Russia to Run DPA, US Seeks to Rule Management Department Under Guterres

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November 17, 2016 – Russia will run the Dept. of Political Affairs under incoming secretary-general Antonio Guterres while the United States is said to seek control of the Dept. of Management where it will attempt to rein in a bloated bureaucracy and cut waste, knowledgeable insiders have told UN Tribune.

While peacekeeping is seen as the face of the United Nations to the outside world, inside the UN, the Dept. of Political Affairs has quietly gained influence and in the future is viewed as the most important division in the United Nations system. Going forward, the thinking is that the greater impact DPA has in its preventive diplomacy and mediation, conflict prevention, electoral assistance, and peacebuilding mandates then the less need there will be for peacekeeping.

This fits with the overarching emphasis the United Nations has placed on resilience, with the aim to build stronger systems and societies and to prevent fragile states from falling back into conflict.

Control over the Dept. of Political Affairs will also give Russia much greater leverage inside the Security Council as the Council’s agenda is increasingly set by DPA. “It’s DPA that pitches up to the Security Council,” is how one insider put it to UN Tribune.

The US currently controls DPA where former State. Dept. official Jeffrey Feltman is the current undersecretary-general. What has not been said is whether Russia will be getting DPA because of its decision to support Guterres. The permanent five members of the Council divvy up the top UN positions among themselves and it is not unlikely that if Russia does get to run DPA, it will part of a secret P5 deal to get Moscow’s support for Guterres.

That the United States is seeking the Dept. of Management, currently run by Japanese diplomat Yuki Takasu, makes perfect sense, even more so in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the recent US presidential election. The US Congress has long griped that US taxpayers money going to support UN programs and agencies is wasted. Staff costs account for some two-thirds of the budget of UN agencies and these same agencies often have overlapping mandates.

The US provides 22 percent to the UN’s regular budget, a contribution of about $600 million, while it provides 28 percent of the UN’s peacekeeping budget, some $2.4 billion of the almost $9 billion budget for blue helmet operations. In addition, Washington contributes to the budgets of about 20 other UN agencies and programs including WHO, IAEA, UNDP, UNICEF, UNAIDS and UNHCR. It is also the top contributor to UN aid appeals.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

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EU Countries Providing Less Than 5 Percent of UN Peacekeeping Troops

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Oct. 25, 2016 –  EU countries are providing less than 5% of personnel for UN peacekeeping missions, according to the latest data from the Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations.

A summit chaired by Barack Obama in Sept. 2015 at UN headquarters was supposed to kickstart a return to United Nations peacekeeping by European countries, whose troops at one stage in the 1980s contributed 40 percent of peacekeeping forces.

But the amount of EU troops serving with UN missions has actually gone slightly down since that summit with less than 5 percent of the currently deployed 100,019 peacekeepers coming from the 28-nation bloc.

Just a little over a handful of EU countries are providing hundreds of peacekeepers for the UN’s 16 current peace operations, with the majority of EU states providing tens or less.

The top EU contributors are:

Italy 1,114
France 867
Spain 613
Germany 432
Ireland 385
Netherlands 358
Finland 340
United Kingdom 337

All other countries are providing less than 100 peacekeepers with most contributing less than 50.

The burden of peacekeeping is shared mostly by African and South Asian nations with six countries providing more than 40% of peacekeepers:

Ethiopia 8,236
India 7,471
Pakistan 7,161
Bangladesh 6,772
Rwanda 6,146
Nepal 5,131

For its part, the US provides a mere 68 personnel to UN peacekeeping, though remains by far the biggest financial contributor accounting for 28 percent of the total peacekeeping budget, which is just less than $8 billion for June 2016- June 2017.

China is by far the biggest contributor of troops among the permanent five members of the Security Council, providing 2,639 personnel. France is next, 867, followed by the UK, 337, Russia, 98, and US, 68.

