United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Ad Hoc Missions, Permanent Engagement

By Ramesh Thakur; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

3
The role of the UN Secretariat
in organizing peacekeeping
Hisako Shimura

The United Nations is an international – or, more precisely, intergovernmental – organization whose main actors are its member states and whose decisions are made by government representatives in political organs, such as the General Assembly and the Security Council. Of the six principal organs, only the Secretariat can be said to have essentially a supporting role, implementing those decisions made by the political organs. The Charter describes the Secretary-General, who heads the Secretariat, as “the chief administrative officer” of the United Nations. However, under the Charter, the Secretary-General has been considered to play a larger political role than his counterpart in the League of Nations or in most international organizations. Certainly, each of the seven individuals who have served as Secretary-General to date has considered that, as the only person who can – and should – speak for the United Nations as a whole, the Secretary-General has the moral duty to defend the principles of the Charter and speak out when necessary on political issues.

Even so, the role of the Secretary-General and the Secretariat in organizing and managing peacekeeping operations (PKOs) can be said to be unusually prominent, and it may exceed anything the founders of the United Nations had envisaged, especially since it concerns the field of the UN's central activity related to the maintenance of peace and security. This fact is related to the circumstances and the manner in which PKOs have developed over the years.

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