US Engagement in International Peacekeeping

By Michael Boyce

At the National Press Club today, members of the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping (PEP) unveiled their new report, "US Engagement in International Peacekeeping: From Aspiration to Implementation." RI was proud to co-host the event with our other PEP partners, the Better World Campaign and Citizens for Global Solutions.

"From Aspiration to Implementation" focuses on concrete steps the US can take to support the UN, peacekeepers, and the people they serve. Two of the biggest recommendations are also the most needed: put more Americans in blue helmets, and pay America's UN dues on time and in full.

Ambassador Nancy E. Soderberg, president of the Connect US Fund, told guests it was "inexcusable" that the US currently contributes just 106 police and soldiers to UN peace operations. And at a time when nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nigeria regularly send more than 5,000 troops, America's small contribution is a cause for concern.

"For a country that spends more on its military than most of the rest of the world combined, these low figures raise serious questions about the US commitment to international peace and security," said Ariela Blätter, RI's director of policy and advocacy.

When it came to funding, Peter Yeo, executive director of the Better World Campaign, emphasized that the US must pay its UN dues and made the case for peacekeeping as "a cost-effective solution" for America. "UN peacekeeping is a force multiplier" for the US military, he said. Indeed, the US government's own auditors have found that UN operations are 7.5 times cheaper than comparable missions where the US works alone.

At a time when budgets are tight in Washington, Ambassador Soderberg pointed out that peacekeeping saves the US government billions of dollars in military spending. Now more than ever, she said, voters "need to get out there and demand" that the US pay its share of the peacekeeping budget.

For their discussion, the panel was privileged to share the stage with Victoria K. Holt, deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Holt, a renowned expert on UN peace operations, thanked PEP for their recommendations and pledged to work closely with them. Peacekeeping, she pointed out, has been "intrinsic" to US foreign policy under presidents of both parties, and she said the Obama administration would work with Congress to ensure all America's UN dues are paid.

"We have impassioned colleagues like Secretary Holt in government right now," Blätter said, "so now is the time to implement these changes. They're smart, cost-effective, and will immediately strengthen America's position on the world stage."

Click here to download the full PDF report. Funding for this project was generously provided by the Compton Foundation.