On to Somalia!

by | Mar 20, 2008

For over a year, one of the biggest questions among officials in UN-land has been: will the Security Council make us go to Somalia?  Back in November, I debuted on this blog by noting that Ban Ki-moon had announced that a mission was not “a realistic and viable option.”  Well, the Council didn’t like that one bit, and told the Secretariat to get planning for that option right away.  Sometimes an international organization can’t say no: this week, the Council gets to discuss a new report from the SG, which envisages an operation involving 27,000 troops plus police.  That’d be a few thousand more than the UN is pushing (slowly) into Darfur.

Now, this isn’t a complete volte face: the report makes it clear that there’ll need to be a progress on a peace deal before any such force is possible.  It also moots a smaller mission of 8,000.  But now the numbers are out there, the media are naturally jumping on the 27,000 figure, and I fear the Council will follow…

All of which moves me to pick up something I really should have written about last week, had I not been sunning myself in Chile.  That is, of course, the publication of the new Annual Review of Global Peace Operations by my colleagues at the Center on International Cooperation.  The FT picked up the story under the reasonably accurate title “UN Attacked For Overloading Peacekeepers.”  Here’s the gist:

The United Nations Security Council is criticised on Wednesday for authorising big peacekeeping missions around the world in spite of warnings that demands on troop contributors are overtaking their ability to deliver.  “Repeated warnings of overstretch did not forestall the authorisation of ambitious new mandates by the Security Council and regional organisations,” says the New York-based Center on International Co-operation in its annual report on global peace operations.

The criticism was made as the Security Council met to consider the latest report from Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, on Darfur, where deployment of a combined UN and African Union peace force, Unamid, is badly behind schedule as the result of lack of vital resources and delaying tactics by the Sudanese government.  “The mission was a compromise from the start,” Sarjoh Bah, editor of the CIC report, told the Financial Times, “because Sudan resisted a UN-only force”.

The CIC report said some of the problems of international peacekeeping by both the UN and regional organisations stemmed from decisions to deploy forces in spite of the absence of peace agreements on the ground.  “By year-end, peacekeeping was becoming a victim of its own success,” the report said. “The complexity of operations began to outstrip the ability of international organisations to keep peace.”

But I’m sure Somalia will be fine, just fine.


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