U.N. Peacekeeping:

Issues Related to Effectiveness, Cost, and Reform

T-NSIAD-97-139: Published: Apr 9, 1997. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1997.

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GAO discussed the results of the body of work GAO has completed on issues concerning the effectiveness and cost of United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping, focusing on: (1) the U.N.'s limitations in conducting peace operations that require the use of force; (2) long-standing peacekeeping missions that are from 6 to nearly 50 years old; (3) the extent to which the United States has provided voluntary support to U.N.-sanctioned peace operations; and (4) the U.N.'s efforts to reform the management of peacekeeping operations.

GAO noted that: (1) over the years, the United Nations has had some degree of success in carrying out peacekeeping missions where the use of force was not required; (2) however, as the Cold War came to a close and the United Nations was called on to lead large complex missions that required the use of force to restore peace and security, the United Nations was less successful; (3) there are clearly many reasons for this, including the failure to commit sufficient resources, the lack of sufficient will on the part of the international community, an inadequate operational structure for carrying out such missions, and the differences in the geopolitical situations that affect the execution of each mission; (4) GAO concluded that the organizational limits of the United Nations put at risk the success of such missions; (5) the United Nations also seeks the consent of the warring parties to carry out its mandate, even when force is authorized; (6) because of these limitations, GAO concluded that the United nations may not be an appropriate vehicle to lead missions where force is required to restore peace, unless a nation or coalition with sufficient military capability and commitment leads the operation; (7) in recognition of the limited success of operations such as those that required the use of force and the inability to bring closure to several long-standing missions, U.S. and U.N. policy has become more focused; (8) there is now general agreement that the main objective of peacekeeping is to reduce tensions and provide a limited period of time for diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the underlying conflicts; (9) despite the success of U.N. peacekeeping over the last 50 years, some situations have proven to be intractable, and the peacekeeping missions have evolved into open-ended commitments; (10) although the eight long-term missions GAO analyzed have become, in essence, open ended commitments, U.S. officials support continuing all of them because in their view the missions help stabilize and prevent the recurrence of conflicts in areas vital to U.S. interests; (11) in addition to paying assessed contributions for U.N. peacekeeping operations, the United States often provides additional support to U.N.-sanctioned missions for which it is not reimbursed; (12) the United Nations has undertaken management reforms to improve the operational effectiveness and efficiency of its peacekeeping missions; and (13) while GAO has not specifically evaluated the effectiveness of the these reforms, GAO has observed improvements in planning and implementing peacekeeping efforts at the missions in Haiti and Eastern Slavonia.

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