For more than seven decades, UN peacekeeping has been one of the most important tools the UN has at its disposal for conflict mitigation and stabilization.
Helping countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace, peacekeeping has unique strengths, including high levels of international legitimacy and an ability to deploy and sustain troops and police from around the globe, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to advance multidimensional mandates. Today’s peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to stabilize conflict zones and separate warring parties, but also to protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights, and assist in restoring the rule of law.
The U.S. has long advocated for the broadening of the size and scope of UN peacekeeping missions, using its position as a permanent member of the Security Council to push for mandates that more closely reflect current challenges. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have recognized the value of UN peacekeeping, because:
- Peacekeeping Is Effective: A November 2021 Foreign Affairs article titled the “Astonishing Success of Peacekeeping” explains that “Decades of academic research has demonstrated that UN peacekeeping not only works at stopping conflicts but works better than anything else experts know. Peacekeeping is effective at resolving civil wars, reducing violence during wars, preventing wars from recurring, and rebuilding state institutions. It succeeds at protecting civilian lives and reducing sexual and gender-based violence. The piece also notes that “To convince other countries to contribute financially, the United States needs to set a better example by paying its own assessed dues.”¹
- UN Missions Cost Less than Other Forms of Military Intervention: Two studies published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office more than a decade apart (in 2006² and 2018³) found that a UN operation is one-eighth the cost to American taxpayers of deploying a comparable U.S. force. Overall, at a yearly cost of approximately $6.5 billion, UN peacekeeping is one half of the state of Rhode Island’s annual budget.
- Promotes Multilateral Burden-Sharing: The UN has no standing army, and therefore depends on Member States to voluntarily contribute troops and police to its peacekeeping operations. While the U.S., as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, plays a central role in the decision to deploy peacekeeping missions, it provides very few uniformed personnel: currently just several dozen out of 73,000 total uniformed personnel. A range of U.S. partners and allies—including India, Rwanda, Tanzania, Jordan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Nepal—provide the bulk of the rest.
Barbara F. Walter, Lise Morjé Howard, V. Page Fortna. “The Astonishing Success of Peacekeeping”. Foreign Policy. November 29, 2021. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2021-11-29/astonishing-success-peacekeeping
“Cost Comparison of Actual UN and Hypothetical U.S. Operations in Haiti.” Government Accountability Office GAO-06-331.
“UN Peacekeeping Cost Estimate for Hypothetical U.S. Operation Exceeds Actual Costs for Comparable UN Operation,” Government Accountability Office GAO-18-243.