Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Page 9 News List

Time for the UN to put its money where its mouth is

Faced with an international crisis, the Security Council passes resolutions to great fanfare, but member states all too often fail to provide the necessary resources to make them work

By Anne-marie Slaughter

The UN peacekeeping operations now underway in Lebanon offer a big opportunity for the organization to demonstrate its relevance and impact on the world stage.

If only those member states who claim to be the UN's biggest supporters would put their money where their mouths are.

Many world leaders, particularly those in Europe, decry the administration of US President George W. Bush's undermining of the UN, especially since 2003.

Yet leaders in France, who expressed outrage when the US sidestepped the UN and invaded Iraq without the international community's blessing, stunned the world last month when they backed down from their promise to send 2,000 peacekeepers to intervene in southern Lebanon, and instead only committed 200.

Fortunately, France is reconsidering, Germany will provide limited naval assistance, and Italy has stepped up to contribute 3,000 peacekeepers.

But Europe's response, like the US response in other cases, highlights a critical issue for all supporters of the UN and other international institutions -- if we cannot do what it takes to make them more effective, we will increasingly find that nations will bypass them altogether.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 "calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire."

It thus set the stage for UN officials to draw up "Rules of Engagement" (ROEs) for peacekeepers that dictate when and under what circumstances UN troops can fire their weapons to defend themselves. But as the current UN mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has learned, defending yourself is not the same as protecting yourself from hostile fire in the first place.

In this context, the French are understandably worried about the fate of their soldiers -- soldiers charged with supporting the Lebanese government in its efforts to establish control over the Hezbollah-controlled south. The terrible French peacekeeping experience in Bosnia in the early 1990s, in which France lost 84 soldiers serving in a humanitarian capacity under a restrictive ROE, justifies their fears.

But ROEs are only the symptom of a deeper problem. The real issue is a yawning gap between paper and practice. In the heat of an international crisis, the Security Council passes resolutions to great public fanfare, establishing an official UN "mandate."

But the UN secretary-general is left, resolution in hand, to ask UN member states for the actual, tangible resources necessary to implement what has been resolved upon. In the overwhelming majority of cases, those resources fall far short of what is required to successfully intervene in a crisis.

A UN mandate review this year found that UN member states adopt hundreds of mandates each year, conferring "additional responsibilities with neither corresponding funds nor guidance" on how resources should be used.

In US domestic politics, these kinds of demands made by the US Congress upon states are known as "unfunded mandates," which order results without providing the resources necessary to achieve them. It's political theater -- big headlines, small results.

The UN's experience in Lebanon is not encouraging. According to the organization's Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UNIFIL has operated on an annual budget of US$94 million and suffers chronic budget shortfalls due to unpaid assessments from member states.

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