International Peacekeepers Day: UN operations have a major impact on communities

Peacekeeping - MINUSTAH

 The Rideau Institute is pleased to join with the World Federalist Movement-Canada in calling for a renewed engagement by Canada in UN Peacekeeping.

On May 29, International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers:

The international community strengthens UN Peacekeeping;
Canada can and should do more to help

(Ottawa) May 29 is International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, a time to recognize the significant contributions that the UN and peacekeeping operations make to the rebuilding of war-torn societies around the world. Despite the bad behaviour of a few, UN peacekeepers are making major contributions to peace in war-torn lands. In their life-and-death missions, they need and deserve all the help they can get.

The UN’s peacekeeping system is bursting at the seams, with over 125,000 military, police and civilian personnel deployed to 16 missions around the world. A number of peace operations face shortages of needed equipment and are staffed at levels below the numbers mandated by the UN Security Council.

However, there are encouraging signs that the international community has recognized the need for improvements, to enable UN peacekeeping to meet current and future challenges.

Some of the challenges the UN High-Level Panel is addressing include:

  • Force generation. How will the UN system meet the increasing demand for peacekeepers?
  • Sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. Despite a “Zero tolerance” policy by the UN, there are persisting problems related to peacekeepers’ abuse of the civilian personnel they are intended to protect. A Code Blue campaign was recently launched by Aids Free World to address the problem.
  • Technology in peacekeeping. A recent report by the Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping noted that “despite the omnipresence of advanced technology and applications in our daily lives, United Nations peacekeeping remains well behind the curve.”
  • Rapid deployment. The UN standby system relies on “renting” personnel from member states, leading to costly delays in getting peacekeepers into the field. World Federalists have proposed a UN Emergency Peace Service, a permanent standing UN capacity that would allow for rapid deployment to missions soon after they are mandated by the Security Council.

Notwithstanding these challenges, there is a considerable body of evidence that UN peace operations are effective in maintaining peace. The demand for UN peacekeeping is expected to grow in the years ahead.

Canada should do more to help.

According to the UN, Canada’s contribution to UN peace operations currently ranks 67th in the world, with only 122 uniformed personnel deployed. This includes 33 military personnel, and 89 police, as of April 2015. WFM – Canada publishes annually a fact sheet on “Canada and UN Peacekeeping.” Canada’s contribution has declined since the mid-nineties, when UN peace operations included over 3,000 Canadian personnel.

“If Canadians returned to UN peacekeeping, it could have a real and lasting impact on peace and security in many of the world’s most dangerous regions,” says Walter Dorn, Professor of Defence Studies at Canadian Forces College. “Post-Afghanistan, there is so much Canadian skill, equipment and know-how that can be put to good use. As the United States puts increased emphasis on peacekeeping and European nations re-engage in field operations, so should Canada once again become an important player.”

Peter Langille, who was the lead author on WFM – Canada’s 2015 submission to the UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, is encouraged by President Obama’s call for a leader’s summit on peacekeeping. “High-level political commitment to peacekeeping is needed to address the growing demands on the system.”

His submission to the UN Panel on behalf of WFM – Canada called for a UN Emergency Peace Service, a permanent standing UN capacity that would allow for rapid deployment to missions soon after they are mandated by the Security Council. “Even if the Europeans, Canada and others strengthen their political commitment to UN peace operations, that will still leave the problem the UN has getting troops into the field in a timely manner. The best solution is to create a UNEPS, a kind of ‘UN 911.’ We wouldn’t want to live in a community without the means to respond quickly to crisis, such as police or a fire department. The time is long overdue to give the UN the capacity to respond rapidly when the Security Council calls for new peace operations.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: see the World Federalist Movement-Canada press release here.

Click HERE to sign the letter to all the federal party leaders calling for a progressive, innovative and effective Defence and Security Policy for the 21st Century, focused firmly on UN-led peace and security initiatives.

For more Rideau Institute articles on UN peacekeeping see “A Canadian defence and security policy for the 21st century” and
“Why UN peacekeeping is indispensable”.

Click here for statement by NDP Defence Critic Jack Harris on the International Day of UN Peacekeepers and here for the statement by the Liberal critic for Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau.

Tags: Blue Helmets, Canada and peacekeeping, Canadian Peacekeepers, Defence and security policy, UN, UN peacekeeping, United Nations