February 25, 2012 (JUBA) - The United Nations (UN) has proposed a 7.8% reduction in its global peacekeeping operations citing the difficult financial situation of several member countries, a senior official said.
Hervé Ladsous, the Under Secretary General for peacekeeping operations said the proposed cut in the 2012-2013 financial budgets, amounting to $600m is much lower when compared to the current financial climate.
Addressing the special committee on peacekeeping operations on Tuesday, Ladsous reiterated the UN’s commitment towards maintaining world peace, which he said can be achieved through optimising available resources.
“Peacekeeping remains overall a highly-cost effective policy tool for the international community, relative to the costs of conflict or indeed other comparable options. It provides a shared mechanism for all member states to participate in a collective response where individual member states or neighbouring countries may be unable to do so,” he said.
An estimated $69 billion, according to Ladsous, has so far been spent on peacekeeping operations globally from 1948 to 2010.
“By comparison, while exact figures are difficult to obtain, some estimates indicate that the defence expenditure for 2010 of the 15 top spenders alone amounted to approximately $1.6 trillion, or 23 times the cost of peacekeeping since its inception more the 60 years ago,” he stressed.
The Under Secretary General also acknowledged the “incredible” hardships and risks peacekeepers face, citing the volatile situation in Sudan’s disputed region of Abyei and Ntoto in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
On Saturday there was a new attack against the joint African Union and United Nations (UNAMID) peacekeeping operation in Darfur.
One UNAMID peacekeeper has been killed and five others wounded since the beginning of 2012, with the mission loosing 35 of its members since it took over from the African Union Mission in Sudan in late 2007.
UNAMID is the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation and is involved in the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur signed in July 2011 between one of the smaller Darfur rebels groups and the government.
However, to address the difficulties, Ladsous assured the special committee on peace keeping operations that all efforts are under way to address what he described as the constantly evolving challenges.
The UN official, who visited Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur, also lauded the Doha peace agreement and further reiterated the international community’s efforts to reach a comprehensive and inclusive peace deal, involving the other rebel groups.
Meanwhile, Ladsous said peacekeeping operations still face a global shortfall of 44 military helicopters, which are essential for civilian protection and ensure the safety and security of UN personnel.
He cites the poor infrastructure in countries like the DRC, Sudan and South Sudan and the vast areas covered by their operations as prohibiting effective and timely responses to violence prevention by UN peacekeepers.
This was illustrated in December and January when the UN struggled to respond to an assault on Pibor County of Jonglei State by 6,000 armed men from the Luo Nuer tribe attacking the Murle community.
Lack of helicopters meant that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was unable to quickly transport its troops to the area. Humanitarian agencies say that 140,000 people were affected by the offensive and the Murle counter attacks in other parts of Jonglei.
Jonglei, South Sudan’s largest state is the same size and Bangladesh and has notoriously poor infrastructure.
“During the crisis in Jonglei State in South Sudan, UNMISS’ capacity to respond flexibly to the requirements of the situation was constrained by the lack of appropriate helicopters,” Ladsous told the committee.
The UN, he reiterated, is conducting a feasibility study for the use of simple unmanned aerial vehicles as a mechanism to monitor situations, freeing up available helicopters for other duties.