> Vol. 2, No 2. 2011 > Enhancing U.S. Support for UN Peacekeeping

Nancy Soderberg
Enhancing U.S. Support for UN Peacekeeping


01 2011

As the United States establishes its strategic priorities to enhance national security, support for peacekeeping is increasingly important. Particularly following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Pentagon has viewed failed states (also referred to as "undergoverned" or "ungoverned spaces") as a threat to U.S. national security. President Barack Obama's restoration of the Cabinet status of his Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Susan Rice, reflects the administration's recognition of the overall importance of the UN, including its key role in peacekeeping.

Over the last 4 years, the Center for Technology and National Security Policy and, since 2008, the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University have hosted a unique series of offsite informal discussions designed to facilitate open and frank discussions of what more the United States might do to support burgeoning UN peacekeeping activities. In five sessions, these offthe-record, informal discussions occurred between the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) and Department of Defense (DOD).1 The Department of Field Support (DFS) was added following its creation in 2007, and the State Department began participating at a senior level in 2009. This series was conceived by Hans Binnendijk, director of the Institute for National Security Studies at the National Defense University, and led by Dr. Binnendijk and me. Ambassador James Dobbins, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center, has served as session moderator.

The goal of these informal discussions was to seek common ground on how to strengthen the UN–U.S. partnership and galvanize support from other nations. The forum allows for a candid and frank assessment of the challenges that UN peacekeeping is currently facing and how the United States is willing to assist in that challenge. It is important to recognize that the State Department has the lead responsibility for assisting the United Nations. However, given the vast needs of the United Nations and the limited resources of the State Department, these discussions have focused primarily on ways the Pentagon can provide assistance in its areas of expertise and where resources are available.

The Pentagon has identified peacekeeping as an essential and high priority area for needed investment. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review highlights peacekeeping capabilities through a commitment to assist "partners in developing and acquiring the capabilities and systems required to improve their security capacity . . . [and enhancing] U.S. capabilities to train, advise, and assist partner-nation security forces and contribute to coalition and peacekeeping operations."2

The United Nations has made impressive progress in implementing reforms and managing the expansion of peacekeeping operations over the last decade. Ten years after the Brahimi report on UN peace operations,3 the United Nations has implemented many of the recommendations. The report put in motion major reforms to make peacekeeping faster, more capable, and more effective. Those reforms focused on improving five key areas: personnel, doctrine, partnerships, resources, and organization. The UN also set up a "Peacekeeping Best Practices Section," which has helped synchronize effective information management practices, strengthen the development of policy and doctrine, and institutionalize learning systems for peacekeeping. It has further worked to establish predictable frameworks for cooperation with regional organizations, including common peacekeeping standards and modalities for cooperation and transition, and to conduct, where possible, joint training exercises.4

The United Nations has also instituted reforms to help it adapt to a five-fold increase in peacekeeping over the last decade, from 20,000 peacekeepers in the field in 2000 to a present capacity of 100,000. The complexity of peacekeeping has grown as well. Since 2003, UN peacekeepers have deployed to no fewer than eight complex operations, often operating simultaneously.

Yet, gaps in personnel and other resources remain. Some of the Brahimi reforms have been partially implemented, such as a global logistics strategy and effective integrated planning mechanisms. Given the extraordinary growth of UN peacekeeping, and no reduction in need on the horizon, the ready stocks and funds to deploy missions have not been sufficiently adjusted. Member states have failed to provide necessary additional capacity to reinforce missions during crises.5

In July 2009, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support released A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for United Nations Peacekeeping (New Horizon report).6 The document set forth a plan to address the complex and evolving nature of demands placed on UN peacekeeping and its diverse military, police, and other civilian elements and the steps required to strengthen peacekeeping to meet emerging challenges. Key proposals outlined in the document helped "build common ground among those who participate in peacekeeping operations: those who contribute to peacekeeping with personnel, equipment, and financial resources; those who plan, manage, and execute operations; and those who partner with UN peacekeeping operations to deliver on the ground."7 Areas where progress is needed include the strengthening of linkages to peacebuilding and mediation and improvement in the policy, financial, administrative, and logistics support required to successfully deploy the full range of international instruments addressing postconflict situations.

