Peacekeeping: Peacekeepers, Not Bodyguards


May 22, 2014: Responding to growing complaints of UN peacekeepers refusing to protect threatened (by bandits, rebels or terrorists) civilians the UN did a study of the issue and found that in 80 percent of 507 situations where UN peacekeepers were authorized to use force to protect civilians from these attacks the peacekeepers refused to act. This was just for activity between 2010 and 2013 and the problem goes back much further than that. Pressure to change this falls on the nations responsible to contributing most of the $8 billion a year peacekeeping budget (United States, Japan, France, Germany, United Kingdom, China, Italy, Russia, Canada and Spain) and the nations contributing most of the peacekeepers (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Rwanda). The latter nations complain that they did not contribute troops to engage in the level of fighting (and casualties) that would be required to respond to every request to protect civilians. This would be considered peacemaking, not peacekeeping and the UN has recognized the problem by calling on nations to contribute troops expressly for fighting.

In Congo the UN recently formed a combat brigade for explicitly aggressive combat operations, but most nations that contribute peacekeeping troops expect their soldiers to carry out relatively low-risk duties. The UN is often at fault when it orders civilians to be protected and ignoring the fact that the UN member nations providing troops had ordered their commanders in the area to limit the danger their soldiers would be exposed to. There is now pressure on the UN to get nations contributing peacekeepers to allow their soldiers to more frequently use force to protect civilians. This will make it harder (or more expensive) to get peacekeepers. It is already difficult to recruit the number of peacekeepers that are needed.






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