As the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget, the United States has a strong interest in ensuring that UN peacekeeping operations remain cost effective, deliver results, and maintain high ethical standards. The increase in the demand for UN peacekeeping and the difficulty of the environments in which these operations occur present enormous challenges which the United States and the UN have worked together to address.
In recent years, UN peacekeeping operations have experienced a five-fold increase, with more than 120,000 troops, police, and civilian staff operating in 15 missions across the world.
Mission mandates established prior to the mid-1990s focused mainly on observing ceasefires between two warring nation-states. Today, peacekeeping missions facilitate peace processes, protect civilians, reform judicial systems, train security and police forces, disarm and reintegrate former combatants, and support refugees and the internally displaced.
Peacekeepers are also increasingly asked to go into unstable environments. Countries that contribute troops are reluctant to send them into harm’s way; sometimes, they cannot provide sufficient equipment to support the operation. As a result, UN peacekeeping operations are strained and in need of additional support and guidance.
Peacekeeping Reform Initiatives
Over the past decade, the UN has undertaken numerous initiatives to strengthen peacekeeping operations. The 2000 report, Panel on UN Peace Operations (known as the Brahimi Report) analyzed the shortfalls of UN peacekeeping and introduced several measures to improve decision-making and ensure more efficient deployment of troops and equipment.
In 2006, the Secretary-General issued Peace Operations 2010 outlining plans to reform the key areas of peacekeeping personnel, doctrine, partnerships, resources, and organization. In 2007, the Secretary-General enhanced the support side of field missions by removing logistical, administrative, and technical functions from the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and placing them in a newly created Department of Field Support (DFS).
While these measures enhanced UN peacekeeping operations, more is needed. Some past reforms--such as the provision of additional troops to reinforce missions during a crisis--have yet to be tackled fully by Member States. Other reforms have been made moot by the growth of peacekeeping. In 2000, there were 20,000 troops in the field; today, there is five times that number. To address these new challenges, in 2009, DPKO and DFS jointly authored the New Horizon report, which proposes initiatives to provide sufficient resources and better planning for peacekeeping operations.
In addition, the UN has begun to act on recommendations of an independent study Protecting Civilians in the Context of Peacekeeping Operations, which suggests ways to address the inadequate capacity and preparedness of peacekeeping operations protecting civilians. Finally, over the last five years, the UN has focused on professionalizing peacekeeping and addressing abuse committed by peacekeepers.
Read more about three key areas of strengthening peacekeeping reform :