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By Amit Baruah
According to a recent U.N. fact-sheet, 2,735 Indian troops were deployed in peacekeeping missions mandated by the Security Council. Pakistan (4,245 troops) was the largest contributor, while Nigeria came second with 3,316. The others in the "top five'' troop contributors were Bangladesh (2,658) and Ghana (2,060).
``As of April 30, 2003, 89 countries were contributing a total of some 37,000 personnel, including 30,167 troops, 5,162 civilian police and 1,658 military observers,'' the paper said.
It pointed out that the United States and the European Union (the bulk of the "international community'') contributed very little in terms of personnel to U.N. peacekeeping missions.
``Of the 37,000 troops and civilian police serving in U.N. peace operations, only 3,323 come from the European Union and only 558 from the United States (543 civilian police, 13 military observers and two soldiers,'' the fact-sheet stated.
Although 89 member-states contribute to U.N. peacekeeping operations, the document acknowledged that "the greatest burden'' in the form of troops was borne by a "core group'' of developing countries.
Noting hesitancy on the part of developed countries to commit their troops, the U.N. Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, noted: "The provision of well-equipped, well-trained and disciplined military and police personnel to U.N. peacekeeping operations is a collective responsibility of member-states. Countries from the South should not and must not be expected to shoulder this burden alone.''
Whatever be the skewed nature of "troop contribution'', the other issue raised in the fact-sheet is that of command. "Only the most senior soldiers serving on United Nations missions are directly employed by the U.N. usually on secondment from their national armed forces.''
``The bulk of the troops remain under the ultimate control of their own governments, and participate in U.N. peacekeeping under terms that are carefully negotiated by those governments.
``While on duty, they report to the mission's force commander, and through him to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. However, the authority to send or withdraw peacekeepers remains with the Government that volunteered them, and that the Government also retains their responsibility for their pay, as well as disciplinary and personnel matters,'' the paper said.
It revealed that peacekeeping soldiers were paid by their own government according to national rank and salary scale.
"Countries volunteering uniformed personnel to peacekeeping operations are reimbursed by the U.N. at a flat rate of a little over $ 1,000 a month. The U.N. also reimburses countries for equipment.''
The paper argued that U.N. peacekeeping operations were one of the specific and unique tools available to the international community to help resolve international conflicts, and prevent internal wars from destabilising regions, when "conditions'' for their success exist.
``As an investment, U.N.-led peacekeeping missions as opposed to those conducted by ad hoc coalitions have the distinct advantage of having an inbuilt mechanism for their financial costs, material and personnel, to be shared globally...'' it said.
``The costs of peacekeeping are tiny compared to the costs of conflict and its toll in lives and property. Although U.N. peacekeeping costs about U.S. $2.6 billion in 2002, in 2001 governments worldwide spent more than $800 billion on arms a figure representing 2.6 per cent of the world gross domestic product.''
It said that while peacekeeping was not formally mentioned in the U.N. Charter, the Charter gave the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
``The Council, therefore, normally created and defines peacekeeping missions. It does this through providing the mission with a mandate a description of the tasks it is charged with undertaking...''
The fact-sheet also referred to the August 2000 Lakhdar Brahimi (former Algerian Foreign Minister and long-time advisor to the U.N. Secretary-General) report on peacekeeping operations it spoke of the need for a clear and specific mandate, consent to the operation by the parties in conflict and adequate resources from professional and appropriate personnel to equipment and finances.
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