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Tuesday Morning Coffee

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>>Georgia – Yesterday Georgia accused Russia of violating its airspace with a MIG jet to shoot down a reconnaissance drone over Abkhazia. Russia denied the claim, saying that the drone violated UN ceasefire resolutions and was shot down by separatists. Georgia has video. Last week, Russia expanded relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, ratcheting up tensions.

>>Sudan – A census that is seen as an integral step toward holding democratic elections in 2009 has begun in Khartoum. The census will also help determine the distribution of Sudan’s oil revenues. Many in the south and in Darfur fear that the massive amounts of internal displacement will skew the results; insecurity will as well. President al-Bashir was the first counted. The United Nations is assisting Sudan’s government with this process.

>>Hamas – In a speech in Jerusalem capping his controversial nine-day visit, Jimmy Carter said that Hamas is willing to accept Israel’s right to exist as a “neighbor, next door, in peace” if a peace deal is accepted by Palestinians. They also said that they would allow kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat to send a letter to his parents and accept an interim ceasefire in Gaza. Israeli officials expressed doubt about Carter’s ability to follow through on the agreements and called his meeting with top Hamas officials “a disgrace.”

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Tuesday Morning Coffee

Top Stories

>>Georgia – Yesterday Georgia accused Russia of violating its airspace with a MIG jet to shoot down a reconnaissance drone over Abkhazia. Russia denied the claim, saying that the drone violated UN ceasefire resolutions and was shot down by separatists. Georgia has video. Last week, Russia expanded relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, ratcheting up tensions.

>>Sudan – A census that is seen as an integral step toward holding democratic elections in 2009 has begun in Khartoum. The census will also help determine the distribution of Sudan’s oil revenues. Many in the south and in Darfur fear that the massive amounts of internal displacement will skew the results; insecurity will as well. President al-Bashir was the first counted. The United Nations is assisting Sudan’s government with this process.

>>Hamas – In a speech in Jerusalem capping his controversial nine-day visit, Jimmy Carter said that Hamas is willing to accept Israel’s right to exist as a “neighbor, next door, in peace” if a peace deal is accepted by Palestinians. They also said that they would allow kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat to send a letter to his parents and accept an interim ceasefire in Gaza. Israeli officials expressed doubt about Carter’s ability to follow through on the agreements and called his meeting with top Hamas officials “a disgrace.”

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Are we getting results?

Even as we discuss the logistical, manpower, and financial pressures on DPKO, I hope we do not leave aside the question of what precisely the international community is getting for its (admittedly modest) investment in peacekeeping. Is the current crop of missions producing political and humanitarian results? The UN, of course, endured intense soul searching during the 1990s about the efficacy of peacekeeping in the wake of the Bosnia and Rwanda missions. Today’s missions are far less scrutinized but I suspect that has more to do with a distracted media than it does an easing of the operational dilemmas facing peacekeepers in the field.

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Are we getting results?

Even as we discuss the logistical, manpower, and financial pressures on DPKO, I hope we do not leave aside the question of what precisely the international community is getting for its (admittedly modest) investment in peacekeeping. Is the current crop of missions producing political and humanitarian results? The UN, of course, endured intense soul searching during the 1990s about the efficacy of peacekeeping in the wake of the Bosnia and Rwanda missions. Today’s missions are far less scrutinized but I suspect that has more to do with a distracted media than it does an easing of the operational dilemmas facing peacekeepers in the field.

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Peacekeeping’s Future

First, just so we’re clear, DPKO has been growing — nominally, 25 percent in the past year alone — just not as fast as its operational commitments. Eight years ago, 520 people in New York supported roughly 40,000 military, police, and civilian personnel in the field. Today, about 1,200 support up to 140,000 mission personnel who work in more violent places than before (like eastern DR Congo, south Sudan, and Darfur).

Exactly how many work where at what time is hard to measure, as it takes the UN many months to fill a new position in NY or in the field. That inability to respond fast (apparently treasured by many of its member states), the growing combat risks posed by new missions, and the sheer size of the enterprise (spread over nearly 20 countries on four continents) mean that the UN is indeed approaching the breaking point (as it not only has to staff 140,000 field positions but find rotation replacements for most of them every 6-12 months). Pile on the departure in June of Under­secretary-general Jean-Marie Guehenno, who has ably managed UN peacekeeping’s expansion for nearly eight years, and the simultaneous scattering of UN personnel across NYC as their iconic but aging headquarters is gutted and rebuilt, and you have the makings of a severe morale and management crisis.

UN peacekeeping has a future if only because it will take years to finish the tasks it has already started, and because NATO is already jammed in Afghanistan, the EU risk-averse (though its new “battle groups” make ideal reinforcements for UN operations in crisis), and the African Union is broke. The AU has ambitious plans for peacekeeping but nothing like the money it needs, and donor train-and-equip programs may suck funds from development and good governance — and bad governance breeds war. So, UN peace­keeping has a future; it would be a better one if more developed state troops showed up on UN rosters outside the Middle East or if those same states paid their share of UN mission costs on time. UN PK costs $6.7 billion a year but its arrears are a fairly steady $2 billion, and it can’t borrow (at US insistence) even to stop wars (making for two-edged irony). When short of funds, it pays vendors first and troop contributors last. Both are needed but vendors quit sooner. Still, no troops, no peacekeeping. Tick, tock.

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Peacekeeping’s Future

First, just so we’re clear, DPKO has been growing — nominally, 25 percent in the past year alone — just not as fast as its operational commitments. Eight years ago, 520 people in New York supported roughly 40,000 military, police, and civilian personnel in the field. Today, about 1,200 support up to 140,000 mission personnel who work in more violent places than before (like eastern DR Congo, south Sudan, and Darfur).

Exactly how many work where at what time is hard to measure, as it takes the UN many months to fill a new position in NY or in the field. That inability to respond fast (apparently treasured by many of its member states), the growing combat risks posed by new missions, and the sheer size of the enterprise (spread over nearly 20 countries on four continents) mean that the UN is indeed approaching the breaking point (as it not only has to staff 140,000 field positions but find rotation replacements for most of them every 6-12 months). Pile on the departure in June of Under­secretary-general Jean-Marie Guehenno, who has ably managed UN peacekeeping’s expansion for nearly eight years, and the simultaneous scattering of UN personnel across NYC as their iconic but aging headquarters is gutted and rebuilt, and you have the makings of a severe morale and management crisis.

UN peacekeeping has a future if only because it will take years to finish the tasks it has already started, and because NATO is already jammed in Afghanistan, the EU risk-averse (though its new “battle groups” make ideal reinforcements for UN operations in crisis), and the African Union is broke. The AU has ambitious plans for peacekeeping but nothing like the money it needs, and donor train-and-equip programs may suck funds from development and good governance — and bad governance breeds war. So, UN peace­keeping has a future; it would be a better one if more developed state troops showed up on UN rosters outside the Middle East or if those same states paid their share of UN mission costs on time. UN PK costs $6.7 billion a year but its arrears are a fairly steady $2 billion, and it can’t borrow (at US insistence) even to stop wars (making for two-edged irony). When short of funds, it pays vendors first and troop contributors last. Both are needed but vendors quit sooner. Still, no troops, no peacekeeping. Tick, tock.

| Leave a comment

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