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Fourth Committee of the 50th General Assembly

Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Kovanda, Permanent Representative of the Czech Repuublic to the United Nations, Comprehensive Review of the Whole Question of Peace-Keeping Operations in All Its Aspects, Special Political and Decolonization CommitteeNew York, November 14, 1995 Statement by

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Kovanda, Permanent Representative of the Czech Repuublic to the United Nations, Comprehensive Review of the Whole Question of Peace-Keeping Operations in All Its Aspects, Special Political and Decolonization Committee
    New York, November 14, 1995


Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Kovanda, Permanent Representative of the Czech Repuublic to the United Nations, Comprehensive Review of the Whole Question of Peace-Keeping Operations in All Its Aspects, Special Political and Decolonization Committee

Let me at the outset congratulate you on your election to the Bureau. I wish you every success in your important work. My delegation also thanks the chairman of the Special Committee and its Bureau for having compiled the report, whose proposals, conclusions and ideas find full support in the draft resolution we are considering.

Peace-keeping operations (PKO's) of the United Nations represent one of the most significant means for contributing to conflict resolution and promotion of peace. Well-planned, mandated and executed PKO's are therefore in the interest of the whole international community. However, while they can augment and support political settlements of disputes reached by the parties concerned, they cannot substitute for them. We do not endorse one-sided negative assessments of the effectiveness of UN PKO's and fully support all decisions leading to their improvement. This year, an important reduction in the size and cost of PKO's as a whole is occurring. The termination of ONUMOZ, UNOSOM and ONUSAL and the envisaged departure of UNPROFOR from Bosnia and Herzegovina should lead to a certain stabilization of PKO's and to their thorough review, with a view to further improve future ones.

Recent practices in implementing PKO's have proven certain well-tested principles, concerning mandate, financing, planning, unity of command and control, impartiality and transparency. As far as mandate is concerned, we believe it should be not only clear, specific and precise - but also achievable. We underscore this characteristic for one prosaic reason: in the aftermath of the Cold War, extremely high - and as we now know, unrealistic - expectations prevailed as to what the United Nations might accomplish. These led to the view of PKO´s as a panacea. The need for setting an achievable mandate was obvious, for example, when it came to "safe areas" in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Regrettably, for reasons that historians will no doubt scrutinize further, the Security Council did not manage to maintain tight control over the formulation of mandate, which was unachievable from the very beginning.

Once a PKO deploys, if belligerent parties change their original support for a peace agreement and for the role of the UN, if they decide to obstruct and thwart UN efforts, then, depending on the prevailing political conditions, the PKO will either have to terminate (as it did in Somalia), or it will have to resort to military enforcement, to coerce the parties to accept a peace solution (as was the case of UNPROFOR in BaH). This latter is an alternative we would not favor.

The use of Rapid Reaction Force units in UNPROFOR has no precedent in PKO's. It already seems that their use, in combination with activities of the relevant regional organization, has constituted a significant deterrent and means of coercion with respect to all belligerents. On the other hand, we all realize that the use of force beyond self-defence risks compromising the neutrality of the UN and turning it into another party to the conflict. Furthermore, peace-keepers of the garden variety are neither trained nor equipped for an enforcement operation. If the credibility of the UN is to be maintained, the use of force should therefore be viewed as a last resort and it should be used only for strictly defined purposes whilst exercising maximum effort to maintain UN's impartiality. Chapter VII provisions should be invoked as an exception rather than the rule, and only after all other means are exhausted. The lesson of UNPROFOR is of great importance - the UN cannot be engaged in a war using peace-keepers.

The ever-growing significance of regional organizations and arrangements in solving crisis situations is illustrated by the examples of Liberia, Haiti, Georgia, Tajikistan and, in particular, the former Yugoslavia. Increased employment of these organizations in UN operations requires their compliance with all general and case-specific principles of cooperation between them and the UN. Nevertheless, the basic precondition of a peaceful solution of a conflict will always be the political will and commitment to peace of the belligerent parties themselves. The Czech Republic highly appreciates all measures and arrangements leading to closer cooperation between the UN and regional organizations and favors their streamlining and enrichment, e.g., in the form of convening regular expert-level meetings of their representatives with the participation of UN personnel.

The current financial difficulties of the UN makes it very tempting to shift the responsibility for solving conflicts to regional organizations exclusively, and thus to replace UN PKO's by various Joint Task Forces, representing certain coalition grouping and blessed by the Security Council. Clearly, countries participating in such operations finance them from their own resources. And this is precisely where we see a certain weakness - inasmuch as only countries with sufficient resources and with well-equipped and trained troops can afford to participate in them. Maintaining the proper degree of UN political control over these operations, while maintaining unity of command, is therefore entirely consonant with the current favourable international conditions for solving conflicts.

The Czech Republic strongly supports further improvements in the machinery for consultations among Security Council Members, the Secretariat and troop contributors. This machinery should include, i.a., consultations with potential contributors before setting up a mandate of a new operation. Troop contributors are today at the mercy of Security Council members; but one would hope, that Council members will view these consultations not just as a chore but as a source of wisdom and as a relevant input into the formulation of mandates. Let us not forget that not always do Security Council members themselves have troops in a given operation, and while they have the political responsibility for formulating mandates, the practical experience from the field might not always reach them directly.

We also welcome the proposal to establish a Rapidly Deployable Headquarters Capability in the DPKO. We believe it could strengthen the planning, organizing and coordination processes prior to the actual deployment of missions. In addition, it might fill a gap in analysing terminated PKO's, in providing their post-mortems.

When deploying a UN PKO, it surely is indispensable to fully inform the population of the country in question on its objectives. PKO's should therefore logically be accompanied by a massive information campaign, both to provide basic information and, if necessary, to counter adverse propaganda of the belligerents. We have repeatedly expressed our support for efforts to incorporate public-relations mechanisms into the planning of all operations, certainly all major ones.

Another serious issue we are concerned about is the misconduct and gross negligence of some UN peace-keeping personnel. We therefore support the proposal of the European Union to work out a PKO code of conduct.

The Czech Republic welcomes ongoing improvements in the UN stand-by arrangements. This is important for the effectivness and efficiency of deployment of any PKO. And with regard to proposals concerning the enhancement of the UN rapid reaction capability: We support, above all, those proposals that use the UN stand-by arrangements as a basis and creatively build on them. We support giving serious attention to the comprehensive proposals introduced by Canada.

By the end of this year, Czech troops will have pulled out from their very first PKO - UNPROFOR/UNCRO: one of the most complex and at the same time controversial ones in the history of PKO's. The Czech Republic, the command structures of the Czech Army and the troops themselves have gained a vast experience which will naturally be utilized in their everyday practice and quite possibly in some future PKO. However, we have paid the price for some of these experiences, having lost some of our comrades. Allow me therefore in conclusion to pay tribute to all those courageous men and women of all nations who have lost their lives in peace-keeping operations, trying selflessly to bring peace to countries frequently far away from their own.