UNITED NATIONS – The United States is organizing a summit on U.N. peacekeeping on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly next week that will be addressed by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame.
A U.S. note on the summit, sent to U.N. member states and obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, said, "United Nations peacekeeping today is more critical than ever to international peace and security, with peacekeepers called on to end ethnic conflict, prevent violence against civilians, and serve on the international community's frontlines against violent extremists."
The United Nations currently runs 16 peacekeeping operations, with more than 100,000 peacekeepers deployed from Haiti, Cyprus and the India-Pakistan border to the Golan Heights, Lebanon, Congo, Liberia, South Sudan, and as of Sept. 15 in the conflict-wracked Central African Republic. The U.N. peacekeeping department is also responsible for the U.N. political mission in Afghanistan.
The budget for U.N. peacekeeping operations for the fiscal year from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, is just over $7 billion. It is separate from the U.N.'s regular operating budget and the U.S. pays the largest share, over 28 percent, followed by Japan at nearly 11 percent. Rwanda is the fifth-largest contributor of troops to U.N. peacekeeping.
The note said U.N. peacekeeping "is under strain, with peacekeeping numbers at all-time highs, peacekeepers operating in more complex and dangerous environments than ever before, and an architecture and infrastructure in need of continued modernization."
Two decades after U.N. peacekeepers failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda and the Bosnia safe haven of Srebrenica, it said the international community should celebrate the progress made to strengthen U.N. peacekeeping.
But the U.S. note said the high-level meeting needs to address "contemporary challenges" and seek new commitments to peacekeeping by the 193 U.N. member states including troops, police, equipment, funding and help in training.
According to the U.N., 102 peacekeepers died in 2013, 36 from direct attacks and others from accidents and illnesses. Most of those killed were military personnel, and 44 peacekeepers died in the Darfur mission in western Sudan.