The newest UN Peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) officially commenced operations last week. But it will be several months at least until the mission deploys to its full strength of 12,640 Blue Helmets.
The delay is partly a consequence of the unavoidable logistics of getting peacekeeping missions off the ground. There’s no standing reserve of UN Peacekeepers. Countries have to decide if they want to send troops to Mali; and then having made that decision they must put into motion all that is necessary to get their troops there.
The Mali mission faces one additional delay, though: The vagaries of the US budget process. This means that the missions’ largest financial contributor may not be able to pay into the mission on time or in full.
The mission was promoted by the United States in the U.N.Security Council. The U.S. voted for it, and when our allies committed to sending their troops far from their homes and into harm’s way, we applauded the effort as fundamental to restoring safety and peace.
Indeed, these actions are necessary, timely steps to weed out terrorists in a volatile region. However, the U.S., for all its support of the mission, did not anticipate a crucial component: inclusion in the congressional budgeting process. As a result, as peacekeepers from around the world arrive this week, the U.S. already will be behind on its bills. In fact, absent congressional action, we could fall as much as $300 million short on funding to fuel this mission and restore peace to Mali.
…America simply cannot be expected to solve this problem alone. In facing these kinds of threats, the U.S. must utilize all of its best foreign policy tools, including drawing upon the support of the United Nations and U.N. peacekeepers.
No one can argue that we remain in a difficult fiscal climate and that every penny in our budget must be accounted for. Yet, that is exactly why it makes sense for Congress to appropriate the funds to pay for the peacekeeping mission in Mali. The threat of terror in Mali is real, and it is dangerous. Through our support of U.N. peacekeeping, we can address it head on.
Troop contributing countries are compensated at a rate of over $1,000 per peacekeeper, per month. Compared to what it costs to sustain US troops around the world this is remarkably inexpensive. The USA, as the world’s wealthiest country and veto-wielding member of the Security Council, is expected to pick up about 28% of the cost of peacekeeping missions. That’s how it’s supposed to work. But this new mission did not fit neatly into US Congresses’ budget calendar, so now the mission may be seriously short of funds unless Congress acts.
The faster this mission deploys, the better. There is already a gaping security vacuum in northern Mali that the limited number of international troops currently in Mali cannot hope to fill on their own. On top of this, national elections are scheduled for the end of the month. Elections in unstable countries often leads to violence and a resumption of conflict.
Success of MINUSMA may depend on how swiftly peacekeepers can provide basic security for Malians in conflict affected parts of the country. The USA voted for this mission in the Security Council. Now, Congress needs to step up and provide the needed funds.