UN: UN expert stresses need for technological advances to boost UN peacekeepers

New York, US (PANA) - A group of UN experts on Tuesday said UN peacekeeping missions in
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR) must make
greater use of technological advances in order to better confront the dynamic challenges of
the 21st century.

This is part of findings of a five-member Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation, led by peace and security expert, Ms. Jane Lute and published in New York.

The report includes a number of practical recommendations that call on the UN Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support to keep pace with innovation and take full advantage of readily available and existing technologies that are considered essential to success in the field.

Speaking with UN reporters on the report, Ms. Lute said: "Every peacekeeping mission in
the field ought to have at least the same level of technology that UN member state militaries
and polices now consider operationally imperative, whether it is command and control,
communications, mobility, shelter or the provisioning of essential supplies."

"All of these things which are now standard in the operation of many organizations around
the world need to be brought to peacekeeping," she said.

She noted that  UN peacekeeping missions, scattered across vast countries and forbidding territories, frequently encounter challenges in executing their mandates.

Over the past year, however, the UN has steadily ramped up its use of technology in the field in order to assist its missions with monitoring efforts.

"In the DRC, where unwieldy terrain, dense forests and vast distances can debilitate the UN’s response time to an emergency, the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has had an immediate impact," said the lead expert.

"In one instance last year, a UAV detected a ferry accident in Lake Kivu, in the country’s
east, instantly prompting the UN peacekeeping mission in the country to dispatch its
speedboats and helicopters to the scene, and the blue helmets (peacekeepers) quick
response led to the rescue of 15 people.

"UAVs are a good example of one technology of which a lot of organizations around
the world are making increasing use, and we think this is a capability missions ought
to be able to take greater advantage of," Ms. Lute stated.

"The ability to visualize your operating area of responsibility from the air is an essential capability for every mission, really with only a few exceptions," she said.

According to Ms. Lute, the panel’s findings were based on several field visits and
interviews with UN member states, partner organizations, and partner organizations
with similar field operations.

"Along with the critical upgrade of field technology, UN blue helmets are also aiming
to 'go green' through the responsible use of limited resources, in a bid to leave
mission areas in better shape than when they arrived and among other steps, GIS
data is being used to help find water sources for missions so as not to compete with
the local water supply.

"Missions are also including waste water treatment plants designed to drastically
reduce the need for water and generation of disposable waste, as well as exploring
alternative sources of energy such as solar panels.

"Nonetheless, while technology moves quickly, the UN's lumbering procurement
systems may sometimes cause unexpected and unwanted delays for the introduction
of critical technologies into the field," she stressed.

Ms. Lute also noted that the UN needs to construct the kinds of support systems
necessary to facilitate greater use of technology.

"So, we need procurement systems that can identify and acquire capabilities in not more than 18 months because longer than that technology has already changed and moved on," she said.

In a separate note to UN reporters, the expert admitted that, "as UN peacekeeping
missions continue to face down rapidly evolving and complex environments, the
organization’s peacekeepers would be increasingly pressured to transition to a
culture that values innovation."

"UN peacekeeping must be ready to respond to a vast array of challenges, and no
advantage should be withheld for those working for peace," she added.
-0-  PANA  AA/AR  24Feb2015

24 february 2015 17:13:42

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