UNITED Nations peacekeeping is entering a new era of increasing danger and responsibility. A number of UN experts agree that a more orderly system of recruiting, managing, and financing is required.
Tops on any list is a more streamlined, reliable system of funding. At present, each nation is billed separately, several times a year, for each peacekeeping operation. That practice, says a new study by the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington, treats UN ventures as if they were rare emergency activities and "creates an impression of never-ending costs."
The center suggests consolidation: one bill a year. A proposal made late last year by then-UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to set up a $50 million reserve fund to help launch UN peacekeeping operations more speedily has wide support among UN reformers. It may soon win General Assembly approval.
"I think the receptivity is there," says Leon Hosang, who watches over peacekeeping funds in the UN budget office. The new fund would be started, he says, with money left over from now-ended Namibia and Iran-Iraq peacekeeping operations.
Thomas Weiss, associate director of Brown University's Institute for International Studies and former executive director of the International Peace Academy, says the large current ventures under way in Cambodia and Yugoslavia demonstrate that UN peacekeeping has reached a much more ambitious and potentially dangerous stage than with the small "symbolic" operations of the past. "We have to develop a new set of operating procedures that are far more professional - with far more teeth," he says. "And you ha ve to plan for the worst-case situation; you may be a little overstaffed or overgunned or overprepared, but you're usually not caught unawares."
The UN also faces a growing demand to move in on conflicts at an earlier stage. Peacekeepers could play a varied role in such preventative diplomacy by helping with fact-finding or acting as a deterrent presence.
"Peacekeeping should become in the world community what the civilian police are to the national community," says Sir Brian Urquhart, former UN undersecretary-general in charge of peacekeeping and now a scholar with the Ford Foundation. "That's going to cost money but ... it's a bargain compared to the alternative, which is war."
One big challenge ahead for the UN is to decide whether and how it intends to move into enforcement. The concept of a standing army has few supporters, but Sir Brian and other experts, including US Ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering, say Article 43 of the Charter, allowing nations to make armed forces available to the UN for enforcement actions, deserves further study.