United Nations


Peacekeeping: U.S., U.N., and Regional Players

The vast majority of the budget for United Nations "peacekeeping" efforts, comes from the United States. Other countries only pay 1% of their budget. This was an address given by C. David Welch, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, about United States and other entities' roles in "peacekeeping."

From: Department of State, Senior Department Officials, Speeches/Testimonies
Sent: Sunday, October 22, 2000 3:25 PM
Subject: 001018 DOSSDO Welch Peacekeeping U.S. Dept of State - C. David Welch Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs U.S. Department of State Speech at the Meridian International Center on Peacekeeping The U.S., the U.N. and Regional Players

2000/10/18 Welch Speech at the Meridian House

C. David Welch Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs - U.S. Department of State Speech at the Meridian International Center on Peacekeeping Washington, DC, October 18, 2000

Peacekeeping: The U.S., the U.N. and Regional Players

Ambassador Cutler, thank you for giving me this chance to appear in the company of my distinguished fellow panelists, Ambassador Zimmerman and Dr. Durch, and to speak in this splendid setting.

I thank our hosts, the Meridian International Center and the Smithsonian, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this critical topic, "Peacekeeping: The U.S., the U.N. and Regional Players."

In discussing the UN's role in peacekeeping, I am reminded of a remark made by Britain's UN Ambassador on his retirement some years ago when he observed that . He went on to note that the UN is often messy because the world is messy.

I believe that, in dealing with this "messy" world, in which states fail and in which ethnic tensions provide fertile ground for the most unimaginable savagery, peacekeeping can be one of the most effective foreign policy tools we have -- when it is used correctly.

Tonight, I plan to outline for you where I think peacekeeping has been successful, and why, and look at some of the ways the UN can make peacekeeping work better. I particularly want to focus on the question which looms over this entire discussion -- how will the international community, and especially the United States, pay for peacekeeping in a way that is both sustainable and fairly shares the financial burden.

As we all know, the nature of peacekeeping has changed significantly since the end of the Cold War. The number of wars between states has declined, but internal conflicts within states have multiplied, causing suffering throughout the world. In recent years, especially in Africa, innocent civilians, particularly women and children, have been the victims of such conflicts.

What has been the UN's record in keeping or restoring the peace? We are all familiar with instances where peacekeeping has failed. One only need look at Somalia and Rwanda. But peacekeeping has been effective in other, less heralded cases. I'd like to set the record straight on peacekeeping successes and failures, as I see them.

To judge the success of a peacekeeping mission, we need first to define the criteria for success, or, in other words, what we expect these missions to accomplish. Peacekeeping works when peacekeepers can provide the breathing room for peace agreements to take root. Peacekeepers can enable refugees and internally displaced persons to go home. Peacekeepers disarm combatants and reintegrate them into civil society. Peacekeepers can offer citizens a chance to live without the fear of being caught in a crossfire. Peacekeepers can bring war criminals to justice and assist national leaders to build democratic institutions.

Where has this taken place? In Mozambique, where the UN mission separated and demobilized combatants, monitored a cease-fire, and oversaw a transition to a democracy that remains in place. In Namibia and Tajikistan, where UN civilians, police and military officers worked for democratic change. In Macedonia, where the UN mission gave the Macedonians needed time to establish democratic institutions and, eventually, to join the European community.

Inevitably, there will be setbacks -- cease-fires can be violated and small provocations can lead to sudden and unexpected violence. The subsequent peace process may only continue in fits and starts even if a peace agreement is signed and agreed upon by all parties.

Nonetheless, in the latest "hot spots" -- Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone -- tens of thousands of families are more secure because the UN is there. Without the presence of "blue helmets," these families would have no hope for a better life.

If success means that, as a direct result of the UN's presence, people are not slaughtered, terrorists or tyrants cannot find a haven in failed states, or violence does not destabilize entire regions, then peacekeeping is succeeding in many places.

