UN peacekeeping operations are cost effective: official

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United Nations, Sep 18 (UNI) UN peacekeeping operations, the global body which currently deploys some 110,000 people in 18 peace operations at a price tag of 7.2 billion dollars, remain the most cost-effective option for global peacekeeping, says a senior official leading those works.

Speaking yesterday at his first news conference, since taking up the post of Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy said a 2006 study by the US Government Accountability Office which estimated that it would cost the US about twice as much as the UN to conduct a peacekeeping operation similar to the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti.

He also recalled a separate study by the RAND Corporation which found that the UN is far more cost-effective at nation-building than individual governments.

''While 7.2 billion dollars may seem like a lot,'' Mr Roy said, ''if we compare the figures that UN missions cost to the costs that other institutions would incur, the UN remains cost effective.'' He highlighted the important role UN peacekeeping operations have played in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Haiti and Timor-Leste.

''It is very clear that the UN has made a positive contribution, has had an impact and made a difference,'' he said.

However, the new peacekeeping chief expressed, the same could not be said about Darfur, the strife-torn region of Sudan where a five-year long conflict between the Government and rebels has claimed the lives of about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.7 million.

Recent weeks have witnessed fresh violence in the region, despite the deployment of a joint African Union-UN force (UNAMID) which is slated to become the world body's largest peacekeeping operation with some 26,000 personnel at full strength.

Currently, it has only 9,900 people on the ground and still lacks essential equipment, including helicopters.

''So far UNAMID, to my eyes, is clearly not making enough difference on the ground,'' Mr Roy said, adding that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) will continue to work with the Department of Field Support (DFS) to make sure the deployment happens as soon as possible.

Although the target to have 80 per cent of the mission deployed by the end of this year is a bit overoptimistic, he noted that 3,000 additional personnel, mostly from Ethiopia and Egypt, will be joining UNAMID in the next two months. This will bring the total number of troops by the end of November to about 13,000 or 50 per cent of the estimated 26,000 expected at full deployment.

Apart from attaining the needed troops and equipment, a challenge for UN peacekeeping in recent years has been dealing with sexual abuse and exploitation by personnel deployed in the world body's missions.

Mr Roy acknowledged that while the UN was making huge efforts on the ground, there are still cases of misconduct such as those alleged to have been committed by members of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

''The UN has a strict zero-tolerance policy on the matter, and a conduct and discipline unit was established last month within DFS, with branches in all peacekeeping missions in the field,'' he said.

Mr Roy noted that while the UN does not have the legal means to force any troop contributing country (TCC) to pursue a trial for someone who has been accused of misconduct, it can engage the government concerned as much as possible to ensure that the matter is followed up.

Last week a French court sentenced a former UN employee to nine years in prison for sexual abuse committed while working in Africa.

''I will use that as an example to convince other countries to do the same,'' said Mr Roy, a French national.

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet noted that the UN is engaging more and more with countries that contribute troops on this issue.

''If an incident of this kind happens, we are also now making sure that the countries that do not follow up, do not apply sanctions, do not apply disciplinary measures against the people who are involved in these incidents, those countries will not be welcomed as TCCs in the future,'' he stated.

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