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>UN peacekeeping head retires after eight years of achieving nothing

>In news given little coverage by major media outlets, the head of the UN Peacekeeping Force will be retiring after eight years on the job.

In this article the two ‘highlights’ of his tenure are the ‘unprecedented growth’ of the force to 100,000 and the establishment of a code of conduct.

The thing has an astronomical 7.5 billion dollar budget yet manages to achieve absolutely nothing positive for the world, of which those in Darfur, East Timor and Lebanon are shining examples.

UNITED NATIONS: The French head of UN peacekeeping will step down at the end of June after presiding over an unprecedented growth of a force that now fields 100,000 personnel around the world, UN officials said on Thursday.

Marie Okabe, a UN spokeswoman, told a press briefing that Jean-Marie Guehenno, 58, confirmed to his staff on Thursday morning that “he will be leaving in mid-2008” after eight years in the post.

Guehenno’s contract expires at the end of June, another UN official said. When Ban Ki-moon took over as UN secretary-general in January 2007, Guehenno was one of the few senior holdovers from Kofi Annan’s administration to be asked to stay on.

“Eight years is a long run and it’s a very tough job,” said Beth Cole, an expert on peacekeeping operations at the United States Institute of Peace, a Washinton-based think tank.

“He (Guehenno) has presided over an explosive growth in operations and over a lot of very important innovations. He should be congratulated for his work,” she said.

Indeed Guehenno, a former French civil servant, oversaw an unprecedented growth of the department of peacekeeping operations (DPKO), which now oversees almost 100,000 personnel in 20 peacekeeping missions around the world with an annual budget of 7.5 billion dollars.

He also supervised a sweeping restructuring of UN peacekeeping to make it more efficient and more effective, UN officials said.

Peacekeeping was split into a department of peace operations, tasked with strategy, day-to-day direction and management, and a department of field support that consolidate the support functions of UN field personnel, procurement and financial management.

Last year, there were rumors that the United States was keen on having one of its officials take over DPKO.

But Cole said this was unlikely since the United States is not a major contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping.

In addition, she added, US national Jane Holl Lute was put in charge of the key department of field support last year.

Lute is the wife of Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, a three-star US army general tasked with overseeing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There was no word on who was likely to succeed Guehenno. “What we really need is a good manager who can continue to oversee the very important reforms that are being implemented,” Cole said. “Demands are so huge both in terms of personnel and in terms of funding.”

“My particular hope if that the person they find would have some mission experience,” she added.

Guehenno is also credited with turning UN peacekeeping into a professionalized service, notably by giving it a doctrine and a focus on conduct and discipline.

But UN peacekeeping missions around the world have also been plagued by cases of sexual abuse of women and corruption by a minority of the blue-helmeted soldiers, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Haiti.

Cole conceded that the sexual exploitation issue “has been particularly difficult for DPKO” but added: “I think they handled it pretty well.”

Of Guehenno, she concluded: “He did as well as he could with the tools that he had and we need to have a bigger tool box in that shop.”

Guehenno joined the United Nations in 2000 after a long and distinguished career in the French government, including in the foreign ministry.

He also served as head of cultural affairs at the French Embassy in Washington from 1982 and 1986.

It should come as no surprise that a man from the Quai d’Orsay should be such an ineffectual leader of UN peacekeeping operations or that the wife of a three-star US army general is somehow qualified to oversee the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: United Nations
  1. March 7, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    >From reading the excerpt I get the impression that the Peacekeeping Force was mainly occupied by getting organized itself. Is there any measurement of perfomance, any tangible achievment? “He did as well as he could with the tools that he had and we need to have a bigger tool box in that shop.”That’s the standard excuse: we didn’t have enough money. Give us more money …

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