Ready to pay off UN peacekeeping debt: US

The US is ready to hand over more than $2 billion (R15 billion) in new and old contributions it owes the UN peacekeeping department, Washington’s UN ambassador, Susan Rice, said.
“The US is now in a position to clear all peacekeeping arrears accumulated from 2005 to 2008 and to meet our obligations in full for 2009 currently estimated at approximately $2.2 billion (about R17 billion),” Rice told a UN Security Council meeting on peacekeeping.
A spokesperson for the US mission to the UN said the arrears amounted to $159 million (R1271 million). Revising earlier information, she said the 2005-2008 arrears were included in the total $2.2 billion owed to the UN peacekeeping department.
As the UN single biggest contributor, Washington is responsible for roughly one-quarter of the peacekeeping budget, which approaches $8 billion (R63 billion) and pays for over 110 000 soldiers and police in 15 missions worldwide.
UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told reporters the US declaration was “extremely good news.”
“That’s extremely important and of course very different from the past. And of course that is very important for the whole peacekeeping operation,” Le Roy said.
The administration of former US President Bush had an uneasy relationship with the UN, often criticizing it as inefficient and corrupt.
President Obama, who has pledged to support the UN and its peacekeeping operations, asked Congress in June to pay in full what Washington owed it.
Rice told the council the Obama administration was ready to keep its promises. Last week, she told lawmakers in Washington the US was prepared to offer more military observers and police officers to UN missions.
Peacekeepers urgently needed
The Better World Campaign, an advocacy group that focuses on US-UN relations, said the failure to pay US dues endangered missions in places like Sudan’s western Darfur region, Haiti and the DRC.
Britain and France are leading efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions, some of which have faced charges of corruption and sexual abuse.
The UN has been conducting its own internal review and found that peacekeeping was overstretched and needed clearer mandates from the Security Council and more resources, especially equipment and well-trained troops.
In a declaration the Security Council was set to adopt unanimously, the 15 council members said they must ensure that peacekeeping mandates are “clear, credible and achievable and matched by appropriate resources.”
It also noted “the urgent need to increase the pool of available troop and police contributors.”
UN officials have privately criticized Western powers with strong militaries like Britain and the US for their unwillingness to provide troops to UN missions.
British UN Ambassador John Sawers acknowledged that was the case at the moment, but noted they were heavily committed in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pic: UN Peacekeeping convoy in the DRC