Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, boasted in a tweet about the Trump administration’s sweeping cuts to the UN peacekeeping budget.
The administration is aiming to reduce its contribution from 28.5% to 25% of the total costs of the force.
The claim has prompted a storm of outrage, but just who are the UN’s “Blue Helmets”, and what do they do?
Who they are
- UN peacekeeping forces include soldiers, police officers, and – perhaps more surprisingly – local civilian personnel.
- The forces are multinational: since 1948, 130 nations have provided personnel to them.
- Since 1998 there has been a six-fold increase in the number of peacekeeping forces deployed in missions across the globe. The total number of military personnel currently on deployment in 18 countries stands at 74,000.
- Surprisingly, the brunt of the work is carried by developing nations. In August 2016, the ten highest contributing nations were Ethiopia (8,326), India (7,471), Pakistan (7,161), Bangladesh (6,772), Rwanda (6,146), Nepal (5,131), Senegal (3,617), Burkina Faso (3,036), Ghana (2,972), and Egypt (2,889).
- The UN has being trying to increase the participation of women in peacekeeping missions, with some limited success. In 2014 , out of a total of about 125,000 peacekeepers, women constituted 3% of military personnel and 10% of police personnel in UN Peacekeeping missions. This compares to UN headquarters, where 48% of staff are female.
What they do
- The Blue Helmets can be deployed both to implement and monitor peacekeeping agreements.
- They can undertake a wide spectrum of other activities, such as assistance after a natural disaster, overseeing power-sharing agreements, electorcal oversight, and economic and social development.
- A deployment of the Blue Helmets is currently being used to register and store weapons handed over by FARC members in Colombia..
- Often peacekeeping forces ensure the swift arrival of aid to people in desperate need. Rwandan forces recently facilitiated the provision of support to 25,000 people sheltering from the conflict in South Sudan.
- Peacekeeping forces in some countries have been accused of a range of abuses, including child-sexual abuse, trafficking and prostitution. Most recently in Haiti, the Blue Helmets were accused of sexual abuse and dumping infected sewage into a river, causing a cholera outbreak. A department within the UN is investigates such claims.
- Blue Helmets sometimes have a relatively passive role. In the wake of the Srebrenica massacres in the 1990s, Dutch Blue Helmets were accused of standing by as atrocities were carried out.