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UN peacekeeping

Peacekeeping operations by the United Nations are operations designed to restore or protect the peace in certain areas of conflict. They are initiated by the UN Security Council.

UN peacekeeping initiatives have ranged from small, diplomatic or political delegations to large mobilizations, the most extensive of which was the 500,000-strong 1950-53 defense of South Korea against an attack by North Korea.

In the first few years following the end of the Cold War the number of peacekeeping operations increased dramatically. The proliferation of operations reflected the view that, in the post-Cold War era, the UN could play an important role in defusing regional conflicts. Some of the peacekeeping operations of the early 1990s also saw an expansion of the traditional peacekeeping mandate to include such responsibilities as supervising elections, monitoring human rights, training police, and overseeing civil administration.

From 1995 to mid-1999 there was a sharp decline in the number of UN peacekeepers in the field, from a high of around 70,000 to 12,000. The assumption by NATO of major peacekeeping responsibilities in the former Yugoslavia (and the resultant termination of UNPROFOR's mandate) accounted for much of the decrease. Other factors included the closeout of UN operations in Mozambique in January 1995, Somalia in March 1995, El Salvador in April 1995, and Rwanda in March 1996. With the U.S. and the UN taking a much harder look at proposed peacekeeping operations, the only major new UN mission set up in this period outside the former Yugoslavia was the UNAVEM III operation in Angola.

Beginning in June 1999, new missions in Kosovo and East Timor and expanded missions in Sierra Leone and the Congo dramatically increased both the costs and personnel levels of UN peacekeeping operations. They also added a new level of complexity to peacekeeping efforts, with a greater emphasis on civilian administration in East Timor and Kosovo. From July 1999 to June 2001, overall UN peacekeeping personnel levels increased by 31,000, with even more personnel authorized but not deployed.

US Participation in UN peacekeeping operations

Facing increasing demands on peacekeeping resources, the UN and member nations had to make difficult choices. In 1994 the U. S. Government responded to the challenges posed by the growing number and complexity of UN peacekeeping operations by implementing a policy framework suited to the new environment. The new policy involved six major areas of reform:

  • Improving how the U.S. decides which peace operations to support and whether U.S. troops should take part;
  • Reducing both U.S. and overall costs for UN peace operations;
  • Reaffirming long-standing U.S. policy on command and control of American military forces in UN operations;
  • Reforming UN management of those operations;
  • Improving the manner by which the U.S. funds and manages peace operations; and
  • Improving the standard of consultations between the U.S. executive branch and Congress on peace operations.

As of June 30, 2001, there were 797 U.S. personnel (1 troop, 756 civilian police, and 40 observers) in worldwide UN peace operations, accounting for 1.8% of total UN peacekeepers. As Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States never gives up command authority over U.S. troops. When large numbers of U.S. troops are involved and when the risk of combat is high, operational control of U.S. forces will remain in American hands, or in the hands of a trusted military ally such as a NATO member--though the U.S. Department of State insists that the U.S. must "allow temporary foreign operational control of U.S. troops when it serves U.S. interests."

The lack of United States involvement in UN peacekeeping operations has drawn criticism from other member states. The paltry investment of personnel in UN peacekeeping operations is attributed to "the Mogadishufactor" - a deep reluctance by US administrations to incur casualties in military operations which do not serve US strategic interests.

Source: http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/fs/2001/index.cfm?docid=4842

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