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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
- 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
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).