Police from Pakistan, one of the top five nations providing troops to UN peacekeeping missions, collaborates with UN police in Timor-Leste

One area that has taken on greater importance in uniformed capacities is the role of policing in the wide range of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. The United Nations seeks to develop baseline capability standards and to build on recent successful innovative experience with the Formed Police Unit. It continues to develop a comprehensive police doctrine to help define the roles, responsibilities, and appropriate tasks—as well as expectations—of policing within a peacekeeping context.8 The goal of the UN is making its own peacekeeping "a flexible and responsive instrument and ensuring that the investment in peacekeeping yields a sustainable peace."9

Although the United Nations and the United States clearly recognize the important role of strengthening capacities for training regional and international security organizations, the UN still lacks sufficient capability to manage the massive peacekeeping tasks handed to it by the UN Security Council. Today, there are more than 120,000 UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding personnel (including 100,000 uniformed personnel) serving in 16 peace operations on four continents directly impacting the lives of hundreds of millions of people. The budget has increased to nearly $7.8 billion a year.10 Only 900 staff members in UNDPKO/DFS headquarters manage this massive operation.

But again, the Security Council authorizes mandates with insufficient resources and numbers of skilled and experienced personnel to fulfill them. Peacekeepers provided by member states often lack sufficient training or equipment. Interoperability and standardizing doctrine present challenges. Member states fail to fill the gaps in civilian and military requests by the United Nations for these missions. In addition, the UN faces deployments in areas where the peace processes lack a viable ceasefire, the political process is fragile, and hostilities continue in parallel to deployment of peacekeepers. The scale and complexity of many of the operations remain a challenge.

Strengthening U.S. Support and the Interagency Process

One of the key problems hindering better cooperation is the entrenched bureaucratic structure that responds to specific requests of support for UN peacekeeping operations and headquarters. High-profile situations are handled at senior levels, and often the United States provides generous assistance to the United Nations, such as for the Haiti earthquake involving nearly 26,000 total U.S. forces on the ground and on ships nearby. In Darfur, the United States has provided training and equipment for infantry battalions deploying to the United Nations–African Union Mission (UNAMID), in collaboration with troops from Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, and Ethiopia. It also provided airlift for oversized equipment from Rwanda bound for Darfur. Additionally, the United States has strongly supported the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Since 2005, NATO has coordinated the airlift of over 31,500 AMIS troops and personnel.

The problem, however, arises in the less high-profile cases. To solicit member-state support of its ongoing operations, the United Nations regularly issues a report on its civilian and military capabilities gaps, which it then transmits to all missions. Typically, the staff of the U.S. Military Advisor at the UN Mission conveys the request to the Bureau of International Organization Affairs in the Department of State and the Office of Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations in DOD.11 State and Defense explore options, including providing direct support or leveraging the support from allies. Following this review, State officials draft a cable to "answer" the request.

The United States also engages the United Nations regularly at the deputy assistant secretary level and below to understand "what the UN faces even if the [U.S. Government] doesn't itself provide all the capacities needed."12 U.S. officials respond to the UN's need in ways beyond the gaps lists as well, including ongoing sharing of information with the military advisors at the U.S. mission, staff officers placed in UN headquarters, and participating in training conducted by DOD.

The requests are generally reviewed at the deputy assistant secretary level at State and Defense, or below, although the Deputy Secretary of Defense signs off on the deployment of any military personnel to the UN. The National Security Council (NSC) at the White House tends not to be engaged in these specific requests. DOD and State officials reviewing the requests often face fierce opposition from Congress to providing U.S. support to the UN, and the senior-level officials in a position to drive a positive response are often not engaged. Thus, even if officials reviewing the requests are inclined to support the request, they often lack the bureaucratic power to push a request through the bureaucracy.