Former Maoist Rebels to be Deployed as UN Peacekeepers


April 7, 2016 – Nepal is set to double its contribution to UN peacekeeping operations with the government there approving a plan to deploy almost 10,000 troops over the next year to serve as blue helmets.

Among those to be deployed are former Maoist rebels who have been integrated into the Nepalese armed forces following the 1996-2006 civil war that claimed the lives of 17,000 people.

The Kathmandu Post reports that Nepal’s army plans to deploy more than 9,800 troops to peacekeeping operations, up from its current strength of 4,800, which will see it become the fifth biggest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.

The announcement of more Nepalese troops comes at the same time as South Africa’s withdrawal of its some 800 troops serving with the UN/African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Nepalese troops are currently serving in UNAMID, as well as 15 other of the 16 current peacekeeping missions.

Nepal’s army almost doubled during the civil war and about 1,500 rebels were integrated since the war’s end. Haiti is among the missions where Nepalese troops are currently deployed and it was Nepalese troops who introduced cholera into the country five years ago as a result of the UN’s failure to test troops for the virus.

At present there are more than 107,000 UN peacekeepers deployed globally.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

EU-Turkey Refugee Plan Could Seal UN Cyprus Deal

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A UN peacekeeper observes from the buffer zone dividing Cyprus. (UN Photo)

March 9, 2016 – The plan carved out by Brussels and Ankara on Monday to resettle Syrian refugees, if implemented, could also see a resolution to the four-decade Cyprus dispute, with UN-talks which resumed in May already yielding results.

Under the EU-Turkey plan, Syrian refugees would be returned to Turkey from Greece, and in return for Turkey’s promise to take back refugees, EU countries would agree to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey.

Ankara’s agreement is contingent on the EU liberalizing visa requirements for Turkey’s 75 million citizens and Turkey also wants to reopen EU accession talks. But for this to happen, Turkey will have to recognize EU member Cyprus. It is difficult to see any EU member state agreeing to reopen accession talks and green-lighting visa liberalization for Turks if Ankara refuses to recognize one of the EU-28. Moreover, Cyprus, as a member state, has a veto on accession talks.

The UN-backed Cyprus talks are aimed at reunification of Northern Cyprus, which is backed by Turkey, with the internationally recognized EU member state Cyprus. The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern part following a coup d’etat ordered by Greece’s then military junta aimed at unifying Greece and Cyprus.

The coup and Turkish invasion were preceded by years of tension between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities and a UN peacekeeping force has been in place since 1964, making it the United Nations longest-running peacekeeping mission.

In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot community in the north declared independence from internationally recognized Cyprus, but Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.

Following the 1974 hostilities, UN troops were mandated to monitor the de-facto ceasefire and a 110-mile wide buffer zone was created that runs through Nicosia, Europe’s only divided capital.

While the situation has remained mostly calm since, a political solution has remained elusive and the Security Council has renewed the mandate for UNFICYP every six months.

But the election of a new Turkish leader in Northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci, last April – he campaigned on a peace platform – gave impetus to the talks. The Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, elected in 2013, has long called for a deal.

The talks which began in May have been held at the highest level with both leaders agreeing to six rounds of face to face meetings and both also released video messages in each other’s respective language at the end of 2015 calling for a peace deal this year.

Any peace deal must be approved in referendums by both Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities.

A resolution to the dispute would ease tensions between fellow NATO members Greece and Turkey and would also pave the way for Turkey’s recognition of Cyprus, which in turn would ease the way for Cyprus to withdraw its veto over Turkey’s EU accession process.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has long prized EU visa access and the refugee deal reached on Monday, if it goes ahead, could result in Turks being granted automatic Schengen visas in June, but only with Cyprus’s consent, and that’s why a resolution to the island’s 42-year dispute is crucial.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Germany to Send Troops to Bolster UN Force in Mali

Jan. 28, 2016 – Germany’s parliament on Thursday voted to approve the deployment of a contingent of up to 650 troops to join the 12,000-strong UN stabilization mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The first deployment will begin January 30 and full deployment is expected to be achieved by June and will make Berlin the third biggest European troop contributor to UN peacekeeping, behind Italy and Spain.