So how can the UN perform peacekeeping in a way that improves its chances for success? The United States strongly believes that peacekeeping will continue to succeed in the future only if we can reform how the UN plans and manages peacekeeping operations, and only if we can bolster the support for peacekeeping -- both financial and political -- of member states.

Over the last several years, the United States and others have encouraged the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations to take concrete steps to strengthen its capacity to manage missions more effectively. Some steps have already been taken, but much remains to be done.

A blue-ribbon panel appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently outlined steps it felt the UN needs to take in order to improve peacekeeping. The panel's findings, the Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations, is also known as the "Brahimi Report" after the panel's chair, Lakhdar Brahimi, a distinguished Algerian diplomat. One of my co-panelists this evening, Dr. William Durch of the Stimson Center, also served as the Panel's Project Director.

The Brahimi Report calls for a systematic reform of the existing UN peacekeeping system from top to bottom. The Panel's 57 recommendations propose measures aimed at the entire range of peacekeeping, from enhancing the UN's ability to engage more actively in conflict prevention, through improving operational readiness and deployment, to increasing the effectiveness of missions once deployed.

We are particularly focused on improving the capabilities of the UN headquarters' Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The UN's ability to deploy troops and civilian police and staff rapidly and to forge stronger bonds between peacekeeping and peace

building depends on the DPKO. We look forward to reviewing soon U.N. Secretariat proposals to implement the Brahimi Report's recommendations. The United States will work with the Secretariat and UN membership to ensure expeditious implementation of suitable recommendations.

It would be unrealistic, however, for us to expect such improvements will come without additional costs. A central concern we have is to ensure that the Report's commendations will be implemented via specific, cost-effective reform measures.

Beyond the Brahimi Report lies an even more fundamental issue: How do we, the international community, establish an adequate financial foundation for UN peacekeeping now and in the years to come?

The method the UN currently uses to finance peacekeeping operations is simply unsustainable. There are currently 15 peacekeeping missions under way around the world, including five major missions that did not even exist a year ago. These missions generate rapidly expanding costs, which are now paid for through an outdated, ad hoc system that apportions peacekeeping costs among UN members. Financial support for peacekeeping has evolved over the years: from a voluntary commitment in the '50's and '60's, to use of the regular budget, and finally in 1973 to the so-called "scale of assessments," which was devised to fund a single, six-month operation in the Sinai.

The current system concentrates 98 percent of the financial responsibility for peacekeeping among just 30 member states. In 2000, nearly half of the total peacekeeping costs are to be shouldered by the U.S. and Japan alone. 120 other countries collectively pay only 1% of the budget.

In early October, the UN's Fifth Committee, which is responsible for budget matters, began the process of reviewing the scales of assessment for both the peacekeeping budget and the UN's regular budget. To be blunt, the rising gap between resources and demands, absent any success in reforming the scales, will call into question the members' commitment to peacekeeping and the future viability of all UN peacekeeping operations.

All is not lost. There are positive signs, including a widespread recognition that the system is broken. Over 75 member states called for financial reform this year. During the Millennium Summit last month, I personally witnessed a marked shift in attitudes from last year. More and more countries see reform as both necessary and positive.

In other words, for most member states, reform isn't a dirty word, it's the watchword for a more capable organization. And there is widespread consensus among the members in support of three principles that should guide any reform of how the UN pays for peacekeeping.

First, peacekeeping expenses are the collective responsibility of all UN members. The criteria used to place UN member states in various assessment categories under the scale must be neutral, objective and transparent. It must result in a political commitment on the part of a much broader segment of the UN's membership to support peacekeeping as a core UN function.

Second, while all UN members have a responsibility to share the burden of peacekeeping, any revision of the assessments must also take into account the reality of many developing countries, and their limited capacities to contribute. We are committed to a solution that will not lead to increased assessments for those least able to afford them. Indeed, we believe new assessments could be made in an equitable fashion that would leave a large number of member states unaffected.

Third, Permanent Members of the UN Security Council have a special responsibility to support UN peacekeeping.

