The Foreign Service Journal, September 2006

At a minimum, it would seem that a full-time point of contact in the mission for these economic impact issues, a position with some real clout, is essential for real coor- dination. • PKO construction projects should produce sustain- able long-term facilities (e.g., concrete fuel and water tanks rather than bladders, more permanent office facil- ities rather than Quonset huts) to the maximum extent possible; but at the same time, the inheritors of these assets should not be left with overly sophisticated sys- tems difficult to maintain. It was encouraging to find that this approach was taking hold among some PKO managers. • An improved local economic impact also requires an increased tolerance of risk, acknowledging that in some cases local contractors or locally-hired personnel will fail to deliver as promised. It is only natural that U.N. procurement and personnel officers, as most bureaucrats anywhere, tend to be cautious and stick to time-honored approaches. That is why there must be strong, clear signals from above to encourage and reward more engagement with the local economies. • While increasing efficiencies to some degree, “big- ness” — i.e., globalized “systems” contracts and tenden- cies toward more centralized procurement management from headquarters — has not necessarily created the most favorable environment for increasing engagement with the smaller local contractors. A procurement chief in the Congo offered a simple but possibly effective solu- tion: why not break up some of these huge contracts into smaller pieces, so local firms would have a shot at them? • Finally, it was apparent that exit strategies are vital. Though outside the scope of my research, one of the most common concerns encountered in all quarters was the question of what will become of any positive eco- nomic impacts — especially from the local employment perspective — once PKO missions radically downsize or depart altogether. From the standpoint of their own security, if nothing else, the U.N. presence has become a critical factor for business owners in these countries. F O C U S S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 6 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 55