Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 10 July 2020

International Day of UN Peacekeepers: Mission numbers fall in 2019

Middle East and North Africa was the only region to see an increase in peacekeepers

United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, showing UN peacekeeping armoured vehicles on patrol at a undisclosed location in Mali, 27 March 2019.  EPA
United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, showing UN peacekeeping armoured vehicles on patrol at a undisclosed location in Mali, 27 March 2019.  EPA

The number of United Nations peacekeepers involved in missions around the world has fallen, a Swedish peace institute has said.

A study published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, coinciding with International Day of UN Peacekeepers, has shown the number of peacekeeping personnel is shrinking despite the complexity and prevalence of conflict worldwide.

According to the institute, the number of people in multilateral peace operations – including military, police and international civilian personnel – decreased by 4.8 per cent from in the year to 31 December 2019.

The trend was attributed to cynicism in international politics over the perceived effectiveness of UN peace operations, even if forces have made overall positive contributions.

At the end of last year there were 61 multilateral peace operations in the world with 137,781 personnel deployed. The majority of peacekeepers remain on missions in Sub-Saharan Africa, though globally numbers fell in every region apart from the Middle East and North Africa.

UN peacekeepers in Lebanon patrol the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila along the border with Israel. Mahmoud Zayyat / AFP
UN peacekeepers in Lebanon patrol the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila along the border with Israel. Mahmoud Zayyat / AFP

Ethiopia, the United States and Uganda contributed the most military personnel to multilateral peace operation last year, which includes missions led by Nato, the African Union and others. Senegal, Rwanda and Egypt were the top three police-contributing countries.

The three biggest multilateral peace operations in 2019 were the African Union Mission in Somalia, the UN Mission in South Sudan and the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, led by Nato.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali was the world’s most deadly. Of the 23 uniformed personnel killed in peacekeeping last year, all but one was killed in the Mali mission.

The mission in the Sahel nation began in April 2013 after Islamist fighters hijacked a local Tuareg insurgency and took control of vast swathes of the north of the country including the historically significant city of Timbuktu.

A French intervention successfully dislodged the Ansar Dine militants but in subsequent years the conflict has expanded across the porous borders in the region to nations including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger.

France, the former colonial power, leads a 5,000-strong force in the area, which takes in personnel from the five Sahel nations. A total of 15,610 personnel are deployed with the UN mission headquartered in Bamako.

While the peacekeeping mission in Mali suffered a high number of hostile deaths, there were relatively few in other UN peace operations. As a consequence, the annual death rate of uniformed personnel, with the exception of those in Mali, was far lower than in any other year since 1990.

Updated: May 29, 2020 08:50 PM

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