Why Peacekeeping Matters

Background

While UN peacekeeping missions are thousands of miles away from U.S. shores, they are critical to U.S. interests both in terms of cost-effectiveness and promoting our national security objectives. In addition, all peacekeeping missions are authorized by the UN Security Council, and as a permanent veto-wielding member, the U.S. authorizes every mission that is deployed into the field.

The value of UN Peacekeeping

While the U.S. itself provides very few troops to these missions (just several dozen out of a total force of more than 90,000), its seat on the Security Council ensures that it plays a decisive role in each and every task including how long, and what responsibilities they should be required to undertake. Learn more about why peacekeeping matters.

  • A force for global peace and stability

    Peacekeepers implement a range of stabilization and protection measures, helping to avert the collapse of fragile states, prevent civil wars from metastasizing into full-blown regional conflicts, and decrease the likelihood that dormant conflicts will flare up again. Countries undergoing conflict provide fertile ground for the growth of extremist groups and organized crime, threatening U.S. national security and economic interests.

  • Peacekeeping missions are cost-effective

    UN peacekeeping operations are significantly less costly than other forms of military intervention. In 2018, using the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) as an example, the Government Accountability Office found that a U.S. operation of roughly the same size and duration would cost at least $5.7 billion–nearly eight times more than the $700 million the U.S. contributed to MINUSCA over the same time period.

  • Promote burden sharing with other countries

    UN peacekeeping harnesses the collective resources of the entire international community, ensuring that neither American taxpayers, nor the U.S. military, will have to take on the responsibility of safeguarding international peace and security alone. While the U.S.’ permanent Security Council veto puts it in the driver’s seat on the decision to deploy peacekeepers in the first place, other UN Member States pay nearly three-quarters of the costs associated with these missions and contribute more than 99.9 percent of the troops and police who serve in them.

  • Counter violent extremism

    Terrorism and violent extremism pose a grave and persistent threat to international peace and security. As we’ve learned over the last two decades, terror networks operate in countries frequently beyond the reach of American access and influence, making a comprehensive, multilateral approach to this global problem absolutely necessary.

    The UN is a critical partner in this challenge. The UN’s global efforts to stamp out violent extremism and address the root causes of terrorism help amplify and broaden the reach of our nation’s own counterterrorism initiatives. Peacekeepers play a key role in stabilizing fragile nations, engaging communities, protecting civilians, and promoting peace processes to prevent these regions from becoming terrorist safe havens.

Impact of Women in Peacekeeping

As female peacekeepers in a typically male-dominated field, women bring different life experiences and perspectives and are in an ideal position to encourage and empower other women to follow in their paths. We have seen the direct impact of more women in peacekeeping. In 2007, the first all-female police unit deployed to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia. The presence of female peacekeepers encouraged local women to follow in their path and proved that they could do the same job as men. As a result, the Liberian National Police experienced a dramatic increase in women joining its forces. Today, women make up 17% of Liberia’s security sector, an 11% increase from when the all-female peacekeeping unit arrived.

Research also shows that involving women in peace processes brings sustained dividends. Peace agreements are 35% more likely to last at least 15 years when women are at the table, according to the International Peace Institute.

Busting myths on UN Peacekeeping

Despite the benefits and a long-running history of bipartisan support in Washington, there are some misconceptions about UN Peacekeeping. We took some time to clear some of them up.

  • UN peacekeeping missions never end

    False: While some missions have existed for decades, that is because members of the Security Council have deemed it beneficial to maintain a stabilizing presence in highly contentious areas like Cyprus and the Israeli/Syrian/Lebanese borders and it is the responsibility of the Security Council, Host Countries, and Member States to work towards a political solution, not solely the work of peacekeepers. Also, in any of these missions, the U.S. could have vetoed mandate renewal and if they had chosen to do so, the mission would have had to close.

    Most recently, UN missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire made significant contributions to stability in these West African countries, helping to ensure the safety of populations subject to the depredations of devastating civil wars, facilitating free and fair elections, overseeing peaceful transitions of power, disarming former combatants, and creating conditions that allowed hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians to return home. When it determined that their jobs were complete, the Security Council voted to close all three missions and withdraw peacekeeping forces: Sierra Leone in 2005; Côte d’Ivoire in 2017; and Liberia in 2018.

  • The U.S. pays too much

    UN peacekeeping operations are financed through Member State assessments, determined by a complex formula that considers several economic indicators and is also used to determine assessments for the UN regular budget. The five permanent members of the Security Council are assessed at a slightly higher rate than what they would otherwise pay for the regular budget, however, because of their veto power over the establishment of peacekeeping missions. Assessment rates are renegotiated by the UN General Assembly every three years, and the current U.S. rate of 27.89 percent represents a reduction from the 1990s, when it paid nearly 32 percent.

    While the costs are significant, the U.S. itself contributes few uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping operations, currently just several dozen out of a total force of more than 90,000.

  • UN peacekeeping is incapable of change

    False: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has instituted a series of reforms backed by a majority of member states, including the U.S., aimed at greater accountability, transparency and clarity in UN peacekeeping. Learn more about these initiatives here.