Pioneered as far back in 1948 with the modest objective of monitoring Armistice Agreement that ended the first Arab-Israeli war, UN Peacekeeping Operations have been in vogue for more than six decades. These operations originally meant for preventing violation of peace agreements and thus confined to inter-State conflicts have over the years been turned into multidimensional enterprises. Assuming greater and broader roles UN Peacekeeping missions have been mandated in recent years to deal with intra-State conflicts, which make them more challenging.
For Nepal it is indeed a great honor to recall the proud history of her association with UN Peacekeeping as she is one the very contributors to UN operations which has had the privilege of participating even in the premier mission known as UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). UNTSO was deployed in 1948 with military observers some of whom were Nepal Army officers. This is perhaps the only UN mission that has existed since its deployment 63 years ago and there are a few observers from Nepal Army still serving with this organization, which is based in Jerusalem, Israel. Little wonder that Major General (Red.) K.N.S.Thapa was the first Nepali senior army officer whom the UN rewarded with the post of Force Commander to command UNTSO in early 1990s.
Long and persistent involvement of Nepal in various UN Peacekeeping missions has earned international prestige. Furthermore, continued participation by Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police has furthered our interests in not only enhancing professionalism of our security personnel but also by providing revenues to the government in the form of payment due to contingent-owned equipment. The notion of contingent-owned equipment is prevalent in UN Peacekeeping for decades, the aim of which is to lessen the burden of logistics on the part of the UN. All UN Peacekeeping missions are authorized by the decisions of the Security Council spelling out the mandate to be discharged by the peacekeepers and the related expenses are to be borne by the membership. The UN members are assessed on agreed criteria and resultantly they make annual contributions to the peacekeeping fund.
Whenever large missions are authorized with broader mandates i. e. facilitating political process, protecting civilians, assisting in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and supporting organization of election, among others, huge resources are required. The comprehensiveness of mandates also adds complexity to the challenge of lack of adequate resources in missions like UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and UN African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) etc. The dilemma is visible when UN missions are urgently required to be deployed to save civilian lives resource constraints coupled with disagreement over mandates hinder the proper functioning of the operations. On account of this mismatch between tasks and means no other example is more shocking to learn about UN failures than UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) and UN Protection Force in Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR). The 1994 genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica killing in Bosnia could have been avoided had the UN missions there been given adequate mandate and resources through prompt decisions by the UN Security Council.
It may be unfair to highlight the above two cases only as shortcomings on UN’s part though the international organization has many success stories to its credit in the peacekeeping field. Mozambique, Cambodia are some of the few instances where UN peacekeeping has performed remarkably better. Even in our own country the role of the UNMIN is credited with limited success although the peace process has not been completed all the efforts of UN nevertheless. Here one must admit that UN is nothing but what its members want it to be. Sometimes we tend to forget this reality and start criticizing the world body rather unfairly. This tendency was demonstrated at the UN by Nepal a number of times in the recent past when the government was under pressure to persuade the world body to extend the mandate of UNMIN. There is a widespread feeling that the UN could have achieved more in Nepal had it been provided necessary mandate and cooperation from all the political parties.
Therefore, a gap seems to exist between resources and expectations. The demands are reflected in mission mandates. The bridging of this gap is crucial to succeed in any UN peacekeeping mission. The unrealistic demands made by the UN Security Council without arranging necessary resources inhibit successful operations. In a very recent expert briefing provided by Micah Zenko and Rebacca R. Friedman for the Council on Foreign Relations it has been vividly illustrated. They have given the example of the unwillingness of the U.S. Congress to provide in full America’s assessed contributions to UN Peacekeeping fund citing budgetary requirements.
Both these experts are raising the alarms not surprisingly by saying that if the Congress decides to reduce their dues to UN by 10 % as proposed in House Appropriations Sub-Committee, it will have cut the budget by $ 226.5 million. From the standpoint of a country that bears 27% of UN Peacekeeping budget such reduction will have huge repercussions on forthcoming UN missions.
As opined by Zenko and Friedman if the reluctance on the part of U.S. Congress is due to the lack of satisfactory results of UN Peacekeeping Operations, then there should not be any delay in instituting comprehensive reforms in UN. It is widely believed that the UN succumbs to wishful endeavors without looking seriously at the field capacity. The UN is also criticized for its capability gaps saying that it is unable to provide high-quality troop, police and civilian experts. This has reflections on the role of the troop and police contributing countries, among whom Nepal now ranks sixth as per the UN statistics of January, 2011.
Nepal being one of the oldest contributors to UN Peacekeeping Operations, whose 4,430 peacekeepers are currently deployed, needs to make a thorough review of her involvement in such missions where it has faced some humiliation as well. The painful incident of a Nepal army officer sent back disgracefully while on duty in one of the UN missions and growing criticism attributed to Nepal Police in respect of their equipment deployed in UNAMID should be utilized as opportunities to strengthen Nepal’s participation in UN Peacekeeping.