A Place for Women at the Table

Vandana Devi and Gulabi Bahadur, two elected women representatives from Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh listen to UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet speak during the National Leadership Summit in Jaipur, India on 4 October 2012.

  A dozen years have passed since the United Nations Security Council made history by adopting a resolution that addressed women’s rights during conflicts and required their participation in preventing wars and in peace talks. Until Resolution 1325was approved, post-conflict reconstruction had been mostly the realm of those possessing the Y chromosome in the eyes … Read more

Sierra Leone’s Election, Proving the Nation’s Resilience

Sierra Leone polling station on Election Day, Nov. 17, 2012

Sierra Leone re-elected Ernest Bai Koroma president against eight other candidates in a calm, orderly vote held on Nov. 17 with results announced Nov. 23, after ballots were counted. The election marks an important step for the country to continue its healing after suffering an 11-year civil war. Koroma, who garnered 58.7 percent of the vote, is … Read more

Congo Miners See Hope While Rebels Sow Unrest

Congo miner

Important progress in controlling the mining of tin, tantalum and tungsten in the troubled eastern region of Democratic Republic of Congo has been achieved, says a report from the Enough Project, a Washington nonprofit group focused on Africa. Yet renewed fighting that began in the spring between regional militias and Congolese national troops, who are … Read more

General Assembly Condemns Syria in a Strong Vote

Syrian resolution

The General Assembly overwhelmingly supported a resolution condemning the relentless “widespread and systematic” human-rights violations committed by Syrian officials and demanded that the government stop all violence and protect its people. The resolution, though not enforceable, also called on Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to cede office to a vice president and begin negotiations to form … Read more

The Responsibility to Protect Gets a Checkup

When the carnage of the 1990s wound down, with more than a million people dead in massacres and brutal ethnic or political wars in and around Rwanda, the Balkans and elsewhere, nations that had failed to act to stop such tragedies began seeking ways to prevent future catastrophes. From this terrible decade, the long-postponed creation … Read more

Human Rights Chief Calls for More Action in Syria

As violence continues unabated in Syria despite tough economic and travel sanctions from such big players as the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey and the United States, the head of the UN’s high commissioner for human rights has spoken out by calling for international intervention to protect civilians against government attacks. Navi Pillay, the … Read more

Regional Partners Lighten the UN’s Burdens

Since the founding of the United Nations more than 65 years ago, groups of regional nations – in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas – have become the organization’s political, peacekeeping and development partners. While some of these groups have kept a low profile, several now find themselves in the international spotlight as crucial issues … Read more

Peace May Be More Elusive but Not Impossible

As you may have suspected, the world is becoming less peaceful. This marks the third year in a row that rising social and political turmoil has pushed indicators higher in assessing the lack of safety worldwide. New hot spots, as in the Middle East and North Africa, joined the list of old hot spots that … Read more

Libya’s Leaders, the UN Says, Value Democracy

Very soon after the reported death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Surt on Oct. 20, the United Nations responded with a statement by the secretary-general calling for reconciliation and national unity and with a press conference live from Tripoli featuring Ian Martin, the head of the UN’s new political mission in Libya, which was set … Read more

Peacekeeping’s New Chief Intent on Urgent Issues

Hervé Ladsous, a French diplomat who is the new under secretary-general for United Nations peacekeeping operations, said on Thursday that though he had “no predetermined grand vision” for the agency, he would focus on cutting back on the UN’s presence in Haiti; its work in Sudan and South Sudan; and the death this week of three peacekeepers in Darfur.

In his first address to the UN press corps, Ladsous emphasized that protecting UN peacekeepers is a top priority. Eighty-six peacekeepers have died this year so far, including 29 civilians.

“Peacekeepers nowadays have very complicated mandates, very complex, very specialized,” he said. “We need to give them all the means to face these challenges.”

