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Diplomats: US envoy targeting UN peacekeeping for reform

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Nikki Haley, in her first week as U.S. ambassador, has made reform of the United Nations' far-flung peacekeeping operations a top priority, diplomats said.

The missions cost nearly $8 billion a year and Haley said in her Senate confirmation hearing last month that she wants to look at all 16 to see which are succeeding in maintaining peace and which aren't.

"Do we need to shift and do things differently or do we need to pull out?" she asked.

Haley singled out the mission in war-ravaged South Sudan, the world's newest nation, calling it "terrible." She said the government isn't cooperating with the U.N. force, which has nearly 13,000 troops and police and a current budget of more than $1 billion.

Two diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the conversations were private, said that in discussions this week Haley put a mission-by-mission review of peacekeeping operations as a top priority.

One diplomat said Haiti, where nearly 5,000 U.N. troops and peace are deployed at an annual cost of about $346 million, is a mission Haley talked about winding up.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Friday that U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous is leading "a strategic assessment mission" to Haiti next week at the Security Council's request, which will identify "critical needs" in the country and make recommendations on a future U.N. presence.

A U.N. peacekeeping official said late Friday that the department is implementing reforms recommended by a high-level panel on peace operations, and is constantly reviewing and adjusting its operations "to stay relevant and cost efficient." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

According to the U.N. Peacekeeping Department, over 100,000 troops and police are currently deployed in the 16 missions, including nine in Africa.

While some missions have been very successful — Hailey singled out Sierra Leone — others including in the Central African Republic and Congo have been criticized for sexual abuse violations and corruption, and the joint U.N.-African Union mission in Sudan's Darfur region has been criticized for inefficiency.

Haley stressed that countries contributing troops must hold them accountable for corruption and sexual exploitation, which she said isn't happening.

In some cases, she said, the U.N. needs to look at whether countries are sending their forces "just to make money" — because United Nations pays for peacekeepers.

"The last thing we want is for U.N. peacekeepers to go into a country and for people to be scared and for people to be vulnerable," Haley told the Senate committee.

She also said the U.N. needs to start showing how peacekeeping money is being spent.

The current budget for the year ending June 30 for peacekeeping operations is $7.87 billion, a $400 million decrease from the previous year, and less than a half of one percent of world's military expenditures, which were estimated at over $1.7 trillion in 2013, according to the peacekeeping department.

The United States currently pays 28.57 percent of the peacekeeping budget, nearly triple the second-largest contributor China.

Haley said that under U.S. legislation, the United States should be paying only 25 percent of the peacekeeping budget.

"We have to start encouraging other countries to have skin in the game," she said.

The United States is likely to get a sympathetic response from the new U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who made U.N. reform a major plank in his campaign for the job and who has already met with Haley twice.

He has complained that the U.N. too often deploys troops to countries where there is no peace to keep — a point Haley echoed at her confirmation.

The peacekeepers "are not meant to fight, they're not meant to get involved or take sides or anything. They're there to keep the peace. And so our goal should be go in, keep the peace, get it settled and get out," Haley said.

 

 
 

 

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