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Mixed Scorecard for Peacekeeping Improvents

UN Experts Give Mixed Scorecard to Efforts to Improve Peacekeeping

New York, Oct 5 2005 8:00PM

Five years after a high-level panel made recommendations on how to improve peacekeeping, United Nations experts turned in a mixed scorecard on the results of the measures, which ranged from deploying missions to head off conflicts to maintaining trainers ready to start building capacity at a week's notice.

Under-Secretary-General Lakhdar Brahimi, who chaired the panel in 2000, said it was an important change that the UN Secretariat was telling the Security Council what it needed to know, rather than what governments wanted to hear.

At the same time, he called for more improvements in the area of conflict prevention.

The "Brahimi report" had supported Mr. Annan's more frequent use of fact-finding missions to volatile areas to head off strife.

Mr. Brahimi, a former foreign minister of Algeria, was addressing the third in the series of "Lectures and Conversations, " moderated by Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor and sponsored by the Swedish UN Mission to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the UN.

One great improvement was that UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) had been expanded, Mr.Brahimi said. On the other hand, since the most important decisions were often made when the situation in a country was bad, there was no time to gather needed information, and the Security Council could still authorize a peacekeeping mission while not knowing enough about the country.

In addition, too many unnecessary experts were being sent in and too few local people employed, while a "religious attitude to elections" meant they were often held too soon, he said.

Mr. Brahimi stressed that a national government had to be put in charge from day one, with the UN representatives acting as advisors, not the other way around. "I don't see the UN as a colonial power," he said, while acknowledging that taking over the administration in Kosovo had been unavoidabl

The UN should go in with a "light footprint," not overwhelming the country, should let people know not to expect miracles and should make clear that "this is your country and you do with it whatever you like. We will help you only so much -- and only as much as you are willing to help yourselves," he said.

The other panelist, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jane Holl Lute, said the enduring legacy of the report included giving the international community an understanding of its responsibilities to keep the peace, since "peace will not keep itself." She also credited the report with helping DPKO build a rapid reaction capacity.

UN peacekeeping is the second largest military presence deployed in the world, with a budget more than twice the UN's regular operating costs, but the missions had a light footprint, she added.

Without adequate information, however, a mission could go into a country unable to provide the kind of help that would allow it to succeed, she cautioned. "In order to do our job, we need the ability to write doctrine, we need the ability to plan professionally, we need the ability to acquire information, evaluate it and put it to work constructively in the context of a mission," Ms. Holl Lute said.

Ms. Holl Lute, who served for years in the US Army, on the US National Security Council and in foundations, was asked about the difference between UN peacekeeping and her previous experience. "Soldiers go to these places in the world that we speak of expecting the worst humanity has to offer. Civilians go to these places believing in the best humanity has to offer," she said. "In peacekeeping, it is an extraordinary combination."

ENDS

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