One of the United Nations' primary responsibilities--one with which most Americans agree--is to help to maintain international peace and security. Cold War rivalries greatly hindered the U.N.'s ability to undertake peacekeeping operations during its first 45 years. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.N. Security Council has been far more active in establishing peacekeeping operations. Yet after the initial post- Cold War surge, the debacles in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia tempered the enthusiasm for U.N. peacekeeping missions, and the missteps in these missions led to a necessary reevaluation of U.N. peacekeeping.
However, as troubling situations have arisen in recent years, many of them in Africa, the Security Council has found itself under pressure to respond and "do something." For better or worse, it has often responded by establishing additional peacekeeping operations.
U.N. peacekeeping is now being conducted with unprecedented pace, scope, and ambition, and the increasing demands have revealed ongoing, serious flaws. Audits and investigations over the past few years have found substantial mismanagement, fraud, and corruption in procurement for U.N. peacekeeping and widespread incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. peacekeepers and civilian personnel.
While the U.N. has limited authority to discipline peacekeepers who commit such crimes, it has failed to take the steps within its power to hold nations accountable when they fail to investigate or punish their troops' misconduct. The U.N. Security Council has also yielded to pressure to "do something" in situations such as Darfur and is considering intervention in Somalia, even though it would violate the central lesson learned in the 1990s that "the United Nations does not wage war."
U.N. peacekeeping operations can be useful and successful if employed with an awareness of their limitations and weaknesses. This awareness is crucial because the demand for U.N. peacekeeping shows little indication of declining in the foreseeable future. This requires the U.S. to press for substantial changes to address serious problems with U.N. peacekeeping. Without fundamental reform, these problems will likely continue and expand, undermining the U.N.'s credibility and ability to accomplish the key missions of maintaining international peace and security.
Within the U.N. system, the U.N. Charter places the principal responsibility for maintaining international peace and security on the Security Council. The charter gives the Security Council extensive powers to investigate disputes to determine whether they endanger international peace and security; to call on participants in a dispute to settle the conflict through peaceful negotiation; to impose economic, travel, and diplomatic sanctions; and, ultimately, to authorize the use of military force. This robust vision of the U.N. as a key vehicle for maintaining international peace and security quickly ran afoul of the interests of member states, particularly during the Cold War when opposing alliances largely prevented the U.N. from taking decisive action, except when the interests of the major powers were minimally involved.
As a result, the United Nations established only 18 peace operations between 1945 and 1990, despite a multitude of conflicts that threatened international peace and security to varying degrees. Traditionally, Security Council authorizations of military force have involved deployments into relatively low-risk situations, such as truce monitoring. The bulk of these peace operations were fact-finding missions, observer missions, and other roles in assisting peace processes in which the parties had agreed to cease hostilities. U.N. peace operations were rarely authorized with the expectation that they would involve the use of force.
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.N. Security Council has been far more active in establishing peace operations. In the early 1990s, crises in the Balkans, Somalia, and Cambodia led to a dramatic increase in missions. However, the debacle in Somalia and the failure of U.N. peacekeepers to intervene and prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and to stop the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia, led to a necessary skepticism about U.N. peacekeeping and a decline in the breadth and frequency of U.N. peacekeeping in the mid and late 1990s.
This lull was short-lived. With a number of troubling situations, many of them in Africa, receiving increasing attention from the media in recent years, the Security Council has found itself under pressure to respond and "do something." For better or worse, the Security Council has often responded by establishing additional peacekeeping operations.
Since 1990, the Security Council has approved more than 40 new peace operations, half of them since 2000. These post-1990 operations have often involved mandates that go beyond traditional peacekeeping in scope, purpose, and responsibilities. Moreover, these missions have often focused on quelling civil wars, reflecting a change in the nature of conflict from interstate conflict between nations to intrastate conflict within nations.
