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Month Ends With UN Peacekeeping Debate

Security Council caps month with debate on support for UN peacekeeping

Wrapping up their work for August in the shadow of last week's deadly attack on United Nations headquarters in Iraq, members of the Security Council today focused on ways of providing better support for UN peacekeeping operations in various parts of the world.

At the suggestion of outgoing Council President, Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe of Syria, the 15-nation body addressed the evolving and increasingly complex nature of peacekeeping, with speakers emphasizing the need for clear mandates and timetables, as well as conditions to ensure their implementation.

Most participants agreed that peacekeeping missions should be involved not only in providing military forces to areas in conflict, but also in ensuring support for restoration of a durable peace through humanitarian efforts, as well as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, support for the rule of law, electoral assistance and economic reconstruction. Of particular importance was the provision of adequate human and financial resources.

In the aftermath of last week's terrorist attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, the issues of safety and security of peacekeepers and humanitarian workers were particularly prominent in the debate. Speakers insisted that harming peacekeepers should be punishable under international law as a crime against humanity and welcomed the unanimous adoption of a new resolution on Tuesday as an important step towards reducing the vulnerability of international personnel.

Various Council members also stressed that the entire international community was outraged by attempts to impede the work of peacekeepers, who were increasingly becoming targets of terrorists and bandits. The new resolution sent a clear signal that the Council, acting on a solid basis of international law, did not intend to tolerate attempts to torpedo peacekeeping operations and would see to it that the perpetrators did not go unpunished.

Many speakers agreed that in dealing with new situations, it was important to learn lessons from the Organization's previous conflict resolution and peacekeeping experience, including in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Timor-Leste and Afghanistan. Since, in some cases, gaps had emerged in the transition from peacekeeping to peace-building, speakers stressed the importance of coherence of efforts, coordination among various UN bodies, and flexibility in adapting to the situations on the ground.

Several Council members pointed out that the transition from conflict to peace and stability could not be shouldered by the Council alone. It was necessary to explore how the Council could work with other UN organs, especially the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to evolve mechanisms to ensure that an initial deployment eventually led to a permanent peace.

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