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UN News
Last Updated: 07/30/2008
Only political will can bring lasting peace, outgoing UN peacekeeping chief
UN News Service

29 July 2008 – Lasting peace after armed conflicts can only be achieved when there is genuine political will applied by the parties involved, and not simply when a United Nations force has intervened, the outgoing chief of the world body’s peacekeeping operations said today.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who will be replaced by fellow Frenchman Alain Le Roy when he steps down after almost eight years as Under-Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters in New York that “the notion that you can enforce a peace is wrong.

“What you can do is deter spoilers on the margin of a conflict, but peace has to be made by those who made war,” he said. “You can help them – you can provide a measure of trust in that transition where they’re tired of war but not yet convinced of the good intentions of the other side, and that’s where a robust peacekeeping force can make a real difference – but you’re not going to impose peace with a UN force.”

The Under-Secretary-General stressed that peacekeeping was essentially a political process and needed the full support of Member States as well as a united Security Council. He called on contributing countries not to skimp on financial support for missions.

“To the financial contributors, to those countries that pay the overwhelming percentage of our budget, I say don’t cut on the missions – you’ll make them more fragile and you can lose the whole investment,” he said.

Quoting recent research Mr. Guéhenno told reporters that the general trend worldwide was for a decrease in conflicts since the Cold War, a process that has been accompanied by an increase in peacekeeping operations. But he said that missions should not be launched without proper planning.

“I have seen in a number of places, from Liberia to Haiti to Sierra Leone, that a difference was made – insufficient, imperfect – but a difference was made and I think it’s important for the United Nations to be able to continue to make that difference… because for many people it’s their only hope and the UN is the institution of last resort,” he concluded.

During Mr. Guéhenno’s term, peacekeeping has seen an unprecedented expansion. Today the UN has 20 peacekeeping operations worldwide, with some 110,000 personnel in the field – not including the joint Darfur mission with the African Union (UNAMID), which is slated to have 26,000 peacekeepers at full deployment.