“We have increased our engagement in contingency planning, in close cooperation with the Departments for Field Support and Political Affairs, for potential requests for peacekeeping operations in Mali, Somalia and Syria,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations known informally as C34. The committee, which works through the Fourth Committee on Special Political and Decolonization, reviews all issues relating to peacekeeping, ranging this year from troop reimbursement to intermission cooperation and resource sharing. Noting an “extremely grave political, security and humanitarian crisis” that threatened the entire Sahel region, Mr. Ladsous said a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali is a “very real possibility”.“With rapidly unfolding developments in Mali and the Sahel, the UN anticipates investing significantly more efforts and resources in the coming months,” he told the committee, which includes representatives from 124 Member States, most of them from countries which have contributed troops to prior and current operations.In December 2012, the Council authorized the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali, known as AFISMA, to support efforts by national authorities to recover the north, which was occupied last year by radical Islamists.On Somalia, he said that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), supported by DFS and DPKO, has made significant progress in dislocating Al-Shabaab from key locations in southern and central Somalia. While active combat is likely to continue for another year, the UN and the Government are jointly reviewing plans “to further the positive political and security gains made on the ground,” he said. Likely scenarios include plans to relocate the UN Political Office (UNPOS) and UNSOA, which provides logistics to AMISOM, from Nairobi, Kenya, to Somalia within 12 months. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, continued intense violence in Syria is a “human tragedy of untold proportions,” Mr. Ladsous said. More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in early 2011. Recent months have witnessed an escalation in the conflict, which has also left more than four million people in need of humanitarian assistance.Mr. Ladsous warned that the continued violence poses a risk to the safety and security of UN personnel in the country, such as UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), and those working in missions elsewhere in the region, such as the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).Also addressing the Committee, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Ameera Haq, outlined current procedural plans and incorporation of best practices. She noted that a comprehensive review of civilian staffing requirements in peacekeeping operations had been completed and finalized into a report by the Secretary-General. The ‘civilian capacity initiative’ aims to foster national ownership and improve post-conflict agility, and ultimately focuses on delivering stronger support to the field. Ms. Haq also noted that a Senior Advisory Group had completed a report on the topic of troop reimbursement policies which would be before the Fifth Committee on budgetary needs. “That report serves as a good basis for Member States to consider how to further develop and strengthen peacekeeping as a global public good,” she said.