In short, the difficulty of responding to UN requests is complicated by several factors. First, the demands of the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan monopolize commitments of U.S. units and aviation assets; second, especially given those demands, U.S. officials believe that other nations could provide support; third, they cite the difficulties of getting the necessary resources to fill various gaps, especially as Congress is generally reluctant to fund UN peacekeeping support. And fourth, they point to the difficulties of getting the attention of the senior-level officials necessary to secure a positive response to some of these requests.13

Officials commented on the need for a realignment of current roles at the National Security Council staff either to provide for a new deputy-level position for complex operations or at least a shift of the complex operations from the Multilateral Affairs Directorate to the Directorate for Global Development, Stabilization, and Humanitarian Assistance. Under the current system, the senior NSC staff has too many other demands on its hands. Also, officials at State dealing with peacekeeping have the full range of multilateral issues in their portfolios. Given the demands of UN peacekeeping, however, responsibility for that role should be separated out. Such a step would enable senior officials to focus better on meeting the demands of peacekeeping.14

On the UN side, officials explain that they are seeking to make a more explicit case for the urgency of these requirements, identifying tactical versus ideal needs and clearly explaining the implications for the implementation of the mandate. As the UN makes do with what equipment and personnel it has, it often leaves the false impression that the requests are not absolutely essential and thus the requests languish.15 The lack of senior-level attention can lead to UN requests languishing for months, or simply being turned down. For example, one particularly significant request that has languished for years has been for 18 military utility helicopters for UNAMID in Sudan.16 It was not until November 2010 that State responded to the UN's gap list requests pending since December 2009.

These basic civilian and military resource gaps hinder the ability of the United Nations to carry out its mandate from the Security Council. U.S. officials understand that it must play its part in supporting UN peacekeeping, particularly given its role on the Security Council authorizing mandates. As one participant in the discussions put it, "We don't want to be like the very wealthy guy who claims he can't afford to kick in for the pizza." DOD officials stressed that "‘hard' is not ‘impossible.'"17 While the United States is not in a position to provide all UN requests itself, a better and higher level process is needed to ensure these civilian and military gaps are appropriately addressed and provided—either by the United States when it is able or by other nations with the necessary capabilities. High-level direct requests by the United States—especially when made by senior Pentagon officials—can often galvanize other nations to meet UN needs.

Areas in which the United States might be able to do more include providing support for intelligence, command and control, training, equipping, and lift. With demands on U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, U.S. resources will continue to be strained, most acutely for the next year at minimum. During that period, it will be hard to provide enablers, helicopters, engineers, and logistics. For now, DOD is able to contribute to the development of UN doctrine, standards, rules of engagement, and training, especially military-to-military and "training the trainers." For instance, DOD is looking at its own areas of particular expertise and specific, high-impact areas (such as Ethiopia's deployment of helicopters).18 It trained a light infantry battalion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.19

While contributing large numbers of troops and other support to UN peacekeeping missions is difficult in the short term, DOD remains prepared to provide personnel in targeted areas and is open to larger contributions over the longer term. Today, DOD remains open to further critical support, enablers, rotary wing, corrections centers, Formed Police Units, a diplomatic push (with State in lead), and police training centers.20 The United States stresses the importance of specificity in UN requests; the more detailed the requests, the easier it is for the Pentagon to respond.

