Statement by Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella, U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform, on civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict before the UN General Assembly

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
May 11, 2011


Thank you, Mr. President.

At the outset, my delegation would like to offer thanks to Mr. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Chairman of the Senior Advisory Group and former Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, for presenting the independent report of the Senior Advisory Group on civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict and to Ms. Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, for providing an overview on the consultative process envisioned by the Secretary-General for prioritizing and addressing the recommendations contained in the report.

Mr. President,

The United States commends the Secretary-General for his initiative in establishing the Senior Advisory Group to perform a comprehensive review of international civilian capacities as part of a broader effort to address peacebuilding in the immediate aftermath of conflict. We commend also the Senior Advisory Group for the scope and ambition of its review of civilian capacity.

This report draws from the experience of the United Nations over the past few decades working in countries emerging from devastating conflict. It highlights the institutional challenges that hinder the ability of the Organization to effectively help countries complete the transition from conflict to lasting peace. When countries emerge from conflict, they face an array of challenges ranging from providing basic services and restoring government functions to reconciliation and political transition. The United Nations—which may already be present in such countries performing the role of peacekeeper or mediator—is often uniquely poised to provide assistance.

Too frequently, however, the assistance provided by the United Nations is driven by supply rather than by demand. When new governments need critical civilian support—such as public administrators, rule of law experts, and elections monitors—the United Nations needs to be able to deliver, and yet the Organization still struggles to complete the fundamental task of finding and placing the right person at the right place and at the right time. Governments struggling to rebuild do not have the luxury of waiting months for the United Nations to recruit the necessary staff. Nor should they have to—the required expertise is often available outside the Secretariat in the funds, programs, or specialized agencies; in regional organizations; and in national governments, including those that have themselves successfully emerged from conflict. Moreover, national capacities must be nurtured and leveraged if peace and stability are to be sustainable.

Mr. President,

The United States welcomes the report of the Senior Advisory Group on civilian capacity and concurs with its overarching themes—the importance of national ownership, the value of effective partnership with sources of capacity outside of the Secretariat, and the need for administrative flexibility in fluid post-conflict environments. We appreciate the ongoing efforts of Under-Secretary-General Malcorra and her team in prioritizing the recommendations contained within the report and to place the review of civilian capacity in the broader context of ongoing reform processes. We look forward to working with all stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead to seize this opportunity to review and to improve how the United Nations supports countries making the difficult transition from war to peace.

I thank you, Mr. President.


PRN: 2011/096