US: Won’t pay over 25 percent of UN peacekeeping anymore

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States will no longer shoulder more than a quarter of the multibillion-dollar costs of the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations, Washington’s envoy said Wednesday.

“Peacekeeping is a shared responsibility,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said at a Security Council debate on peacekeeping reform. “All of us have a role to play, and all of us must step up.”

The U.S. is the biggest contributor, assessed about 28.5 percent of this year’s $7.3 billion peacekeeping budget.

Citing a 25 percent cap in a U.S. law, Haley said it will be the limit “moving forward.” The U.S. Mission to the U.N. later said her remarks apply to the current peacekeeping budget year.

The second-largest contributor, China, is assessed a bit over 10 percent.

The U.N. now runs 15 peacekeeping missions worldwide. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has complained before about the cost and pressed to cut this year’s budget. It is $570 million below last year’s, a smaller decrease than the U.S. wanted.

“We’re only getting started,” Haley said when the cut was approved in June. It followed a $400 million trim the prior year, before Trump’s administration.

Haley said Wednesday that the U.S. will work to make sure cuts in its portion are done “in a fair and sensible manner that protects U.N. peacekeeping.”

The General Assembly sets the budget and respective contributions by vote. Spokesmen for Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declined to comment on Haley’s remarks, noting that the 193 U.N. member states will decide the budget.

Drawing over 105,000 troops, police and other personnel from countries around the world, the peacekeeping missions operate in places from Haiti to parts of India and Pakistan. Most are in African countries. The biggest is in Congo, where the Security Council agreed just Tuesday to keep the 16,000-troop force in place for another year.

Some missions have been credited with helping to protect civilians and restore stability, but others have been criticized for corruption and ineffectiveness.

In Mali, where 13,000 peacekeepers have been deployed since 2013, residents in a northern region still “don’t feel safe and secure,” Malian women’s rights activist Fatimata Toure told the Security Council on Wednesday. She said violence remains pervasive in her section of a country that plunged into turmoil after a March 2012 coup created a security vacuum.

“We have still not felt (the peacekeeping mission) deliver on its protection-of-civilians mandate,” though it has helped in some other ways, Toure said. “We feel, as civilians, that we’ve been abandoned, left to our fate.”

Peacekeeping also has been clouded by allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation. An Associated Press investigative series last year uncovered roughly 2,000 claims of such conduct by peacekeepers and other U.N. personnel around the world during a 12-year period.

Maintaining peace has become increasingly deadly work. Some 59 peacekeepers were killed through “malicious acts” last year, compared to 34 in 2016, Guterres said Wednesday. A U.N. report in January blamed many of the deaths on inaction in the field and “a deficit of leadership” from the world body’s headquarters to remote locations.

Guterres said Wednesday that the U.N. is improving peacekeepers’ training, has appointed a victims’ rights advocate for victims of sexual abuse and is reviewing all peacekeeping operations.

Still, he said, more needs to be done to strengthen peacekeeping forces and ensure they are deployed in tandem with political efforts, not instead of them. They also shouldn’t be overloaded with unrealistic expectations, he said.

“Lives and credibility are being lost,” he said. “A peacekeeping operation is not an army or a counterterrorist force or a humanitarian agency.”

Representatives from many countries also stressed a need for more focused, better prepared peacekeeping missions and more robust political peace processes.

The U.N., its member states and countries that host peacekeeping missions all “need to shoulder our responsibilities,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country arranged the debate as this month’s Security Council president.