Speaking at his first news conference since taking up the post of Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy cited a 2006 study by the United States Government Accountability Office which estimated that it would cost the US about twice as much as the UN to conduct a peacekeeping operation similar to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
He also recalled a separate study by the RAND Corporation which found that the UN is far more cost-effective at nation-building than individual governments.
“While $7.2 billion may seem like a lot,” stated Mr. Le Roy, “if we compare the figures that UN missions cost to the costs that other institutions would incur… the UN remains cost effective.”
While it is not unexpected for the head of UN peacekeeping to praise UN peacekeeping, the numbers and studies that he uses to bolster his claim are cold, hard facts. Le Roy is not blind to the challenges facing UN peacekeeping, either; he was candid about the struggles to deploy the mission in Darfur and the need to combat sexual exploitation and abuse among peacekeepers. These challenges do nothing to undermine the overall advantages of UN peacekeeping, however, and addressing them head-on will only strengthen Le Roy’s case that blue helmets represent an exceedingly wise investment.
Managing an organization that takes on so much with such a comparatively low budget is not easy, and Mr. Le Roy will need to negotiate a tricky balancing act between realism and optimism. It’s a task that his predecessor and countryman, the very capable Jean-Marie Guehenno, understood well, and let’s hope that Mr. Le Roy follows in the latter’s footsteps.