Germany was one of 50 countries that pledged some 30,000 additional troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations at a summit chaired by US President Barack Obama in September on the sidelines of the annual General Debate.

The United States is the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, followed by Japan, China, and Germany.

The deployment of the German troops will be the first time in 23 years that a UN peacekeeping mission has had a full German army contingent. The last time was in Somalia in the early 1990s, when a German contingent served with UNOSOM II.

Germany currently contributes small numbers to seven UN peacekeeping missions and one political mission, in Afghanistan, deploying about 250 personnel in total.

The UN force in Mali was established in April 2013 and subsumed an African-led peacekeeping mission.

The Mali mission has become one of the deadliest for UN peacekeepers with 73 troops losing their lives in service there, including 44 through malicious acts up to Dec. 31, 2015, according to information from the UN’s dept. of peacekeeping operations.

On Thursday, four Malian troops were killed in two separate incidents.

Al Qaeda-linked fighters took over the country’s north in 2012, including the historical city of Timbuktu.

A peace agreement was signed in June last year between Tuareg separatists, armed militias and the government.

European countries are keen to stabilize Mali because of the impact it has on the Sahel region in general and Libya in particular, which is a major transit route to EU countries for migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing violence and poverty.

The German troops will be deployed to Gao and will serve in various capacities including intelligence, logistics and force protection, according to information from Germany’s UN mission in New York.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

UN General Assembly Debate – Day 1 Wrap

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at the leaders lunch hosted by Ban Ki-moon (UN Photo)

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at a leaders lunch hosted by Ban Ki-moon on Monday (UN Photo)

Sept. 28, 2015 – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the 70th General Debate with a speech in which he called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court and said that five countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey and the United States – are key to finding a solution to the conflict, now in its fifth year, and which has claimed more than 250,000 lives.

Three of those countries – the United States, Russia and Iran – spoke in the morning session with U.S. President Barack Obama telling delegates that the US is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to find a solution but there is ultimately no place for Bashar Al Assad in a future Syrian government. He called for a “managed transition away” from Assad who he held responsible for killing tens of thousands of his own citizens and creating the conditions that led to the emergence of ISIS, who he called “an apocalyptic cult.” Obama said military power alone is not sufficient to resolve the situation in Syria. Preempting criticism from Putin, he said the U.S. learned a “hard lesson” in Iraq and that after the 2011 intervention in Libya, U.S. and other NATO members did not do enough for the country after the killing of Muammar Gaddafi and this had contributed to the collapse of institutions there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, making his first appearance at the UN in ten years, told the General Assembly that foreign interference in the Middle East and North Africa had lead to the “flagrant destruction of national institutions” and that “nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.” He said arming opposition forces in Syria only leads to more arms going to, and people joining, ISIS. Putin said it should “be acknowledged” that Assad forces and Kurdish militia are the only ones “truly fighting ISIS.” Russia has been supplying arms to Assad forces and recently moved military logistics equipment into Syria. Putin called for a coalition to fight terrorism “similar to the anti-Hitler coalition” and that the Sept. 30 ministerial Security Council meeting under the Russian presidency is aimed at agreeing on a resolution on coordinating actions on fighting ISIS and other terrorist groups.

