Restructuring the UN Secretariat to Strengthen Preventative Diplomacy and Peace Operations

Sarah Cliffe, Alexandra Novosseloff
Content Type
Working Paper
Global Peace Operations Review
ince 1945, the United Nations has helped support many successful peace processes and protected millions of civilians around the world. Peace operations deliver results: research estimates suggest that the presence of a UN peace keeping mission can reduce the risk of relapse into conflict by 75 – 85 percent;1 and that larger deployments diminish the scale of violence and protect civilians in the midst of fighting.2 Peace operations can be highly cost effective, with one General Audit Office assessment finding the cost to be roughly half of what a bilateral stabilization operation would cost.3 Different types of peace operations - from mediation and special envoys through to multidimensional peace-keeping and specialized justice and emergency health missions - have helped end long running conflicts and prevented violence from escalating or recurring in situations as diverse as Burkina Faso, Cambodia, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste. Yet in 2017 the UN’s peace and security pillar faces deep challenges. Three reviews in the past two years have highlighted serious inadequacies in UN peace and security responses at large. Many of the recent challenges are due to real world shifts in the nature of conflict and geopolitical dynamics – the tragedy of Syria, renewed fighting in Yemen and South Sudan, continued crisis in Libya, difficulties in preventing a political and humanitarian crisis in Burundi, longstanding missions that are struggling to deliver sustainable peace in DRC and Haiti, and newer missions in Mali and CAR where geography creates sustained cross-border security risks. These situations are also affected by divisions amongst Member States that have prevented agreement on action in some cases. Part of the weaknesses, however, are managerial and structural. The sense of urgency pervading Member States at the UN, together with a new Secretary-General who has signaled his determination to reform this area, provides the opportunity to take a more fundamental look at what would give the UN’s peace and security pillar the right form to deliver the functions that it is called to serve, now and in the future. The purpose of this report is to analyze options for organizational restructuring in the UN’s peace and security pillar. It focuses on headquarters structures since this has been identified as a primary source of overlap and competition: the purpose however is to deliver better results in the field, from prevention through crisis management to post-conflict recovery. It does not cover wider reforms across the UN’s three pillars, which are supported in other CIC work streams.4 Following an introductory section, Section II traces the history of UN peace and security structures since the UN’s founding (see Box). The UN has had no shortage of reform in the past, each designed to address specific weaknesses or new demands. Cumulatively, however, these changes have resulted in a structure that is no longer fit to fulfill the functions needed.
Security, Diplomacy, United Nations, Peace
Political Geography
Africa, Middle East, Yemen, Haiti, Syria, North America, South Sudan