Peacekeeping’s David to Militaries’ Goliath

Washington, D.C.—The world spent 228 times as much on its militaries in 2006 as it did on U.N. peacekeeping operations, according to the latest Vital Signs Update from the Worldwatch Institute. United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world between July 2007 and June 2008 are expected to run to $7 billion—substantially higher than the record $5.6 billion spent in 2006–07. Yet world military budgets stood at a staggering $1,232 billion in 2006.

"The continuing imbalance between peacekeeping and military spending is deeply troubling,” says Michael Renner, author of the Update. “Even though we see peacekeeping budgets at new heights, they are still highly inadequate in the face of present challenges."

Two new U.N. missions were authorized during 2007: UNAMID, a U.N.-African Union “hybrid” force in the Darfur region of Sudan, and MINURCAT, a mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad. This area of Africa is home to a series of partially linked crises, with instability and violence in Darfur spilling over into neighboring Chad (where government and two rebel groups are clashing along the border). And in the CAR, fighting persists in the northwest and along the border with Chad and Cameroon.

Two-thirds of all Blue Helmets, as U.N. peacekeepers are called, are currently deployed in nine missions in Africa. The Middle East has the second most, with 16 percent, followed by the Americas (11 percent), Europe (6 percent), and Asia (3 percent).

As of November 2007, $3.15 billion in mandatory U.N. peacekeeping dues had not been paid by national governments. The United States alone owed $1.1 billion, or 34 percent of this total. In contrast to the relatively low price of paying its peacekeeping debts, the United States has spent about $632 billion on the war in Iraq, an average of more than $100 billion per year.

"These arrears keep peacekeeping efforts in a constant state of crisis, risking stability in several critical regions of the world," says Renner.