Increasing U.S. Deployment

Despite the recognition by the United States of the importance of UN peacekeeping operations, there are relatively few U.S. personnel serving in these operations. The last significant deployment of U.S. troops to a UN mission was the contribution of 362 individuals to the UN Preventive Deployment Force Mission in Macedonia. The Chinese vetoed that mission in 1999 when the new Macedonian government recognized Taiwan. Today, the United States provides only 85 individuals to UN peacekeeping operations, including 54 police, 27 staff officers, and 4 military observers.21 The vast majority of these are in Haiti and Liberia. One of the priorities of the United Nations is to close the increasing supply and demand gap by enlarging the base of troop contributors beyond its current top five: Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, and Rwanda. It is important to note that the United States does still contribute 810 troops to the NATO mission in the Kosovo Force.22

Overall, the five permanent members of the Security Council (P–5) do not contribute their fair share, making up only 4,492 of the 100,000 UN deployed troops, police, and military experts—less than 4.5 percent.23 The United States recognizes the need to avoid "burden-dumping" as opposed to burden-sharing, and understands the calls for greater P–5 involvement.24 Translating that understanding into broader troop contributions by the P–5, however, has been difficult.

UN officials stress the galvanizing capacity of the United States for identifying sources to provide airlift, training, and equipment. They also emphasized the challenges of command, communications, and intelligence. One key issue is to ensure the correct balance between the political and military roles, as Formed Police Units can lower the military deployment and achieve better interaction with the civilian community.

Another area of importance is deploying personnel to the UN headquarters. The United States currently provides five officers seconded to the UNDPKO headquarters' Office of Military Advisor.25 The Pentagon has demonstrated a consistent willingness to deploy U.S. personnel to the headquarters so long as the position is a senior one in which a U.S. officer will be placed. The United Nations readily accepts this point, but emphasizes that there are certain sensitivities that must be recognized. As one UNDPKO official cautioned, DOD support is welcome, but it "needs to be carefully managed and balanced with our need to reflect the balance of the UN membership and in particular the perspectives of the Troop Contributing Countries. . . . This is particularly so in light of the sensitivities of a perceived effort to link U.S. counter-terrorism strategies and UN peacekeeping."26 U.S. officials understand that point, but emphasize that the United Nations cannot have U.S. support both ways, wanting more support but only if it is not visible.27

While the United States focuses mostly on staffing the Office of Military Advisor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, additional positions have been filled by U.S. personnel in UN headquarters. For instance, by 2009, DOD had responded to the UN request regarding headquarters posts by providing U.S. officers to fill the posts of Chief of the Military Planning Service (MPS), a planning officer in the MPS, and another as a desk officer in the Current Military Operations Service (CMOS). Today, the United States does not have any personnel in CMOS but has personnel serving as the chief of MPS, a planning officer in MPS, and an officer in the Assessments Service in the Office of Military Advisor. The UN welcomes the provision of staff officers for key mission headquarters and UN headquarters posts. The United Nations is looking for more officers as it seeks to strengthen its Office of Military Affairs (an increase in general officers and restructuring into functional services).

Since 2006, UNDPKO has sought to strengthen its police division. This step reflects the growing challenges in peacekeeping operations that face threats from a variety of elements in the wide range of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. The United Nations will require the enhanced assistance of member states as it seeks to develop baseline capability standards and strengthen the Formed Police Units. While the United States is limited in the number of military personnel it can make available to the UN, providing additional police may be an area for growth. On the broad level, there is agreement between DOD and the UN to continue to identify high value positions for which U.S. personnel can provide unique capabilities. The UN emphasizes the need for prior multinational experience. Given the number of operations in Africa, as well as Haiti, the UN emphasizes the need for personnel with French language skills.

The United Nations can greatly benefit from direct support from the Pentagon in the key areas and the United States can benefit as well. Despite the strains on the U.S. military, the provision of such personnel greatly magnifies UN effectiveness. As Ambassador James Dobbins puts it, "Stability operations are now a core mission of the U.S. military and the UN is the largest, most experienced and most successful provider of such missions. What better way of preparing for future U.S.-led operations than to participate in those the UN is running from time to time?"28

Nigerian officer on UNAMID patrol looks over notebook with young resident of Abu Shouk Internally Displaced Persons Camp, North Darfur, Sudan

More U.S. personnel in UN headquarters and peacekeeping operations in the field would provide much needed expertise, offer key links back to the Pentagon, and encourage other troop-contributing nations to participate as well. Such steps would also make it easier for the United States to push other nations to offer up capable troops to UN missions and headquarters. Currently, the promotion system in the Services does not favor deployments to the UN. The Pentagon should ensure that service in such positions enhances the promotion chances of Soldiers.

