The 193 member countries of the UN have reached an agreement in extremis about the budget to finance the organization’s peacekeeping missions for the next year. The failure of the negotiations, this Monday, managed to be redirected a day later until reaching a consensus that will allow closing a budget of 6,500 million dollars (about 5,460 million euros), thus avoiding the suspension of the dozen interposition operations and peacekeeping deployed around the world. The agreement, which will be ratified this Wednesday in the plenary of the General Assembly, will guarantee the presence and continuity of 90,000 peacekeepers in tasks of protection of the civilian population, observance of ceasefire agreements and interposition between the parties in conflict zones , as well as mediation and support in post-conflict political processes.
The alarms sounded on Monday, when, due to last-minute demands from China and some African countries, according to diplomatic sources with access to the negotiations, the debate within the General Assembly ended without an agreement, just 48 hours before it expired. the deadline for adopting the budget (a budget that, recalls the UN itself, barely constitutes 0.5% of global defense spending). In fact, teams on the ground had already been advised of the advisability of initiating contingency plans in case an agreement was not reached.
“Our chronic inability to meet deadlines puts the peacekeeping architecture at unprecedented risk,” Thibault Camelli, the European Union representative to the UN, complained today. “Looking ahead and for future negotiations, we owe it to the men and women on the ground, to all those charged with implementing the peacekeeping mandate, to finish our work in a timely manner,” he added.
In its 72 years of history, UN peacekeeping missions have mobilized more than a million military and police officers belonging to 125 countries. It is the member states that provide the personnel, which are deployed under the United Nations flag. According to the website of the UN peacekeepers, the action of the peacekeepers saves lives on a daily basis. Operations that are increasingly flexible and sensitive to diversity, thanks to the interaction of civilian and military personnel with the local population, facilitate political processes and above all the protection of civilians. Even in deep-seated conflicts such as that of Cyprus, one of the oldest peacekeeping missions (established in 1964) and still in force, although with a reduced operation (a thousand people, between civilians and military, according to the April census) to ensure the observance of the ceasefire and the maintenance of the buffer zone (buffer zone, in English) between the two opposing communities, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, on the island, divided since 1974.
The viability of some other missions is doubtful. An example is that of Western Sahara (Minurso), established in 1991, given the abandonment by one of the parts of its primary objective: to organize the referendum in the former Spanish colony. Currently 461 people participate in the Minurso, of which 245 are uniformed personnel. Even smaller than that of the Sahara is Unmik, established in Kosovo in 1999 as the interim administration of the former Yugoslav autonomous province. It has a staff of 342 people, of which only 18 are uniformed personnel (ten UN police officers and eight military observers).
The largest UN missions – with more than 10,000 members – are located in Africa, mainly in South Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. That of Mali, in particular, which has become the most dangerous of all, has been unanimously extended this Tuesday by the Security Council, the body on which these deployments depend. The United States, which under President Joe Biden has fully returned to the UN fold after Trump’s four years of unilateralism, is the main contributor to peacekeeping missions, with 28% of the budget. They are followed by China (15.2%) and Japan (8.5%).
Other operations related to the peacekeepers, such as UNAMID, the UN hybrid mission and the African Union in Darfur, are closed after having achieved, on paper, the objectives that were set. Unamid announced on Tuesday the “completion of the gradual withdrawal process” of Sudan, which will be completed this Wednesday, as stipulated, after 13 years of mandate in that conflictive region of the African country. Of the 7,000 troops deployed, 6,000 had already withdrawn by Tuesday.
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