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Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

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United Nations peacekeeping operations had made significant headway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali this year, a senior official overseeing those missions told reporters at a Headquarters press conference today.

“It has been an active year,” said Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, as he recalled major developments, including the Congolese army’s victory against the 23 March Movement (M23) armed group.

A political agreement had been materialized in that country as a result of the Kampala talks, he said. Following the military gains, a priority should be to go after other armed groups, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU).

Means were in place, he said, referring to the Intervention Brigade that was now fully operational within the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the unmanned aerial vehicles, launched recently for surveillance purposes.

Another priority was to deal with emerging situations, he said. In North Kivu, the 2,300 ex-combatants who had laid down weapons must go through the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration progress. It was also crucial not to create a “vacuum”, he stressed, urging the Congolese Government to establish administration and deploy police and army in all places that had been liberated.

The situation in Mali had also made significant progress compared to a year ago, Mr. Ladsous continued, noting that a second round of legislative action was expected the day after tomorrow. With the return of fully legitimate authorities after the presidential election, the Government would need to accelerate efforts to organize an inclusive dialogue with all armed groups and communities in the north to address the root causes of the prolonged conflict. As well, security threats from jihads remained.

In the Sudan, 14 peacekeepers had been killed this year, with attacks by armed groups increasing, he said, adding that Darfur was home to more than 400,000 internally displaced people. The Doha process needed to have more signatories because that was “the only game in town”.

Turning to South Sudan, he said the challenge was to protect civilians in such places as the eastern Province of Jonglei, where a lack of infrastructure constrained mobility. The military component of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was being redeployed to have better coverage in those provinces. No progress had been made in the situation in Abyei.

In the Syrian Golan Heights, 1,250 United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) personnel were working under difficult circumstances. “There is hardly a day without an attack,” he said. The international community could not afford to have the area become an issue again. That part of the world already had enough worries.

Updating the situation in Central African Republic, he said that Security Council resolution 2127 (2013) would mandate the transfer of the authority from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)-led peace operation to the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) on 19 December. The text also requested the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council within 90 days with recommendations on the possible transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation.

His department was focusing on improving the quality of its operations under stringent fiscal conditions, Mr. Ladsous said, noting that cost per head for uniformed personnel had decreased by 16 per cent over the last five years due to more effective management. It was also downsizing operations in Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, and to some extent, in Darfur.

Acknowledging the 90 colleagues who had died, 29 of them killed through deliberate attacks, he emphasized the importance of staff safety.

To a series of questions on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said that two unmanned aerial vehicles had initially been deployed, with a plan to add three more by 1 April 2014. The craft not only gave military units an accurate picture of fighting on the ground, but also of real-time movement of civilians. An Italian contractor supplied personnel to operate the unmanned aerial systems.

About 2,300 combatants had left their armed groups, such as M23 and Mai Mai, over the past two and half months, probably due to the deterrent effects of deploying the Intervention Brigade and drones. It was now vital to integrate them into society and train them for employment. The quantity of weapons that had been seized was enormous, but findings were still yet to be released.

Responding to a question on a clash between the French forces and protesters at the airport in Kidal, Mali, he said three civilians had been injured and one of them had died. Investigation was still under way. If the Malian police had shot them, that was unacceptable.

On a question regarding Syria, he said that the first thing that must happen was a political process in Geneva. Pending a Security Council request, his department would participate in a mandate towards stabilizing the situation in Syria, but its scenarios were still only on paper.

Asked about Sudan, he said several armed groups had not become parties to the Doha process.

To a question regarding Member States’ contribution of peacekeepers, he said that 95 per cent of uniformed personnel came from the global south, with the rate at 99 per cent for Africa. His mission was to encourage the global north to increase their shares. With troops withdrawn from Afghanistan, he expected some developed countries to rebalance their deployment. The Dutch Government had decided to deploy 300 troops and four helicopters to Mali.

For information media • not an official record