UN Peacekeepers Face Tough, New Challenges UNITED NATIONS PEACE-KEEPING FORCES AND OBSERVER MISSIONS

By Lucia Mouat, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 1992 | Go to article overview

UN Peacekeepers Face Tough, New Challenges UNITED NATIONS PEACE-KEEPING FORCES AND OBSERVER MISSIONS


Lucia Mouat, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


SO popular are United Nations peacekeepers these days that the world body can hardly keep pace with the demand.

All those troops, police, and civilians now heading for Cambodia and Yugoslavia will bring the global ranks of UN peacekeepers to an all-time high of about 50,000, a fourfold jump since the start of the year. Somalia and Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh could be next.

The scope of peacekeeping in the newly energized United Nations is also broadening. The soldier wearing the UN blue beret is no longer just a monitor of a cease-fire. The peacekeeping operation in Cambodia will attempt the broadest array of tasks ever - from administering the country and organizing 1993 elections to helping repatriate refugees and promote human rights.

Peacekeeping is nowhere to be found in the UN charter. Undersecretary-General Marrack Goulding says that omission gives peacekeeping a rare flexibility. The only limits to the concept, he says, are what the parties to a conflict are ready to accept, what the Security Council will authorize, and what the General Assembly will finance.

The geographical spread of those supplying troops, police, civilian workers, and equipment to UN peacekeeping missions is also growing. Though most troops still come from a handful of countries long viewed as neutral, about one-third of the UN's membership, 58 nations, now make some materiel contribution. Since the end of the cold war, the permanent five members of the Security Council, often involved as brokers in past conflicts, have been encouraged to contribute, too. French and Russian troops are part of the UN Yugoslavian mission.

"Ideally, every member state should participate so that it feels a part of this high-profile activity," insists Mr. Goulding, the UN's top peacekeeping official.

Yet some governments are more willing to take part in such operations and to applaud their goals and gains than to actually pay for them. At the start of 1992 the UN was still owed $375 million in peacekeeping dues - about half of the operations' annual bill.

The Yugoslav and Cambodian ventures are expected to push the yearly cost to more than $3 billion. A number of US lawmakers say the 30 percent US share of dues is too high. The permanent five - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States - are assessed 57 percent of total peacekeeping costs. Many say Germany and Japan, barred constitutionally from contributing troops, should pay more than they do. Japan will pay more than its 12.5 percent share of the UN Cambodian mission's costs.

Members of UN peacekeeping battalions remain in national units and wear their own uniforms, but work together under one UN commander. Guns, not carried at all on observer missions, are to be used only in self-defense.

Though the UN supplies training guidelines, all troops are trained nationally. The Nordic nations for years have had a strong cooperative arrangement with national specializations such as Denmark's training of all military police. "We realized that we are small countries and had to organize our efforts; it's worked very well," says Col. …

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