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Crisis management

UN peacekeeping in need of reform

by Andrea Herbst

In brief

Chinese engineers in the UN-peacekeeping forces: missions need more civil personnel

Chinese engineers in the UN-peacekeeping forces: missions need more civil personnel

The UN is facing a self-created peacekeeping crisis, according to a recent study by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). By sending out overly ambitious peacekeeping missions, the UN has found itself unable to provide the financial, organisational and personnel means needed, argues author Denis M. Tull. He considers the crisis a chance to create more effective peace missions.

Tull gives numbers that look great at first glance: from 2003 to 2008 the UN’s peacekeeping budget rose from $ 2.5 to $ 7.7 billion and staff increased from around 56,000 to over 112,000. So, what is the problem? According to Tull, there are too many peace missions with too little guidance and severely inadequate resources. Even when a mission ends, he adds, new ones quickly replace it, or others are expanded.

As Tull points out, many fruitless missions are sent to countries where there is no peace to defend. Starting a peace mission in spite of the lack of a peace process is a mistake the UN Security Council made in Darfur and Chad, Tull says, and failure ultimately led to increased hostility. Peacekeepers stationed in conflict-ridden countries, moreover, have to be prepared for military action. Unfortunately, whether or not military force should be used is often unclear, as the line between peacekeeping and waging actual war is blurry, Tull argues.

He sees the problems as results of disproportions between available resources and new mandates. When resources are not adequate, mandates must be reduced. Priorities need to be defined, and the UN must choose missions it is actually able to accomplish, the scholar demands. Moreover, mandates need clear and specific goals, so that peacekeeping missions can focus on related tasks, leaving issues like rebuilding government institutions to UN organisations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC).

Partnerships with the EU and other international organisations are useful, Tull says. He is particularly interested in regional organisations, which often understand conflicts better and are more capable of action within their region. 71 % of UN peacekeepers are stationed in Africa. The UN and the African Union (AU) are working together in hopes that the AU can lead more of the African missions. The AU has already led independent and UN-partnership missions in areas like Darfur and ­Somalia, Tull points out, though its skill-base and resources are in dire need of improvement. Therefore, the UN started a 10-year programme to build up the AU’s capacities; the EU’s African Peace Facility is providing funds.

In addition to clearer mandates, better resource management and new or strengthened partnerships, UN peacekeeping missions need more non-military personnel, Tull says. There are countless opportunities to promote peace through specialised logistics, for instance, or communication and transport support as well as police and civil workers. Police in particular, Tull argues, are necessary to carry out and stabilise security sector reform. In Tull’s view, Germany could do more in terms of military and non-military support.

Andrea Herbst