In this regard, we note that at least a dozen states have expressed interest in joining an expanded Security Council. While no consensus has yet been reached about expanding Council membership, any calculation of a state's potential for effective service on the Council should take into account the way a state addresses its financial responsibility for peacekeeping.

This standard -- that Permanent Members have special responsibilities for financially supporting peacekeeping -- was endorsed as long ago as 1963, when the Permanent 5 were the top five contributing countries. This special responsibility is no longer clearly reflected in the peacekeeping assessments of the present Permanent Members -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Over the past twenty-five years, two of the Permanent Security Council Members -- Russia and China -- have gone from being among the top six peacekeeping budget contributors to a position where eleven other countries pay more than China and ten pay more than Russia does. In 1976, the then-Soviet Union and China together paid 22 percent of the peacekeeping budget. Today, Russia and all the successor states combined will pay under 2 percent of the budget, while China pays slightly more than 1 percent. As developing countries continue to account for a growing share of the world GNP, Russia will continue to slide downward in the roster of contributors if nothing is done to reform the scales.

Meanwhile, our own peacekeeping assessment remains substantial, and could top 31 percent next year -- an all-time high.

Russia and China both pay less for peacekeeping than the United States does because their economies are smaller than the U.S. economy. The United States recognizes that economic circumstances shift and that a member's capacity to contribute should be taken into account. In China's case, it has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and now accounts for approximately 5 percent of world GNP. As we all know, Russia's economic situation has been quite different and, for a time, was quite difficult.

But in the complex calculus behind the current assessment system, Russia and China also pay less because of the low per capita income of their citizens. This factor seems much less justified, given their special status as permanent members of the Security Council. Indeed, this discrepancy -- between the authority shared equally by all Permanent Members and the amount of financial assistance each is asked to contribute -- is no longer defensible or even justifiable. The equal role, status and responsibilities of each of the permanent Security Council members demand that each also pay an equitable share of the premium that permanent Security Council members pay to cover discounts accorded to other UN members, particularly developing countries.

Simply put, we believe Russia and China in particular can and should pay more of the UN's peacekeeping costs. The special responsibility of permanent members of the Security Council was recognized as far back as 1963. We believe that responsibility should be reflected in more than just a token way, as iscurrently the case.

The United States believes a revision to the scale methodology resulting in an adjustment in assessments for China and Russia would renew the special commitment to peacekeeping that the Permanent 5 all accepted in 1963 and more adequately reflect the special privileges they enjoy as permanent members of the Security Council. By broadening the base of major contributors, moreover, the UN would put peacekeeping on a stronger foundation by ensuring that all missions will have the necessary financial and political support.

There is a certain irony at work here. In the early '60's and again in the '70's, several members of the Permanent 5 objected to paying for peacekeeping costs because they objected to specific peacekeeping missions or believed the Security Council should have responsibility over all peacekeeping missions. Now that the Security Council exercises such authority, these members remain reluctant to pay for the costs of peacekeeping.

We are eager to work with Russia and China to develop ways in which the premium permanent Security Council members pay to cover discounts accorded to other UN members, particularly developing countries, can be rationally apportioned. We are not wedded to any particular approach to this question and are willing to listen to any suggestion the other Council Permanent Members may have to resolve this thorny issue.

I must point out that a sustainable financial basis for peacekeeping is what is at stake, without which we cannot win the argument for peacekeeping at home.

Finally, to those who call for greater U.S. participation and payment for peacekeeping, I would remind them that the United States is and always has been the largest contributor to the UN system, with total expected contributions this year of around $3 billion.

The United States looks forward to concluding our discussions with UN members by December -- just over two months from now. By then, we need agreement on an improved financial structure for peacekeeping. If we succeed, the UN will reap an immediate benefit: we will be able to release nearly $600 million towards our peacekeeping arrears. With a reformed financial structure in place, we can all turn to the challenge of making peacekeeping more effective. This is an opportunity that neither we nor the UN can afford to miss. The time to act is now.