C. David Welch
Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Statement Submitted for the Record to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on International Operations
Washington, DC, May 10, 2000
Peacekeeping As a Vital Foreign Policy Tool
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to appear in front of you today to discuss the United Nations. As Ambassador Richard Holbrooke pointed out during your visit to New York in January, your continued interest in the activities and vitality of the United Nations is very important to us.
Today I will discuss the general status of UN reform efforts, but I would like to concentrate my remarks on peacekeeping. Mr. Chairman, I am aware that your subcommittee had a hearing last month in which you discussed UN peacekeeping at length. I look forward to continuing this discussion with you today, for as ongoing events in Sierra Leone and elsewhere demonstrate, now is a crucial time for peacekeeping.
We are approaching the one-year anniversary of the Security Council resolutions authorizing the peacekeeping missions in East Timor and Kosovo. These two missions, along with expanded UN missions in Sierra Leone and the Congo, have brought about new challenges, as well as significant increases in peacekeeping costs and UN personnel on the ground.
Mr. Chairman, these peacekeeping commitments justify your interest in and concern over the prospects for UN peacekeeping -- both in general and with regard to specific operations.
But let me be clear -- peacekeeping, when done right, can be one of the most useful foreign policy tools we have. I will elaborate on this in three parts:
First, I will describe what peacekeeping can accomplish under the right circumstances. Second, I will describe how peacekeeping serves our national interest. Third, I will discuss what we are doing to make peacekeeping work better -- so it can better serve these national interests. I will conclude by talking about UN reform in general, and how our financial situation could undermine all our efforts for reform.
To discuss what peacekeeping can accomplish, we first have to define what we expect from UN operations -- in other words, what is success? When peacekeepers are deployed, we expect that the international community is taking a step towards repairing a breach of international peace and security, averting an urgent humanitarian disaster, stopping gross and systematic violations of human rights, supporting public security, or implementing a settlement leading to democratic government and the rule of law.
In taking on these responsibilities, peacekeepers provide breathing room and help peace agreements take root. They allow refugees to go home, disarm combatants, enable citizens to live without fear of being caught in the crossfire, help bring war criminals to justice, and assist national leaders build democratic institutions.
Let us examine a few cases:
- In Mozambique, the UN mission served U.S. aims by: separating, demobilizing, and reintegrating combatants; monitoring the cease-fire; and observing and verifying all stages of the election process. Mozambique remains democratic and at peace.
- In Namibia, the UN served U.S. aims in that the civilians, police, and military officers of the UN Transition Assistance Group successfully facilitated democratic change.
- In Macedonia, the UN mission served U.S. aims by containing the spread of Serb terror, which allowed the Macedonians to establish democratic institutions and join the European community.
Neither the U.S. nor the UN expects a seamless transition to stability and democracy in areas where peacekeepers are deployed, just as we do not expect to achieve peace in the Middle East overnight.
We know there will be difficulties, especially if you look at the history of violence in some of these situations, such as in Angola or the Balkans. There will be temporary setbacks like sporadic violations of cease-fires or civil disturbances. There will also be missteps by hard-working people working under demanding, life-threatening conditions. Often, even if a peace agreement is signed and agreed upon by all parties, the process will continue in fits and starts. We also know that successful implementation of a negotiated settlement will not proceed in the absence of peacekeepers.
And at times in the past, peacekeeping didn't just proceed in fits and starts -- it failed altogether. Just look at Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda. President Clinton and Secretary Albright have acknowledged the failure of these missions. The UN has also acknowledged these failures. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself stated that the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), under his supervision, failed the people of Bosnia and Rwanda.
But the point is that in current situations like Kosovo, East Timor, and Congo, the living conditions of thousands of people would be much worse without a UN presence. They would also have no hope for a better life. That is the case, we believe, in each of the areas where operations are currently deployed around the globe.
And if success means that -- as a direct result of the UN's presence -- people are not getting slaughtered, that terrorists or tyrants are not finding a haven in failed states, that violence is not destabilizing entire regions -- then the UN is indeed succeeding.
So, I submit to you first that peacekeeping can work. Next I will describe how peacekeeping is in our national interests.
Let me remind you that we are prepared to act unilaterally to protect our vital national interests. We have demonstrated our willingness to do so -- Saddam Hussein and Usama bin Ladin know this.
At other times, our vital national interests are not threatened, but we still have an important stake in resolving conflicts. When conflicts break out, they pose a threat to America's values, such as democracy; America's economic goals, such as access to open markets; and America's political objectives, such as containing violence and organized crime, and supporting human rights and the rule of law.