This expansion of risk and responsibilities was justified by pointing out the international consequences of each conflict, such as refugees fleeing to neighboring countries or widespread conflict and instability. As a result, from a rather modest history of monitoring cease-fires, demilitarized zones, and post-conflict security, U.N. peace operations have expanded to include multiple responsibilities, including more complex military interventions, civilian police duties, human rights interventions, reconstruction, overseeing elections, and post-conflict reconstruction. While such actions may be justified in some cases, they represent a dramatic shift from earlier doctrine.
At the end of June 2009, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was directing and supporting 16 U.N. peacekeeping operations and two political or peace-building operations (Burundi and Afghanistan). Seven peacekeeping operations were in Africa (Central African Republic and Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Darfur, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Western Sahara). One was in the Caribbean (Haiti). Three were in Europe (Cyprus, Georgia, and Kosovo). Three were in the Middle East (Lebanon, the Syrian Golan Heights, and a region-wide mission), and two were in Asia (East Timor and India and Pakistan).
The size and expense of U.N. peace operations have risen to unprecedented levels. The 16 peacekeeping missions involve some 93,000 uniformed personnel from 118 countries, including over 79,000 troops, over 2,000 military observers, and about 11,000 police personnel. More than 20,000 U.N. volunteers and other international and local civilian personnel are employed in these 16 operations, and more than 2,000 military observers, police, international and local civilians, and U.N. volunteers are involved in the two political or peace-building missions.
In total, at the end of June 2009, the DPKO was overseeing more than 115,000 personnel involved in U.N. peacekeeping, political, or peace-building operations, including international and local civilian personnel and U.N. volunteers. The DPKO is currently overseeing the deployment of more uniformed personnel than any single nation, except the United States, has outside of its borders. (See Table 1.)
This hightened activity has led to a dramatically increased budget. The approved budget for the DPKO--just one department in the U.N. Secretariat--from July 1, 2009, to June 20, 2010, was $7.75 billion. This is approximately a threefold increase in budget and personnel since 2003. By comparison, the annual peacekeeping budget is roughly triple the size of the annualized U.N. regular biennial 2008-2009 budget for the rest of the Secretariat.
The U.S. contributes the largest share of funding for peacekeeping operations. All permanent members of the Security Council--China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States--are charged a premium above their regular U.N. assessment rate. Specifically, the U.S. is assessed 22 percent of the U.N. regular budget, but just under 26 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget for 2009. China is assessed 3.15 percent of the peacekeeping budget; France, 7.4 percent; Russia, 1.4 percent; and the U.K., 7.8 percent. Thus, the U.S. is assessed more than all other permanent members combined. Japan (16.6 percent) and Germany (8.6 percent) rank second and third in assessments, even though they are not permanent members of the Security Council.
Based on the U.N.'s budget of $7.75 billion for peacekeeping from July 1, 2009, to June 20, 2010, the U.S. will be asked to pay more than $2 billion for U.N. peacekeeping activities for the year. The more than 30 countries that are assessed the lowest rate of 0.0001 percent of the peacekeeping budget will be asked to pay approximately $7,750 each.
Although the U.S. and other developed countries regularly provide transportation (particularly airlift) and logistic support for U.N. peacekeeping, many developed countries with trained personnel and other essential resources are reluctant to participate directly in U.N. peace operations. The five permanent members contributed 5 percent of U.N. uniformed personnel as of June 30, 2009. The U.S. contribution totaled 10 troops, 9 military observers, and 74 police. This is roughly comparable to Russia, which contributed 328 uniformed personnel, and the U.K., which contributed 283. China contributed 2,153, and France contributed 1,879 personnel.
The top 10 contributors of uniformed personnel to U.N. operations account for slightly less than 60 percent of the total. They are nearly all developing countries: Pakistan (10,603), Bangladesh (9,982); India (8,607); Nigeria (5,960); Nepal (4,148); Rwanda (3,584); Jordan (3,231), Ghana (3,159), Egypt (2,956), and Italy (2,690). A number of reasons account for this situation, including the fact that major contributors often use U.N. peacekeeping as a form of training and income.
