One of the United Nations' primary responsibilities is to help
to maintain international peace and security. U.N. peacekeeping
debacles in the 1990s 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" even
though it may violate the central lesson learned in the 1990s that
"the United Nations does not wage war." As a result, 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 revealed 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
What the U.S. Should Do. The U.S. 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
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 mission of
maintaining international peace and security. Specifically, the
- 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 while many other countries pay a pitance. 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. Peacekeeping
assessments should be revised to spread the financial burden more
equitably among U.N. member states.
- Reevaluate all U.N. operations that date back to the 1990s
or earlier 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 ask stakeholders wishing to continue
U.N. peacekeeping operations to assume the financial burden of the
- 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.
- Seek to transform the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping
Operations (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. 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--including allowing gratis military and other seconded
professionals to meet exceptional demands on U.N. peace
- Build up peacekeeping capabilities around the world,
particularly in Africa. 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
and other shortfalls. The U.S. should concentrate on increasing
peacekeeping resources under its Global Peace Operations
Initiative, which has significantly bolstered the capacity and
capabilities of regional troops, particularly in Africa, to serve
- 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 an improved governance structure subject to
appropriate transparency, rigorous accountability, and independent
oversight accompanied by robust investigatory capabilities and a
reliable system of internal justice.
- Implement mandatory, uniform standards of conduct for
civilian and military personnel participating in U.N. peace
operations. If the U.N. is 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.
Conclusion. 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,