Ten Hours in Iraq Cost the Same as Three Years in Liberia, Says Former UN Official

From today’s presentation at the U.S. Institute of Peace by Jan Egeland, the former UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, comes this enlightening statistic:

The amount of money that the United States has contributed to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) — whose successes include calming a decade of civil war, bringing a former dictator to justice, and ushering in a democratic government that elected Africa’s first female leader — over the past four years is equal to the amount that it spends in ten hours in Iraq.

This statistic is sobering, but it is not surprising. After all, the amount of money that the U.S. spends in just three days in Iraq is equivalent to our entire yearly contribution to all UN peacekeeping missions. And while the conflict in Iraq roils on, many war zones in which the UN has been engaged are emerging as valuable success stories. In addition to Liberia, Egeland cited Ivory Coast, East Timor, South Sudan, Sierre Leone, and Kosovo as examples in which UN engagement has led to substantially freer and more stable societies — all at a fraction of the cost of the U.S.’s operations in Iraq.

Egeland stressed that the key to improving U.S.-UN relations is to convince the U.S. government just how good of an investment UN peacekeeping missions are. As Mark has emphasized before — and as even U.S. government studies have proven — UN peacekeeping missions are consistently more effective and more cost-efficient than comparable U.S.-led enterprises. For these and other reasons, supporting UN peacekeepers is strongly in U.S. interests, even if this year’s budget request doesn’t reflect this priority.