The U.S. clearly should support U.N. peacekeeping operations when they further America's national interests. However, the broadening of U.N. peace operations into nontraditional missions--such as peace enforcement--and their inability to garner broad international support in terms of troop contributions, logistics support, and funding raise legitimate questions as to whether the U.N. should be engaging in the current number of missions and whether these situations are best addressed through the U.N. or through regional, multilateral, or ad hoc efforts.
Specifically, strong evidence indicates that the system as currently structured is incapable of meeting its responsibilities. Indisputably, the unprecedented frequency and size of recent U.N. deployments and their resulting financial demands have challenged and overwhelmed the capabilities of the DPKO: "The scope and magnitude of UN field operations today is straining the Secretariat infrastructure that was not designed for current levels of activity." This stress has contributed to serious problems of mismanagement, misconduct, poor planning, corruption, sexual abuse by U.N. personnel, unclear mandates, and other weaknesses.
Mismanagement, Fraud, and Corruption
The U.N. has proved to be susceptible to mismanagement, fraud, and corruption, as illustrated by numerous recent instances of mismanagement and corruption unearthed by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the now defunct U.N. Procurement Task Force. These problems have also plagued U.N. peacekeeping.
For instance, in 2005, the U.N. Secretariat procured more than $1.6 billion in goods and services mostly to support peacekeeping. An OIOS audit of $1 billion in DPKO procurement contracts over a six-year period found that at least $265 million was subject to waste, fraud, or abuse. The U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded:
While the U.N. Department of Management is responsible for UN procurement, field procurement staff are instead supervised by the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which currently lacks the expertise and capacities needed to manage field procurement activities.
The U.N. Department of Management and the DPKO accepted a majority of the 32 recommendations from the OIOS audit. A Department of Field Support was created in 2007 to oversee support for peacekeeping operations, including personnel, finance, technology, and logistics. However, recent reports indicate that these new procedures may not be sufficient to prevent a recurrence of fraud and corruption. According to a 2007 OIOS report, an examination of $1.4 billion of peacekeeping contracts turned up "significant" corruption schemes that tainted $619 million (over 40 percent) of the contracts. An audit of the U.N. mission in Sudan revealed tens of millions of dollars lost to mismanagement and waste and substantial indications of fraud and corruption.
Moreover, the OIOS revealed in 2008 that it was investigating approximately 250 instances of wrongdoing ranging from sexual abuse by peacekeepers to financial irregularities. According to Inga-Britt Ahlenius, head of the OIOS, "We can say that we found mismanagement and fraud and corruption to an extent we didn't really expect."
Worse, even the OIOS seems to be susceptible to improper influence. In 2006, U.N. peacekeepers were accused of having illegal dealings with Congolese militias, including gold smuggling and arms trafficking. The lead OIOS investigator in charge of investigating the charges found the allegations against Pakistani peacekeepers to be "credible," but reported that the "the investigation was taken away from my team after we resisted what we saw as attempts to influence the outcome. My fellow team members and I were appalled to see that the oversight office's final report was little short of a whitewash." The BBC and Human Rights Watch have provided evidence that the U.N. covered up evidence of wrongdoing by its peacekeepers in Congo.
The absence of a truly independent inspector general at the U.N. is an ongoing problem. It underscores the U.N.'s irresponsibility in refusing to extend the mandate of the independent U.N. Procurement Task Force, which was taking great strides in uncovering mismanagement, fraud, and corruption in U.N. procurement. The U.N. needs more independent oversight, not less, especially since U.N. procurement has increased rapidly along with the number and size of peacekeeping missions. According to the U.N. Department of Field Support, total value for U.N. peacekeeping procurement transactions was $1.43 billion in 2008. If this procurement follows previous patterns revealed by Procurement Task Force and OIOS investigations, some 40 percent (nearly $600 million) could be tainted by fraud.
In recent years, there have been numerous reports of U.N. personnel committing serious crimes and sexual misconduct, from rape to the forced prostitution of women and young girls. The most notorious of these reports involved the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). U.N. personnel have also been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse in Bosnia, Burundi, Cambodia, Congo, Guinea, Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan.
