Right after Lunch we had our third briefing for that day which was about Peacekeeping. For one hour our Delegation, along with the delegations of the University of Würzburg and the University of San Francisco de Quito, had the chance to listen to Ms. Eva Marie Frida Barloese, Operations Officer with the Research and Liaison Unit (RLU) at the Situation Centre of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and learn about her field of work. The well-prepared briefing, imbedded in a slide show, was definitely an enrichment to all of us.
Starting with an overview, we gathered much interesting information about the current status of the DPKO. Ever since 1948 there have been 63 peacekeeping operations, with 20 current operations splitting up into 17 peacekeeping operations and 3 DPKO-led political missions. The total deployment in January 2008 accounted for 104,152 personnel of whom 83,927 are uniformed and 20,226 are civilian workers. Peacekeeping is of utmost importance to support the main goal of the United Nations, namely to provide peace and security throughout the whole globe, and peacekeeping itself is a challenging and hard job. Since the first peacekeeping operation in 1948 the total number of fatalities accounted for 2,420. Further to the challenge of keeping the number of fatalities as small as possible, the actual annual field expenditures are comparatively small with only roughly about 6.8 billion US$. These expenditures are outnumbered by a factor of 167 by the global annual military spending. Another interesting fact is that for 100,000 people in the field, there are only 836 staff members at Headquarters. The military troops are contributed mostly by Asia and Africa and only a minor part is sent by Europe and the Americas. This leads to the conclusion, that Least Developed Countries as well as Developing Countries are more likely involved in the contribution of troops, while the Developed Countries focus on monetary contributions as well as on submitting machinery and other equipment.
After having this first insight of the organization we went to the mandates of DPKO. These cover a wide field and vary from ceasefire monitoring, political transitions and governance to humani-tarian assistance, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), security sector reform, support of elections and human rights monitoring - among many others. Supervision is considered as the backbone of peacekeeping and to be most efficient in the different missions, ranging from river and border controls to election monitoring and other integrated (multidimensional) missions, the DPKO works in cooperation with other actors, such as the IMF and World Bank.
We were also briefed about the main challenges that the DPKO is facing today. Ranked as the number one problem there is the rapid deployment of troops and civil personnel, followed by others concerning the fields of command and control, interoperability, logistics, security and spoilers. In order to be successful in the field of peacekeeping and being able to cope with the abovementioned challenges, it is inevitable to have the full commitment of all the parties to the peace process. In addition, strong political will by the international community is essential for the success of the mission as well as the supply of the necessary troops and equipment. Especially in Darfur, the lack of funding, troops and political will is an obstacle to an efficient implementation of peacekeeping. Other barriers can be that no troops are allowed to enter a country unless without its consent and that it can sometimes take up a lot of time until an agreement or possible solution can be found.
The second part of the briefing was about the Situation Centre. The Situation Centre plays a very important role in peacekeeping operations as it supports the DPKO in the decision-making process. Thus, information that comes in, is first evaluated, then assessed and transmitted to the decision-makers. To do so, the Situation Centre has an operation room that does the monitoring, working for 24/7, so it can respond to any emergency. Situational awareness, crisis response, point of contact, information evaluation, assessment and dissemination, and security monitoring all belong to the main functions of the Situation Centre. Just as the DPKO itself, the Situation Centre also has various partners to work with, such as NATO SITCEN, EU Joint SITCEN and the UNICEF Operation Centre to name just three of them. In order to work at any given time and under any circumstance, the office of the Situation Centre has emergency equipment ready to establish its office elsewhere in case of a threat to the UN. All of the abovementioned together with what we have learned during the briefing underlines quite impressively how important the work of the DPKO and the Situation Centre really is.
The briefing ended way too early for us since we all would have loved to hear some more about that matter, but in return for that there was some time left for questions. There were questions about “how a crisis is identified and what the definition of a crisis is”, “if, when and how to react to a crisis”, “what to do if the country refuses to let troops enter the country”, “whether it is possible to cope with the rapid deployment by having both programs become a part of the UN” and “how to coordinate joint missions”. Each and every of these questions were answered by Ms. Barloese and made the already vital presentation of peacekeeping even more lively and left us not only with a wide understanding of peacekeeping but also with great impressions that we will certainly keep in mind for a very long time.