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20 June 2012 - Security Council - DPKO - Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

I thank you, Sir, for your initiative to convene today’s important debate on peacekeeping, a pillar of the work of the United Nations. I also thank the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and the Force Commanders for giving us a direct insight into their work on the ground.

In recent years, peacekeeping operations have changed greatly. Their deployment level is unprecedented, and mandates are broad. Sixteen operations are currently under way; some, such as the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, are multidimensional.

I would like first to reiterate the deep and long-standing commitment of France to enhancing United Nations peacekeeping capacities. My country participates in nine of the 16 peacekeeping operations and contributes to peacekeeping operations under United Nations auspices through the European Union, NATO or in its national capacity. France is present in numerous foreign theatres, including Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Côte d’Ivoire. It actively supports the participation of African States in peacekeeping operations through the African Capacity-Building for Peace Operations programme. It has created national schools with a regional outlook in order to provide technical and operational know-how adapted to the needs of African armies.

Since the Franco-British initiative of 2009 on operational follow-up, we have continued to advocate for enhanced military expertise, improved cooperation of the Council with troop- and police-contributing countries, and better budgeting for peacekeeping operations. While many recommendations from the Brahimi report (S/2000/809), published over 10 years ago, remain valid, I should like to highlight three vital elements: inter-mission cooperation, the protection of civilians and establishing strategies for transitioning between peacekeeping and peacebuilding. First, inter-mission cooperation allows the optimization of the use of resources devoted to peacekeeping operations by facilitating the sharing of resources, equipment or units belonging to neighbouring missions. When unforeseen events threaten the stability of a country, inter-mission cooperation between missions is an adaptive, effective response that can swiftly strengthen missions in need in terms of manpower and equipment. That cooperation has proven its worth in West Africa, where cooperation between the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire and the United Nations Mission in Liberia was vital in pooling the use of helicopters in the context of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. It has also been useful in East Africa, where helicopters from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were temporarily deployed to South Sudan.

Inter-mission cooperation allows economies of scale to be achieved in response to the need for good management and budgetary constraints, which are more present than ever. It must be encouraged and even rendered systematic both to pool capacities — particularly of scarce air assets, such as helicopters, and of logistical support structures, which allows substantial rationalization of mission support — and to share situation analysis and assessment, particularly when missions find themselves on either side of a border. In those three areas, there is still much room for improvement. Cooperation must be facilitated while respecting mandates assigned by the Security Council to each mission and ensuring good coordination with the troop-contributing countries.

Secondly, civilian protection must remain one of the main goals of peacekeeping operation mandates. Peacekeepers must be trained to that end and conduct themselves impeccably on the ground. Moreover, it is vital for the chain of command of operations to be respected. Peacekeepers must establish a safe environment conducive to the resumption of political process, which requires the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, including for children affected by conflict, security sector reform programmes, and programmes that strengthen the rule of law.

As my colleague from the United States said, women are one of the main levers for reforming a society. It is vital to enhance their participation in decision-making. The integration of women into the police force and the army helps us to better combat sexual and sexist violence and to promote human rights within those institutions. Advisers for the protection of women and children must play an increasingly significant role in missions.

Thirdly, we need to create crisis exit strategies that guarantee a lasting return to peace. We need to draw operational conclusions from the absence of division between peacekeeping and peacebuilding so that each stage of a United Nations mission can better prepare for the following stage in order to better anticipate and foresee exit strategies. In that respect, it is crucial for peacekeeping operations to cooperate closely with United Nations country team agencies so that peacekeeping and peacebuilding functions are properly distributed and duplication is avoided. We look to the Peacebuilding Commission to provide better coherence to the action of the international community in post-conflict phases. There is a need also to take into account as soon as possible cross-cutting threats such as the traffic in drugs and human beings, organized crime and corruption, which have strong destabilizing potential in fragile countries.

Allow me here to touch on the issue of multilingualism, as raised by my Moroccan colleague. When I refer to multilingualism, I am not talking about the status of languages in the United Nations but to the basic need for United Nations missions to be able to communicate with the peoples of the countries where they are deployed. I believe that the Secretariat’s efforts in that respect are greatly lacking. The French-speaking capacity of many missions in francophone countries is very limited, owing in particular to recruitment modalities. During the three years that I have been in the Organization, I have been trying to make the point that it is more important for staff to be able to speak French in a francophone country than to be able to write a report in English for transmittal to New York. Too often we recruit staff on the basis of their ability to write a report for New York, while completely ignoring the issue of whether they will be able to converse in French in a francophone country. I could give you many such examples, including for staff who are at a very average level. I think that this leads to inefficiency. Once again, I am not speaking of the status of French within the Organization, but of the effectiveness of our resources. Every time I have visited missions in francophone countries, I have found that most mission staff, especially at a higher level, did not speak French. I find this deeply regrettable, and I wish to stress once again to the Secretariat the need to put an end to this practice and for recruitment boards on the ground to give priority to French over English, especially in French-speaking areas.

I know that what I said was a waste of breath and that the Secretariat will do nothing, but sometimes it is good to say what we think.

We would like to reiterate that the success of a peacekeeping mission is the result of joint efforts by the States members of the Council, the countries that contribute financially, the TCCs and PCCs, and the Secretariat. However, such efforts will be futile in the absence of a strong commitment on the part of the host country. Here I wish to stress the need for cooperation with the host country, which needs to work both ways: we must, of course, cooperate with the host country, but that country must also respond to our appeals and offer its own perspective on the problem.

I will conclude by paying high tribute to the commitment of peacekeepers of all nationalities — which sometimes costs them their lives, as in the case of the seven Nigerian Blue Helmets — to the cause of peace.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU