Staffan de Mistura is a Swedish-Italian diplomat that has worked as an SRSG (Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General) in Iraq (2007–2009) and Afghanistan (2010–2011) amongst many other things. His work has taken him to many of the World’s most volatile trouble-spots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia.
We asked Staffan 5 short questions on his work before his lecture on March 11 in Ghana.
1. What is the topic of your lecture on March 11?
I will talk about challenges and peace-keeping operations in the UN. I want to raise case studies to show how humanitarian and peace-keeping operations can work for the same purpose. I want to try and be concrete and operational in doing so.
2. What are the conflicts you are working on right now?
I am closely monitoring all conflicts, in particular Mali, Syria and the Central African Republic. I also have currently an assignment to an issue with two Italian marines being detained by Indian authorities. The marines were working to protect against piracy. This is an issue that can possibly have strong implications against commitments on countries and their will to send militaries to troubled spots, peace-keeping or not.
3. Which has been your most difficult task so far as a SRSG?
Every mission is the most difficult one! But thinking back maybe Sarajevo was the hardest one when we tried to get allowance for assistance to the civilians. There were such a high level of hatred and you can’t negotiate against hatred.
4. What is specific when working with peace-keeping missions in Africa compared to other regions?
I have worked with countries like Sudan, Chad and Somalia, and in Africa there’s a heavey engagement by African leaders as well as the African Union. UN is for the most part involved in partnerships to solve solutions. Africa is a proud continent and should solve their own problems – with help from the outside if needed of course. This also of course means that they own their own problems and that they keep in charge of what happens. This doesn’t exist in other regions.
5. What is the main focus when it comes to peace missions in 2014?
I think that working with peace is the same as working in medicine – it’s all about prevention, prevention, prevention. It’s cheaper and more effective than curing. Curing is messy and elements outside the body can take over. The same applies to peace-keeping.