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Research Report

Broadening the Base of United Nations Troop- and Police-Contributing Countries

Alex J. Bellamy
Paul D. Williams
Copyright Date: Aug. 1, 2012
Pages: 22

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[i])
  2. (pp. [ii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-1)
  4. (pp. 1-2)

    Once again, United Nations peacekeeping stands at a political crossroads. Recent years have been characterized as a period of “strategic uncertainty” but also one in which UN peacekeeping has entered a phase of consolidation after the surge it experienced during the mid-2000s.¹ The rising demand for peacekeepers during the twenty-first century saw the UN operate at a historically unprecedented tempo, with increases in the number and size of missions as well as the scope and complexity of their mandates. The need to deploy and sustain some 120,000 UN peacekeepers and the complex demands placed upon them in the field are...

  5. (pp. 2-3)

    The available pool of UN peacekeepers is heavily influenced by two factors. First, there is a relatively fixed stock of global military resources suitable for UN peacekeeping. Moreover, this stock is significantly smaller than often surmised with one estimate suggesting that the ceiling might be around 210,000 troops.⁹ Key limiting factors include the presence of large numbers of conscripts in many armies, rotation demands, training and expertise requirements, and the suitability of forces for peacekeeping.

    Second, states have choices about where to send their troops. They can choose to send personnel to:

    UN-led missions—authorized by the UN and under...

  6. (pp. 3-6)

    The existing literature on why states contribute to UN peacekeeping operations has generated a variety of generalized explanations.12 These can be divided into five clusters of rationales related to political, economic, security, institutional, and normative concerns. When thinking about why states contribute, it is also useful to distinguish between the general predispositions of states toward the UN and peacekeeping and the specific decisions taken by their governments with respect to particular missions. Many factors influence how far individual states are positively or negatively predisposed to provide peacekeepers for UN operations, but a positive disposition toward the UN or peacekeeping in...

  7. (pp. 6-8)

    The combination of predispositions and specific policy decisions can also help explain why states choose not to provide UN peacekeepers or make only token contributions to missions. Although all particular policies are context specific, several inhibiting factors are evident across multiple cases.

    States might decide other foreign or security policy concerns are more pressing than UN peacekeeping. This usually includes national security concerns that place demands on relevant resources (e.g., fear of a direct security threat, regional insecurity, internal instability or secessionism, etc.). Some states focus their activities on certain parts of the world and may contribute to peacekeeping missions...

  8. (pp. 8-9)

    There is significant variation in the way that TCC/PCCs make decisions about whether and how to contribute to UN peacekeeping. From the case studies presented in the Providing Peacekeepers volume, it seems that only a minority of TCC/PCCs have formal procedures for handling these decisions, and in several cases where formal procedures exist, they are seldom actually used. Key points of similarity and difference include the following:

    In almost every case, decisions to contribute are taken by the head of government or president. Sometimes, this decision is made on the basis of advice after the request has been considered by...

  9. (pp. 9-10)

    When asked to contribute to a UN peacekeeping operation, potential troop- or police-contributing countries have at least four options: (1) contribute forces as requested; (2) make a specialized contribution; (3) make a token contribution; or (4) decline the request.

    Token contributions can be defined as contributions of fewer than forty uniformed personnel to a mission, where these personnel do not make up a specialized unit.34 Such personnel are not normally deployed as specialized units but when they are, these contributions are not best described as “token” because they add significant value to a mission’s capabilities. Specialized contributions, on the other...

  10. (pp. 10-11)

    We noted earlier that the UN has been less successful than some other organizations in securing specialized contributions from its members. This is partly because the states belonging to the Western European and Others Group hold the preponderance of specialized capabilities and prefer to operate outside UN command and control.

    Some WEOG countries view their militaries in rather exceptionalist terms as too highly trained and equipped to be used as rank-and-file peacekeepers in UN missions. In combination with the inhibiting factors outlined above, it seems unlikely that WEOG states will contribute large numbers of infantry to UN peacekeeping. (Although the...

  11. (pp. 11-13)

    In addition to thinking creatively about the acquisition and management of specialized contributions, “expanding the pool” also means increasing the number of countries prepared to join the group of major TCC/PCCs and the number of small contributors prepared to contribute hundreds rather than dozens of peacekeepers, ideally in fully formed battalions or police units.

    There are multiple possible strategies for identifying prospective TCC/PCCs to fill such roles. One is to identify states that are already “committed contributors” to UN peacekeeping but that could contribute more. Donald Daniel has identified a list of thirtyseven states that were “committed contributors” to UN...

  12. (pp. 13-14)

    Expanding the pool of capabilities for peacekeeping will require overcoming significant challenges beyond identifying states that might make enhanced contributions. The following are some of the key contemporary challenges.

    crisis has increased the likelihood that many TCC/PCCs outside of Asia will reduce their defense budgets and cut personnel numbers. While this may bring other benefits, it reduces the pool of available resources for UN peacekeeping and increases the potential for competition between organizations for deployable capabilities. Alternatively, as noted earlier, defense establishments might champion UN peacekeeping as a means of giving the armed forces a prestigious role and protecting there...

  13. (pp. 14-17)

    While it should be understood that the national considerations identified earlier are paramount in shaping government decision making about whether and what to contribute to UN peacekeeping, and acknowledged that the UN’s direct influence over these debates is limited, there are ways in which the UN can help to expand the base of contributing countries.

    Over the long term, the key goals should be to build positive images of UN peacekeeping among member states; identify and support influential national champions for UN peacekeeping; forge stronger working relations with national capitals; and identify, augment, and assist in building the capabilities required...

  14. (pp. 18-18)