Neither Obama nor Putin made any mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their addresses. Nor did either mention the deteriorating situation in Yemen.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, began his speech by saying mismanagement by Saudi Arabia had led to last week’s Haj tragedy that left more than 800 pilgrims dead, including more than 200 Iranians. He called for an independent investigation and immediate consular access to help identify the bodies. Rouhani said the agreement reached with the E3+3 on Iran’s disputed nuclear program had opened up a “new chapter in Iran’s relations with the world.” He said his country is “prepared to assist in the eradication of terrorism and … are prepared to help bring about democracy in Syria and Yemen.” He blamed U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan and its support for Israel, which he called the “Zionist regime,” for the current situation in the Middle East. He closed by declaring “ultimate victory will be won by those with good-natured piety.” Iran provides arms and financing for Hezbollah, which is currently fighting in Syria in support of Assad forces. Members of Iran’s Republican Guards are also fighting on Assad’s behalf in Syria. A recent UN Security Council report stated that an Iranian vessel had delivered 180 tons of arms to a Yemen port under Houthi control.

In the afternoon, Obama held a leaders summit on peacekeeping and said some 50 countries had pledged to contribute an additional 30,000 troops to current and future peace operations. He added that the US would double the number of military advisers serving in UN peacekeeping operations. In a separate memo, Obama said he would not relinquish command over any troops deployed to UN peace operations. The US currently has 78 personnel deployed in UN missions. The total number of current peacekeepers deployed in 16 missions is more than 106,000. The U.S. is the biggest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations – assessed at 28 percent of the more than $8 billion annual budget.

China’s President Xi Jingpin said his country would provide 8,000 troops to a UN peacekeeping standby force as well as providing $100 million to the African Union for peacekeeping operations. Beijing, which is the largest troop contributor among the permanent five members of the Security Council, will also take the lead in establishing a standing UN police force.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, said his country – currently the fourth largest troop contributor with more than 7,500 Pakistanis deployed in blue-helmet operations – vowed continuing support for peacekeeping, including pledging additional utility helicopters, an infantry battalion, and a canine unit. He said UN peacekeeping should not be used for counter-terrorism operations.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the summit that troop contributing countries do not have a role in the decision-making process to form a peacekeeping operation. He also said troop contributing countries lack representation in senior management posts and as force commanders. India, which UN insiders say covets the top peacekeeping job currently held by France, is the third biggest troop contributor, and has served in 48 of 69 peacekeeping mission and lost 161 troops. Modi pledged an additional 850 troops for new operations as well as three police units. In closing, he called for reform of the Security Council to keep the UN relevant.

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke of his country’s contributions to peacekeeping, which includes heading the UN mission in Lebanon, a 10,000-strong force. He proposed establishing a peacekeeping unit that would be tasked with preserving cultural heritage.

Among the some 50 countries also speaking was the Netherlands. The country’s prime minister, Mark Rutte, announced that the current deployment of 450 Dutch troops with MINUSMA in Mali would be extended by one year. He also said the Netherlands, in conjunction with the U.S., is devising a training program for peacekeepers on protection of civilians. The country is still grappling with shame over the decision by its troops to handover Bosnian Muslims to Serb forces in 1995 when they were sheltering in a UN compound. A court in the Hague last year found the Netherlands liable for the deaths of 300 Bosnian Muslim men killed in the Srebrenica massacre.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz 

As Obama Heads to General Assembly, US Debt to UN Balloons to $3 Billion

US President Barack Obama Addresses the General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2014

US President Barack Obama Addresses the General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2014

Sept. 14, 1015 – US President Barack Obama will make his penultimate appearance at the United Nations later this month where he will address the annual General Debate and speak at a high-level summit where the sustainable development goals will be adopted.

Obama will also host a summit on increasing international involvement in UN peacekeeping. The United States is the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, assessed at 28 percent of the annual $8.25 billion budget – but DC hasn’t yet paid its contribution for 2015 and still has arrears from 2014.

In total, the US owes peacekeeping dues for 2014 and 2015 totaling more than $2 billion, according to information provided to UN Tribune from the United Nations budget office.

Washington also has yet to pay its 2015 dues to the UN’s regular budget. The United States is assessed at 22 percent of the regular budget for a total of $655 million for 2015. According to UN figures, the US owes a combined total of $926 million to the regular budget, which includes an outstanding $270 million from last year.