Improving Training Coordination

With the second largest deployed military in the world, the United Nations often struggles to find capable troops, much less ones with interoperable capabilities. With troops from 115 different countries, developing common doctrine, standards, and practices is a challenge. Recognizing this, the UN has sought to bolster the effectiveness of its peacekeeping and to reinforce the partnership among its many supporters. The New Horizon report sets forth a plan to forge more common ground among those who mandate peacekeeping operations; those who contribute to peacekeeping with personnel, equipment, and financial resources; those who plan, manage, and execute operations; and those who partner with UN peacekeeping operations to deliver on the ground.29

Effective UN peacekeeping operations are now recognized as central to U.S. national security interests. President Obama's 2010 National Security Strategy includes a commitment to "strengthen the U.N.'s leadership and operational capacity in peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, post-disaster recovery, development assistance, and the promotion of human rights."30 Since taking office, the Obama administration has paid off peacekeeping arrears accumulated over the previous 4 years, including approximately $2 billion for the UN's peacekeeping budget in 2009 and almost $3 billion in humanitarian and development assistance for the eight countries that host multidimensional UN peacekeeping missions. In 2009, the United States also provided more than $600 million dollars of training, equipment, and logistics assistance to 55 nations to help bolster their capacity to contribute troops and police for peacekeeping operations.

In another strong show of political support for UN peacekeeping, in September of 2009, President Obama hosted a meeting of the leaders of top troop- and police-contributing countries to UN peace operations. At that meeting, he expressed gratitude for these nations' contributions and sacrifice, and exchanged views on how to make current and future operations more effective.31

The State Department's 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review is expected to be out by the end of the year, recognizing the importance of new partners to address new threats and the diffusion of power to nonstate actors. Today, the United States faces 36 active conflicts and 55 fragile states, as well as acute natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies. The United States, too, recognizes the importance of training, with extensive bilateral efforts through its Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) program initiated in 2004 to address major gaps in international peace operations support.32 The Department of State has the lead responsibility for training peacekeeping forces through GPOI.

GPOI is now active in 58 selected countries around the world, especially in Africa and South America. Over 120,500 peacekeeper trainees and peacekeeper trainers have been trained as of November 30, 2010. GPOI has facilitated the deployment of over 110,500 personnel from 29 countries to 19 operations around the world. In addition, GPOI has directly or indirectly supported the training of 3,546 police trainers from 49 countries at the Italian-run Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units, in Vicenza, Italy.33 The program's focus from fiscal years 2010–2014 is to shift from direct training to building the capacity of foreign nations to develop their own peacekeeping infrastructure and capabilities.

In addition to training peacekeepers, GPOI supports a variety of institutions specializing in or contributing to peacekeeping operations. These include 28 peace operations training centers around the world, as well as the African Union and Economic Community of West African States. GPOI also provides funds for the Transportation Logistics Support Arrangement, which has supported troops deploying to several peacekeeping missions, and other GPOI deployment equipment funding has supported troops deploying to some of these and other missions.34

These training efforts are making a critical difference and are strongly linked to the United Nations and its needs as articulated in the UN internal non-paper entitled "A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping" and the annual C34 reports. As the UN seeks to significantly enhance levels of interoperability among its peacekeeper contributing countries in about a decade, more efforts will be needed to achieve interoperability among/between military peacekeepers, police, and Formed Police Units. In particular, DOD could better integrate the training of potential UN troop contributors into its training efforts, perhaps through the combatant commands.

There is a clear need to establish a UN Clearing House to track capabilities and needs to better coordinate efforts by donors. There is a need too for an initiative to work with international partners to respond to peacekeeping requests in a systematic way and strengthen an international peacekeeping coordination and support mechanism. Such a worldwide, coordinated system of training potential troop contributors could help identify countries with the capacity and would contribute to U.S. peacekeeping, which could deliver the best bang for the buck.35 Further discussion is warranted on what role the United States could play in promoting such a global system, as well as how regional organizations might complement it.

