Seminar on UN multidimensional and integrated peace operations and humanitarian efforts

Geneva, 11 May 2007

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized the third in a series of regional seminars on trends and challenges related to UN multidimensional and integrated peace operations in Geneva on 11 May.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized the third in a series of regional seminars on trends and challenges related to UN multidimensional and integrated peace operations in Geneva on 11 May. The seminar focused particularly on how the need for a more closely integrated approach to UN peace operations can be reconciled with the need to safeguard the independence and impartiality of humanitarian efforts.

The general impression among those participating in the seminar was that significant progress has been made on the issue of combining an integrated approach with a clear division of roles on the basis of different mandates, both through the debates and policy development that have taken place within the UN in recent years and through the dialogue conducted with NGOs.

The seminar was arranged in cooperation with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Minister of Defence Anne Grethe Strøm-Erichsen opened the event, which was chaired by Norway’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Wegger Strømmen. The seminar brought together high-level participants from UN agencies, humanitarian organisations based in Geneva and  UN field operations.

The main purpose of the seminar was to examine the humanitarian dilemmas that arise in connection with multidimensional operations. There was broad agreement that the success of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts depends on more integrated and coordinated approaches being taken. If humanitarian dilemmas are dealt with in a sensible way, integrated operations can enhance opportunities to provide effective protection for civilians and effective humanitarian assistance, for example by securing better access to high-risk areas (for humanitarian organisations.

At the same time, integration continues to be a sensitive issue in the humanitarian assistance community, as it can give the impression that humanitarian mandates are to be subordinate to political and military mandates for operations.

It is therefore important that integration is not misconstrued as meaning a merger of organisations and a lack of diversity. On the contrary, better planning and coordination enable the different actors to gain a better understanding of their respective roles and the division of responsibilities between them. It was also agreed by all participants that integration should not bee seen as solely an administrative measure or a goal in itself, but tool for achieving better results and impact. There is therefore no template that can be used for all operations.

The importance of starting the planning of operations early enough, and of making the process sufficiently inclusive, taking into account existing knowledge and structures on the ground, was emphasised. It was noted that the planning process in itself is an extremely important factor in securing the best possible result. It is also important to identify a country’s actual needs when planning peacekeeping operations to better attune our responses as well as evaluating our impact.

Similarly, the growing acceptance of the protection of civilians as an organic part of any peace operation mandate urge better coordination among all actors involved in its implementation. There was however full agreement that the growing importance calls for a closer examination of the protection and its implications, including who is responsible for which aspect. 

Norway’s integrated operations project has included seminars in Beijing, Addis Ababa, Geneva and New York. A final conference will take place in Oslo on 29 and 30 October. A general report will be prepared on the basis of the discussions at the final conference, and will be presented both to the UN Secretary-General and to UN Member States.