A couple of unfortunate developments this week show just how critical it is that we muster support for UN Peacekeeping.
On Tuesday, the Security Council was obliged to approve the withdrawal of some 2,000 peacekeepers from the Chad-Sudan border. Since 2007, peacekeepers have been helping to protect hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs displaced from fighting in Darfur and eastern Chad. However, earlier this year Chadian president Idriss Deby announced that his government would no longer consent to the mission, known as MINURCAT. The Chadian government has effectively kicked the peacekeepers out of his country. Now, aid agencies worry that without the security provided by MINURCAT, their ability to provide humanitarian assistance will become restricted.
Meanwhile, it seems that DRC President Joseph Kabilla is taking a page from Deby’s playbook. A few months ago, Kabilla strongly suggested that his government may also withdraw its support for a longstanding peacekeeping mission in its borders. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to the largest UN Peacekeeping mission in the world. MONUC, as the mission is known, fields 20,000 peacekeepers, mainly in the restive, conflict-plagued eastern part of the country. Kabilla, though, is angling for the mission to be shuttered.
The Security Council is seeking a compromise with the Congolese government, and according to a draft resolution obtained by the New York Times today, that may mean sending home 2,000 peacekeepers and changing the mission’s mandate.
Both these episodes are able to unfold because the entire UN Peacekeeping enterprise rests on the fact that peacekeepers do just that—keep the peace. They are not invading foreign soldiers. Peacekeeping missions therefore require the consent of the host country in which they operate. When that consent is withdrawn, the peacekeepers’ job becomes impossible.
This is the basic dynamic of UN Peacekeeping. And it goes to show just how important it is that missions get the support they need from the international community. If the international community were to lean heavily on Deby and Kabilla, perhaps they would think twice about booting peacekeepers from their soil?