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World Calls For Reform of UN Peacekeeping Forces After Deadliest Year in History For UN

U.N. Peacekeeping UN Peacekeepers
By MONUSCO Photos (UN Peacekeepers Day celebration in the DR Congo) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Last year was the deadliest year in history for U.N. peacekeepers. UN Security Council members gathered last week in New York, to call for reform and innovation in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

“The UN Peacekeeping Force cannot work any longer on ‘Business as usual’, Peacekeepers must be well-trained, well-equipped and adequately-resourced.,” said Indonesia Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi in a speech she delivered in an open debate to the United Nations Security Council at its headquarters in New York on March 28.

The theme was “Collective Action to Improve U.N. Peacekeeping Operations.” Last year, the U.N. lost 50 peacekeepers the most ever for a single year and almost double the 34 peacekeepers lost the year before.

Marsudi stressed the importance of a greater development of capacity that adapts to the needs in the field. She also highlighted a need for innovation in the purchase of supporting equipment and enhancement in partnership and coordination with all relevant stakeholders, including regional organizations.

The minister stated that peacekeeping operations must receive adequate funding, and all U.N. members must be responsible for the protection and safety of U.N. peacekeepers.

The most interesting point she made, perhaps, is to urge for greater participation of female peacekeepers in U.N. missions. “The number of female Peacekeepers in the Peace and Security Maintenance mission should be increased, as it is easier for women to appease the hearts and minds of local people and more effective to protect civilians from sexual exploitation and violence,” she asserted.

The minister’s speech delivered his speech on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as Indonesia itself. This is the first time ASEAN, as a regional bloc, has addressed the U.N. Security Council, represented by Marsudi as an ASEAN coordinator for the U.N. body.

U.N. peacekeeping operations: Between the sacred mission and danger zones

The world relies on U.N. peacekeeping forces to maintain peace as well as to protect civilians in conflict-torn areas, from Mali to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Cambodia to the Ivory Coast, and anywhere else in the world where protection is needed.

Peacekeepers try their best to protect innocent civilians, making an effort to have conflicting parties put their weapons down to reduce the number of fatalities.

What Marsudi said in her speech was echoed by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The Portuguese member admitted that U.N. peacekeepers are not well-prepared to deal with risky situations.

“U.N. peacekeepers are often under-equipped, under-prepared and unready [and] there are gaps in command and control, in culture, equipment and training,” said Guterres in the U.N. Security Council open debate.

Guterres added that peacekeepers have encountered unrealistic expectations, which have resulted in the loss of their lives and credibility. He stressed that peacekeepers are not an army and anti-terrorism force but rather “a tool to create the space for a nationally-owned political solution.”

According to the debate, three key areas should be the primary focus on reforming U.N. peacekeeping operations: creating a safer, stronger mission; gathering greater support for political solutions and for well-trained, well-equipped troops; and maintaining concentration on realistic expectations.

The U.S. wants to cut funding for the peace missions

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley stated that the U.S. wants to pay less than 25 percent of the cost of U.N. peacekeeping. This year, the United States will be billed 28.4 percent of the expenses.

The total fund of U.N. Peacekeeping is $7.3 billion, which is only 1 percent of the total budget of the Pentagon. The U.S.’s contributions to U.N. peacekeeping are worth $1.6 billion, which is just 0.2 percent of the Department of Defense’s funds.

The deployment of U.N. peacekeeping missions is proven to be less costly compared to the deployment of U.S. troops, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

Rivals to the U.S. take advantage of the budget minimization

As Washington plans to trim the budget allocated for the U.N. bodies and missions, China has emerged as the second largest contributor to U.N. peacekeeping operations at 10 percent. Three years ago China contributed six percent.  Beijing has responded to U.S. budget cuts by proposing the elimination of human rights-related posts in U.N. missions.

Guterres said that he could not work alone to improve the quality of peacekeeping forces. All U.N. members must unite to make sure that peacekeepers thoroughly understand their roles in maintaining stability in conflict-torn countries.

 

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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