The alleged perpetrators include U.N. military and civilian personnel from a number of U.N. member states involved in peace operations and from U.N. funds and programs. The victims are often refugees--many of them children--who have been terrorized by years of war and look to U.N. peacekeepers for safety and protection. In addition to the horrible mistreatment of those under U.N. protection, sexual exploitation and abuse undermine the credibility of U.N. peace operations and need to be addressed through an effective plan and commitment to end abuses and ensure accountability.
After intense lobbying by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and pressure from several key Members of Congress, the U.N. Secretariat agreed to adopt stricter requirements for peacekeeping troops and their contributing countries. The U.S. also helped the DPKO to publish a resource manual on human trafficking for U.N. peacekeepers.
In 2005, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein of Jordan, the U.N. Secretary-General's adviser on sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, submitted his report with recommendations on how to address the sexual abuse problem, including imposing a uniform standard of conduct, conducting professional investigations, and holding troop-contributing countries accountable for the actions of their soldiers and for enforcing proper disciplinary action. In June 2005, the General Assembly adopted the recommendations in principle, and some of the recommendations have been implemented. Contact and discipline teams are now present in most U.N. peacekeeping missions, and troops are now required to undergo briefing and training on behavior and conduct.
Tragically, this does not seem to have addressed the problem adequately. In May 2008, the international nonprofit Save the Children accused aid workers and peacekeepers of sexually abusing young children in war zones and disaster zones in Ivory Coast, southern Sudan, and Haiti, and it claims that the perpetrators have largely gone unpunished. U.N. peacekeepers were deemed most likely to be responsible for abuse. According to a report issued by Save the Children, "Children as young as six are trading sex with aid workers and peacekeepers in exchange for food, money, soap and, in very few cases, luxury items such as mobile phones."
A 2009 report found that, while the overall number of misconduct allegations against U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo operation was down in 2008 from 2007, the frequency of offences was still unacceptably high. Specifically, in this one mission, albeit the largest U.N. mission, there were 56 instances of serious offences in 2008, including 38 instances of alleged sexual abuse and exploitation. There were also 202 reported allegations of lesser offences. This clearly indicates a serious and ongoing need to improve discipline among U.N. peacekeepers.
Moreover, despite the U.N.'s announcement of a "zero tolerance" policy on sexual abuse and other actions to reduce misconduct and criminality among peacekeepers, the perpetrators are rarely punished, as was revealed in a January 2007 news report on U.N. abuses in southern Sudan. The standard memorandum of understanding between the U.N. and troop contributors appropriately grants troop-contributing countries jurisdiction over military members who participate in U.N. peace operations, but little is done if these countries fail to investigate or punish those who are guilty of such crimes.
A Political Problem
The problems of mismanagement, corruption, and misconduct cry out for fundamental reform of the U.N. peacekeeping structure to improve accountability and transparency. However, corruption, mismanagement, and sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers are not the only problems with U.N. peacekeeping.
The other problem is a political problem. The vast expansion of U.N. peacekeeping--with the possibility of even more operations on the horizon, such as the proposed new Somalia mission with up to 27,000 peacekeepers--has led some to point out that the U.N. Security Council has gone "mandate crazy" in its attempts to be seen as effective and "doing something." The council's willingness to approve missions where "there is no peace to keep," such as in Darfur and Somalia, violates the dearly learned lesson that U.N. peacekeepers are not war fighters.
In general, the U.N. and its member states have accepted the principle that U.N. peace operations should not include a mandate to enforce peace outside of limited circumstances and should focus instead on assisting countries in shifting from conflict to a negotiated peace and from peace agreements to legitimate governance and development. As noted in the Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations:
[T]he United Nations does not wage war. Where enforcement action is required, it has consistently been entrusted to coalitions of willing States, with the authorization of the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter.
