Mr. Hervé Ladsous on Current and Future Challenges of UN Peacekeeping

  • 2015•01•23

    In this video, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, joins UNU Centre for Policy Research Director Sebastian von Einsiedel to discuss trends and challenges in the UN peacekeeping operations.

    Mr. Ladsous argues that UN peacekeeping has recently undergone tremendous resurgence due to a combination of three different factors. First, there is a growing number of crises, particularly in Africa, which now hosts more than 80 percent of all peacekeepers. Second, there is a renewed belief in the UN’s ability to manage complex conflicts. Finally, human suffering has only increased in recent years.

    On the challenges of managing the enormous role of UN peacekeepers in a changing political environment, Mr. Ladsous stresses how the UN faces the challenge of keeping peace in countries where there is no peace to keep. This is rooted in the changing nature of conflicts, which has become increasingly sophisticated and has posed new problems for the UN such as dealing with non-state actors, gangsters, violent Islamic extremists, etc., all with the constraint of “doing more with less”. This new face of conflict also creates new demands, as in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in which the UN Peacekeeping Operations were asked by the Security Council “to neutralize the armed groups”. This use of force mandate in the DRC suggests a new model for UN Peacekeeping operations. However, Mr. Ladsous insists that this particular case does not create a precedent for future operations. Rather, Mr. Ladsous understands, it is an expression of the ability for the UN to adapt different models and approaches to the specific situations that they are dealing with.

    In October 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations to review UN peacekeeping operations — the first such review since the Brahimi Report (2000). Much has happened and changed in the past 15 years, and the changing nature of conflict needs to be reflected in future UN peace operations, with the prospect of reaching “a point of comfort” for contributors, both in terms of money and troops. Currently, Mr. Ladsous points out, there is a need to address the division between wealthy countries from the Global North who contribute only money, and the countries from the Global South who contribute troops, or as Mr. Ladsous puts it: “with blood”.

    One of the key past recommendations for UN peace operations suggested that the Secretariat needs to tell the Security Council “not what it wants to hear, but what it needs to know”. On this matter, Mr. Ladsous emphasizes the necessity of dialogue between the Secretariat and the Security Council in order to avoid overambitious, unrealistic operations. To exemplify this, he mentions how UN Peacekeeping was asked to deploy only 300 armed military observers to the ongoing crisis in Syria in 2012, but quickly realized that it was “an illusion” to think it would be sufficient to create any stability.

    Mr. Ladsous concludes the interview with an elevator pitch on the UN Peacekeeping Operations, by highlighting that it is “cheap for the price”. He argues that the UN is definitely much more cost-efficient for managing complex conflicts than the cost of individual countries doing so. Indeed, with creativity and will, the UN has managed to reduce the cost of troops by 16 percent, which no other force has been able to. This, combined with the priority to focus on performance, Mr. Ladsous stresses, gives the UN significant advantages when keeping peace in conflict areas.