Regionally based centers of training, with standard training and equipping doctrine, could be useful in strengthening support for the United Nations. Regional partnering with African nations to train and equip troops would greatly enhance capacity and advance the goal of self-sufficient African troops. There are other efforts already under way to improve U.S.–UN cooperation, such as the creation of international peacekeeping training centers, development of cooperation and capability of regional actors in missions, and encouragement of UN member states to contribute more for future peacekeeping operations. While these efforts strengthen the capacity of the UN peacekeeping missions, much of U.S. training does not include interoperability among nations or train in UN doctrine and standards.

Since 2005, NATO has been cooperating closely with the African Union (AU), providing critical assistance. For instance, at the request of the AU, NATO supported AMIS and is currently assisting the AU Mission in Somalia in terms of air- and sea-lift, but also planning support. NATO is also providing training opportunities and capacity-building support to AU long-term peacekeeping capabilities, in particular the African Standby Force. This reflects the shared objective of bringing security and stability to Africa.36

It is important as well to consider alternatives to UN peacekeeping, such as regional organizations and stronger conflict prevention mechanisms. Various partnership opportunities to address the gaps might include logistical support, rapid reaction, nongovernmental organization (NGO) support, lift, and training. The United States must look at ways to strengthen support. For example, the Department of State's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) has a mandate to strengthen civil capacity. Extensive consultation with Congress will be necessary. In working toward better-integrated missions, it was suggested that perhaps the S/CRS could work more closely with the United Nations. The State Department is seeking to create a new position, shifting the current Under Secretary of Global Affairs to a broader office renamed the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Such an office should help the United States respond more quickly and positively to requests from the UN.

One area that remains controversial is whether to establish a UN crisis response reserve force. Particularly as crises unfold, it is critical that the United Nations has a capacity to move quickly to stem a growing crisis— and such a force would vastly reduce the time required for an appropriate response. However, many countries do not want to pay for a reserve force not in use, and overall the political will does not yet exist. The UN does have some over-the-horizon reserve, and a fund has been established up to $50 million per mission (up to a maximum of 3 missions). This does not create a standby or reserve capacity but rather enhances rapid deployment. Given the caps on the number of UN peacekeepers who can be in a given country, consideration should be given to basing some support efforts out of country. Another option is to have one mission help another, but such arrangements are often complicated by financial issues. The UN continues to need this capacity and hopes to reopen the dialogue in the context of the global force posture. One option is something between a full reserve and training from scratch.

The U.S.–UN efforts in Haiti highlighted the importance of prior personal relationships among the leadership. The prior friendship between Lieutenant General P.K. (Ken) Keen, USA, and the UN Force commander, Major General Floriano Peixoto, was critical to the operation's success. Such relationships will always depend on the nature of the individuals involved, but opportunities to institutionalize expanding opportunities for developing professional relationships among civilians and military, and across country allies, can help lay the foundation for cooperation and coordination.

Matching Capabilities to Mandate

Far too often, the UN Security Council authorizes mandates that far outmatch resource capacity. As the New Horizon Initiative recognizes, overambitious mandates or deploying troops that lack sufficient capabilities and resources can doom a mission to failure, and in some cases it may strengthen the spoilers. Security Council members need to be realistic in the mandates that they authorize and all member states must ensure that peacekeeping missions have the resources necessary to fulfill their mandates. The United Nations has emphasized the need for a phased approach to establishing new missions or a commitment to authorizing advance planning capacities for missions.37

In 2009, the Security Council issued a Presidential Statement emphasizing the importance of mobilizing and maintaining the political and operational support of all stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of a mission. It recognized the need to develop a consensus on how to implement protection of civilian mandates and the robust approach to peacekeeping.38

