Head of UN peacekeeping to step down in mid-2008

7th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

French head of UN peacekeeping will step down at the end of June after presiding over an unprecedented growth of a force that now fields 100,000 personnel.

   UNITED NATIONS, March 7, 2008  - The French head of UN peacekeeping
will step down at the end of June after presiding over an unprecedented growth
of a force that now fields 100,000 personnel around the world, UN officials
said Thursday.
   Marie Okabe, a UN spokeswoman, told a press briefing that Jean-Marie
Guehenno, 58, confirmed to his staff Thursday morning that "he will be leaving
in mid-2008" after eight years in the post.
   Guehenno's contract expires at the end of June, another UN official said.
   When Ban Ki-moon took over as UN secretary-general in January 2007,
Guehenno was one of the few senior holdovers from Kofi Annan's administration
to be asked to stay on.
   "Eight years is a long run and it's a very tough job," said Beth Cole, an
expert on peacekeeping operations at the United States Institute of Peace, a
Washinton-based think tank.
   "He (Guehenno) has presided over an explosive growth in operations and over
a lot of very important innovations. He should be congratulated for his work,"
she told AFP.
   Indeed Guehenno, a former French civil servant, oversaw an unprecedented
growth of the department of peacekeeping operations (DPKO), which now oversees
almost 100,000 personnel in 20 peacekeeping missions around the world with an
annual budget of 7.5 billion dollars.
   He also supervised a sweeping restructuring of UN peacekeeping to make it
more efficient and more effective, UN officials said.
   Peacekeeping was split into a department of peace operations, tasked with
strategy, day-to-day direction and management, and a department of field
support that consolidate the support functions of UN field personnel,
procurement and financial management.
   Last year, there were rumors that the United States was keen on having one
of its officials take over DPKO.
   But Cole said this was unlikely since the United States is not a major
contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping.
   In addition, she added, US national Jane Holl Lute was put in charge of the
key department of field support last year.
   Lute is the wife of Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, a three-star US army
general tasked with overseeing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
   There was no word on who was likely to succeed Guehenno.
   "What we really need is a good manager who can continue to oversee the very
important reforms that are being implemented," Cole said. "Demands are so huge
both in terms of personnel and in terms of funding."
   "My particular hope if that the person they find would have some mission
experience," she added.
   Guehenno is also credited with turning UN peacekeeping into a
professionalized service, notably by giving it a doctrine and a focus on
conduct and discipline.
   But UN peacekeeping missions around the world have also been plagued by
cases of sexual abuse of women and corruption by a minority of the
blue-helmeted soldiers, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory
Coast and Haiti.
   Cole conceded that the sexual exploitation issue "has been particularly
difficult for DPKO" but added: "I think they handled it pretty well."
   Of Guehenno, she concluded: "He did as well as he could with the tools that
he had and we need to have a bigger tool box in that shop."
   Guehenno joined the United Nations in 2000 after a long and distinguished
career in the French government, including in the foreign ministry.
   He also served as head of cultural affairs at the French Embassy in
Washington from 1982 and 1986.

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