Get Peacekeeping Right



“Should the anticipated discussions fail to clear the path to the deployment of an effective force, the international community will be confronted with hard choices: do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself, and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations, and tragic failure for the people of Darfur.” — UN Under Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno in remarks to the Security Council, November 28.

Only a few noticed, but Guehenno’s report to the Security Council last week was far more challenging and confrontational than the average briefing from a UN official to member states, but these are not ordinary circumstances. First, according to Guehenno, Khartoum is threatening to renege on its promise:

“Five months ago (on 17 June) in Khartoum, this Council received President Bashir’s agreement with AU-UN plans for a peacekeeping operation in Darfur without preconditions. During the Secretary-General’s visit to Sudan in September, President Bashir gave him personal assurances that his Government would facilitate the deployment of UNAMID. Over the past few weeks, the Government’s reluctance to facilitate the practical preparations for UNAMID as well as the public statements made by its senior officials call into question that commitment.”

Even if Sudan cooperates, there are a number of obstacles to success. There are still serious gaps in the UN/African Union hybrid force (UNAMID) that, unless filled, will ultimately doom the mission.
Another major issue is funding. As we saw with the AU Mission in Sudan, under-resourced peace operations fail. The U.S. is already projected to be over a billion dollars behind in payments to UN peacekeeping. That is a tremendous disincentive to other countries to contribute troops. UNAMID is the largest, most expensive UN peacekeeping mission in history. Failure to meet our obligations jeopardizes not only UNAMID, but the other vital (but less sexy) UN peace operations that compete with UNAMID for funding.
Expectations for UN peacekeeping are sky high even though resources are nowhere to be found. I’m worried that the UN is being set up for failure.
President Bush included a $724 million request for UNAMID in his war supplemental. Regardless of what happens to the rest of the bill, Democrats in Congress have to find a way to provide for the full amount, and then need to do it soon.
By the way: next time a major crisis happens, wouldn’t it be nice to have a well-trained, interoperable service ready to deploy within days instead of months? It’s been a while since I’ve written about the proposed UN Emergency Peace Service. Today, 54 organizations — including a lot of heavy hitters and new players in the peace operations arena — signed a letter urging its creation. This is an idea whose time has come.
— Scott Paul
Note: I missed out on writing my “Weekly Gaff” piece last week, which was fine because there wasn’t really any anti-Law of the Sea commentary that required a response. I should say, though, that I was extremely offended by Gaffney’s comparison of Israel at Annapolis to a victim of gang rape. Forget for a moment that his political antennae are way off. Gaffney makes light of one of the most brutal and dehumanizing acts that can be perpetrated on one human being by others. His use of gang rape as a political analogy betrays his lack of sensitivity or perspective on the pain and trauma that victims feel. My heart goes out to those who felt their experience belittled by Gaffney’s column.