Keeping A Piece of Peacekeeping

The United States Doubles Down at the United Nations

Helmets belonging to soldiers of the Nigerian army are seen as part of preparations for deployment to Mali, at the Nigerian Army peacekeeping centre in Jaji, near Kaduna January 17, 2013.  Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters

On September 28, President Barack Obama convened a summit of more than 50 world leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The gathering followed a similar effort by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last summer. Both meetings were intended to boost contributions to UN peace operations in the face of record-level demand for peacekeeping, particularly in Africa, where several missions are struggling to achieve their mandated tasks. Obama’s summit exceeded expectations, generating over 170 pledges of new personnel, assets, and support capabilities. In total, approximately 40,000 uniformed personnel (troops and police), 40 helicopters, 10 field hospitals, and 15 engineering units were pledged along with individual state promises to aid in capacity-building efforts. China made by far the largest single pledge of troops, police, and helicopters.

The summit also saw the release of United States Support to United Nations Peace Operations, a new presidential policy that calls for the United States to aid in partner-building efforts, expand direct contributions to UN peacekeeping efforts, push for systemic reforms in the face of increasing scrutiny of UN efforts in the Central African Republic and elsewhere, and commit new staff officers, logistics support, troop training, and to oversee civil–military command exercises. As well as codifying the importance this administration attaches to UN peace operations, the new policy calls on Washington to support new initiatives, as well as requiring the Departments of Defense and State to reform their respective personnel systems to credit and professionally reward personnel who are deployed to UN missions. The United States has also pledged to double the number of U.S. staff officers in UN missions, and has signed an agreement that makes U.S. logistical material and services available to UN peacekeepers.

Obama’s policy is long overdue; it is the first of its kind in 21 years, the last being written in the wake of the “Black Hawk down” episode in Somalia in October 1993. The document represents a sensible and important step towards making UN peace operations more effective—

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