Peacekeeping Budgets and Personnel Soar to New Heights

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Costs for United Nations peacekeeping operations from July 2007 to June 2008 are expected to run to $7 billion—substantially higher than the record $5.6 billion spent in 2006–07.1 (See Figure 1.) Currently running operations in 17 countries, the United Nations now deploys more soldiers, military observers, and police than ever before: a total of 84,309 as of December 2007.2 (See Figure 2.) This figure includes more than 70,000 soldiers, close to 10,000 police, and about 2,500 military observers.3 Counting international and local civilian staff and volunteers, the total runs up to about 106,000.4 And 11 smaller “political and peacebuilding” missions (typically follow-up efforts once a peacekeeping mission ends) deployed another 3,787 personnel as of late 2007.5 Of the total U.N. personnel, about 7,000 are women—2,000 in uniform and 5,000 civilians.6

Still, U.N. peacekeeping continues to be dwarfed by military spending and staffing priorities. World military budgets stood at $1,232 billion in 2006—that’s 228 times as much as was spent on U.N. peacekeeping.7 The extended U.S. war in Iraq has cost about $632 billion, or an average of more than $100 billion per year.8 International deployments of national military forces that are not part of peacekeeping operations totaled about 540,000 in 2005.9 U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other military bases around the globe account for about 394,000 of that figure.10 Other countries with significant foreign deployments—Turkey, the United Kingdom, France, Russia—together have about 117,000 soldiers in other countries.11

Two new U.N. missions were authorized during 2007: UNAMID, a U.N.–African Union “hybrid” force in Darfur, and MINURCAT, a mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad. This region of Africa is home to a series of partially linked crises. Instability and violence in Sudan’s Darfur region have spilled over into neighboring Chad, which is also suffering from clashes between the government and two rebel groups along the border with Sudan. And in the CAR, fighting persists in the northwest and along the border with Chad and Cameroon.12

A U.N. Security Council resolution passed in July 2007 authorized UNAMID to grow tonearly 20,000 military personnel, plus several thousand police officers and civilians.13 But these numbers won’t be reached until perhaps late 2008. Aid workers fear that in the meantime the humanitarian situation for millions of displaced people will not improve.14

Peacekeepers come from all corners of the world. Altogether, 119 countries contributed personnel to the U.N. missions in 2007—including many nations that themselves suffer from armed conflict.15 During 1996–2007, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka accounted for 34 percent of the total.16 Five other nations each provided more than 2,000 peacekeepers: Ghana, Jordan, Italy, Nigeria, and Uruguay.17 Eleven additional countries, more than half of them African, made at least 1,000 peacekeepers available.18 Stepped-up commitments by China and France brought the contribution of five permanent members of the Security Council to close to 6 percent of all personnel.19 Yet at about 300 personnel each, the other three permanent members—the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia—remained stingy contributors, especially relative to their own military engagements around the world.20

Seven missions account for about 87 percent of the current peacekeeping budget.21 Missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in southern Sudan together cost more than $2 billion in 2007–08, and the new mission in Darfur alone is pegged at close to $1.5 billion, pending U.N. General Assembly budgetary approval.22 The next four largest deployments—in Liberia, Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire, and Lebanon—together cost about $2.5 billion.23 The top missions also account for the bulk of all currently deployed U.N. peacekeeping personnel.24

Two thirds of all Blue Helmets, as U.N. peacekeepers are called, are currently deployed in nine missions in Africa (and that portion is set to expand as UNAMID’s ranks swell toward authorized deployment limits).25 The Middle East has the second most, with 16 percent, followed by the Americas with 11 percent, Europe with 6 percent, and Asia with 3 percent.26

Compared with the early days of peacekeeping—when missions were largely limited to monitoring and maintaining peace along well-defined lines and were based on strict neutrality—today’s missions are highly complex. They often involve providing assistance in elections and other political processes, building or rebuilding institutions, reforming judicial systems, training law enforcement and police forces, disarming and reintegrating former combatants, and performing other tasks that help foster and consolidate peace.27 In a number of cases, such as Cambodia, East Timor, and Kosovo, the United Nations even acted as the transitional authority in the absence of a recognized or functioning government.28

The Security Council approves new missions but does not necessarily see to it that they have the necessary resources, leading to growing strains.29 One bottleneck is the limited capacity or willingness of member states to provide adequately trained personnel and equipment in a timely manner, which has led to delayed deployments and overburdened peacekeepers.

To pay for peacekeeping, member states are assessed a portion of the total costs according to a formula measuring their ability to pay. The top two—the United States and Japan—together are responsible for 43 percent of the total bill.30 Germany, the United Kingdom, and France account for 24 percent.31 Overall, just 15 countries cover 90 percent of the budget.32 But when they balk, by paying late or withholding part of what they owe, peacekeeping finances are thrown into deep crisis, as has happened repeatedly.

