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29 June 2009 - Security Council : UN peacekeeping operations - Statement by Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(translation of statement in french)

I should first like to thank the Turkish presidency of the Council for organizing this debate. France is very committed to improving the functioning of United Nations peacekeeping. We welcome the current heightened activity on this issue, which seems to us to reflect, first of all, a convergence of concerns emanating from various quarters and the growing desire that this question has aroused to ensure the effectiveness of our efforts among the Security Council, Member States as a whole and the Secretariat.

With regard to the initiative that we and the United Nations have launched in connection with this issue, France has repeatedly asked that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support make quarterly presentations on the state of United Nations peacekeeping in connection with operational, administrative, budgetary and financial aspects. It is therefore with pleasure that we welcome today’s debate, which we hope will be followed by other similar meetings. I should like in particular to thank Mr. Alain Le Roy and Ms. Susana Malcorra for their presentation of the upcoming New Horizon study. We await the presentation of the final report later this year with great interest and anticipation.

The elements set out by the Secretariat are especially encouraging to us. I would briefly first like to recall the three-pillar initiative that we launched with the United Kingdom as a way of underscoring the unity of perspective between the two approaches. The first part of our initiative pertains to the strategic conduct of operations. As the Secretariat has also done today, we have called for improvements in how mandates are drafted, how they are coordinated with planning, how goals are set and how benchmarks for success are established.

We fully support the idea of strengthening command and control mechanisms, in particular at the level of the Secretariat in New York. We also support the idea of improved dialogue among the main partners during the planning and implementation of operations. Meetings of political and military experts have proven to be very useful in that regard. We believe they should be expanded to most operations.

It is also desirable to provide the Security Council with genuine military expertise by organizing, under a format yet to be determined, regular meetings of military advisers, including with the possible participation of troop-contributing countries.

The second pillar of our initiative pertains to the implementation of complex mandates. In that regard, we fully support the idea that the United Nations should be in a position to undertake more robust efforts. I should also like to underscore that it would be a mistake to prevent the United Nations from carrying out robust peacekeeping and to ignore the importance of the contributions of countries deeply involved in robust operations — not necessarily using Blue Helmets but nevertheless mandated by the Organization — such as, for example, in Afghanistan.

In that regard, I should like to point out that France is one of the main contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations, to which it is the fifth-largest financial contributor. France provides almost 2,250 Blue Helmets and Berets. We also contribute some 1,300 men to peacekeeping operations under United Nations mandates in the framework of the European Union, NATO or at the national level — operations quite often in especially dangerous areas.

In our joint initiative, we of course fully support the implementation by peacekeeping operations of civilian protection mandates. In public opinion in the countries where the United Nations operates, the ability of the Organization to protect civilians is the standard by which we will be judged. In doing so, we acknowledge that we must be aware of the contradiction that sometimes exists — as we heard during the Security Council’s recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo — between simultaneously asking peacekeeping operations to take on a more robust posture and protect civilians more effectively. The contradiction clearly illustrates the need to adapt a mission’s internal structure to the complexity of its mandate.

The third important point relates to the premature integration of post-conflict reconstruction into our strategies, as noted by the Under-Secretary-General. With respect to mandate priorities, as the Council is aware a significant effort has been made, reflected in particular in resolution 1856 (2008), on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That effort should be pursued. However, resolutions are documents negotiated by sovereign States in the Security Council, including with non-member States. Given the respective political goals of participants, it is not always possible to establish a full or satisfactory hierarchy of objectives.

The issue of sequential implementation deserves further consideration. It is difficult to give a new mission too many tasks. We must therefore avoid that contradiction, as Alain Le Roy has also mentioned; in prioritizing urgent tasks, we neglect structural elements necessary both for an exit strategy and to ensure that conflicts do not recur or become prolonged. The establishment of the rule of law and the setting up of security forces fall under that category.

The same point could be made about the problem of better integrating United Nations military operations into the efforts of the rest of the system. The identification of an integrated approach — as was done in Timor-Leste, Liberia and the Congo — is clearly needed today. We must make it a reality. In that regard, defining concrete guidelines aimed at system-wide coherence is both crucial and urgent, and must be part of our discussion of peacekeeping.

In that regard, I should like to conclude by expressing our hope that the Working Group chaired by our colleague Ambassador Takasu will now turn its attention to a detailed consideration of the provisions of the mandates for peacekeeping operations. That would make a valuable contribution to the Council’s future work.

Lastly, the third part of our initiative pertains to resources. We call for efforts to be made in the areas of effectiveness and cost. In that regard, we very much welcome the preliminary ideas set out today by Ms. Malcorra, including the crucial aspect of financial flexibility and responsibility and the adoption of new strategies for rapid deployment through a series of initiatives that the Secretariat could itself undertake. Those proposals will be fleshed out later. Ms. Malcorra can count on us to do everything possible to enable her to implement as soon as possible in the United Nations system ideas that are so simple and obvious that we could rightly wonder why they have not yet been implemented already. We shall help her do that as soon as possible.

Moreover, the future New Horizon study will rightly focus on the issue of force generation. That is a key challenge in an overall climate of tensions ever the poor equipping and funding of troops. We are of course in favour of expanding the pool of troop and police contributors. In that regard, I recall the very significant efforts made by France and the European Union, in particular with regard to training African forces through the European Reinforcement of African Peacekeeping Capacities programme and the establishment of a network of military schools on the continent.

In that connection, I should like to mention the important issue of language training and promoting participation in peacekeeping operations by staff speaking local languages. In that connection, I am of course calling for francophone military, police and civilian personnel. Many operations are today deployed to francophone areas. The lack of French-speaking staff and the insufficient mastery of it by a significant number of peacekeeping staff both hinders the proper execution of operations and can even pose a risk to staff security. At any rate, that situation does not contribute to engendering good relations and trust among local populations. The issue of language must not be taboo when it comes to respecting Charter provisions and rules pertaining to the use of official languages at the Secretariat and in peacekeeping operations. We hope that an effort will be made in that regard.

The group of francophone countries over which I have the honour to preside has conferred with other language groups to clearly illustrate that this is a generalized problem of adapting to the situation on the ground. In that connection, I would just like to mention that we welcome the participation of the Under-Secretary-General at the seminars on peacekeeping operations organized recently at Bamako by the International Organization of la Francophonie. We also support a discussion on the mobility of reserves and the calls for sustainable resources.

My delegation welcomes the emphasis in the document — and the assumption underlying today’s debate — on the need for consultations with the main contributors. Such consultations are of basic importance for the United Nations system of shared responsibility.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate our support for the Secretariat. The various aspects of the consideration of this issue must, of course, be taken up within in the competent entities: the Committee of Thirty-Four, the Fifth Committee and, of course, in the Security Council. In the framework of the Council, we are determined to promote the various proposals of our initiative, which will reach a new stage in August under the British presidency of the Council. We hope that we will be able to adopt an organizing framework at that point.

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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