Thursday, April 1, 2010

Reform in department of Political Affairs (DPA) United Nations

In this,I will review DPA’s organization, key roles and achievements as well as consider areas for reform. Then I will highlight recommendations and rationale for creating five regional peace councils.


The United Nations established the DPA in 1992. DPA is headed by an Under-Secretary who manages the department, advises the Secretary-General on matters affecting global peace and security, and provides guidance to his envoys and political missions in the field. Currently, DPA has roughly 250 staff at U.N. headquarters in New York. DPA draws from the work of Special Political Missions and Peace-Building Support Offices under its supervision. They have more than 1,700 national and international staff in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Field offices of DPA contribute substantially to its political analysis. They also provide a forward platform for good office missions and other preventive initiatives – the latter is often developed in conjunction with U.N. development, humanitarian and human rights entities and the civil society. The peace-building support offices managed by DPA are an illustration of the Department’s role since 1997 as the United Nations designated focal point for peace building.

Key Roles: The DPA works on the philosophy of “prevention is better than cure”. Hence it has a central and important role to play to keep the world peaceful. This begins with sound and timely information and analysis. The roles played by DPA are monitoring and assessing global political developments; advising the U.N. Secretary-General on actions that could advance the cause of peace; providing support and guidance to U.N. peace envoys and political missions in the field; and serving Member States directly through electoral assistance and through the support of DPA staff to the work of the Security Council and other U.N. bodies. DPA contributes to U.N. efforts worldwide .It extends from conflict prevention to peacemaking to post- conflict peace building. Through the work of its regional divisions, DPA regularly provides the Secretary-General with analytical reports and briefing notes to aid him in making informed decisions and shape his continuous diplomatic initiatives with U.N. Member States, non-governmental organizations and others.

DPA strives to help the Secretary-General to detect and respond to potential crises. The head of DPA also serves on the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee, which is the highest decision-making body within the U.N. Secretariat, and chairs the Executive Committee on Peace and Security, a high-level body for interagency and interdepartmental coordination. Where complex crises require contributions from a range of U.N. entities, DPA is often called upon to establish an overarching political framework within which political, developmental and humanitarian action can go forth. DPA provides other important services to U.N. Member States. The U.N. Security Council, in carrying out its crucial functions, relies on staff of the DPA Affairs for substantive and secretariat support. DPA provides similar the staff support to two standing committees established by the General Assembly, concerning the rights of Palestine and decolonization.

Achievements and need for further reform: So far DPA has been very successful in accomplishing of our task by changing and improving the department and its activities from time to time to meet demands. The revival of a strong international push for nuclear non-proliferation, and productive meetings and bilateral discussions on the Middle East peace process, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, Myanmar, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Honduras and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea have increased our responsibilities .The demand for our services is increasing. Member states expressions of support for our efforts to strengthen the entire menu of UN crisis response options, from peacemaking and preventive diplomacy to peacekeeping and post conflict peace-building compel us to devise ways to meet the everyday changing expectations of member states. These expectations along with our past and routine activities can’t be met without additional resources and some changes in organization and methodology.

We are making an effort to enhance our cooperation with the regional organizations to cope with the new situations. But it is not sufficient in the light of increasing demand of our services and limited resources as regional organizations have their own limitations and are formed for specific purposes. We are getting their cooperation, but not yet at the desired level. We don’t have any regional forum where countries can sit together and help each other to resolve national and transnational issues which may take the shape of a conflict.

It is seen now that regional economic integration is taking place. Countries are coming together for economic gains and growths. In light of this it is possible for us to bring them together for the significant gains in peace. From any point of view, peace is more valuable and bigger than economic gains. Local co-operation on the basis of mutual understanding and sharing will reduce the burden on the UN. It will also be cost effective as problems will get addressed at the regional level. Based on these issues it is imperative to reform our department.

Reforms- Create a Regional Peace Council: In field, we have five regions worldwide: Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific Europe and Middle East. Our special political missions and peace-building support offices are located in ten places in Africa, South and Central Asia and the Middle East. All are engaged in conflict prevention, peacemaking and post-conflict peace building.

To provide local forum to resolve issues that arise from time to time, we need to create five regional peace councils. All countries in the region will have membership. The president will be on the basis of rotation and the secretary will be the regional head of the DPA. There will be a coordinator in the regional office to coordinate the work of the council and all its expenditures will be shared by the members. To coordinate the work of the councils, there will be two council coordinators, one under each assistant secretary general at headquarters. Their expenses will be shared by their respective member states in the council. The councils will have a meeting of all the members once every six months. Venue will be the country capitals and rotate among the countries. Each country will designate a senior officer who will be responsible for coordination with council coordinator in the regional office and council coordinator at headquarters, NY. In case of emergency, meetings will be called by regional heads at any place decided with the consent of members. In case of conflict meeting decisions of Under Secretary General of DPA will be final and binding. This type of functioning will result in cost as well as time savings. The services will be more effective and efficient as everything can be done within the region itself. It will lead to reduction in travel time and transportation cost.

The role of council will be to persuade the countries to bring issues which they are not able to solve themselves before the council for better solution. Council will foster and help the countries to develop better ties for economic integration and cooperation. The routine and past services will be provided by the council through shared responsibilities of the members’ countries. If need be with the help of USG, DPA will coordinate among the councils to provide the required help and support.

The expense in this proposed arrangement is just for seven posts, five in each council and two at head office. To reduce the cost further we must choose these coordinators locally. Since their job is to coordinate and manage meetings, we must take experienced persons having such expertise as a matter of practice and not giving much emphasis on higher education as it is not required in this case. This criterion will help in reducing the cost. The cost incurred will be divided among the members, so financial burden on each member will be very small. It will prevent conflicts from arising and happening. If we compare the loss in case of any conflict it will be many times more than what is needed to prevent it. In case of war inside the country or among the countries the aftermath continues for years. This costs very dearly that is why it is called prevent is better than the cure. This saying justifies the cost saving is much more than the expense incurred in its prevention. Transportation and travel cost will be reduced considerably. Time lost in traveling will be saved. The cost in terms of time saving will be the additional indirect benefit of proposed new arrangement.

The cost analysis of the proposed arrangements shows that cost saving will be more than the new expenses to be incurred. Thus the change in proposed set up and procedures will enable us to resolve the issues faster and with lower cost. This will also lead to meeting the increasing demand