It is in situations such as these where, as a measure of response, we can use UN peacekeeping as way to further U.S. interests, while sharing the costs and risks. In the past, UN peacekeepers have served U.S. interests in Macedonia, Lebanon, Haiti, Eastern Slavonia and elsewhere, and they continue to do so around the globe today.
The four most prominent peacekeeping missions right now provide good examples.
- Our interest in Kosovo stems from our long-standing desire for a stable, democratic, and multi-ethnic Europe, no longer threatened by Soviet power, and our need to help the emerging, democratic nations under a stable NATO-Russian cooperative security arrangement.
- In East Timor, the U.S. has important security, political, and commercial interests in Indonesia. This is an opportunity to resolve a problem that has been a source of regional tension and humanitarian concern for 25 years. We also want to support our close ally, Australia.
- In Sierra Leone, we have had a clear humanitarian interest in helping to consolidate the peace and in supporting the British in a key country for them. The war in Sierra Leone has not only generated refugee flows and economic displacement, but it has also led to the direct military involvement of several neighboring states.
- And in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the U.S. has an interest in supporting UN efforts to stabilize the most widespread war in modern African history. This war has not only destabilized one of Africa's largest countries, but also threatens to spill across its nine international borders and destabilize much of the continent.
To put it another way: when the U.S. supports a UN peacekeeping operation, we're not in it just for the sake of peace, we're in it because of what peace means for U.S. interests.
That brings me to my third point. Even though peacekeeping can succeed, and even though it can serve U.S. interests, it can do neither unless we reform the way the United Nations runs peacekeeping operations, while at the same time bolstering the support of member states for peacekeeping.
Our emphasis on peacekeeping reform at the UN is nothing new. Presidential Decision Directive 25, issued in 1994, reflected the commitment of the Clinton Administration to strengthening the way the UN considers and manages peacekeeping missions.
With our position and veto on the Security Council, the U.S. wields considerable influence over the decision-making process on peacekeeping. We have used that influence in recent years, with tangible results. For example, the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations has strengthened its capacity to manage missions more effectively by:
- Giving the Secretariat an effective, state-of-the-art situation center for running peacekeeping missions.
- Simplifying operations and reducing costs through a contingent-owned equipment system, which helps missions get the materials they need at the time they need them.
- Improving mission planning by conducting thorough "lessons learned" reviews of past peacekeeping operations.
- Working to improve recruitment, training, deployment and logistical support of civilian police operations.
- Improving rapid deployment capabilities by establishing the UN Logistics Base and standby arrangements system.
DPKO should reflect the demands of UN peacekeeping missions in the field. Unlike the exclusively military missions of the past, present missions are increasingly multidisciplinary, involving civilian police and civilian administration functions.
These steps are a solid beginning but are not sufficient. The recent increase in UN peacekeeping costs and personnel only intensifies the need for a sustained commitment to reform. Let me sketch for you some of the peacekeeping reform issues that are U.S. priorities.
First, we are concerned that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is stretched too thin. Secretary-General Annan agrees and told the Security Council so at the end of February. We are working to help correct this shortfall. UN peacekeeping operations cannot succeed without sufficient personnel, both in New York and on the ground.
There is no quick fix for this. We are actively supporting the Secretary-General's review of permanent DPKO staff and ways that they could be supplemented to provide surge capacity and specific expertise. This is especially important in view of the internal nature of many conflicts and resultant tremendous increase in demand for civilian police (CIVPOL).
To demonstrate the priority we place on this, in February the President signed Presidential Decision Directive 71 (PDD-71). PDD-71 directs the Administration to enhance U.S. CIVPOL capacities and help enhance the CIVPOL capacities of the UN and other member states. We look forward to working with the Congress as we move forward to implement this new directive.
Another key issue is the use of experts-in-kind at the UN (including civilians, not just military officers). DPKO has paid a real penalty for the decision to curtail the experts-in-kind. Nowhere near as many UN slots have been made available to DPKO as were filled by gratis officials, while other Departments continue to enjoy overly generous staffing.
We are working to get DPKO to utilize experts-in-kind where it currently has authority to do so. And we are seeking to reintroduce this on a basis acceptable to UN members, including the Non-Aligned Movement.
Fortunately, Secretary-General Annan is an ally in our reform efforts. He recently appointed a blue-ribbon panel to look closely at how the UN can improve its performance in peace operations. We are pleased that two Americans are members of the panel: former AID Administrator Brian Atwood and William Durch of the Stimson Center.