As of November 2007, $3.15 billion of peacekeeping payments had not been made by national governments.33 (See Figure 3.) At $1.1 billion, the United States owed 34 percent of this total.34 Japan is the number two deadbeat (at $730 million), followed by France ($189 million) and China ($178 million).35 The next 11 largest contributors together owed another $454 million. Only Mexico and Brazil came close to paying their dues in full.36

Nowadays the United Nations is far from the only organization that dispatches peacekeepers. Non-U.N. missions can also be found in all regions of the world, often with the imprimatur of the U.N. Security Council (and thus added legitimacy) and sometimes working as “hybrids” in conjunction with the Blue Helmets. Indeed, in some conflict areas multiple missions are deployed simultaneously.

During 2007, 47 missions were maintained by a variety of regional organizations, such as the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or by ad hoc coalitions.37 They involved an estimated 42,000 soldiers in 2007.38 (See Figure 4.) Budget information is incomplete, but these deployments cost at least $1.3 billion in 2007.39 And these data exclude the 41,000-plus soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, as this increasingly resembles conventional combat more than peacekeeping.40

For both U.N. and non-U.N. missions there are lingering questions about how to deal with situations where there may not be any peace to be kept. Mandates now often include “peace enforcement” by force of arms—a product of criticism that earlier missions were ineffective and of the growing acceptance of a “responsibility to protect” civilian populations who are in harm’s way. But there is always a danger that peacekeepers become just another warring party.


1. U.N. Department of Public Information (UNDPI), “United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. Background Note” (New York: 30 November 2007, and earlier editions); Worldwatch database. All dollar amounts are in 2007 dollars.

2. U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO), “Monthly Summary of Contributors,” at, viewed 14 January 2008; personnel number also based on William Durch, Henry Stimson Center, Washington, DC, e-mail to author, 9 January 1996, and on Global Policy Forum (GPF), at, viewed 2 January 2008.

3. UNDPKO, op. cit. note 2.

4. Ibid.

5. UNDPI, op. cit. note 1; UNDPI, “United Nations Political and Peace-Building Missions. Background Note” (New York: 30 November 2007). The political and peacebuilding missions in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Burundi are directed by the UNDPKO; the others, all much smaller, by the U.N. Department of Political Affairs.

6. UNDPKO, “United Nations Peacekeeping Factsheet,” May 2007.

7. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Recent Trends in Military Expenditure,” at, viewed 4 January 2008. SIPRI reports $1,204 billion in 2006 terms; in 2007 dollars, this comes to $1,232 billion.

8. Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” CRS Report for Congress, U.S. Congressional Research Service, updated 9 November 2007, p. 6. In current dollars, the war costs amount to $607 billion. In 2007 dollars, they amount to $632 billion. This covers budget authority from fiscal year 2003 to 2007, plus budget requests for fiscal year 2008.

9. Foreign military deployments from “World Military Deployments,” at, updated 17 May 2005.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Security Council Report, “January 2008—Chad/CAR,” at sG/b.3750591, viewed 3 January 2008.

13. U.N. Security Council, Resolution 1769 (2007), New York, 31 July 2007.

14. “Sudan: Waiting for Peacekeeping Muscle in Darfur,” IRIN News, 31 December 2007.

15. UNDPI, op. cit. note 1.

16. Author’s calculation, based on data from UNDPKO, op. cit. note 2. The percentage figures in this and the following paragraph refer to peacekeeping personnel excluding civilian staff.

17. Calculated from UNDPKO, op. cit. note 2.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. UNDPI, op. cit. note 1.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Calculated from ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. UNDPKO, op. cit. note 6.

28. Timo Pelz and Volker Lehmann, “The Evolution of UN Peacekeeping (1): Hybrid Missions,” Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, fact sheet (New York: November 2007).

29. Ibid.

30. UNDPKO, op. cit. note 6.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

33. GPF, “US vs. Total Debt to the UN: 2007,” at, viewed 8 February 2008. 34. GPF, “Debt of 15 Largest Payers to the Peacekeeping Budget 2007,” at, viewed 8 February 2008.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

37.Worldwatch Institute database, compiled from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, at, viewed 1 January 2008; from Center for International Peace Operations, Berlin, Germany, www.zif, viewed 2 January 2008; from Future of Peace Operations Program, “Numbers of Uniformed Personnel in Peace Operations at Mid-Year, 1948–2006,” undated, supplemental material to William J. Durch and Tobias C. Berkman, Who Should Keep the Peace? Providing Security for Twenty-First-Century Peace Operations (Washington, DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, 2006); and from a broad variety of newspaper articles and other sources.

38.Worldwatch Institute database.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid.