United Nations Launches Review Of Peacekeeping Efforts

Originally published on June 19, 2014 7:50 am
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U.N. peacekeepers are deployed in many unforgiving places, and in the last few years, most of them have been sent to Africa. The world body is launching a review of its peacekeeping efforts. Herve Ladsous is U.N. undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations. He says they've had to rethink the nature of conflict.

HERVE LADSOUS: We now mostly face intrastate conflict with non-state actors - some of them transnational jihadists, drug-traffickers. We face situations where, although we are there to keep peace, in fact most often there is no peace to keep. We have to face, above all, the need to protect civilians.

WERTHEIMER: Well, when we are looking at the moment at the situation in Iraq where the United States is very reluctant to reengage, where this situation is highly volatile, can you imagine that there is any kind of peacekeeping role for the United Nations in circumstances like those?

LADSOUS: I would doubt it, frankly. The volatility you just mentioned, the complexity, the scale also - I think all that goes far beyond what the U.N. could be called upon. This is not to say that the United Nations doesn't have a political role to help and engineer solutions but that, I think, is not at that point a peacekeeping job.

WERTHEIMER: Now, you've mentioned the size of a conflict or the size of an international problem. I mean, is there - is there a sort of a cutoff point where you see the United Nations can intervene at a certain point, but if it's too big it makes no sense?

LADSOUS: No. I think look at the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is a huge country. We do have close to 20,000 peacekeepers, which is a very small number, especially if you compare it to a population of roughly 90 million. Yet I think what we saw last year, after years of plotting and uncertainty - we did see some major progress against some of these armed groups that are been responsible for so much killing, so much displacement, so much suffering. And this is what we are continuing to do.

WERTHEIMER: The idea that the U.N. can make an attempt

to sort of identify and blunt the impact of extremists, I guess this is a relatively new order of business for the United Nations peacekeepers?

LADSOUS: You are right. And that is of course something we paid a price for almost every other week. In Mali, for instance, a few days ago, we had four Chadian peacekeepers killed by an IED explosion. And that is happening unfortunately with some regularity. It has to be addressed. It means that we have to be more proactive. We have also to use increasingly present day technology.

WERTHEIMER: I have read that - that you're calling for funding for drones and other kinds of surveillance equipment.

LADSOUS: Drones, yes - but surveillance-only, unarmed drones. It gives us much better awareness of what is happening. So it contributes to the safety of our personnel, and it also contributes to knowing better what is happening on the ground and again acting upon it.

WERTHEIMER: Herve Ladsous is the United Nations undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations. Thank you very much for coming in.

LADSOUS: Thank you very much indeed.

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.