Peacekeeping: January 20, 2004

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The United Nations warned of a crisis in getting enough peacekeepers for Africa in 2004, unless the member nations focus now on staving off death and suffering in the continent's conflicts. Noting that the United States wanted to expand the military in Iraq, in mid-December UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan complained to the press that America has been petitioning the same countries that he was for troops.

While the 43,500 UN soldiers and police currently on 14 different missions is just over half the 1993 highpoint of 78,700 deployed to the Balkans, Cambodia and Somalia, the UN thinks their mission load will only increase. In addition to the Congo and Liberia, there could be missions to the Ivory Coast, Sudan and Burundi. However, money and troops available for UN ventures have dropped since the mid-1990s. UN missions in Sierra Leone and East Timor are winding down but this would not compensate for what might be needed in Africa in 2004.

About 30,600 UN Peacekeepers are in Africa alone (in the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Western Sahara and on the Ethiopian-Eritrean border). Another 10,000 troops, observers and police might be required in 2004. African nations and developing countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are increasingly providing the ground troops, but the UN claims that developed countries were needed for specialized attack helicopters, engineering, field hospital and logistical units.

While Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Gueehenno noted that he wasn't asking European members to match the troop contributions of the developing nations soldier for soldier, he did point out that they needed to provide tangible assistance.

Reading between the lines, the United Nations inefficiency at running economical operations is at the root of the problem. There are decades-old accusations that UN peacekeeping operations are merely pocket-lining exercises for certain individuals, with tangible results a far secondary goal. The United States, which pays 27 percent of the UN's peacekeeping costs, is wary of approving new missions while Japan, the second highest contributor, recently expressed concerns about the expanding UN budget. Europe is dragging it's heels, with Germany already involved in Afghanistan and France ready to pull out of the Ivory Coast. - Adam Geibel

 


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