The United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA) is a department of the Secretariat of the United Nations (UN) with responsibility for monitoring and assessing global political developments and advising and assisting the UN Secretary General and his envoys in the peaceful prevention and resolution of conflict around the world. The Department manages field-based political missions in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and has in recent years been increasing its professional capacities in conflict mediation and preventive diplomacy. DPA also oversees UN electoral assistance to Member States of the organization. Established in 1992, the Department's responsibilities also include providing secretariat support to the UN Security Council and two standing committees created by the General Assembly concerning the Rights of the Palestinian People and Decolonization.
Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman was previously the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from August 2009 to June 2012, and had a 25-year career as a US diplomat before being named to his current position in June 2012 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Under-Secretary manages the department, advises the Secretary-General on matters affecting global peace and security, and provides guidance to his envoys and political missions in the field. The Under-Secretary-General also serves on the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee, the highest decision-making body within the U.N. Secretariat, and chairs the Executive Committee on Peace and Security, a high-level body for interagency and interdepartmental coordination. DPA employs approximately 300 people at the United Nations headquarters in New York City and manages field based political missions that employ more than 2000 national and international staff in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
As of December 2016, the DPA manages the following political missions and peace-building support offices engaged in conflict prevention, peacemaking and post-conflict peacebuilding in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East:
In the Middle East:
In South America:
These DPA-led field operations are headed by senior representatives of the Secretary-General and provide a forward platform for preventive diplomacy and other activities across a range of disciplines, to help prevent and resolve conflict or to build lasting peace in nations emerging from civil wars. The peace-building offices, currently active in Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone aim to help nations consolidate peace through comprehensive peace-building strategies developed and carried out in coordination with national actors and U.N. development and humanitarian entities on the ground. Political missions are part of a continuum of UN peace operations working in different stages of the conflict cycle. In some instances, following the signing of peace agreements, political missions overseen by the Department of Political Affairs during the stage of peace negotiations have been replaced by peacekeeping missions. In other instances, U.N. peacekeeping operations have given way to special political missions overseeing longer term peace-building activities.
Good Offices missions
In addition to the field-based missions currently under its supervision, DPA provides guidance and support to traveling envoys and special advisers of the Secretary-General bringing to bear his “good offices” for the resolution of conflicts or the implementation of other UN mandates. These currently include UN envoys or special advisers for Cyprus, Yemen, Syria, Western Sahara, and the Macedonian-Greek naming dispute.
Investigative Mandates and Fact-Finding Missions
DPA has also assisted in establishing and providing support to various UN investigative and fact-finding bodies. These have included: the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG); the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan; the International Commission of Inquiry on the 28 September 2009 events in Guinea; and the United Nations International Investigation Commission in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.