May 29 is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers. Not to be confused with the International Day of Peace on September 21, The International Day of Peacekeepers serves to honour the memory of UN Peacekeepers who lost their lives, and pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage.
The article titled ‘What’s the point of peacekeepers when they don’t keep the peace?’, which appeared in The Guardian on September 17, 2015, highlights several low points for UN peacekeeping, claiming that the politics of the UN Security Council continues to hamstring action over some conflicts.
During the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Hutu Tutsi riots desperate Tutsis sought refuge at a school where 90 UN troops were under the command of Captain Luc Lemaire. They thought they were safe from the Hutus and their machetes. UN in New York had ignored warnings of a genocide being planned and the Security Council was pulling out peacekeepers in response to the mass killing.
Within days the peacekeepers were ordered to abandon the school in order to escort foreigners to the airport and out of Rwanda. Within hours after the soldiers left, the 2,000 people at the school were murdered.
In 1994, on the heels of the Rwandan genocide, the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, Russia, France, the UK and the US) provided 20 per cent of all UN peacekeeping personnel, reports Time Magazine in its article titled ‘Soldiers From Poor Countries Have Become the World’s Peacekeepers’, which appeared in its September 12, 2014 issue. But by 2004, Security Council nations contributed only five percent of UN personnel. Currently governments of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Fiji, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Philippines provide a staggering 39 per cent of all UN forces.
Peacekeeping operations since 1948: 71
Current peacekeeping operations: 16
Uniformed: 104,773 (as of March 31, 2016)
Military observers: 1,793
Civilian: 16,471 (as of July 31, 2015)
UN Volunteers: 1,809 (as of March 31, 2016)
Total number of personnel serving in
16 peacekeeping operations: 123,053
Countries contributing uniformed personnel: 123
Total fatalities in current operations: 1,689
Total fatalities in all peace operations since
Approved resources for the period from July 1, 2015
to June 30, 2016: about $8.27 billion
Outstanding contributions to peacekeeping
(June 30, 2015): about $1.6 billion
1. United Nations Peacekeeping was created in 1948 Its first mission involved the establishment of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which served to observe and maintain ceasefire during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
2. UN Peacekeeping maintains three basic principles Consent of the parties Impartiality
Non-use of Force except in self-defense Defense of the mandate.
3. The UN Peacekeepers are led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DKPO)
4. Since its inception, 69 Peacekeeping Operations have been deployed by the UN
56 Operations have been put in action since 1988. Hundreds and thousands of people including Military Personnel, Police officers, and Civilians from 120 countries have contributed to UN Peacekeeping Operations.
5. There are currently 17 UN peace operations deployed on four continents
This includes 16 peacekeeping operations, and 1 special political mission led by the DKPO
6. UN Peacekeepers are from diverse backgrounds, from areas all around the world
11,420 Police Officers
1,788 Military Observers
17,277 Civilian Personnel
1,798 UN Volunteers
7. 30% of UN Peacekeepers are women Between 1957 and 1989, only 20 women served as uniformed UN peacekeepers. Today, there are more than 5,000 female uniformed and civilian peacekeepers.
8. The UN Peacekeeping Force won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988
9. On September 15, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the CAR (Central African Republic) began its mandate to protest and support CAR civilians in the political transition.
7,500 peacekeepers have already committed, and more are expected to assist come early 2015.
United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO)
United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)
United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)
United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)
African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID)
United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)
United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP)
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA)
United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS)
United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI)
United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)
United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)
United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP)
United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO)
Sri Lankan contribution to UN Peacekeeping
Military experts 17
Soldiers from poor countries have become the World’s Peacekeepers
Critics can counter this charge with stats of their own. After all, the y say, the permanent members contribute 53% of the U.N.’s annual budget, far outstripping financial contributions made by countries of the global south. But recent years have also seen sluggish rates of payment from wealthier nations — delays that further strain an overburdened system supporting 16 peacekeeping missions around the world.
On balance, the troops contributed by developing countries are more likely to be less well trained, under-supplied and ill-equipped for the missions. Delays in financial contributions only complicate the challenges of modern peacekeeping.
– Time Magazine
What’s the point of peacekeepers when they don’t keep the peace?
The betrayal of the Tutsis in Rwanda was a low point for UN peacekeeping but not an isolated one. A year later, Dutch peacekeepers failed to stop the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica, a supposedly UN ‘safe area’ , the most notorious mass killing by the Serbs in Bosnia.
Not long before, there had been the debacle in Somalia where a US-led UN humanitarian operation turned into a bloody conflict against a powerful warlord. By then, Angola was already back at war after its UN peacekeeping mission collapsed amid accusations it contributed to the breakdown of peace.
But even as peacekeeping has ballooned to become by far the most expensive of UN departments (in 2015 it will cost nearly $9bn to keep 120,000 blue helmet soldiers and policemen deployed in 16 countries from Mali to Cyprus and Haiti, compared with just $500m at the end of the cold war), it is dogged by challenges.
The politics of the UN Security Council continues to hamstring action over some conflicts, such as Syria and Darfur. Other missions drag on indefinitely, such as in the DRC and Haiti. There is friction between the UN and some governments over who has ultimate command over peacekeeping troops, which has resulted in conflicting orders with disastrous consequences. Then there are spreading conflicts against armed Islamist groups in central and west Africa.