Ignoring this lesson can be costly, strain the ability of countries willing to provide peacekeepers, and push the DPKO beyond its capabilities. A recent DPKO report noted,
The single most important finding of the Brahimi report was that UN peacekeeping can only succeed as part of a wider political strategy to end a conflict and with the will of the parties to implement that strategy.... In active conflict, multinational coalitions of forces or regional actors operating under UN Security Council mandates may be more suitable.
These more aggressive U.N. missions also demand significantly more resources, management, and personnel. Indeed, situations such as in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan-- where conflict reigns or there is little "genuine commitment to a political process by the parties to work toward peace" or "supportive engagement by neighbouring countries and regional actors" or "host country commitment to unhindered operations and freedom of movement"--consume more than half of the U.N. peacekeeping budget and account for over half of uniformed personnel involved in U.N. peacekeeping.
Worse, this investment may not be helping the situation. Dr. Greg Mills, director of the Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg, and Dr. Terence McNamee, director of publications at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, have conducted several case studies of U.N. peacekeeping operations. In the cases of Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is an open question whether the U.N. peacekeeping missions have contributed to resolving the situations or to exacerbating them.
In other cases, such as the U.N. missions in Cyprus and the Western Sahara, the U.N. presence is simply a historical palliative. The peacekeepers do little to keep the peace, nor does their presence seem to have contributed to resolving the decades-long political standoff. Instead, the missions continue out of inertia or because the parties to the conflict have requested that they continue. Yet the U.N. presence may be contributing to the situation's intractability by providing the parties with an excuse not to resolve what is largely a political problem.
The U.S. Administration should fundamentally reevaluate all U.N. operations that date back to the 1990s or earlier--U.N. Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in the Middle East and U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) in Kashmir date back to the 1940s-- to determine whether the U.N. mission is contributing to resolving the situation or retarding that process. If an operation is not demonstrably facilitating resolution of the situation, the U.N. should move increasingly toward the U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) model in which Greece and Cyprus pay for over 40 percent of the mission's cost. Stakeholders wishing to continue U.N. peacekeeping operations that have not resolved the conflicts despite being in place for extended periods should be asked to assume the financial burden of the continued operation. These missions are generally small and among the least costly, but such a re-evaluation would send a welcome message of accountability and assessment that too often has been lacking in the rubber-stamp process of reauthorizing peacekeeping operations.
Limited Success Stories
These problems do not negate the usefulness of U.N. peacekeeping operations in the right circumstances. U.N. missions have been successful in situations, such as Cambodia, where U.N. peacekeepers helped to restore stability following dictatorship and civil war. Indeed, no one wants another Rwanda, and the consequences of doing nothing could end in tragedy.
The U.S. has generally supported the expansion of U.N. peacekeeping. Multiple U.S. Administrations have concluded that supporting U.N. operations is in America's interest as a useful, cost-effective way to influence situations that affect the U.S. national interest, but do not require direct U.S. intervention. Although the U.N. peacekeeping record includes significant failures, U.N. peace operations overall have proved to be a convenient multilateral means for promoting peace efforts, supporting the transition to democracy and post-conflict rebuilding, and addressing humanitarian concerns in situations where conflict or instability make civilians vulnerable to atrocities. Yet the list of operations that have been less than successful indicates that the Security Council should be far more judicious when deciding to intervene.
Darfur is particularly relevant. The U.S. has called the situation in Darfur "genocide." The U.N. did not come to the same conclusion, but it did recognize the widespread human rights violations and suffering. After the African Union mission failed to curtail the violence and suffering, the U.N. adopted a resolution authorizing a joint AU-U.N. peacekeeping force, despite ongoing conflict and considerable evidence that neither the rebels nor the government-backed forces were prepared to abide by a peace agreement. Protected by China's veto, Sudan also demanded that the peacekeepers be predominantly African. This has severely constrained the number of available troops because there simply are not enough trained and capable African troops to meet the demand.
As a result, Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General's special envoy for Darfur, told the Security Council that the situation in Darfur had deteriorated despite the efforts of U.N. and African Union troops. The decision of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to indict Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has further complicated the situation, leading to harrassment and expulsion of humanitarian workers.
