DR Congo + 4 more

Press briefing on United Nations Peace Operations study

Lakhdar Brahimi of Algeria, newly-appointed Chairman of the Panel established by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to conduct a major study on United Nations peace operations, told correspondents at a Headquarters press briefing today that when such operations were being ventured, staying power, political will and resources must be ensured until their completion.
That was definitely the most important area the Panel would address, he said. It would draw to the attention of the Security Council, in particular, that, in the United Nations with all its components, the question of peace and security must be approached with the determination to start and finish well.

Briefing correspondents following the Secretary-General's announcement about the study, Mr. Brahimi said the Panel would examine all the lessons learned, both in the Secretariat and in the field. Its members would also consult with personnel from Headquarters who had been dealing with all of the difficulties arising from current peace and security missions. He noted that the need to visit Kosovo and East Timor -- the two new types of operations that were in place -- would be decided upon later.

A correspondent wanted to know whether the Panel would examine the daunting task that the Democratic Republic of the Congo presented as that mission's success depended on airlifts that had not yet been volunteered.

One of the main problems being faced by the Organization was that it was given mandates not matched by resources, Mr. Brahimi responded. Another serious problem was the lack of staying power by the international community. The community would begin assisting in a United Nations operation, then would abandon that mission when another incident occurred.

What was the scope of the Panel's activities? a correspondent asked. Was it planning to interact with members of the Security Council? Mr. Brahimi said he presumed that the Panel would talk with Council members, as the Secretary- General thought that the Organization's difficulties with peace and security came either from mistakes made by him or his staff, or because of what the Security Council might have done or failed to do. The international community might also be responsible. Moreover, the limits of the Panel's work would be set when he met with its researcher and writer, William Durch, on 14 March, and with the Panel, when it met for the first time on 21 March.

Responding to a correspondent's question on the work of the Panel in States in which other multinational forces were involved, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kosovo, he said it would examine the United Nations presence there. While the commanding force in Kosovo was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization was also involved and was experiencing a number of problems, as the Secretary-General had pointed out.

Did the Panel plan to increase the accountability of peacekeeping forces? another correspondent asked. That was another area to be discussed, Mr. Brahimi said, although it was not the most important one. There were situations for which the Organization had no responsibility, and those were where raised expectations were most likely to occur. For example, when the Haitian people saw the American troops arriving with their earth-moving equipment, they were convinced that the troops were going to construct roads, replant trees and build houses. That was an existing problem in peacekeeping situations.

The major problems seemed to be that countries did not want to provide their own resources to implement Security Council recommendations, a correspondent noted. Those lessons had been learned -- the most recent being in Rwanda. They were not ignored, but they were not addressed. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was the most recent case. Would the current exercise change that trend? he asked.

Mr. Brahimi agreed that those were some of the problems being faced -- unavailable resources and governments not wanting to risk the lives of their soldiers. It bore repeating that if the United Nations was expected to do a job, the requirements must be in place.

In response to a final question, Mr. Brahimi said the Secretary-General expected the report in July and he hoped that the Panel would be able to meet those expectations.