UNITED NATIONS. PEACEKEEPERS' HEALTHY ALPHABET SOUP

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2011

PEACEKEEPERS' HEALTHY ALPHABET SOUP

Military Generals normally have their lingo. U.N. Field Generals have their own Alphabet Soup. A discreet gathering of Peacekeeping Operations Force Commanders during an especially warm New York July week proved to be very useful in exchanging their experiences. More crucial was exchanging views with Security Council members for the very clear reason that action in the field is crucially affected by decisions in New York.

Most prominent were Lieutenant General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, who heads U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Lt. General Chander Prakash of the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO), and Lt. General Patrick Nyamvumba of the hybrid U.N./African Union Operation in Darfur, Sudan.

Any outsider trying to listen in on their conversations would be perplexed. Besides the acronyms of the missions they command, the Lt. Generals assumed easy understanding of abbreviations like: PTT, MOU, ICC, C-34, IMC, let alone terminology known to Secretariat insiders like: SG, USG, and of course, their bread and butter, DPKO.

Some brought along their OPS (Operations aides) to present summaries of their SITREPS (Situation Reports). Others, like UNIFIL, had an initial problem in the lack of a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the host country. Some of them operated in countries where influential political figures were denounced by ICC (International Criminal Court). New York was very hot on, say 27 July, but comparatively breezy if you resided in an AO (Area of Operations) like Darfur. More to the point, it was imperative to sense first hand the real positions of the Security Council, especially its P-5 (Permanent Members with veto power).

Lt. General Asarta highlighted his admonition to all sides along the I-L (Israeli-Lebanese) borders: "Don't provoke; don't be provoked" - or put in Spanish-English: "Don't give; don't take." Lt. General Nyamvumba stressed the need for the U.N. to act with authority of the whole international community, particularly when intervening under R2P (Responsibility to Protect). (In that report, there was need for caution not to exceed the limits of international law.) Lt. General Prakash evaluated -- positively -- the outcome of the first IMC (Inter-Mission Co-operation) which he had initiated.

The need for appropriate logistics was stressed -- ADMIN (Administrative Officers) have to clearly define what requirements were available and what more was needed. Language facilities, for example, were crucial to communicate effectively with the host population; hence the need for an adequate number of interpreters and international staff who were able to work smoothly in a region. Hence the need for proper budgetary preparations and proper presentation to ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administration and Budgetary Questions) in order to pass it through the 5th Committee (on Finance and Administration).

Surely, senior officials at U.N. Headquarters, like Security Council members, welcomed the opportunity of meeting Force Commanders and their teams, Alphabet Soup notwithstanding. Indeed, everyone involved eventually got into it.

One pending question was on leadership. Peacekeeping USG (Under-Secretary General) Alain LeRoy was about to leave a couple of weeks later; he actually left mid-August. If nominated in time, his replacement -- Herve Ladsous, an experienced diplomat who served as Deputy Permanent Representative in New York during the Nineties -- would have greatly benefited by attending that gathering. That would have been a most valuable briefing, a live face-to-face exchange with the top brass, the backbone of FO (Field Operations). If anything, it would have helped him (for it's a he) to have a timely taste of a healthy Alphabet Soup.