The Unreliable Functionality of United Nations Peacekeepers
|Burundian UN peacekeepers patrol in Bangui, Central African Republic -- Photo by Jane Hahn Washington Post|
"The weakest and most vulnerable around the world rely on the United Nations to protect them, but it won't be able to fulfill their expectations if its members send protectors who are known abusers back home."At the present time, the United Nations is engaged in managing sixteen separate peacekeeping missions with over 100,000 uniformed personnel and an annual $8-billion budget. It recruits peacekeepers from militaries around the world, many of which have notable records of military and institutionalized abuse serving repressive governments. But the United Nations lacks a system to identify conscripts with backgrounds replete with human rights abuses.
Akshaya Kumar, deputy UN director, Human Rights Watch
"[The UN] does not have dedicated resources to carry out human rights screening of individual contingent members, nor do we have the means to assess the records of individuals."
Farhan Haq, senior spokesman, UN peacekeepers
Burundi is a case in point, where the government has used its security forces as a punishing tool against political opponents. A team of human rights experts appointed by the UN warned months ago that their forces were committing "gross violations" of human rights, recommending it "phase out" use of Burundian peacekeepers. Consequently, the UN announced months ago it would no longer accept Burundian police as peacekeepers in the Central African Republic once the contingent has completed its tour.
The UN cited that cessation "given the current allegations of serious and ongoing human rights violations in Burindi". Despite which the UN employs over 800 Burundian soldiers in the Central African Republic, required, according to senior officials, to maintain the peace. Another 5,400 Burundian troops are supported through the African Union's mission in Somalia. And the reason that Burundian police and military are offered to the United Nations for peacekeeping is that millions of dollars are sent to the government of Burundi as payment for supplying the troops.
The same could be said for any and all governments who offer their security personnel for deployment as UN peacekeepers; governments are lavishly recompensed for their part in offering their national police and military to the United Nations. For their part, the conscripts to the UN peacekeeping effort view the opportunity to serve as a splendid personal opportunity to enhance their livelihood. The coveted posts pay exceedingly well, about $12,000 annually as opposed to the salary of a lieutenant in Burundi who makes $500 per year.
This is used as a form of pay-off by the Burundian government which reserves the peacekeeping nominations for its loyalist contingents. Congo too sent 850 peacekeepers to the Central African Republic with an African Union mission, in 2014 taken over by the United Nations. Like Burundi, Congo's military commits human rights abuses, raping and killing civilians during civil war. Similarly, the UN announced it would be ending Congo's role in the Central African Republic after incoming troops were unable to meet UN standards for vetting, training and equipment.
Security forces that open fire on protesters, kill and injure people, crack down on suspected government enemies, arrest hundreds in defense of government orders are considered loyalists by repressive, human-rights-abusing regimes which are still viewed with a measure of favour in the United Nations. Consider Syria's regime known to be responsible for a half-million Syrian deaths in civil war conflict, and millions of displaced Syrians; half its population. It still has a respected place within UN member-bodies.
A great majority of United Nations member countries are unable to bear even cursory scrutiny of their human rights records. Countries like Saudi Arabia with its misogynistic patriarchy and its penchant for inspiring terrorism, can still sit on a council ostensibly created to support women's rights. The United Nations was meant to be a bulwark against human rights abuses in the world, as a world body to promote peace and equality. Instead it has become a club for human rights abusers to stand in judgement over the relative few of the UN's members who are exemplars of human rights protection.