The panel's focus includes the nuts and bolts of UN peacekeeping -- getting the structure right, proper planning, improved organization. We welcome the panel. It's an important initiative, and we look forward to its recommendations. We will make it aware of our views and will keep you apprised of its work.
But as you know as well as anyone, Mr. Chairman, our peacekeeping reform efforts are just part of our broader efforts to reform the UN, efforts which have brought tangible results. While we are continuing this pursuit, we have quite a bit to show for our efforts even today. Many organizational and managerial improvements have been achieved, while others are in process, as GAO has pointed out.
One of the most significant reforms was carried out in 1995, when the UN established an Inspector General function for the first time. The Office of Internal Oversight Services -- OIOS -- has made remarkable progress in developing a management culture aimed at accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness. Its auditors have saved the UN -- and member states -- millions of dollars by identifying duplication and mismanagement throughout the organization, while its investigators have greatly enhanced the deterrent value of oversight by successfully pursuing cases of fraud and abuse.
Other improvements in recent years include:
- the consolidation and restructuring of the UN's economic and social affairs departments;
- the establishment of a Deputy Secretary-General along with a cabinet-style management structure to improve coordination;
- the implementation of a code of conduct to foster a culture of accountability; and
- the implementation of a performance appraisal system to link employees' work to the achievement of program objectives.
While much has been done, more needs to be accomplished. For example, we will work hard to enhance the UN's capacity for evaluating its myriad activities and identifying ways to increase their effectiveness. We will also promote ways to make the UN's recruitment process more responsive to the critical and often urgent needs of missions and projects mandated by members.
In addition, the Helms-Biden legislation has provided concrete benchmarks as we work to achieve UN reform in budgeting, in personnel and management, and most prominently, in the scales of assessment for both the UN regular budget and the peacekeeping budget. I assure you that we are making every possible effort in New York and in capitals around the world to achieve a more equitable distribution of peacekeeping and regular budget costs.
And, while not the focus of this hearing, reform of the Security Council is an important aspect of our overall UN reform effort. Hopefully, the flexibility we have expressed regarding possible Council composition will create momentum to move the reform process forward, but the effectiveness of the Council will remain our primary objective.
Before I close, Mr. Chairman, allow me to review briefly the situation we are facing in paying for our share of peacekeeping operations.
At the moment, we face Congressional holds on paying our bills for four major operations: in Kosovo, East Timor, Congo, and Sierra Leone. These holds have been placed by the Appropriations Committees. This committee, however, has not put holds on any of these missions and has supported our using FY 2000 funding for these missions.
In addition, without funds included in the FY 2000 supplemental budget request for Kosovo and East Timor, we will fall well short of what we need to pay peacekeeping assessments this year. We seek your help in ensuring that we can pay our share for UN operations. It is our sincere hope that these holds will be lifted and that sufficient funds will be made available for the United States to pay its peacekeeping bills in full.
As Ambassador Holbrooke noted last month at a hearing before the House Commerce, Justice, and State Subcommittee, not paying our assessments to these peacekeeping operations would be disastrous. We do not want to accumulate even more arrears, just as we are working so hard to marshal support for regular budget and peacekeeping scale reform as well as other important UN reform measures. Our inability to pay current assessment bills undermines our credibility and could de-rail our reform efforts to date.
Mr. Chairman, in the end, we believe that despite the UN's problems, our engagement in the UN and support of its initiatives can be an effective and low-risk way to pursue U.S. interests.
And when evaluating the UN's activities and effectiveness in dealing with peace, security, human rights, or other issues, I suggest that you ask: What's the alternative? I'm aware that during the peacekeeping hearing last month, you asked some of the panelists who, if not the UN, we should expect will help bring peace to East Timor, Sierra Leone, Congo, and elsewhere. I am glad you asked this question.
Because when one considers the alternatives to UN peacekeeping in these situations -- either inaction or unilateral engagement -- it is clear that UN peacekeeping is one of the best tools we have for advancing U.S. interests.
Were the situations in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Somalia complex and difficult? Of course. Are current peacekeeping operations sometimes dangerous and costly? Yes. But as the President said in his speech to the General Assembly last September, "difficulties, dangers and costs are not an argument for doing nothing."
And, if I could add to what the President said, difficulties, dangers, and costs are often very good reasons to share the burden and risk with other nations.
The same can be said for multilateral engagement in general: that it is a good way -- not a perfect way or the only way -- to pursue U.S. interests. Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you to ensure that the UN remains an effective and useful forum for advancing U.S. foreign policy.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today.
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