United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations began in 1948 when the Security Council established an onsite operation of 36 unarmed military observers to preserve a truce after the fi rst Arab-Israeli War.
UN peacekeeping operations are established by the Security Council, which the United Nations charter designates as the organization primarily responsible for maintaining peace and security. However, fi nancial aspects of peacekeeping operations are managed by the General Assembly. These organizations have delegated to the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) the responsibility for implementing UN peacekeeping objectives.
Sixty-three UN peacekeeping operations have been conducted or were underway as of April 30, 2008, with 17 of these operations being active. These active operations involve 88,202 uniformed personnel, including soldiers, police, and military observers, from 117 countries. The fi nancial cost of operations from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008, was approximately $6.8 billion, the cumulative fi nancial cost of all operations from 1948 to the present is about $54 billion, and they have resulted in 2,468 peacekeeper fatalities, as of April 30, 2008.
These operations have been assigned to a number of crisis areas around the globe and are denominated by a variety of acronyms. For instance, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), established in June 1999, consists of 39 military observers, 1,917 police, 1,959 local civilians, and an overall personnel involvement of 4,503. Fifty-three fatalities have resulted from this mission, whose current annual budget is $210,676,800. Other examples of current UN peacekeeping missions included UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), and United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).
The quality and effectiveness of UN Peacekeeping Operations is controversial. Supporters of these operations maintain that the UN is the most cost-effective means for grappling with international confl ict and crises, that U.S. experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq mean that the United States cannot shoulder such operations on its own, that the United States should value the expertise UN members can bring to peacekeeping operations in diverse global environments, and that the UN, because of its perceived impartiality, can go into confl ict areas where individual countries like the United States cannot. Critics of UN Peacekeeping operations assert that such operations give dangerous control to global authorities who may be antagonistic to U.S. national security interests, that the countries with the most capable militaries are less likely to contribute troops for peacekeeping, while those with the least capable militaries are the most likely to contribute their forces for such operations, that these forces are not given suffi ciently liberal rules of engagement to effectively combat hostile operations against such missions, and that there are too many operational and cultural differences between members of these forces, who are trained in varying military traditions, to allow them to operate effectively together.
An extensive corpus of military and political science literature exists on the performance and effectiveness of UN Peacekeeping Operations, refl ecting a variety of perspectives. Topics addressed in this literature include whether the United States should participate in UN peacekeeping operations and whether U.S. forces
should be commanded by foreign military leaders; managerial and fi nancial support for such operations; the performance of UN peacekeepers in areas such as Bosnia, the Golan Heights, Haiti, and Sierra Leone; and the factors necessary for peacekeeping operations and subsequent confl ict reconciliation to occur in these countries, including ethnic integration and incorporating combatants into the political process.