While this has long been recognized as an issue, UN missions still struggle to deliver on their mandates and lack sufficiently capable troops. For example, UN officials point out that the missions in Chad, Darfur, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have all struggled to deliver on their mandates, especially with respect to the protection of civilians and response to threats from spoilers. Security Council mandates are often an uneasy compromise among member states, and the United Nations must often guess which is the appropriate strategy. Some missions lack adequate capabilities and support structures to enable effective mandate implementation.39

While beyond the scope of this article, UN officials are confronting obstacles in transitioning to longer term peace consolidation and development. Difficulties in many African peacekeeping missions have made clear that peacekeepers are often not well prepared to take on the role of peacebuilders early in such transitions, particularly in areas such as security, elections, and economic development.40

The United Nations emphasizes the need for practical guidance on critical roles for peacekeepers, developing a stronger field support strategy, and ensuring better planning and oversight. Building sufficient capabilities is critical to the success of peacekeeping missions.

Learning Lessons from Haiti

The U.S.–UN efforts in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake highlighted the importance of better planning for and coordination with the NGO community. The humanitarian response effort included a unique partnership between the U.S. military and United Nations, and the NGO community. Joint Task Force (JTF) Haiti, led by General Keen, operated in a chaotic environment that included the government of Haiti, the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and hundreds of NGOs. General Keen considers one key success of the JTF to have been "the ability to coordinate and collaborate with all the organizations and agencies to foster a unity of effort." The Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Cell facilitated this coordination and collaboration, interfacing with every facet of the joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational environment to ensure synchronization.41 Internally displaced persons proved a particular challenge and must be addressed early in the crisis, with better planning before the crisis for their handling.

The relief effort in Haiti underscores the need for the United Nations and the United States to develop better ways to operate in an unclassified and open manner. Many lives in Haiti would have been lost had the NGOs not had access to DOD information. As General Keen described it, Operation Unified Response was unclassified from the beginning and available to all partners, including NGOs. Information on security issues could be shared among NGOs, the United Nations, and other security forces to determine an appropriate response. The government's classified networks were supplanted by open Internet sources because of the large number of non–U.S. Government actors involved in the relief operations. Officials used online social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, to disseminate information and correct misinformation quickly in Haiti. U.S. and UN officials emphasize, however, that the experience in Haiti was largely a distinct set of circumstances, where lessons may be difficult to transfer to future disasters. The shared scope of the disaster makes it an unusual case study. That said, collaboration from the beginning among all actors—civilian, military, international, the Haitian government—is a critical lesson. Without that cooperation, the operation would not have succeeded.

Conclusion

Certainly, the Obama administration recognizes the need to support the United Nations as a critical part of maintaining international peace and stability. Nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan and 8 years of war in Iraq have prevented the United States from providing more significant levels of support to UN peacekeeping operations. The support that the United States has been able to provide, especially in terms of deployments of personnel to key posts at UN headquarters and the field, as well as training and equipment, has made a real difference in both the performance of UN missions and in galvanizing others to provide support.

Much goodwill exists at the senior level of both the United Nations and the United States to strengthen the capacities of the UN and its troop-contributing nations. Translating that into stronger cooperation, however, requires continued senior-level leadership. As the United States seeks ways to reduce its deficit, it must resist the temptation to cut back on support to these critical operations. A stronger UN in the long term will save the United States resources that it might otherwise need to deploy. Higher level attention will facilitate stronger support and cooperation and can help overcome some of the political obstacles to U.S.–UN cooperation.

