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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.

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PK Salon: First Question

As Bill Durch aptly points out in the paper (pdf), the surge in UN peacekeeping has been neither met by commensurate increases in the number of staff in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), nor by commensurate increases in the funding streams available to DPKO. Is peacekeeping reaching its breaking point? Is there a future for UN peacekeeping? If so, what can be done to boost peacekeeping’s capacity to deal with the multitude of challenges it faces?

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PK Salon: First Question

As Bill Durch aptly points out in the paper (pdf), the surge in UN peacekeeping has been neither met by commensurate increases in the number of staff in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), nor by commensurate increases in the funding streams available to DPKO. Is peacekeeping reaching its breaking point? Is there a future for UN peacekeeping? If so, what can be done to boost peacekeeping’s capacity to deal with the multitude of challenges it faces?

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UN Dispatch Salon: UN Peacekeeping’s Challenges and Opportunities for the Next Administration

On January 20, 2009, the next President will have a unique opportunity to create a new global agenda for the United States and right the course of America’s foreign policy. William Durch, from the Stimson Center, has published a paper (pdf), through the Better World Campaign, that discusses the importance of confronting the challenges and opportunities of UN peacekeeping through that agenda.

To foster that discussion, UN Dispatch and Foreign Policy Passport are hosting an online salon, in which the following have graciously agreed to participate:

  • David Bosco
  • William Durch
  • Tod Lindberg
  • Mark Malan
  • Eric Reeves

Mark Goldberg and Blake Hounshell, the Web editor at Foreign Policy, will moderate.

Over the next few days, they will discuss Bill’s ideas, as well as their own. We hope you will join this discussion too. You can submit comments, subscribe to the salon RSS feed, bookmark the salon archive, or submit your own ideas on OnDayOne.org. Enjoy.

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