As China Becomes a Major Player in UN Peacekeeping, Will It Respond to Crises?

As China has projected its economic and military power more widely not only in Asia but also in Africa and to some extent in Latin America, little notice has been paid by the general public to another arena of growing influence: United Nations peacekeeping. In coming weeks, the Chinese are expected to announce the formation … Read more

Fixing UN Peacekeeping Operations: The World’s Most Complicated Army

It has been almost a year since a sweeping assessment of United Nations peacekeeping operations by experts recommended significant changes from top to bottom: a reformed hierarchy in New York and greater coordination and discipline among military contingents in ever-more dangerous missions around the world. Few of their substantive ideas have been adopted. As outrage … Read more

Snakes, Scorpions and Red Tape: Europeans Adjust to the UN Mission in Mali

Since its rollout in 2013, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali has been actively recruiting more European troops to strengthen its ranks of police, military and civilian personnel from African and Asian countries, typical sources for UN missions. The mission’s main mandate is to protect civilians, stabilize the country and carry out a peace … Read more

Making the Case for a Greater US Presence in UN Peacekeeping

United Nations peacekeeping needs new kinds of tools and troops to counter the demands posed by forces waging catastrophic wars beyond the control of governments and without even a semblance of adherence to the most rudimentary ethical rules of combat or international war crimes laws. The urgent need to rethink and retool peacekeeping, already a … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

On Peacekeeping Day, a Time to Begin Making Crucial Changes

BIRMINGHAM, England — Today is International Day of United Nations Peacekeeping — a day to acknowledge and celebrate the hundreds of thousands of men and women who work in UN peace missions across the world. Despite not being mentioned in the UN Charter, peacekeeping has become an essential mechanism for maintaining peace and security in … Read more

Colombia Takes a First Step to Participate in UN Peacekeeping Operations

As Colombia’s long civil war appears to be headed toward a hard-sought peaceful settlement, the government may be ready to send soldiers from its huge, well-financed military to participate in peacekeeping missions of the United Nations. Colombian forces’ work in fighting terrorism was presented as a selling point by its defense ministry, but the military’s human-rights … Read more

The UN’s Mission in Mali: A Deadly Fight Against Terrorists

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, the most demanding and bloodiest operation in the organization’s global portfolio, is moving its major functions from its base in Bamako, the capital, to Gao, a remote city also on the Niger River, and other camps in the north. The goal is to keep a vigilant eye on … Read more

UN Peacekeeping Upgrades Its Reactions to Conflicts and Adds Surveillance Tools

By the time United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named a panel in October to review peacekeeping comprehensively for the first time in more than 14 years, innovations in technology and intelligence-gathering to make UN missions more effective had already been introduced by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The strategic and tactical changes, some still … Read more

10 Snapshots of Smarter Peacekeeping

It may seem that major current triumphs are hard to find when it comes to the work of United Nations Peacekeeping Department and its blue-helmeted military, police and civilian units, which have hit a record high number of 130,000 personnel worldwide. Led by Hervé Ladsous, a Frenchman, the department faces daunting challenges as it aims … Read more

China Takes a Peacekeeping Risk in Mali

Chinese peacekeepers arriving in Bamako, Mali

China has dipped a big toe in peacekeeping waters by sending its first-ever infantry troops to work for a United Nations mission — in this case, Mali, where a mission was set up last summer to stabilize the country after a military coup in 2012 and a French military intervention against Islamic extremists in early … Read more

UN Peacekeeping Deaths Reach 102 in 2013

Bangladesh peacekeeper at UN headquarters in Mali

The United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations tried to maintain calm in many regions in 2013, but none more so than in Africa. In December alone, it lost numerous peacekeepers in three missions on the continent. By year’s end, the department lost 102 peacekeepers, including those who died from accidents and illnesses, and 36 people … Read more

Why UN Peacekeeping Falls Far Short of Female Soldiers

Sudanese police women in North Darfur

Since Security Council resolutions began demanding more significant attention to roles for women in conflict areas and the peace-building that follows, much of the discussion has justifiably centered on protection of civilians, because women and their children suffer most in war and dislocation. Less attention has been paid to the woeful numbers of women in … Read more

Peacekeeping Force in Mali May Include Non-African Troops

Malian soldiers training at the Koulikori camp.

The new United Nations peacekeeping mission to be activated on July 1 in Mali will have not only a huge contingent of West African soldiers, who are training there right now, but could also have on board Brazilians, Chinese and Indian troops and, possibly, some Bangladeshis, according to a source with ties to the mission. … Read more

GOINGS-ON

Ban Ki-moon’s New Team Earning Positive Reviews

Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, new head of public information at the UN

When leaders of the world start descending on the United Nations in September for the opening of a new General Assembly session, there will two new internationally well-known figures in prominent positions at the top of the organization. In July, Jan Eliasson of Sweden became the UN’s deputy secretary-general, and in mid-August, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal of … Read more

UN Mission in Syria Renewed for 30 Days

A day after the United Nations Security Council refused to adopt a British-sponsored resolution that would have sanctioned the Syrian government if fighting persisted, the council agreed unanimously to renew the mandate of the UN mission in the country to monitor a cease-fire that never happened. The 400-member team, called the UN Supervision Mission in … Read more

Swiss UN Mission Asks Others to Help Refer Syria to The Hague

Observers sent to the villages of el-Qubeir to conduct a fact finding mission following reports of a massacre.

As the 300-member United Nations unarmed observer mission in Syria suspends its work because of intensifying violence in the country, Britain and Switzerland are beginning efforts to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court. The British foreign secretary, William Hague, announced recently that his office is preparing a case against the Syrian government … 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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