Panel: U.N. Needs Major Overhaul

Wednesday, August 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations will face more peacekeeping failures in the 21st century without a major overhaul, according to an international panel that called Wednesday for the equivalent of a U.N. ministry of defense to bolster the world body.

The panel of experts was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to look at U.N. peacekeeping operations after highly critical reports on the U.N. performance in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the 1995 fall of the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica, which led to the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims.

The 10-member panel did not endorse a United Nations army, but it did encourage the 188 U.N. member states to form several brigade-size forces of 5,000 troops each that could deploy in 30 to 90 days, depending on the complexity of the U.N. peacekeeping operation.

The United Nations must have ``the tools'' to address any conflict situation — from prevention to actual enforcement — and at the moment it doesn't have the headquarters staff, the troops, money, or the information to properly analyze and plan strategically, said former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, who chaired the panel.

The 58-page report called for a substantially larger, modernized, high-tech U.N. peacekeeping department in New York staffed by well-trained military professionals who use information technology and plan operations with a U.N. team including political, human rights, development and election experts. It did not give a price tag.

At the moment, the panel said, just 32 officers at U.N. headquarters are responsible for 27,000 U.N. troops from 20 countries scattered across the globe in 14 peacekeeping operations — a staff that no national government would tolerate. Similarly, it said, more than 8,600 civilian police are deployed in U.N. missions with a headquarters staff of only nine civilian police.

The report said the need for changes in U.N. peace operations has become even more urgent following the hostage-taking of 500 U.N. peacekeepers by rebels in Sierra Leone in May, and the prospect of expanded U.N. peacekeeping operations in Congo.

Annan asked the panel to make recommendations to improve prospects for peace in the 21st century, which he wants world leaders to consider at the upcoming Sept. 6-8 Millennium Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The historic meeting presents a unique opportunity to begin renewing the United Nations' capacity ``to secure and build peace,'' the secretary-general said in letters asking the Security Council and General Assembly to circulate the report to U.N. member states.

In examining U.N. peacekeeping, the panel recalled that the organization was founded after the devastation of World War II in order ``to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war'' — and it stressed that meeting this challenge was the yardstick that the peoples of the world still use to judge the United Nations.

``Over the last decade, the United Nations has repeatedly failed to meet the challenge, and it can do no better today,'' the report concluded.

Panel members said that consent of the parties, impartiality, and use of force only in self-defense ``should remain the bedrock principles of peacekeeping.'' But they stressed that in the case of obvious aggressors and victims ``peacekeepers may not only be operationally justified in using force but morally compelled to do so.''

``No failure did more to damage the standing and credibility of United Nations peacekeeping in the 1990s than its reluctance to distinguish victim from aggressor,'' panelists stressed.

In the future, the panel said, U.N. military forces must be capable of responding to such challenges — which means bigger, better equipped, and more costly missions with the authority to use force. It also means radical changes in U.N. procurement to facilitate rapid deployments.

``Without renewed commitment on the part of member states, significant institutional change and increased financial support, the United Nations will not be capable of executing the critical peacekeeping and peace-building tasks that the member states assign to it in coming months and years,'' the panel said.

Key recommendations by a high-level panel to look into U.N. peacekeeping failures:


— Do not authorize U.N. peacekeeping missions without firm troop commitments from member states.

— Define ``rapid and effective deployment'' as getting troops on the ground within 30 days for traditional peacekeeping missions and within 90 days for more complex missions.

— Encourage member states to form several brigade-size forces of 5,000 troops each for deployment within 30 to 90 days.

— Establish revolving ``on-call'' lists of military and police officers to be available on seven days' notice to help create new peacekeeping operations.

— Overhaul U.N. policies and operations to facilitate rapid deployment of troops.

— Authorize the secretary-general to draw up to $50 million to start advance planning of a peacekeeping operation.

— Plan peacekeeping missions with U.N. staff responsible for various facets including political analysis, military operations, refugees and human rights.

— Use information technology in every peace operation.

— Assign resources to the U.N. peacekeeping department to ensure that $2 billion earmarked for peacekeeping in 2001 is well spent.

— Make plans to strengthen conflict-prevention and peace-building operations.