This is part of UNA-UK's "Keeping Britain Global" campaign calling for a coherent UK foreign policy programme. Assessments have been made using the words of UN officials, cross-party committees of MPs and the UK's own voting and participation record as part of UN processes.
We scored it green. The UK has made a significant contribution to UN peacekeeping. It must now encourage others to follow suit and support effective reforms.
The House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations welcomed the UK’s increase in contributions to UN peacekeeping: “the numbers of personnel were small but praised the UK’s specialised assistance... The UK should consider how it can add value to the range of capabilities available to UN peacekeeping.”
UN peacekeeping is one of the international community’s most important tools. Over the past 70 years, UN missions have helped to end conflicts and foster reconciliation in dozens of countries, from El Salvador to Tajikistan. Studies have found it to be more effective and substantially cheaper than comparable operations.
The UK has a commendable record on UN peacekeeping. It is one of the largest financial contributors and used to be one of the largest contributors of troops. While troop numbers have been relatively small since the 1990s, the UK recently pledged to double its total number of peacekeepers with a deployment of 370 troops to Somalia and South Sudan. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the UK also plays a vital role in the creation of missions.
However, there is reason and scope to do more. UN peacekeeping can help the UK to address threats to its national security - from extremism to disrupted trade - that it cannot tackle alone, through missions that are collectively funded and staffed.
UK troop numbers are still only modest, representing less than one per cent of the UN’s total uniformed personnel. There is currently capacity to contribute more UK troops - an opportunity which should be take. Equipment and technology such as helicopters and mobile communications are also sorely needed.
At a time when political and financial pressures are putting missions at risk, the UK - which “holds the pen” at the Security Council for peacekeeping - needs to shepherd peacekeeping through this difficult time and push for the reforms necessary to make it fit for the 21st century. This includes designing people-centred missions; promoting greater transparency of the restrictions and caveats that states place upon the troops they contribute; and establishing accountability mechanisms to deal with sexual exploitation and abuse.