In Darfur, the U.N. Security Council yielded to the pressure to act. Massive suffering was occurring and would likely have grown worse without U.N. backing and support for the AU peacekeeping effort. However, the council accepted demands from Sudan that vastly complicate peacekeeping efforts, such as restricting U.N. peacekeepers for that mission to African nationals. The council also entered a conflict situation against the lessons of its own experience. It compounded the error by failing to adopt clear objectives, metrics for success, or an exit strategy.
Because of these failings, not to mention the potential of the conflict to escalate into broader conflict or of President Bashir to stiffen his resolve in the face of the ICC indictment, Darfur could very easily unravel despite the U.N. peacekeeping force.
What the U.S. Should Seek to Do
The U.S. should urge the U.N. and the Security Council to address these weaknesses. Specifically, the U.S. should:
- Seek to more equitably apply the U.N. peacekeeping
scale of assessments. Given the far larger financial demands
for U.N. peacekeeping, the system for assessing the U.N.
peacekeeping budget is becoming an increasing burden on the member
states with larger assessments. It should be revised to spread the
financial burden more equitably among U.N. member states. The
notion that wealthier nations should bear a larger portion of the
costs is strongly entrenched at the U.N., but a system in which the
U.S. pays $2 billion while other states pay less than $8,000
is indefensible. It creates a free-rider problem in which the
countries paying virtually nothing have little reason to exercise
due diligence when evaluating a proposed or existing mission and
overseeing the use of U.N. peacekeeping funds. For U.N. member
states to take their U.N. peacekeeping oversight
responsibilities seriously, particularly those on the Security
Council, they must be invested in U.N. peacekeeping. This issue
could be addressed in many ways, and the Administration and
Congress should press the U.N. to explore the options.
- Be more judicious in authorizing U.N. peacekeeping
operations. The pressure to "do something" should not
trump sensible consideration of whether a U.N. presence will
improve or destabilize a situation. This includes establishing
clear and achievable objectives of the operations, carefully
planning the requirements, securing pledges for the necessary
resources before authorizing the operation, and demanding an exit
strategy. This process should also apply when
reauthorizating existing missions, which are too often
rubber-stamped. If a mission has not achieved its objective or
made evident progress after a lengthy period, the Security Council
should reassess whether it is serving a constructive role in
resolving the situation. If it is not, it should be ended or
the mission's expenses should be shifted to the nations seeking to
continue it for political reasons, as has partially happened
In its deliberations, the council should recognize that short, easy missions are extremely rare. When authorizing a mission, the council should recognize that it may need to continue for a lengthy period. If the council seems unlikely to persevere, it should consider not approving the mission.
This recommendation should not be construed as implying that all U.N. peacekeeping operations can or should be identical. Different circumstances often require different approaches. Indeed, for peacekeeping to succeed, the council needs to adjust the makeup and composition of U.N. peacekeeping operations to the circumstances or stand back in favor of a regional intervention or an ad hoc coalition if these approaches better fit the immediate situation. However, when deciding to authorize a mission, the council should not let an "emergency" override the prudent evaluation and assessment process that is necessary to maximize the prospective mission's chance of success.
- Seek to transform the DPKO structure to handle
increased peace operation demands and to plan for future operations
more effectively. Transforming the DPKO will require more
direct involvement of the Security Council; more staff, supplies,
and training; and greatly improved oversight by a capable,
independent inspector general dedicated to peace operations,
perhaps modeled after the defunct U.N. Procurement Task Force. A
key element will be incorporating greater flexibility so that the
DPKO can rapidly expand and contract to meet varying levels of
peace operation activity. Current U.N. rules do not permit the
necessary authority and discretion in hiring and shifting
resources to meet priorities. A core professional military
staff needs to be maintained and used, but the DPKO should also be
able to rely on gratis military and other seconded professionals to
meet exceptional demands on U.N. peace operations. This would
readily provide the expertise and experience needed to
efficiently and realistically assess the requirements of mandates
under consideration, including troop numbers, equipment,
timelines, and rules of engagement.
