"Where's My Blue Helmet?" Wherever it is, the people (and their bosses) wearing it are likely getting paid by SC

From Slate is this article: Where’s My Blue Helmet? How to become a UN Peacekeeper. (Thanks to David Isenberg for sending this out.)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the possibility of a cease-fire with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Monday. Rice proposed using international peacekeepers throughout the country and to guard its borders with Israel and Syria. Siniora said he would consider a deployment of peacekeepers, but only if they came from the United Nations. Who are the U.N. peacekeepers, and where do they come from?They're soldiers, police officers, and military observers from the United Nations' member countries. Nations are expected to volunteer the members of their armed forces when askedin general, the developing world does most of the volunteering . As of last month, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India each had almost 10,000 troops in blue helmets, while American soldiers accounted for just 12.The contributing countries continue to pay their soldiers, but they get reimbursed by the United Nations at a standard rate of $1,028 per month, plus a few hundred dollars extra for specialists. Troops typically stay for at least six months at a time, with the exact details of the deployment schedule left up to the country that sent them.

This is a good opportunity to review Peacekeeping Force (PKF) contributions. Slate mentions three contributors, but looking at the top contributors should bring up questions in the readers mind. The top contributors are not big (if in any meaningful way at all) participants in the global economy, yet they seem to have a lot more altruism or excess military capacity than the permanent members of the Security Council or the other eighty-seven countries contributing to peacekeeping operations (yes, that’s meant to be sarcastic).

States Contributing more than 1,000 combined forces to thePeacekeeping Operations of the United Nations in December 2005

Rank

Country

Police

Military Observers

Troops

Total

1

Bangladesh

478

92

8,959

9,529

2

Pakistan

394

107

8,498

8,999

3

India

381

93

6,810

7,284

4

Jordan

739

76

2,888

3,703

5

Nepal

431

41

2,994

3,466

6

Ethiopia

0

22

3,388

3,410

7

Ghana

84

62

2,374

2,520

8

Uruguay

16

67

2,345

2,428

9

Nigeria

374

84

1,954

2,412

10

South Africa

0

26

1,984

2,010

11

Senegal

416

41

1,388

1,845

12

Morocco

0

5

1,701

1,706

13

Kenya

62

79

1,341

1,482

14

Brazil

14

30

1,226

1,270

15

China

197

71

791

1,059

16

Sri Lanka

40

11

961

1,012

According to the Chinese newspaper PLA Daily in 2003, China is increasing its PKF contribution to raise the profile of China. China is now the fifteenth largest contributor to peacekeeping forces of the UN.

UN Security Council Permanent Member Contributions to thePeacekeeping Operations of the United Nations in December 2005

Rank

Country

Police

Military Observers

Troops

Total

15

China

197

71

791

1,059

22

France

152

38

392

582

32

United States

359

18

10

387

33

United Kingdom

69

14

266

349

46

Russia

115

96

1

212

Two issues come up. The first is the value to the state of participating in PKOs. For the “Third World” nations contributing, there is the leverage they have as being the real policemen of the world (despite rhetoric that the US is). For China, it is about prestige and image. Both of which are especially important now as we have created and reinforced China as a ‘neutral’ party, while we are a polarizing force.

The second issue is the approximately $1100 / month / man these states, not China, receives. If these states are paid to perform missions they have very little vested interest in, does that blur the line between private and public military forces and between corporate services and participation in the global economy or society.

This for-hire nature of contemporary peacekeepers is a not openly discussed aspect of PKOs, for obvious reasons. Peacekeeping operations by the international community derives authority from international institutions, international organizations, and international law , but the application of this authority is diffused through member states. The application of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), comprising the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Regulations, and customary law, etc. Law enforcement upon UN’s Blue Helmets relies on self-enforcement by the contributing state and not on international law, although the UN has taken steps (after much haranguing and foot-dragging) to correct this. Automatic enforcement does not exist because of questions over the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), lack of bilateral agreements between contractor states and the PKO target, such as Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA), or the existence of other inter-state agreements. Most important, and this is important: enforcement of IHL fails because the UN is not party to the Geneva Conventions, or other IHL instruments. These treaties explicitly permit cover states to be parties, implying a limit to extending coverage to insurgent, either private, or international groups. This is a position, placing the UN “above” the Geneva Conventions, the UN has vigorously restated and upheld over the years.

The UN intentionally does not apply the law of war to PKOs, restricting itself to the “principles and spirit” of the law, primarily so the other actors it faces will operate at least at the same level . The United Nations’ declared commitment to IHL comes with the understanding that since a UN PKO is operating on behalf of the international community, they “cannot be considered a ‘party’ to the conflict, nor a ‘Power’ within the meaning of the Geneva Conventions.” To accept this responsibility would imply they were no longer impartial . To this, the Secretary-General re-affirmed in 1999 that in cases “of violations of international humanitarian law, members of the military personnel of a United Nations force are subject to prosecution in their national courts” . The UN reminded the world it is not a signatory to nor bound by the Geneva Conventions or the Additional Protocols. Specifically stating the standards set forth in IHL are “observed at the national level”, obliging states and not NGOs to guarantee the principles and spirit of the laws of war while explicitly and implicitly excluding peacekeepers as not combatants. A subsequent bulletin by the UN in 1999 attempted to address this, but it still left major gaps in its application .

Which also makes you think… what’s the big deal about sending Blackwater to the Sudan? Isn’t it better to send in professionally trained and properly equipped soldiers than the too often un- or under-equipped forces of the top contributors to PKFs? That’s the argument of Coffer Black made a while ago… I’ve just added some above to show we have in effect been paying others to do the work. Who creates the mission? Not the PKF contributors but the Security Council. Who loses out to privatization of PKOs? The governments in the first table above. Who wins? Good question, is it the target country/region? The private military company? The pay is likely more than $1100 / month / man, but that is an underreported cost anyways as the UN (or member country) must foot the transportation bill (usually paying a PMC to provide transport), and frequently provide equipment from boots to rifles.