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UN Peacekeepers
Peacekeeping remains the most high profile aspect of the work of the United Nations. Peacekeeping operations have increased since the end of the Cold War, and the work undertaken has been immensely valuable in bringing peace to areas previously stricken by conflict. However, problems have been identified in how the UN tackles its peacekeeping role. The failure of UN peacekeepers to prevent the deaths of thousands in Rwanda and Srebrenica during the 1990s highlighted the problems of UN missions which lack adequate mandates, resources and training, and scandals which have linked peacekeepers to sexual abuse in conflict zones have also made reform a priority on the UN’s agenda. Over the last decade the UN has attempted to improve the effectiveness of its peacekeeping operations, but many would argue more remains to be done.

UN Peacekeeping: Fact FileEdit

  • There are currently approximately 124,000 personnel serving on 16 peacekeeping operations organised by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). This represents a nine fold increase in UN peacekeepers since 1999,
  • In March 2010, 115 countries were contributing forces to UN operations,
  • In the last decade it is estimated that the UN has helped to disarm 400 000 ex-combatants,
  • The cost of UN peacekeeping is $7.9 billion (2009-2010),
  • UN peacekeeping is considered to be the most cost effective option available,
  • The top five contributors to the costs of UN peacekeeping are the USA, Japan, UK, Germany and France,
  • The top five contributors of troops to UN missions are Bangladesh, India,
  • Pakistan, Nigeria and Egypt.

The Role of UN PeacekeepersEdit

UN Peacekeeper in Haiti

A UN Peacekeeper hands out water in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.

The UN defines peacekeeping as “a unique and dynamic instrument developed by the Organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict create the conditions for lasting peace.” UN peacekeepers undertake a variety of roles, depending on their mandate. This might involve the monitoring of the withdrawal of combatants from a conflict zone, overseeing elections, or distributing aid. Peacekeeping operations are sanctioned by the Security Council, and are not meant to impose peace; instead they are generally considered to be missions designed to oversee a transition to peace once hostilities have been concluded.

Attempts at ReformEdit

In the wake of the much publicised failures in Srebrenica and Rwanda the UN ordered a review of peacekeeping. Since 1999 the Security Council has authorised its missions to use force “to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.” In 2000 the Brahimi Report was published, which contained recommendations for how to improve the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping. Many of the Report’s suggestions were adopted by the Security Council in Resolution 1327, including the need for clear mandates which allow for the protection of civilians, better procedures for the disarmament of combatants, and faster deployment of missions. Since 2005 the UN has attempted to introduce strong measures against peacekeepers accused of misconduct. The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services now investigates all allegations of sexual exploitation made against peacekeepers.

The UN has built on the Brahimi analysis in the 2006 “Peace Operations 2010” document and the 2009 “New Horizons” Report. However, many argue that further reforms are needed, including:

  • Faster deployment of troops (it currently takes more than 90 days to get a minimal operation on the ground, and up to 14 months to deploy a full scale operation),
  • The creation of a Rapid Reaction Force that would be permanently available in the event of a major crisis, such as a genocide,
  • Greater contributions of troops from the developed world,
  • Better analysis of potential threats to civilians, and the provision of appropriate training to allow peacekeepers to deal with such threats,
  • Clearer definition of what the protection of civilians might involve,
  • Setting clearer exit strategies.

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