As anger in Haiti intensifies, with some residents blaming Nepali peacekeepers for having brought cholera to the island, a closer look at the composition of UN peacekeeping missions seems in order.
In October 2010 the UN had approximately 100,000 police officers, military experts and troops operating around the world in more than 17 UN peacekeeping missions. These operations cost the UN, in the 2005-2006 period, more than $5 billion, more than triple the UN’s core operating budget.
If we look at who the main contributors are, somewhat surprisingly, almost 30 percent of UN troops come from three countries that can be found in one of the most unstable parts of the world: Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. How is it possible that a country like Pakistan, that ranks 10th on the Failed States Index of 2010, is also the second most active country in terms of UN peacekeeping? The answer, of course, is money. Poorer countries earn valuable financial resources by contributing to UN missions. But shouldn’t these soldiers be at home, trying to stabilize their own countries and can they, if ‘thrown together” in a single mission operate together effectively despite deep-rooted animosities ‘at home’?
Advocates of UN peacekeeping missions, and the biggest financial contributors to the UN itself, namely EU countries and the US, are among the countries that contribute the least with troops. Except for Spain, France and Italy, no other European country contributes more than 1,000 troops. Even countries like Yemen and Zimbabwe contribute more troops to peacekeeping missions than the US. The question naturally arises: Why do western countries not put their money (and their manpower) where their mouth is by sending well trained, well equipped troops to trouble spots around the world, where they, by international consensus, are needed the most?