The United States is the only permanent member of the Security Council to not yet pay its 2015 dues, according to information from the UN Committee on Contributions website.

The US government’s fiscal year begins in October and large payments are typically made at the beginning of the fiscal cycle, though not nearly enough to cover the total back debt.

Information from the UN Budget Office on US debt to the United Nations

Information from the UN Budget Office on US debt to the United Nations (click to enlarge)

While many US lawmakers say that the United Nations is a bloated bureaucracy that offers little to no value for US citizens, this is far from the case from a strictly economic point of view. In fact, it is a boon to the New York City economy and to US companies.

Of the 43,000 staff working for the UN Secretariat, some 2,700 are US citizens, or 6.2% of the total staff. Japan, the second highest financial contributor, assessed at some $300 million to the annual budget, has a mere 167 staff members or 0.59%, according to the latest available Composition of the Secretariat report.

In addition, a 2010 report from UN Foundation showed that the UN Secretariat procured more than $832 million from US companies in 2010. The report also said that the economic benefit to New York City by having UN Headquarters located in the city is about $3.3bln annually.

While the US is the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, there are only 78 UN peacekeepers from the United States deployed in current peacekeeping operations.

- Denis Fitzgerald @denisfitz

Related Story: US, UK, France Tops for UN Secretariat Staff

EU Countries Combined Provide the Same Number of UN Peacekeepers as Nepal

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Aug 24, 2015 – Latest figures from the UN Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations show that 24 of 28 EU member states provide police and troops to peacekeeping missions for a total current contribution of 5,204 peacekeepers.

That’s less than five percent of the current 104,000 troops deployed in 16 missions worldwide and less than the 5,332 peacekeepers that Nepal alone provides.

A majority of EU states provide only tens of peacekeepers while others are in the low hundreds.

The top five EU troop contributing countries to UN peace operations are:

Italy – 1,111
France – 906
Netherlands – 681
Spain – 616
Ireland – 371

Bulgaria, Latvia, Luxembourg and Malta are the four EU countries that are currently not providing any troops to UN missions.

Among those providing the least peacekeepers are Cyprus, 2, Portugal, 3, Belgium, 5, Czech Republic, 13, and Croatia, 15.

Permanent UN Security Council member the UK provides 287 peacekeepers, which is less than fellow permanent member France but significantly more than Russia, 76, and the US, 78. China leads the way among permanent members providing 3,078 troops. The US is the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping.

While Sweden is a strong supporter of the UN, it does not make the top five for contributing personnel to peacekeeping with a total current contribution of 279 police and troops combined. Fellow Nordic countries Finland and Denmark are providing 338 and 49 peacekeepers respectively. Non EU-member Norway is providing 97 peacekeepers.

Germany, which has aspirations of a permanent Security Council seat, provides 175 peacekeepers to current UN missions while neighbors Austria are contributing 191 personnel.

The tiny Baltic countries Estonia and Lithuania are providing four and 43 peacekeepers respectively.

The burden of peacekeeping is shared among South Asian and African nations with Bangladesh currently the top contributor, providing 9,398 peacekeepers, followed by Ethiopia, 8,309, India, 7,960, Pakistan, 7,665, and Rwanda, 5,600.

A summit on providing troops to peacekeeping operations will be held during the 70th General Assembly which opens in September.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Impunity Fueling Sexual Abuse and Exploitation by UN Peacekeepers

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June 11, 2015 – When UN peacekeepers commit acts of sexual abuse and exploitation, they do so knowing that their crimes have every chance of never being punished.

Under the current system, when a country contributes troops to a peacekeeping mission, it enters into an understanding with the United Nations that it will pursue cases of misconduct by its troops and report back to the UN, but in reality the UN has no way to enforce this and, at present, no way to sanction troop contributing countries (TCCs) who fail to act on cases of misconduct.

