Confronting New Challenges Facing United Nations Peacekeeping Operations

By Rice, Susan E. | DISAM Journal, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Confronting New Challenges Facing United Nations Peacekeeping Operations


Rice, Susan E., DISAM Journal


[The following are excerpts from Susan E. Rice's opening statement to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Washington, D.C., July 29, 2009.]

I am particularly pleased to make my first appearance on the Hill as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations (U.N.) to discuss an issue that has enjoyed such strong bipartisan support for more than sixty years. From the Truman Administration's backing of the first dispatch of the U.N. military observers in the Middle East in 1948 to the Bush Administration's support for unprecedented growth in U.N. peacekeeping between 2003 and 2008, the United States has repeatedly turned to the U.N., and its peacekeeping capacity, as an essential instrument for advancing our security.

Increasing the effectiveness and the efficiency of peacekeeping is one of the Obama Administration's highest priorities at the U.N. The Administration recognizes that many of today's peacekeeping operations face significant limitations and challenges. But like our predecessors, we know that the U.N. peacekeeping addresses pressing international needs and serves our national interests. There are five compelling reasons why it is in the U.S. national interest to invest in U.N. peacekeeping.

First, U.N. peacekeeping delivers real results in conflict zones. U.N. peacekeepers can provide the political and practical reassurances that warring parties often need to agree to and implement an effective cease-fire. Their deployment can help limit or stop the escalation of armed conflict and stave off wider war.

Today's U.N. operations do much more than just observe cease-fires. They provide security and access so that humanitarian aid can reach the sick, the hungry, and the desperate. They help protect vulnerable civilians and create conditions that will allow refugees to return home. And they help emerging democracies hold elections and strengthen the rule of law.

Many countries are more peaceful and stable today due to U.N. peacekeeping. In recent years, U.N. peacekeepers helped avert an explosion of ethnic violence in Burundi, extend a fledgling government's authority in Sierra Leone, keep order in Liberia, and take back Cite Soleil from the lawless gangs in Haiti. All of these countries, I should note, now enjoy democratically elected governments.

Second, U.N. peacekeeping allows us to share the burden of creating a more peaceful and secure world. America simply cannot send our fighting forces to every corner of the globe wherever war breaks out. Today, U.N. peacekeeping enlists the contributions of some 118 countries, which provide more than 93,000 troops and police to fifteen different U.N. operations. We are grateful for our partners' efforts to forge a safer, more decent world.

This is burden sharing at its most effective: The U.S., as was mentioned earlier by Mr. Delahunt, currently contributes 93 military and police personnel to U.N. operations, approximately 0.1 percent of all uniformed U.N. personnel deployed worldwide. Sixty-five countries contribute more than the United States, including the other four permanent members of the Security Council.

Third, U.N. peacekeeping is cost-effective. The total cost of U.N. peacekeeping is expected to exceed $7.75 billion this year. As large as this figure is, it actually represents less than 1 percent of global military spending. The United States contributes slightly more than a quarter of the annual costs for U.N. peacekeeping. The European Union countries and Japan together pay more than half of the U.N.'s peacekeeping bill. We estimate that the U.S. share of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 costs will reach, as Ms. Ros-Lehtinen had pointed out, about $2.2 billion. We are grateful to Congress for the appropriations that will enable us to make our payments in full during FY 2009, as well as address arrears accrued from 2005 to 2008.

But let's be plain. $2.2 billion is a lot of money; but the costs of inaction would likely be far greater, both in blood and treasure. …

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