What Effect Will Cuts to UN Peacekeeping Have?

    16 December, 2017

    One of the foreign policy goals of United States President Donald Trump's administration has been to reform United Nations peacekeeping.

    The administration says that the U.N. peacekeeping missions should cut costs and that the U.S. should pay less for them.

    Earlier this year, the U.N. announced it would cut its budget by $600 million. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., supported the announcement. She said, "We're just getting started."

    Vice President Mike Pence has been critical of the U.N.'s peacekeeping missions. In September, he told the U.N. Security Council that peacekeeping missions should be more efficient and need to do a better job.

    This Feb. 22, 2017 photo shows a U.N. peacekeeper's blue helmet balanced on a weapon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
    This Feb. 22, 2017 photo shows a U.N. peacekeeper's blue helmet balanced on a weapon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

    Paul Williams is a professor at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. He said that it is a good idea to find ways to cut costs. However, he noted, blanket cuts can make it more difficult to keep soldiers safe.

    Fifteen U.N. peacekeeping missions are ongoing around the world, including eight in Africa. The United States provides 28 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget. That is the most of any country. China is second, providing 10 percent of the budget.

    Williams says the United States has a legal obligation to pay 28 percent of the peacekeeping budget. The U.S. has pushed to reduce the total budget in order to decrease the amount it has to pay.

    The peacekeeping budget is now $7.3 billion.

    To reduce costs, the U.N. must either close missions or reduce operations. Carrying out missions with a smaller budget could mean cutting personnel or logistical support.

    Both choices concern Williams. He said U.N. peacekeepers already operate with few resources.

    In early December, an attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed 14 Tanzanian peacekeepers and five Congolese soldiers. The attack showed the risks faced by U.N. peacekeeping missions.

    The mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo will likely face more difficulties. That is because the country's president, Joseph Kabila, has refused to step down, even though he has reached his two-term limit.

    Aditi Gorur is director of the Protecting Civilians in Conflict Program at The Stimson Center, a research group in Washington DC.

    Gorur notes that some U.N. missions have already had large reductions.

    "A big part of the motivation for those cuts was pressure from the U.S. government," she said.

    Gorur worries that reductions are not well planned and "the cuts come first and then the strategy comes later."

    She notes that rising levels of "local intercommunal violence" will likely continue in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Williams said that, while some things can be done better with the same budget, cuts can place added pressure on peacekeepers.

    I'm John Russell.

    Salem Solomon reported on this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    efficient – adj. capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy

    blanket – adj. affecting or applying to everyone or everything

    obligation – n. something that you must do because of a law, rule, promise, etc.

    logistical – adj. the things that must be done to plan and organize a complicated activity or event that involves many people

    motivation – n. a force or influence that causes someone to do something

    strategy – n. a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time

    intercommunal – adj. existing or occurring between communities