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5 August 2009 - Security Council: UN Peacekeeping operations - Statement by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(translation of statement made in French)

Allow me at the outset to thank you, Sir, for organizing this important debate and to congratulate you on your assumption of the presidency of the Council. I also wish to thank the delegation of Uganda for the skill and effectiveness with which it presided over our work last month.

I welcome the broad participation in this meeting, particularly on the part of the major troop-contributing countries, and the presence of the force commanders in the field. I also thank Under-Secretaries-General Alain Le Roy and Susana Malcorra and General Agwai for their very clear briefings. I also associate myself with the statement to be made shortly by my Swedish colleague on behalf of the European Union.

Much has changed since the beginning of United Nations peacekeeping and the establishment of the earliest forces, such as United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and the First United Nations Emergency Force. The goals remain the same, however. Unfortunately, many of the structural difficulties also remain the same. Some of those difficulties have even increased due to the number and scope of United Nations operations.

The Security Council, which shoulders the primary responsibility for peace and security, must always strive to make responsible decisions that reflect the desired goals and enable their effective fulfilment as quickly as possible and in acceptable human and financial conditions.

In any crisis situation, the operations we launch — after having done our utmost to avoid doing so through preventive action — must be carefully thought out and constructed in the context of a comprehensive strategy taking into account the specific nature of each crisis and the complexities of its management, root causes and settlement. Peacekeeping operations must be structured around precise, clear and hierarchical mandates and be sustainable in the long term. To that end, they must enjoy the support of all Council members and draw on adapted and sufficient financial, human and technical resources. They must also be supported by all the other peacekeeping components of the system, be it the troop-contributing countries, the primary financers of United Nations budgets and the organs and agencies that, in the field or at Headquarters, have a key role to play in ensuring the consistency and effectiveness of our actions.

While most challenges are recurrent, many solutions are equally so. As has already been mentioned, a rereading of the Brahimi report, the "Peace Operations 2010" report (A/60/696) or statements released by the Council since 1994 shows them to be as relevant as ever. Although no past attempt at reform has been sufficient in and of itself, all such attempts have been useful milestones in the development of peacekeeping operations. The United Nations record is impressive. Allow me to say — solemnly, humbly and with restraint — that we can be collectively proud of that record. Together, we have learned from our failures and the tragedies of the past. In short, we have assumed our responsibilities.

In that respect, I reiterate our admiration of and gratitude to all United Nations personnel, particularly all those civilian and military staff members who risk their lives in the field every day.

Along with you, Sir, in January we launched a common initiative to enhance the effectiveness of the Security Council in peacekeeping. As we engage in our first stocktaking, I would underscore two sources of satisfaction.

First, we feel that the French-British initiative has led to intense activity that we believe to have proven extremely fruitful already. Reports, debates, seminars and statements have abounded in recent months. The unalloyed enthusiasm and earnest that have been expressed have been commensurate with the stakes. We must draw on the initial conclusions of this work so that we can transcend rhetoric and change our working methods as soon as possible.

The second source of satisfaction in recent months is the fact that we have begun to change our practices in a concrete way. We have set up quarterly meetings with the Secretariat to take stock of the overall difficulties encountered in peacekeeping. We have enhanced our dialogue with the troop-contributing countries, thanks in particular to the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations chaired by Japan. We have begun to extend the so-called political/military meetings operation by operation, and we have launched the slow process of updating planning documents and of extending the establishment of the benchmarks necessary to ensure genuine follow-up for operations.

Many of these elements can be put in place with ease; others with more difficulty. But changes are occurring, and for that I would like to congratulate and thank all our counterparts in the Secretariat, particularly the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, which have been able to adapt to the new way of working, which we consider to be the most effective, and to the new relationships that the Security Council seeks to establish with all actors in the system.

Much remains to be done, however. We are preparing to adopt a statement that underscores the challenges we face, of which I would like to highlight a few. We need to further strengthen our strategic follow-up of operations, while considering, inter alia, specific ways of increasing the Council’s military expertise. We also need to ensure that the Secretariat can plan and undertake operations in an increasingly effective manner, particularly through adapted rules of engagement.

We also need to deepen our thinking, particularly through an open dialogue with troop-contributing countries, non-governmental organizations and United Nations specialized agencies on such sensitive issues as the protection of civilians, combating violence against women, especially sexual abuse, and preventing the recruitment of child soldiers. We recognize that if Blue Helmets are to be effective, they must be able to take robust action, while taking into account the risks to which such actions may sometimes expose civilians.

We also need to enhance our work on resources and budget performance, while ensuring that, when the Council takes its decisions, it has a clear understanding of their operational and financial impact. We must continue to work to expand available capacities and regularly review the strategy, balance, composition and size of ongoing operations.

Lastly, we must enhance our capacity to implement complex mandates. It is essential to strengthen the interaction of the Security Council and the Secretariat on questions concerning the police, judicial and rule of law components of operations. That will require us to prepare exit strategies as soon as we begin to draft mandates, in particular with respect to the economic, social and political recovery and reconstruction of societies, which have often been devastated by conflict. We know well that, if we wish to establish lasting economic development, only the rule of law and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedom can ensure a permanent return to peace.

We must work to ensure better integration of these various components in New York, Geneva and the field. From that standpoint, the implementation of the conclusions on system-wide coherence is fundamental. To accomplish all this, it is clear that the Council should rely more on the Peacebuilding Commission in its central component and its country-specific configurations, with the specific aim of serving as a focal point and venue for discussion among all actors involved — the authorities of the countries in conflict, members of the Council and the General Assembly, troop-contributing and donor States, senior officials of funds and programmes, and agency representatives.

The momentum is under way. Our next meeting is set for the end of 2009. Until then, the Council may rest assured that France will spare no effort to ensure that we make progress in the implementation of our road map.

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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