Last week, the United Nations commemorated its annual “International Day of U.N. Peacekeeping”. What exactly is there to commemorate when the troops sent to quell violence commit acts of sex abuse against the children they were supposed to protect and engage in illegal arms trafficking that exacerbates the violence they were supposed to prevent?
At the U.N., success is not measured by concrete results. It is measured by an ever-increasing budget, which in the case of peacekeeping has reached $5.4 billion in each of the biennial budget cycles, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. If that were not enough, the current U.N. peacekeeping budget is expected to rise to as high as $7 billion later this year.
The following graph shows the dramatic growth of this budget in the last decade, a product in part of an expanding number of missions primarily serving in Africa including Western Sahara, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Sudan:
The peacekeeping budget is financed through assessments of all UN member states.
American taxpayers have been assessed 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget and 27 percent of the funding for the U.N.’s separate peacekeeping budget - greater than the combined assessments of many other of the member states with the exception of Japan. Congress, however, capped our contribution to the peacekeeping budget at 25 percent (which would still come to over $1.7 billion, based on a $7 billion budget). This is higher than our percentage share of the world economy and an astounding amount for just one nation – no matter how strong – that has only one vote out of 192 in the General Assembly and shares the veto power in the Security Council with four other countries that pay much less than we do.
Yet, with the Democrats now in charge, Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is moving to have the U.N. peacekeeping funding cap removed this year. If he gets his way, we will owe the U.N. at least another $1 billion by the end of 2007 for past “arrears” that resulted from applying the spending cap over prior years. Of course, this does not take into account the hundreds of billions of dollars the United States is also paying to fight the Islamic terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world and to maintain a military shield for the free world.
A fundamental problem with the U.N.’s peacekeeping missions lies with those permanent members of the Security Council who have shown reluctance to achieve or enforce Security Council resolutions that set up the peacekeeping operations in the first place. Moreover, the countries that would have the most credibility to help move the warring parties toward a peaceful solution are either indifferent or exploit the violence for their own political ends. The result was the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping forces to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide. There was the failure to intervene in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, despite the fact that the U.N. designated Srebrenica a "safe haven" for refugees and assigned 600 Dutch peacekeepers to protect it. There was the failure to implement the provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701 calling for disarmament of Hezbollah. The U.N.’s few successes are dwarfed by such tragic failures.
And now China and Russia (supported by Arab member states) have blocked any strong U.N. action to end the ethnic-based genocide in Darfur. More than 200,000 black African Muslims of Darfur have died at the hands of an Arab militia known as Janjaweed that is backed by the government of Sudan. More than a million Muslim Africans are now in refugee camps in Western Sudan and the neighboring country of Chad. It is a Muslim against Muslim fight - Arabs who dominate the Sudanese power structure against native black Africans who are being systematically eliminated or removed from their ancient lands. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution in August 2006 to replace the small African Union force trying futilely to keep the peace in Sudan with more than 20,000 U.N. troops, but Sudan's President al-Bashir has continued to oppose the move. The killing goes on. So we have the humiliating spectacle of U.N. Secretary -General Ban Ki-moon continuing to plead with al-Bashir to allow the larger joint U.N. African Union force to enter the country. Meanwhile, the United States – which has steadfastly condemned the genocide in Darfur, has been nearly alone in calling for meaningful sanctions and is slated to contribute nearly a half a billion dollars to the U.N.’s peacekeeping budget in Sudan alone this fiscal year– is blamed for not doing enough.
We need to re-think our whole relationship with the U.N.’s peacekeeping apparatus. Why should we be expected to pay billions of dollars more than any other member state when those other states continue to use their collective power in the U.N. to obstruct any meaningful measures to enforce the peace, even including economic sanctions? Darfur is a horrible tragedy that the United States cannot turn its back on, but the leadership to end the genocide must come from a united Africa – led by Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt which have the troops to back up an ultimatum to the Sudanese government. They must tell al-Bashir and his outside supporters to accept the deployment of the joint African Union-U.N. force with no-fly zones to stop the government’s aerial bombardments or face the prospect of a full-scale attack, akin to what Ethiopia undertook in Somalia, to overthrow his rogue regime. China is reportedly trying to put diplomatic pressure on the Sudanese government behind the scenes, but must use its considerable economic clout in Sudan even if it means a short term constriction in the oil it receives from the Sudanese government. The countries that are the first to decry any remnants of Western imperialism should not wait for the United States to solve this problem.
The mess in Sudan also underscores the futility of the ambitious development aid programs in Africa, which the United Nations continues to promote under the banner of its Millennium Development Goals, until the lands are rendered safe and well-governed enough to put the aid to good use. Poverty did not cause the genocide in Sudan, anymore than the Holocaust was caused by problems in the German economy. Sheer hatred by the Arab population against Sudan’s black Africans bred unspeakable evil that no foreign aid program could prevent, no matter how noble the intentions. In addition to the direct casualties of war, the violence has broken up the social networks necessary to feed, clothe, shelter and provide health care to the people – right down to the family unit itself. And building more hospitals will do no good, for example, if their staffs and patients are forced to flee from the violence surrounding them and the vital hospital supplies are looted. True human development needs the nutrients of sustainable freedoms to grow and prosper, no matter how much financial help from the developed countries is forthcoming to help eradicate poverty and disease in the poorer regions of the world. The United States has contributed more than $1.5 billion dollars in humanitarian aid to Sudan, in addition to its contribution to the U.N.’s peacekeeping budget. Yet nothing has changed.
Unless all other U.N. member states are willing to face evil squarely and shoulder their fair share of the burden to eradicate it, we must consider multilateral alternatives to U.N. peacekeeping and U.N. sponsored development aid programs. A strict budget cap on our contributions to both U.N. programs should remain in place until the real problems are honestly addressed.
Global Policy Forum, data Compiled by Michael Renner (Senior Researcher Worldwatch Institute) http://www.globalpolicy.org/finance/tables/pko/currentreal.htm