UNMIL Photo/Christopher Herwig, April 17, 2009, Buchanan, Grand Bassa, Liberia -Private Linda Mensah, one of the 41 female members serving with Ghanbat 10 with UNMIL in Buchana on patrol about the Liberian Port City of Buchanan.

The UN’s Peackeeping Budget is Shrinking. Is that a good thing?

On Wednesday evening, Nikki Haley touted a nearly $600 million cut to the UN Peacekeeping budget, boasting this as a win for the United States.

In fact, in negotiations at the UN’s budget committee (the “fifth committee” as it’s known) member states did agree on a cut to UN peacekeeping, but at an amount less than what the United States had originally proposed.

The US sought a $6.99 billion budget for the year, starting July 1. This would have reduced US contributions to that budget by about 10%, to about $1.99 billion. But in the wee hours of the morning, the committee agreed to a $7.3 billion budget, cutting the US share by about $200 million.

Still, that is a big cut to UN Peacekeeping — $588 million to be exact.

So where is this money coming from?

The full budget will be presented later today at the General Assembly, but sources familiar with the negotiations say that about half of the $588 million cut comes from a sharp reduction of the UN Peacekeeping mission in Haiti. This was to be expected: the security and political situation in Haiti have improved significantly in recent years to the point where the 5,000 peacekeepers are no longer necessary. The mission will be fully withdrawn by mid-October.  Other savings come from the reductions to the mission in Liberia, another success story.

Also today, after 13 years, the peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire is formally ending.

The Ivory Coast mission cost $130 million last year and is a good example of how investing in UN Peacekeeping can yield big global security dividends.

13 years ago, Cote D’Ivoire was struggling to recover from a brutal civil war.  A peacekeeping mission was deployed to help monitor and implement a peace agreement between the waring parties. That worked, more or less, until 2010. President Laurent Gbagbo lost elections that year–the country’s first free and fair elections since the peace agreement. He refused to leave office and tried to foment a civil war. UN Peacekeeping troops mobilized to protect the rightful winner of the election and helped keep a lid on the crisis. Gbagbo was eventually ousted in a raid on his home that was backed by UN air support. He’s now in a jail cell in the Hague.

Laurent Gbagbo and defence counsel Emmanuel Altit – © ICC-CPI

Meanwhile, the country is booming. It was the fasted growing economy in Africa last year, posting an 8.5% growth rate. The country is also the world’s leading exporter of cocoa — and cocoa prices have historically fluctuated based in part on political stability in Ivory Coast. This helps explain why the candy bar giant Mars Corporation, headquartered in Virginia, wrote to Congress urging the full funding for the UN, including UN peacekeeping.

The mission will now close, to be replaced by a smaller political mission. This success shows that peacekeeping missions can work extremely well if properly resourced and given the time to do their jobs.

Some of the peacekeeping cuts could have some bigger implications for international peace and security.

The mission in Darfur and Congo are two of the more expensive missions that are expected to take outsized cuts. In Darfur, the ability of the peacekeepers to operate was severely strained due to interference by the government of Sudan. It was not a mission living up to its mandate. Still, the cuts could impact communities in Darfur and the humanitarian agencies trying to provide a modicum of humanitarian relief.

In Congo, the implications could be far more profound. The country is in the midst of several crises, including an emerging conflict in a region of the country that was previously stable and to which UN Peacekeepers were never deployed in large numbers. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the Kasai region, and the situation there only seems to be getting worse. At the same time, there is still a degree of instability in the eastern part of the country to which the bulk of peacekeepers are already deployed.

The peacekeeping mission will be asked to do more with less and that is a recipe for failure.

The full budget numbers will be available later today after the General Assembly casts its vote. But it is worth keeping in mind that as the UN rightfully celebrates its ability to cut down on missions that have succeeded, cuts to UN peacekeeping will not be without impact in missions where blue helmets are still badly needed.