By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington -– U.N. peacekeeping operations serve as crucial tools in addressing a wide array of threats to international peace and security, especially where direct military involvement by the United States is not necessary or appropriate, says a senior U.S. diplomat.
The Bush "administration considers United Nations peacekeeping to be in the direct national security interest of the United States. It deserves and it receives both our political and financial support," says Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Kristen Silverberg.
In the current fiscal year (FY 2008) which ends on September 30, Congress has appropriated $1.69 billion for international peacekeeping, Silverberg testified April 2 at a congressional oversight hearing. President Bush has asked Congress for $1.49 billion in fiscal year 2009, which begins October 1.
The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight conducted a hearing into the role of the United States in supporting and funding U.N. peacekeeping operations.
"The international community has been giving the United Nations more and more assignments – particularly in the area of peacekeeping. But these assignments rarely get the necessary level of funding," said Subcommittee Chairman Bill Delahunt.
Delahunt said he was interested in discussing the role the United States is playing in the U.N. missions and in understanding funding levels. He noted that under the U.N. formula for assessing dues for peacekeeping, the United States pays 26 percent of all peacekeeping costs, while in comparison China pays about 3 percent and Russia just 1 percent.
"These levels should be adjusted to reflect today's global economic realities," Delahunt said.
Silverberg noted that, over the past 20 years, U.N. peacekeeping missions have been characterized by great fluctuations in size and cost. "As a result, specific figures for each peacekeeping operation are notional estimates that are likely to be adjusted throughout the budget process, and throughout the year," she said.
And as a consequence, Silverberg said that what is appropriated often has been increased later with supplemental funding. In FY 2006 the United States paid just over $1.02 billion in assessments to the United Nations for peacekeeping operations, and was assessed for $1.465 billion in FY 2007, she said.
However, the FY 07 funding includes supplemental funds added during the course of the year for additional operations in Timor and expanded operations in Lebanon and in Sudan.
In fiscal year 2008 (FY 2008), the $1.69 billion appropriated by Congress through the State Department budget includes $550.4 million in regular and emergency funds intended for use to support the U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur. "Just over $1 billion of this amount has already been transferred to the U.N. to meet outstanding obligations for 15 peacekeeping operations," she said.
The tasks given to U.N. peacekeepers can be varied, ranging from the separation of opposing forces on Cyprus or the Golan Heights to complex civilian protection and stabilization missions in countries such as Sudan , Cote d'Ivoire , the Democratic Republic of the Congo , Haiti and Liberia , Silverberg said.
"And U.N. peacekeeping is in most cases a comparatively effective, efficient, and successful means of addressing security and stabilization challenges," she said.
Silverberg noted that the United States also has spent more than $800 million over the past five years through other appropriations that contribute directly or indirectly to multilateral peacekeeping missions such as the U.S.-sponsored Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative and the related African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance program. These programs help to train and equip peacekeeping forces from other countries to participate in United Nations and other international peacekeeping operations, Silverberg said.
(USINFO is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov) NNNN
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04 April 2008
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.