As it stands, the UN merely has administrative jurisdiction over its military contingents. Under the Status of Forces Agreement, which the UN negotiates with the the host state, each TCC retains exclusive jurisdiction to prosecute and otherwise discipline its military personnel. This immunity cannot be waived by the Secretary-General since jurisdiction is exclusive to the TCC (the immunity can be waived in the case of UN employees).

Most militaries have a poor record of holding their personnel accountable for violations. In the majority of cases, perpetrators are sent home – sometimes to a state where there is no legislation for sexual crimes or where such crimes are not taken seriously – and no further action is taken.

Similarly, when women give birth to babies fathered by UN peacekeepers, the United Nations policy is to assist the mother in making a claim for financial support but that claim is then forwarded to the troop contributing country for consideration. NGOs have called for the UN to establish a Trust Fund for victims and children who are born to peacekeepers, but no action has been taken on this.

While it’s unlikely that troop contributing countries will cede jurisdiction for their troops, the UN could enforce sanctions on troop contributing countries who fail to act on cases of misconduct such as barring them from future UN missions and garnishing pay of peacekeepers who father children while on duty. What is lacking right now is the will to push through such measures but if the UN is to live up to its promise, the Secretariat, member states and troop contributing countries must all do a lot more to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation from UN peacekeeping.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

South Sudan’s Expulsion of UN Official Brings Controversial Integrated Approach Into Focus

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June 2, 2015 – Since the early 2000s, the United Nations has favored an integrated approach for some of its most difficult missions with the ostensibly neutral Humanitarian Coordinator also double hatted as the explicitly political Resident Coordinator, and triple hatted as the deputy special representative of the secretary-general.

The reasons behind an integrated approach were well-intentioned: to streamline UN efforts and ensure that the objectives of all UN forces and agencies are channeled towards an over-arching common goal (Weir:2006). But aid agencies have raised concerns on the basis of neutrality and impartiality, saying that the line between the UN’s military objectives and its humanitarian objectives is increasingly blurred by an integrated approach, and that it leads to the shrinking of humanitarian space (see Stimson Center report here). In Somalia and Afghanistan, NGO’s have withdrawn from, or refused to enter into, UN coordination mechanisms because of the support of these missions for the Afghan and Somali governments respectively.

UNMISS in South Sudan is one of the more recent integrated UN missions. On Monday, the government in Juba expelled Toby Lanzer, reportedly for comments he made criticizing the government’s failure. Lanzer is an experienced United Nations official who was chief-of-staff of one of the first UN integrated missions, in Timor-Leste in 2006. In South Sudan, he wears four hats: deputy special-representative of the secretary-general; UN resident coordinator; humanitarian coordinator; and resident representative of UNDP.

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Diagram from UN OCHA showing civil-military coordination in South Sudan: source UN OCHA

His is, or rather was, an impossible task – Lanzer was due to be replaced at the end of the month. The original UNMISS mandate in 2011 called for UNMISS to protect civilians and support the South Sudan government in consolidating peace and building state institutions, but the language on supporting the government has been stripped from subsequent resolutions – the most recent mandate renewal was passed by the Security Council last week.

UNMISS has essentially shifted into neutral mode following reports of mass graves, extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, attacks on peacekeepers and massive displacement of civilian populations – tens of thousands of whom are sheltering in UN bases – and the world’s newest country is currently at risk of famine.

But peacekeeping missions are hardly neutral and require the support of the host government to achieve peacebuilding and institution building mandates and need freedom of movement to fulfill a protection of civilians mandate.

UNMISS is a $1 billion mission, financed by mandatory assessments on UN member states, while the UN’s humanitarian appeal for South Sudan is for $658 million, though only $70 million has been received as it relies on voluntary contributions.

There are no easy answers to the South Sudan crisis but it puts the utility of integrated missions once again under the microscope and the wisdom of having one person responsible for coordinating humanitarian activities while also responsible for political activities and institution building and will likely lead to further calls for the UN to re-examine the integrated approach.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz