RI Blog: In Peacekeeping, size does matter
One of the things that we look at regularly on the peacekeeping team is how peacekeeping missions evolve over time. Some of the missions standing today have been in operation for far longer than you might imagine. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) operates from its headquarters in Jerusalem and has been in operation since 1948. Yep, 1948. It is the original peacekeeping operation and it is still going strong 63 years after it was first mandated.
Of course, most Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) don't last this long. At RI we watch the missions in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo most closely. The Sudan mission (UNMIS, one of two in Sudan along with the UN/AU joint mission in Darfur) has been in place since March 2005; it's a relative youngster. The mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) has been around since July 2010, but it is the successor to MONUC, which operated beginning in October 1999.
Last Tuesday, the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping (PEP) held its monthly forum here in Washington (the Refugees International peacekeeping team serves as the secretariat for the PEP). We invited three experts to come and talk about mission evolution. Madeline England is a research analyst at the Stimson Center's Future of Peace Operations and has just finished a year-long study of the training of police in Kosovo under UN and EU peacekeepers. Andrew Sinclair is a program officer with theGlobal Peace Operations Program at the NY-based Center on International Cooperation. And, Erin Weir is RI's resident expert on UN peacekeeping and the protection of civilians.
Andrew provided copies of the CIC's Annual Review of Peace Operations and gave us a strategic view of trends across the 15 UN PKOs and the numerous non-UN operations. Maddy explained the nuts and bolts of her research findings (it's hard to boil a year's work down to 15 minutes). And Erin spoke to us about the evolution of MONUC into MONUSCO and her thoughts about how UNMIS might evolve once Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement ends and the Republic of South Sudan becomes the world's newest nation.
One of the most interesting points in the discussion was the question of scale between Kosovo and DRC or Sudan. I served in Kosovo during the insurgency and in the immediate aftermath of the bombing campaign. It's a very small place – about three quarters the size of Connecticut and you can drive across it in a couple hours. In contrast, the DRC is the size of the United States east of the Mississippi. I served there, too, and can still remember flying from Kinshasa to Goma; spending hours and hours looking down at relentless green equatorial forest.
This question of scale is important. After the 1999 NATO war against Serbia that drove Milosevic's troops out and ended his campaign against the Kosovars, NATO pushed 50,000 peacekeepers into the province (now nation). These were very highly trained and well equipped NATO troops drawn from the U.S., German, France, Sweden and the rest of NATO. Even with all that help, eleven years later, Kosovo's police are still struggling to become fully operational.
Since its inception in 1999, MONUC/MONUSCO has never had more than about 20,000 peacekeepers. The majority of these soldiers and police come from nations whose militaries aren't blessed with NATO-sized budgets. The United States contributes a significant amount of funding to UN peacekeeping, of course, and has been supportive of MONUC/MONUSCO as well, but there are precisely two U.S. military officers serving on that force. Further, at one point MONUC had 41 separate tasks delineated in its mandate including things like running elections.
Congolese President Kabila is likely to rescind his nation's invitation to MONUSCO in the next year or two and the loss of 20,000 peacekeepers in the east will be potentially devastating to the civilian population. The Government of the DRC is responsible for the protection of civilians but lacks the security sector infrastructure to successfully protect its citizens.
I think it is important that we consider issues of scale when we evaluate effectiveness and make decisions about mandates and funding in peacekeeping. The fragility of life in the eastern Congo is a direct result of the ability or inability of the government and the peacekeepers to protect citizens. Shrinking the budget, reducing the number of peacekeepers, and continuing to over-task the soldiers and police on these missions reduces security for the civilian population. RI and the PEP will continue our work to inform the debate and to help governments make good decisions