US envoy eyes cuts to 'obsolete' UN peacekeeping

US envoy eyes cuts to 'obsolete' UN peacekeeping
The UN's flagship peacekeeping enterprise could soon downsize after the new US envoy vowed to make cuts to "obsolete" activities, potentially undoing a huge amount of progress towards peace deals.
3 min read
05 February, 2017
Cuts to peacekeeping would likely be a "death sentence for thousands of people" [Getty]
Washington's new UN envoy is expected to "do away" with "obsolete" activities, including the body's flagship global 'UN peacekeeping' that has maintained stability in conflict-ridden nations across the world.

Nikki Haley took up her post with a vow to overhaul the United Nations amid fresh clamour in Washington over US funding for the world body.

During one-on-one meetings with Security Council ambassadors this week, the new US envoy raised peacekeeping as a priority for cuts, zeroing in on the UN's flagship enterprise, according to three diplomats with knowledge of the discussions.

"On UN reform, I think there is a particular interest in peacekeeping," said a Security Council diplomat.

Haley is setting up a mission-by-mission review of all 16 peace operations and is "relatively skeptical" of the value and efficiency of many of the blue-helmet deployments, said the diplomat, who spoke on background.

Peacekeeping reform was "a priority" for the new US ambassador "who wants to work closely with key partners on the issue in the coming weeks," a senior Security Council diplomat told AFP.

While the United States has few soldiers serving as peacekeepers, it is by far the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, providing nearly 29 percent of the $7.9 billion budget for this year.

During hearings at the US Senate last month, Haley made clear she was seeking to bring the US share of funding for peacekeeping to below 25 percent and said other countries should step in to shoulder the burden.

"We have to start encouraging other countries to have skin in the game," she said.

Costly and ineffective

At the Senate hearing, Haley questioned the decision to send peacekeepers to South Sudan, citing opposition from President Salva Kiir's government, even though some 200,000 civilians are sheltering in UN bases.

There should be clear exit strategies, she argued, and new missions should be authorised only if there is a "secure base to start with".

"Our goal should be to go in, keep the peace, get it settled and get out," she said.

The peacekeeping review could have serious implications for stability in Africa. Nine of the UN's 16 peacekeeping missions are deployed on the continent.

The biggest and most costly mission is the 22,000-strong MONUSCO force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been deployed for 18 years and has an annual budget of $1.2 billion that some say could be downsized.

The joint UN-African Union mission in Sudan's Darfur region (UNAMID) is singled out as a costly and ineffective operation because it has been repeatedly blocked by the Sudanese government.

But analyst Aditi Gorur said funding cuts to UN missions in South Sudan, DR Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali "would likely be a death sentence for thousands of people, and would undo a huge amount of progress toward peace deals".

"The bottom line is that UN peacekeeping is a bargain for the US government," said Gorur, director of the Protecting Civilians in Conflict Program at the Washington-based Stimson Center.

"It advances the national interest by promoting peace and stability at a fraction of the cost of what the US would have to spend on its own."