- Build up peacekeeping capabilities around the world,
particularly in Africa, and further develop a U.N. database of
qualified, trained, pre-screened uniformed and civilian
personnel available for U.N. operations. The U.N. has no
standing armed forces and is entirely dependent on member
states to donate troops and other personnel to fulfill peace
operation mandates. This is appropriate. Nations should maintain
control of their armed forces and refuse to support the
establishment of armed forces outside of direct national oversight
and responsibility. However, the current arrangement results
in an ad hoc system plagued by delays; inadequately trained
personnel; insufficient numbers of military troops, military
observers, civilian police, and civilian staff; inadequate
planning; inadequate or nonfunctional equipment; and logistical
In 1994, the U.N. established a Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS), in which member states make conditional commitments to prepare and maintain on stand-by specified resources (military and specialized personnel, services, materiel, and equipment) to fulfill specified tasks or functions for U.N. peace operations. Some 87 countries participate in UNSAS, and Japan recently announced its decision to participate. This is their prerogative, but the resources committed under the UNSAS fall short of needs. For its part, the U.S. is seeking to increase peacekeeping resources under its Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), which has significantly bolstered the capacity and capabilities of regional troops, particularly in Africa, to serve as peacekeepers. The U.S. should expand this program.
To speed up deployment on missions, the U.N. needs to further develop a database of information on individuals' and units' experience in U.N. operations; disciplinary issues; performance evaluations; expertise (for example, language, engineering, and combat skills); and availability for deployment.
- Implement a modern logistics system and streamline
procurement proceduresso that missions receive what they
need when they need it. To be effective, procurement and
contracting need to "have a formal governance structure
responsible for its oversight and direction." Critically, the
new logistics system and the procurement system need to be subject
to appropriate transparency, rigorous accountability, and
independent oversight accompanied by robust investigatory
capabilities and a reliable system of internal justice.
The relatively recent restructuring of the DPKO into a Department
of Peacekeeping Operations and a Department of Field Support does
not appear to have substantially improved peacekeeping
procurement. This may be because the new department did not receive
requested personnel or funding, but it also appears to be a case of
"paper reform" rather than actual reform. Most of the same people
remain in place, and it is uncertain that procedures have
- Implement mandatory, uniform standards of conduct for civilian and military personnel participating in U.N. peace operations. If the U.N. is to take serious steps to end sexual exploitation, abuse, and other misconduct by peacekeepers, it must do more than adopt a U.N. code of conduct, issue manuals, and send abusers home. The abusers and their governments must face real consequences to create incentives for effective enforcement. The remedy should not involve countries yielding jurisdiction over their personnel to the U.N. or to a non-national judicial authority, but it should entail commitments by member states to investigate, try, and punish their personnel in cases of misconduct. Investigators should be granted full cooperation and access to witnesses, records, and sites where crimes allegedly occurred so that trials can proceed. Equally important, the U.N. needs to be stricter in holding member countries to these standards. States that fail to fulfill their commitments to discipline their troops should be barred from providing troops for peace operations.
U.N. peacekeeping operations can be useful and successful if entered into with an awareness of their limitations and weaknesses. This awareness is crucial because the demand for U.N. peacekeeping shows little indication of declining in the foreseeable future. Moreover, the unprecedented pace, scope, and ambition of U.N. peacekeeping operations have revealed numerous serious flaws that need to be addressed.
The Obama Administration and Congress need to consider carefully any U.N. requests for additional funding for a system in which procurement problems have wasted millions of dollars and sexual abuse by peacekeepers is still unacceptably high and often goes unpunished. Indeed, the decision by the Administration and Congress to pay U.S. arrears to U.N. peacekeeping without demanding reforms sent entirely the wrong message and removed a powerful leverage point for encouraging reform. Without fundamental reform, these problems will likely continue and expand, undermining the U.N.'s credibility and ability to maintain international peace and security.
Brett D. Schaefer is Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation and editor of ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009).