN personnel, obstacles to their freedom of movement, or direct challenges to the implementation of their mandates. Confrontation can take various forms, ranging from public naming and shaming, to political isolation and sanction, to the effective use of force. A mission that fails to respond decisively can invite further attacks and risk losing its credibility. But, equally, a peacekeeping mission that overreacts can lose its welcome quickly. Whether you call it “determined peacekeeping,” credible deterrence or “robust peacekeeping,” peacekeepers deserve clear guidance on what is expected of them to defend themselves and their mandate.

Similarly, peacekeepers also deserve clear guidance for the essential peace-building role they play in contemporary operations. Most countries emerging from conflict require assistance from a broad array of bilateral and multilateral actors to address a range of complex governance and recovery challenges. How are the military, police and civilian peacekeepers to ensure their peace-building efforts are mutually reinforcing with the work of others? And, how do we ensure their collective effort does not undermine but rather strengthens a peace process and build national capacity?

Second, if we are going to assign peacekeeping missions with challenging mandates, we must equip them with the capabilities required to implement them effectively. We need to develop a strategy, together with the Secretariat, for addressing the chronic shortages of enabling capabilities, including transport, helicopter, engineering, and medical units. Current experience in Haiti underscores the need for rapidly deployable, well-equipped, well-trained and logistically self-sustaining Formed Police Units (FPUs). Let’s all work together to support DPKO to mobilize this critical resource. We should consider strengthening and expanding the Standing Police Capacity (SPC), complemented with justice and corrections experts. We are very interested to learn about the Secretariat’s plans, including instituting a new Talent Management System, to address serious challenges and shortcomings in providing missions in a timely manner with the civilian capabilities they require.

Third, the U.S. supports, in principle, the adoption of a transformational global field support strategy over the course of the next five years. I say this with the proviso that the details of the proposals will need to be examined in-depth and many of them remain to be fleshed out. That said, the existing field support system clearly needs retooling. Missions need to be deployed more rapidly. Peacekeepers should be equipped to do their jobs more effectively. Efficiencies and economies of scale must be achieved. And, the stewardship of resources and accountability must be strengthened. The U.S. therefore supports, in principle, proposals intended to achieve those objectives, such as reconsideration of existing divisions of labor for field support, creation of Global and Regional Service Centres, and reductions in missions’ administrative and logistical support foot-print. We welcome the views of other Members of this Committee on these timely and important initiatives. We look forward to reaching decisions on the specific proposals during the coming May resumed session of the Fifth Committee.

Finally, I would like to turn to strengthening the planning, management and oversight of UN peacekeeping missions. Getting the right senior management teams in place in every mission should be among the Secretariat’s highest priorities. Equally important, those teams and their staff need to work well together. Yet, the concepts launched by the UN for “Integrated Missions,” “Integrated Operations Teams,” “Integrated Mission Task Forces,” and the “Integrated Mission Planning Process” are attractive on paper but they are not fully implemented or universally accepted. Political, military, police, support, humanitarian, human rights and development personnel in the field, and at headquarters, still sometimes work at cross-purposes. Getting the staffing decisions right and then breaking down barriers across disciplines and bureaucracies is a challenge for all organizations, the U.S. government included. It’s a challenge the United Nations also must confront, if its peacekeeping missions are to succeed.

We welcome the various tools and measures put in place to address issues of conduct and discipline. The United States strongly supports the measures taken to establish and implement a zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse. We call on all peacekeeping personnel to act in full compliance with that policy. We are deeply concerned by the reported increase over the past year in allegations of the most egregious forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, as indicated by Under-Secretary-General Malcorra this morning. The bad conduct of a small minority can undermine the efforts of the majority of dedicated peacekeepers around the world. Concerted leadership, commitment and vigilance on conduct and discipline issues, in the field, at UN headquarters and in capitals remains indispensable.

In conclusion, Madam Chairman, in years past, peacekeeping reform was seen by some as an exercise in securing additional resources for peacekeeping. That cannot be the case this time around. Additional investments might be needed in certain areas. But, the most important reforms entail a change of attitude and practice, a seriousness of purpose, a commitment to effectiveness and higher performance standards, and an ability to achieve serious efficiencies and economies of scale. These reforms must be underpinned by an abiding belief that whatever the UN does, it should do well. This we owe to the peacekeepers on the ground and to the millions of innocents whose lives depend on their successful efforts.

Thank you.


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