With a full head of white hair and a straightforward manner, Ladsous is a departure from his French predecessor, Alain Le Roy, a bear-size man with a gentle demeanor. Ladsous is also a step apart from the soft-spoken but articulate Jean-Marie Guéhenno, another French diplomat who had the post before Le Roy. Yet Ladsous brings extensive knowledge of his past UN experience to the job, which he was assigned in September by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Herve Ladsous, the under secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, addressing the UN press corps on Oct. 14, 2011. He says that pressing issues include security for peacekeepers, cutting back in Haiti and the missions in Sudan and South Sudan. PAULO FILGUEIRAS/UN PHOTO

France is the fifth-largest financial contributor, nearly 8 percent, to the UN peacekeeping department’s budget for 2010-2012. (The US is the largest.)  The peacekeeping department has 16 missions totaling about 122,000 personnel and a current annual budget of $7.8 billion.

Most recently, Ladsous was the chief of staff for French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé; he has been France’s ambassador to Indonesia and China and was the deputy permanent representative to the United Nations in New York and a delegate to the UN in Geneva. He also served as a chief of affairs for France in Haiti. Ladsous was born in 1950 and has a degree from the National School of Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris as well as a law degree.

Acknowledging that the peacekeeping department has reached its highest staffing levels ever, Ladsous said it would make cuts that could include Haiti.

“There is a lot of desire from the government of Haiti” and the Haitian people to “reclaim Minustah,” the abbreviation for the UN mission,” he said. The Security Council decides today on whether to renew the mission’s mandate for another year. The secretary-general has recommended that the council reduce peacekeeping staff by 2,750 police officers and military personnel. [On Oct. 14, the Security Council voted to extend the mission’s mandate for a year and cut uniformed personnel there by 2,500 people, leaving about 10,500 in place.]

Ladsous is heading to South Sudan and Sudan in the next two weeks on his first trip in his new post. There, at the contested border between the two countries, fighting has been brutal, particularly bombing directed by Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and other criminal acts.

But the Security Council has not passed a resolution yet regarding the fighting, though this summer it authorized an interim force, called Unisfa, supplied by Ethiopia to work in the contested border area of Abiyeh. Ladsous said that the security force’s efforts were hindered by the rainy season, making roads impassable and conflict prevention difficult. When the rains end, migrations traditionally begin, he said, along with potential for violence.

“My first goal is to get to know the interlocutors,” he said, discussing how he will proceed, meeting the leaders of South Sudan and Sudan, the UN missions and people in Darfur and Abiyeh, noting the recent fatal attacks of three peacekeepers in Darfur, which is part of Sudan and where the UN and the African Union have a joint mission. The UN also has a new peacekeeping force, called Unmiss, in South Sudan; the mission in Sudan was closed this summer.

While in Africa, Lasdous will travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is a big contributor of peacekeeping troops.

Reform of the peacekeeping agency will prevail under his leadership, Ladsous said. “Protection of civilians, helping countries changing police and justice” and protecting the rights of women are part of the mix. Years ago, he added, there were no women special representatives in UN peacekeeping; now a third of those jobs are filled by women. The agency will keep pushing this agenda with UN Women, the newest UN entity. [See Barbara Crossette’s article on UN Women: http://passblue.com/barbara-crossette/]

Ladsous emphasized that he wanted to learn and talk to “all those who have a stake” in peacekeeping, noting that partnerships and working with governments, troop contributors, the peacekeepers themselves, other UN agencies and regional organizations – like the European Union – are on his agenda. Investments in communication tools and helicopters are two areas that must continue, he added, along with building skills and knowledge.  Financial concerns by member countries, however, require the department to find the “best value for their money.”

As to sending UN troops to Libya, Lasdous said that no request by the interim government had been heard. The department provides police advisers and rule of law experts to the new UN political mission in Tripoli, headed by Ian Martin, a former British diplomat and a founder of Amnesty International.

Lasdous described the wait-and-see attitude on Libya as “comme aller les choses,” or “as things go.”

[This article was updated on Oct. 14, 2011.]

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