Peacekeeping missions are a critical tool for promoting peace and reconciliation in conflict zones across the world. Nearly 90,000 United Nations (UN) personnel from 87 countries are currently serving in 12 missions around the world. They are meeting the growing demand for trained military, police, and civilian peacekeeping personnel to protect civilians, bolster stability, and promote health and well-being in communities struggling to emerge from conflict. This week, the United States was pleased to co-host the U.S.-Rwanda Preparatory Meeting for the 2021 Peacekeeping Ministerial: Partnerships for Performance and Accountability. This virtual event was an opportunity for the 161 invitees to discuss how together, they can strengthen peacekeeping partnerships, encourage more countries to pledge support toward international peacekeeping, and improve the performance and accountability of UN peacekeeping operations.
In addition to the United States’ financial and personnel contributions to the UN in support of its peacekeeping operations, the U.S. is also the largest provider of capacity-building assistance to troop- and police- contributing countries. Since 2005, the United States has invested more than $1.5 billion, most notably through the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). Through GPOI, the U.S. currently supports 55 partner troop-contributing countries around the globe, providing training, equipment, long-term advisory support, training facility construction, and other assistance to enhance their capacity to prepare, deploy, and sustain peacekeepers in increasingly complex mission environments. GPOI has allowed U.S. partners to develop new or enhanced critical enabling capabilities, like aviation, engineering, and medical support, that they have pledged and are deploying to peacekeeping missions.
Portraits in Peacekeeping: GPOI Partners Contributions to Peacekeeping
This virtual meeting, co-hosted by the United States and Rwanda, provided a valuable opportunity to meet with international partners who share the U.S.’s objective to strengthen peacekeeping operations. This event helped set the stage for the United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial Conference that will be held in Seoul, South Korea, later this year. I was honored to join a panel discussion on how peacekeeping effectiveness can be improved through capacity-building partnerships. I spoke alongside an esteemed group of panelists, including representatives from Rwanda and El Salvador, who are among several GPOI partners who have made significant contributions to international peacekeeping in recent years.
Rwanda: A Model for Productive Peacekeeping Capacity-Building Partnerships
After nearly two decades of peacekeeping partnership with the United States, Rwanda has become one of the largest and most capable UN troop- and police- contributing countries. Today, Rwanda deploys seven infantry battalions, one Level 2 military field hospital, one helicopter unit, and six formed police units to UN operations. The nation is now widely recognized as a high-performing contributor and staunch advocate for the protection of civilians by UN peacekeeping operations. The case of Rwanda highlights the success of the U.S. model of approaching capacity-building partnerships as long-term relationships that build toward clear end-state objectives.
Rwanda also participates in the United States police capacity-building initiative through the International Police Peacekeeping Operations Support (IPPOS) program. In 2014, the United States began training police units in participating countries to deploy to MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic. The United States and Rwanda had a shared objective for the partnership – for Rwanda’s training cadre to independently prepare units for future deployments. By 2017, U.S. assistance in preparing the specialized Protection Support Unit (PSU) transitioned from direct unit training to mentoring Rwanda’s own PSU instructors.The Rwandan PSU went on to serve with distinction, and the U.S.-Rwanda partnership has continued in the form of specialized support to police trainers and commanders, as well as upgrades to the police peacekeeping training center.
Ghana: A Success Story for Capability Development through Peacekeeping Capacity-Building Partnerships
Joint investments in Ghana’s personnel, equipment, facilities, and processes have helped the country build a dedicated cadre of trainers and develop robust training institutions. With these structures in place, Ghana is able to effectively prepare its contingents for specific UN missions. American support for Ghanaian peacekeepers has transitioned from providing direct training to advising the national instructors who train deploying units.
The partnership has evolved to focus on institutional support, such as curriculum development, the management of training resources, and logistics. Training support has also continued with a focus on critical enabling capabilities, including specialized engineering, medical, and aviation skills. This progress is exemplary of the success of approaching capacity-building partnerships as long-term relationships aimed at developing institutional capacity. Ghana is now the tenth largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping.
El Salvador: An Example of Accountable Partnerships in Peacekeeping Capacity-Building
For the last 10 years, the United States and El Salvador have worked together to build El Salvador’s helicopter capacity in support of UN peacekeeping deployments. Accountability was built into this partnership through large investments from both the United States and El Salvador. While the United States has provided pre-deployment and in-mission training, advisory support, and equipment, El Salvador has also invested in developing and sustaining their advanced capability.
El Salvador has consistently sustained high-performing armed helicopter rotations in the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA. Moreover, they have been champions of meaningful women’s participation in peacekeeping, regularly integrating women into deployed units. In fact, El Salvador was the first to contribute a female armed helicopter pilot to MINUSMA, and they have continued to do so for the last five years. These successes exemplify the benefits of capacity-building partnerships that are based on mutual commitments.
U.S. Leadership in Building up Partners’ Peacekeeping Capacity
The effectiveness of the U.S. peacekeeping capacity-building model is based on aligning assistance with mutually agreed upon end-state objectives. Meeting these objectives is only possible through a focus on an enduring investment to develop capabilities, as opposed to merely providing sporadic training. In order to accomplish this, the United States addresses a full spectrum of factors that influence peacekeeping capabilities, including:
- advancement of a partner’s national trainer cadre,
- provision of training equipment and aids,
- construction of safe and appropriate training facilities, and
- refinement of processes to generate, deploy, and sustain units.
Producing effective peacekeeping units requires more than just pre-deployment training. Peacekeeping contributors need an institutional framework to develop core military and police skills upon which peacekeeping training can build. This training framework must further be placed within a broader organizational structure that can effectively manage the human and financial resources and logistics processes needed to deploy and sustain peacekeeping forces.
By following these principles of implementing capacity-building partnerships, the U.S. ensures that its assistance reinforces high-priority United Nations initiatives. The success of American contributions in enhancing UN peacekeeping is why this year alone, the U.S. has budgeted nearly $75 million for GPOI and IPPOS.
United Nations peacekeepers serve an indispensable role in advancing the cause of peace and security in a world burdened by violence and instability. This is a difficult task, and the United States is committed to continuing our efforts to ensure peacekeepers can effectively execute mission mandates while reinforcing peacekeeper safety and security. The U.S. will continue working with like-minded countries to advocate for greater transparency, accountability, and effectiveness in UN peacekeeping to ensure the U.S. is serving the local communities that peacekeepers are deployed to support and protect. As a leading source of financial, technical, and material support for building peacekeeping capacity, the United States demonstrates its ongoing commitment to safe, effective, efficient, and accountable UN peace operations.
About the Author: Stan Brown is the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. For further information, please contact PM-CPA@state.gov, and follow us on Twitter @StateDeptPM.