‘US to review UN peacekeeping missions’

New York: The United States is looking to comprehensively review UN peacekeeping missions, its envoy to the UN has said, ruling that the focus of such operations too often is on troop contributions or funding countries, and not on protecting civilians or achieving a political solution.

Nikki Haley said UN peacekeeping operations is an area with great potential for reform and her approach in dealing with peacekeeping will be “different” when she assumes the rotating presidency of the 15-nation Security Council in April.

“The goal of any UN peacekeeping mission should be to ensure that political solutions to conflicts are actually realised. But too often the focus of our peacekeeping efforts is on the troop contributing countries or the funding countries or the bureaucracy of the UN itself and not on protecting civilians and on achieving a political solution,” Haley said at the Council on Foreign Relations thinktank here yesterday.

The Indian-origin ambassador to the UN said members have too often been bogged down in “parochial questions”, spending a lot of time worrying about which country or bureaucracy benefits from the peacekeeping missions.

“We have worried about donor countries, troop supplying countries. We have missed the forest for the trees in peacekeeping operations altogether. During the US presidency, I intend to do something different,” she said.

Haley said the US “will lay out a comprehensive vision for how peacekeeping missions should be reviewed moving forward.

We will ask hard questions.”

India has traditionally been among the largest troop contributing countries to the UN peacekeeping operations, with nearly 180,000 troops having served in over 44 of the 69 peacekeeping operations so far. The country has repeatedly called for the Security Council to consult troop contributing countries before drawing up peacekeeping mandates given that troops now have to function in increasingly difficult and hostile conflict situations across the world’s hotspots.

Haley voiced support for cutting US contribution to peacekeeping and capping it at 25 per cent from the current 28 per cent. “That is something that will happen.”

The US is the biggest contributor to the UN, paying 22 per cent of the USD 5.4 billion core budget and 28.5 per cent of the USD 7.9 billion peacekeeping budget.

“We don’t want to just cut for the sake of cutting.

Everybody knows there is fat at the UN, there is fat in the peacekeeping missions,” she said.

She said a lack of “basic evaluation” in UN missions was “shocking” and cited the example of the mission in Afghanistan that has been in place for more than 15 years but has never once been reviewed.

Calling this “unacceptable”, Haley said “we are in the process of proposing a strategic review of this mission and other missions to get the facts on the ground.”

With peacekeeping being the largest item in the UN budget, she said the review will identify the missions in need of structural reforms. “We will determine where we need to augment, re-structure and cut back,” she said, emphasising that the US is supportive of “better and smarter” peacekeeping operations not the ones that are “cheaper.”

“We have to have the political will to adjust the missions even if some countries are going to lose funding in the process,” she said.