Peacekeeping: The Great Peacekeeper Shortage


September 13, 2007: The UN is facing a peacekeeper crises. The basic problem is that there is a peacekeeper shortage. About 100,000 are currently on duty, and there appear to be no more good ones to be had. There's always been a problem with getting well trained and equipped peacekeeping troops. Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are major contributors of good troops, but there are not enough of them available for overseas duty. The UN has been approached about using mercenaries, and has refused to consider it. But with no country rushing to send first class troops to Darfur, and the African Union forces already there being overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, the UN has to go into high-speed begging and scrounging mode.

Security firms like Blackwater have offered to form mercenary peacekeeper forces, but this has been rejected as too politically incorrect. This is ironic, as mercenary peacekeepers are already a fact of life in many areas. NGOs, including UN agencies, commonly hire foreign, and local, muscle to provide security. All Blackwater proposed was expanding this practice, and delivering a more efficient, unified, force. It is known that the NGO practice of hiring local gunmen often leads to further complications, not increased security.

Another problem is that, down the road, some of the nations that have been renting lots of their troops, to the UN, on a regular basis, may see the Blackwater Brigades as unwanted competition. Because the UN pays more per peacekeeper than these troops earn back in South Asian or any African countries, these jobs are quite lucrative for the troops and the countries they come from. So, while the mercenary peacekeepers may be a good idea, it will only come to pass if it can overcome the political and emotional baggage mercenary peacekeepers drag in with them.

In the end, it will be months before the UN can gather even second-rate peacekeepers for service in Darfur and Chad. The lack of quality peacekeepers in Darfur will doom the mission to failure.


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