The U.N. peacekeeping agency is marking its 70th anniversary, but a series of sexual abuse scandals have cast a dark shadow on the Blue Helmets, and there are calls for an overhaul to better fit the nature of modern — longer– peacekeeping missions.
CGTN’s William Denselow takes a look at some of the challenges it faces.
Follow William Denselow on Twitter @willdenze
A show of respect for a fallen peacekeeper, in Mali, it’s a familiar sight. Last year, 21 Blue Helmets died in the country.
“Peace in Mali is a factor of worldwide security,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a ceremony in the country. “The world must understand that it has to support you without conditions.”
But funding for United Nations peacekeeping operations is far from unconditional. In June, the U.N. General Assembly voted to slash $600 million from the agency’s annual budget of nearly $8 billion.
The United States said it will no longer fund a quarter of the U.N.’s peacekeeping operations. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley hailed the move, saying there should be a shared burden with shared costs.
The aim is to make U.N. peacekeeping more efficient, but some warn it could have major consequences for Blue Helmets working in increasingly dangerous environments.
“The cuts not only hurt the peacekeepers in terms of their equipment, but also in terms of the numbers, in terms of what they are able to do in the field,” said Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect. “The people they truly leave vulnerable are the people who live in these countries.”
U.N. peacekeeping has been operational for 70 years. To mark the occasion, a high-level meeting is scheduled during this year’s annual U.N. General Assembly.
Nations are set to reaffirm their support for the work the agency does around the world. But this comes as the Blue Helmets are under fire for a slew of sexual assault scandals.
Guterres has made this issue a key priority, but some say the U.N.’s inability to administer punitive measures remains a problem.
“If the countries themselves, troop-contributing countries, are not much more forceful in sticking their soldiers with stiff rules and stiff penalties, then the U.N. is pointless,” said Dirk Salomons, Lecturer in International and Public Affairs at New York’s Columbia University.
Guterres calls U.N. peacekeepers the foremost symbol of the United Nations, and U.N. officials say the Blue Helmets remain the thin blue line protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable people.