May 24, 2017

UN Peacekeeping: A Good Investment for the U.S.

On May 29, the world honors the sacrifices of the men and women that serve in UN Peacekeeping missions with the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. This day allows us to honor all those that have served, including the more than 100,000 troops, police and civilians in the 16 active UN peacekeeping missions around the world, as well as those that have served in the more than 50 missions that have completed their mandates since UN peacekeeping began nearly seventy years ago.  It also allows us to pay our highest respects to the more than 3,500 peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the service of peace.

UN Peacekeeping is an investment in global peace, security and properity

Making the U.S More Secure

Additionally, this day provides an opportunity to consider the important role UN peacekeeping plays in U.S. security interests.  UN peacekeeping operates in spaces which left alone would be ungoverned and ripe for the creation and growth of terrorist organizations. Northern Mali is just one example where terrorist groups are on the rise and have made UN peacekeepers a target.  With UN peacekeeping, the U.S. and all UN member governments benefit from multinational forces that provide critical protection of civilians, human rights monitoring, and reliable information on the state of combatants and non-combatants within the mission’s mandate area.  All of this support U.S. interests and values. And while the U.S. provides roughly a quarter of the financial resources for UN peacekeeping, this is a bargain when compared to the cost of putting U.S. troops on the ground.

While it is always important to search for ways that UN peacekeeping can do better – and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is committed to doing that – we should also remember that UN peacekeeping has been, and continues to be, an invaluable tool in bringing peace, security and stability to numerous countries over the years.  Successful operations have been completed in Namibia, Cambodia, Angola, Croatia, Timor Leste, Sierra Leone, El Salvador and Guatemala, among others.  These countries, many once in throes of conflict, are now stable, and some have even become troop contributors to UN peacekeeping.  Two more successful missions – in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire – are expected to complete their work and close within the coming year.

Ongoing UN peacekeeping missions will continue to help countries transition from conflict to stability.  After UN peacekeepers helped stop a looming ‘genocide’ in the Central African Republic when they were first deployed in 2014, the mission in CAR then oversaw a democratic election process.  In South Sudan, peacekeepers have been saving hundreds of thousands of lives since a conflict erupted between the government and opposition in December 2014, and the mission is currently protecting more than 220,000 people at Protection of Civilian sites around the country.  Long-standing observer missions, such as in Kashmir and Cyprus, provide trusted, neutral monitoring and information to help parties and the UN Security Council make informed decisions on next steps toward sustained peace and political agreement.

All of this should, and does matter to the U.S.  As we know all too well, conflicts in seemingly far-away places have an impact here.

Global Value

I have had the opportunity to visit several UN peacekeeping missions and have seen first-hand the value of these forces. From patrolling a post-earthquake tent camp in Haiti with female troops from Bangladesh, to meeting with Indian and Nigerian soldiers in Liberia, I have seen the desire in these men and women to succeed in their missions. Helping the people of the countries in which they serve return to normal lives, free from the threat of war, means a great deal to these global soldiers, police, and civilians. It should to us as well.

On May 29, please remember UN Peacekeepers.

Robb Skinner, Director – UN Information Center

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