Last year saw 63 multilateral peace operations worldwide with 25 in Africa – the highest of any continent – according to the latest SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) yearbook.
Eighteen peace operations were deployed in Europe, nine in the Middle East, six in Asia and Oceania and five in the Americas.
Nearly 75% of peacekeeping and peace support personnel worldwide were deployed in Africa.
The total number of personnel deployed in multilateral peace operations decreased by 4.5% during 2017, from 152 822 to 145 911. The decrease in the number of personnel is explained by the fall, by 7.6%, in deployments by the United Nations, whiles the number of personnel in non-UN operations increased by 2.3% to 47 557.
The widely respected institute that researches conflict, armament, arms control and disarmament points out while the UN “clearly remains the principal actor in peace operations, African actors are claiming an increasing role in African peace and security matters”.
This, it said, is reflected in the establishment in February 2017 of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force (Force Conjointe des Etats du G5 Sahel, FC-G5S).
“UN peacekeeping reform remained high on the international agenda in 2017. However, these discussions were overshadowed by two other significant developments during the year: the greater insecurity of personnel deployed in UN peace operations; and efforts—particularly by the US administration—to drastically reduce the UN peacekeeping budget,” according to a SIPRI statement.
Last year UN missions “witnessed a dramatic escalation in fatalities linked to hostile acts—in both absolute terms (from 34 in 2016 to 61 in 2017) and as a ratio of the number of uniformed personnel deployed (from 0.31 to 0.61 per 1000 uniformed personnel)”.
Preceding years saw the most fatalities in Mali (MINUSMA), 2017 saw UN operation in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) “face substantial losses”.
In 2017, UN peace operations—like African peace operations—could no longer be certain of predictable and sustainable funding. Budget cuts and related troop reductions meant the UN had to rethink strategy in many operations. “Is it realistic to expect the UN to continue to do more with less and is it worth taking the risk?’ asked Dr Jair van der Lijn, SIPRI Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme director.
“A number of finance-contributing countries hoped budget cuts might be used pragmatically to strengthen peacekeeping reform. However, the actual effects of resource reduction on some operations might put peacekeepers at further risk and leave populations more vulnerable,’ he said.