UN peacekeeping missions face shortfalls

The United Nations continues to set new records for the size and complexity of UN peacekeeping operations. But the missions are facing critical shortfalls in key equipment such as helicopters, the UN reports (“UN peacekeeping missions face shortfall of over a third in vital military helicopters,” UN News Service, 22 February 2001):

“It remains the case that too many of our missions struggle without critical assets necessary to properly fulfil their mandates, assets that only Member States can provide,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy told the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping at the start of its annual debate on the operations.

“Military helicopter units, in particular, are an absolute force requirement for operations conducted in vast and remote locations, as many of our missions do,” he said, predicting a shortfall of 56 out a required 137 by April, with UN missions in Sudan, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) among those most affected.

For the past year the UN Secretariat has been distributing lists covering military, police, rule of law, and other capability gaps in current missions so as to identify systematically critical requirements and support Member States in both their immediate and longer-term planning.

Meanwhile, a number of delegates at the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations have expressed concern about the continuing failure of the developed countries to contribute their share of peacekeeping troops (General Assembly document GA/PK/207, 23 February 2011):

The United Nations must urgently address the challenges of modern peacekeeping, including a severe imbalance in the “division of labour” between troop and financial contributors, and resource shortfalls that left peacekeepers vulnerable to attacks, delegates said today as the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations concluded its general debate.

Despite those challenges, however, many delegations emphasized their strong support for United Nations peacekeeping operations and offered suggestions for their improvement. “Peacekeeping has continued to deliver, despite imperfections induced by ambitious mandates, resource overstretch, challenges to integration and coherence, and the distances between the field and Headquarters,” India’s representative said.

He added that, in addressing the pertinent issue of personnel overstretch, it was necessary to widen the base of troop-contributing countries. Developed countries, and the permanent members of the Security Council in particular, should “lead by example”, making their troops available for peacekeeping missions under United Nations command and control.

Qatar’s representative agreed, pointing out that about 87 per cent of peacekeeping troops came from developing countries, and warning that relying exclusively on them might reduce the chances of a mission’s success, due to their lack of experience compared with that of military forces from developed countries.

Other delegations, also expressed the view that, in light of that imbalance, the United Nations Secretariat should work harder to ensure the proper representation of troop- and police-contributing countries within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support.

As of January 31st, 98,837 military and police personnel were participating in UN missions. Canada’s contribution was 224 personnel (161 police and 63 soldiers), representing 1.1% of UN police and 0.07% of UN military personnel.

UN photo/Marie Frechon

Tags: Canada, Defence policy, UN peacekeeping