Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Statement at UN Chief of Defense Conference

March 27, 2015

Statement by Chief of Defence of the Armed forces of the Netherlands Tom Middendorp at UN Chief of Defense Conference

Secretary-General, excellences, generals, ladies and gentlemen, 

To begin, I wish to thank the countries that shared their condolences for the two Dutch pilots who were killed when their Attack Helicopter crashed in Northern Mali last week. These expressions of compassion mean a lot to us.

I would like to express my gratitude to the UN leadership for organizing this unique event. This is an important year for UN peacekeeping, and I very much welcome your initiative to put the military itself at the center of today’s conference. 

The Netherlands trust that the UN Review of Peace Operations will turn out to be a true milestone, like the Brahimi report was fifteen years ago. The Netherlands organized a regional conference in support of UN peacekeeping in Amsterdam last February, and will continue to support the review process. 

We must get ahead of the ‘game’ and I strongly agree with several speakers this morning, who underlined the need for a pro-active mindset in peacekeeping operations. It is our joint responsibility to innovate our missions, both as an organization and as member states. The Netherlands has substantially re-engaged in UN peacekeeping operations. Our main goal is to help make UN peacekeeping more effective from the inside out. Apart from our other contributions, in Mali we provide robust intelligence capabilities to the mission, including special forces, UAVs and attack helicopters. 

Our first experiences already show the value of a more intelligence-led approach. It also shows that further improvements in this field are still necessary, both with respect to the intelligence collection itself as in the use of the intelligence. We have to be able to understand and predict the situation, both at the institutional and the operational level. To do this, we need to make use of the information available, not only from military sources, but also from other UN agencies, NGO’s, host nations and a variety of other players, present in the affected regions. We are very much willing to share our experience in this field with other nations, and to assist DPKO and other TCC’s in further developing this specific and much needed capacity in UN peacekeeping. I suggest to organize a thematic expert meeting on intelligence to further develop this concept. The Netherlands is willing to host this.

Other areas in which we need to strengthen UN peacekeeping are field support and command and control. 

UN missions are expected to deploy more rapidly, in more difficult situations. Logistical processes and capabilities need to be able to support this new reality. In this regard, I recommend to avoid functional stovepipes and give Force Commanders more control over the logistic capabilities. 

We also experience that situations not always allow the use of civil commercial capabilities, for instance when using medevac helicopters. The UN should look for ways to enable logistical support in threat environments.

On command and control: a UN force is as capable as its leadership and the effectiveness of its decision making. We should look for ways to train staffs and staff personnel, on comprehensive decision making in complex environments.

Again, I thank you for this opportunity.