 

Notes

  1. Meetings in this series were held in March 2007, November 2007, May 2008, June 2009, and June 2010. For the purposes of this article, the Department of Defense (DOD) includes the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  2. Quadrennial Defense Review Report (Washington, DC: DOD, February 2010), 13, available at <www. defense.gov/qdr/qdr%20as%20of%2029jan10%201600.pdf>.
  3. United Nations (UN) General Assembly Security Council, Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, August 21, 2000, available at <www.un.org/peace/reports/peace_operations/>.
  4. Peace Operations 2010: Report of the UN Secretary-General, February 24, 2006.
  5. UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support (UNDPKO), A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping (New York: UNDPKO, July 2009), 3–6, available at <www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/documents/newhorizon.pdf>.
  6. UNDPKO, A New Partnership Agenda.
  7. UNDPKO, New Horizon Initiative, Progress Report No.1, October 2010, 2.
  8. Ibid., 16.
  9. Ibid., 7–8.
  10. Ibid., 4.
  11. The Office is in the Bureau of Defense for Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations under the Obama administration. Prior, it was housed in Global Security Affairs.
  12. Author email exchange with senior State Department official, November 5, 2010.
  13. State Department officials point out that none of these reasons applies to police or military observers. Furthermore, police support and training is a completely separate budget item within the State Department, and it relies on contractors (who are not in short supply).
  14. Comments of a senior U.S. official, December 7, 2010.
  15. Comments of a senior UN official, June 14, 2010, and email from a UN official November 21, 2010.
  16. Current Military Capability Gaps in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, September 2010, 1.
  17. Comment of a senior U.S. military official, June 22, 2009.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Email from U.S.–UN Military Staff Committee (MSC), November 1, 2010.
  20. Comments of senior U.S. military officials, June 14, 2010.
  21. Updated figures from DOD emails on November 1, 2010 and December 6, 2010. DOD counts the 27 as follows: 9 in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, 2 in the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 4 in the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, 9 in the UN Mission in Liberia, and 3 in the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). UN terminology for contributions is changing to Police, Military Experts on Mission, and Troops, but is not yet widely used. The more common terminology is used here. The UN counts the UNTSO staff as military observers, while DOD counts them as staff officers.
  22. Email from DOD official, November 1, 2010.
  23. Ibid. China provides 1,995 troops; France, 1,771; Russia, 362; United Kingdom, 281; and the United States provides 82.
  24. Comments of a senior U.S. military officer, June 22, 2009.
  25. Email from U.S.–UN MSC, November 1, 2010.
  26. Author email exchange with a UNDPKO official, February 27, 2007.
  27. Comments of a senior U.S. military officer, March 2, 2007.
  28. Email exchange, November 19, 2010.
  29. UNDPKO, A New Partnership Agenda, 2.
  30. 2010 National Security Strategy (Washington, DC: The White House, May 2010), available at <www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/national_security_strategy.pdf>.
  31. Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, on Peacekeeping at the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, UN Headquarters, February 22, 2010, available at < http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/2010/137112.htm >. While the United States maintains that it has met its financial obligations in full, the UN continues to press for so-called contested arrears that have been the subject of difference for decades and are unlikely ever to be paid by the United States.
  32. The Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) built on the Clinton administration's African Crisis Response Initiative and its successor, the Bush administration's African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program. (The term ACOTA is now used to refer to GPOI training program in Africa.) The program provides U.S. training and equipment and assists foreign troops in the key enablers of deployment, troop sustainment, air traffic control, electricians, and so forth.
  33. The Department of State has paid for most of these 3,546 police trainers "directly or indirectly," but some of them are self-funded. State indirectly supports the self-funded police through the operating budget of the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units.
  34. Figures updated by State Department official in an email, November 29, 2010. See also The Global Peace Operations Initiative: Background and Issues for Congress (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, March 19, 2009), available at <www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32773.pdf>.
  35. Comments of U.S. and UN officials, June 22, 2009.
  36. See "African Union Discusses Practical Cooperation with NATO," February 18–19, 2010, available at <www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_61534.htm?selectedLocale=en>.
  37. UNDPKO, New Horizon Initiative, 13.
  38. Statement of the President of the Security Council, August 5, 2009.
  39. UNDPKO, New Horizon Initiative, 7.
  40. Ibid.
  41. P.K. Keen, "Observations from Operation Unified Response (OUR)," unpublished paper, 2010, 7–8.