By David Bosco
In mid-September, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon created the organization’s first-ever emergency public health mission, the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER), headed by veteran UN official Anthony Banbury.
Not only was UNMEER’s mission unprecedented, it had an unusual act of creation. Unlike most modern peacekeeping missions, UNMEER owes its existence not to the Security Council but to the Secretary General’s own initiative, backed by a UN General Assembly resolution. In his letter announcing UNMEER’s creation, the Secretary General declared his intention “to make maximum use of the authority provided to me, including in the area of human resources, in order to promote the timely and effective response to the Ebola crisis.” The Security Council has endorsed the mission’s work but recognizes that it was “mandated by” the General Assembly.
UN peacekeeping missions often endure for decades, but it appears that the novel health operation will have a short life span. On a recent visit to west Africa, Ban made clear that the mission should not endure beyond the crisis:
The U.N. emergency Ebola response mission, or UNMEER, was set up in September to coordinate policy and logistics for a campaign that includes governments, charities and healthcare workers from affected countries.
Ban said UNMEER differed from peacekeeping missions and should not outlive its immediate purpose.
“There’s a tendency that missions go on because of continuing political instability and conflict. Ebola is a very urgent and unprecedented epidemic, therefore we cannot take too long in eliminating it,” he told Reuters.