The Realities of Peacekeeping

Ceremony for Fallen Peacekeepers of MINUSMA

The recent deaths of two Senegalese peacekeepers in the Northern Malian Town of Kidal and the on-going violence in South Sudan has brought the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations [UNDPKO], and the United Nations [UN] back into the media spotlight. The UNDPKO and particularly the UN face criticisms by academics and global figures on a regular basis. Even Thomas Weiss wrote a book called ‘What’s wrong with the United Nations and How To Fix It’.  However, after a recent visit to the UN headquarters in Geneva, I felt inspired to write this post to highlight the challenges that the UNDPKO have to overcome in an attempt to construct a securer world for us to live in. It is not easy trying to create a safe and peaceful world, it comes with many constraints and challenges that the UNDPKO face on a daily basis.

The UNDPKO was established because of the agencies importance to global security, which is at the centre of the UN mandate. The first purpose of the UN as stated in Article 1 of its Charter is to “maintain international peace and security”[1] thus making peacekeeping an integral part of the UNDPKO mandate. The agency was established in 1948 when the Security Council deployed UN military observers in the Middle East. The mission was to monitor the Armistice Agreement signed between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, later known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation[2]. The UNDPKO will be the first to highlight and hold responsibility for humanitarian disasters such as the highly visible and tragic failures of the UN missions in Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s[3]. However, the UNDPKO are constantly trying to improve their agency through countless reports and resolutions such as the Brahimi Report in 2000 and the New Horizon Initiative in 2010. The UNDPKO recognise their mistakes and target to progression, but still face outside challenges that restrict the agency.

The approved budget for the agency for the fiscal year 2013-2014 is $7.54 billion [4]. The budgets of peacekeeping operations are based on the missions mandate from the Security Council, which is spread over various sectors within the agency, such as wages, equipment and transport. The highest amount of expenditure is  $2.8 billion, which is spent on military and police personnel costs, and $1.7 billion on civilian personnel costs[5]. The budget is created through financial contributions from donor states. The highest providers are the USA providing 28.38% of the budget, Japan contributing 10.83%, and France with 7.22%.

The agency faces challenges regarding the budget, the Brahimi Report recognized the need for change within the agency, the key to the development of the agency was continued sustained funding.

 One of the obstacles the department have to overcome is partially met-funding[6]. An estimated $3.26 billion is owed to agency from the states. This responsibility falls to the individual nations to fulfil their commitments, nevertheless it shows the lack of accountability the agency has over the states. Nonetheless, it is noted that the agency is cost effective. The approved budget represents 0.4% of global military spending. Military intervention is the most-cost effective means of preventing a return to conflict in post-conflict societies[7]. Even though the agency is financially beneficial, it is still unable to hold states accountable for not fulfilling their financial contributions, which is a serious challenge that constrains the UNDPKO.

It is clear that the UNDPKO struggles to hold states accountable for their commitments. The agency finds it difficult to motivate states into action when the state has no political interest in the conflict. The UN is still not able to take the leading role with regional superpowers who find it difficult to compromise their strategic, political and economic interests for the sake of regional peace and security[8]. Therefore “UN peacekeeping depends completely on the willingness of states to offer troops and police for operations, which imposes key limitations on those operations”[9]. The agency is powerless in controlling peacekeeper contributions; with the states dictating how many peacekeepers they donate to the UNDPKO. Furthermore, the state will control which missions their troops take part in, leaving the UNDPKO powerless in governing the deployment of peacekeepers.

Overall, the UNDPKO has a unique role in fundamentally creating global security. The mandate aims to create peace through political frameworks, conducting and applying ceasefires and helping countries through the transition to peace; something that no other entity can do. Ultimately, the UNDPKO is restricted due to the lack of power it has to hold states accountable for fulfilling their financial contributions. As a result, the agency has the correct mandate and direction, but is constantly restricted by states within the UN who only participate when the situation abides to their political, social and economic interests.  These challenges highlight the difficulty the UNDPKO has to overcome regularly in an attempt to create a securer world. It seems that individual states do not make it easy for the UNDPKO to function, thus increasing the ability of individuals to criticise the agency.

 

 Thomas Edwards

 

References:

 

Durch, W., Holt, V., Earle, C,.& Shanahan, M. (2003). The Brahimi Report and the Future of UN Peace Operations. Washington, USA: The Henry L. Stimson Centre.

 

Francis, D., Faal, M., Kabia, J., & Ramsbotham. (2005). Dangers of Co-Deployment: UN Co-Operative Peacekeeping in Africa. Aldershot, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing.

 

Pitta, R. (2005). UN Forces 1948-1994. Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing.

 

United Nations. (1945). Charter of the United Nations. Retrieved from:

http://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CTC/uncharter.pdff

 

United Nations. (2012). Civil Affairs Handbook. Retrieved from:

http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/documents/civilhandbook/Civil_Affairs_Handbook.pdf

 

United Nations. (2012). United Nations Department of Public Information. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/documents/backgroundnote.pdf

United Nations. (2013). Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. Retrieved from

http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/C.5/67/19


[1] United Nations. (1945). Charter of the United Nations. Retrieved from:

http://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CTC/uncharter.pdff

 

[2] Pitta, R. (2005). UN Forces 1948-1994. Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing.

 

[3] United Nations. (2012). United Nations Department of Public Information. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/documents/backgroundnote.pdf

 

[4] United Nations. (2013). Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. Retrieved from

http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/C.5/67/19

 

[5] United Nations. (2013). Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. Retrieved from

http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/C.5/67/19

 

[6] Durch, W., Holt, V., Earle, C,.& Shanahan, M. (2003). The Brahimi Report and the Future of UN Peace Operations. Washington, USA: The Henry L. Stimson Centre.

 

[7] United Nations. (2012). Civil Affairs Handbook. Retrieved from:

http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/documents/civilhandbook/Civil_Affairs_Handbook.pdf

 

[8] Francis, D., Faal, M., Kabia, J., & Ramsbotham. (2005). Dangers of Co-Deployment: UN Co-Operative Peacekeeping in Africa. Aldershot, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing.

 

[9] Durch, W., Holt, V., Earle, C,.& Shanahan, M. (2003). The Brahimi Report and the Future of UN Peace Operations. Washington, USA: The Henry L. Stimson Centre.

 Photo: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

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