Boots on the Ground: Strengthening Peacekeeping through the U.S. Global Peace Operations Initiative

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By R. Clarke Cooper

International Day of UN Peacekeepers recognizes the courageous and dedicated men and women around the world who don the blue helmet and risk everything to create the time and space needed for conflicts to end and stabilization to take hold. We honor the vital role these men and women play in curbing violent conflicts and preventing suffering around the world, and reiterate America’s commitment to supporting, training, and equipping the international forces who make these vital missions possible.

Peacekeeping missions are a critical tool for promoting peace and reconciliation in some of the world’s most troubled countries. Today, more than 113,000 UN personnel from 124 countries serve in peacekeeping roles in 14 missions around the world -- in Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Europe. The diverse, robust, and demanding mandates of each of these missions see peacekeepers working to contain violent groups, protect civilians, bolster stability, and promote health and well-being.

This year’s theme, “Protecting Civilians, Protecting Peace,” is especially timely. As the world’s leading financial supporter for UN peacekeeping, the United States demonstrates its steadfast commitment to these ideals. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is proud to contribute through both capacity building efforts to enable more countries step up to help meet the growing global demand for trained military and civilian personnel, as well as support for efforts to improve performance and accountability of UN peacekeeping missions.

A key building block for an effective peacekeeping force are well-trained, disciplined, and properly equipped security forces. Programs like the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) have played a pivotal role in meeting the expanding need for well-trained and adequately equipped peacekeepers capable of responding to evolving mission requirements.

GPOI brings together the Department of State and the Department of Defense to strengthen international capacity and capabilities to implement United Nations and regional peace operations. GPOI’s 54 partner nations comprise the bulk of uniformed forces engaged in UN peacekeeping operations around the world. Through our program activities, GPOI assists partner countries to enhance their self-sufficiency in training for peacekeeping operations; and, so far, over half of our GPOI partners have achieved this level. The program also delivers training and equipment to build the capacity of our partners in critical enabling capabilities such as aviation, engineering, and medical services – all of which have been persistent shortfalls in UN missions. A critical enabling capability supports not only the country that deploys it, but also the other international troops deployed across the mission.

This Administration is firm about in peacekeeping, performance and accountability matter. GPOI is making a difference in supporting UN and other peace operations worldwide. Overall, GPOI partners have increased the number of military personnel deployed to UN and AU peace operations by 160 percent since becoming GPOI partners, as compared to only a 46 percent increase in deployed troops from non-GPOI countries.

Through GPOI, we are committed to effective development and delivery of peacekeeping training meeting or exceeding UN standards. GPOI has funded 20 projects to help the UN develop doctrine, guidance documents, military unit manuals, and training materials, as well as execute UN training events and provide advisory and technical assistance.

GPOI remains active in expanding the role of women and enhancing Gender Integration–GPOI encourages women’s participation, integration, and leadership in peace operations; trains female peacekeepers; and integrates gender-related topics (such as preventing gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse) into training for all peacekeepers. Since 2007, more than 9,300 female peacekeepers have participated in GPOI-facilitated training; and from 2010-2019, GPOI partners increased the number of deployed female military peacekeepers by 103 percent, as compared to a one percent increase among non-GPOI countries.

United Nations peacekeepers serve an indispensable role in advancing the cause of peace and security in a world ever more burdened by violence and instability. This is a difficult task, and the United States is committed to working with like-minded countries to continue to advocate for both greater transparency, accountability, effectiveness and fiscal efficiency in this important mission. 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: R. Clarke Cooper is the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.