About the author: Jennifer Pulliam is a program manager for the Global Peace Operations Initiative in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
We’ve received a lot of questions on our recent Dipnote posting on U.S. efforts to train and equip foreign troops to serve in international peacekeeping missions under our Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), a few of which I’d like to share with you today.
What does GPOI do? How long has it been in operation?
Established in 2004, GPOI is a U.S. program primarily designed to assist with training and equipping military units deploying to peacekeeping operations. Through GPOI, we currently provide training to 56 partner countries around the world, about half of which are located in Africa. Among other accomplishments, we've trained nearly 87,000 troops to date, a high percentage of which have deployed to UN and regional peacekeeping missions.
“UN peacekeeping can deliver important results by protecting civilians, helping to rebuild security, and advancing peace around the world,” President Obama said September 24 when he and Secretary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice recognized the importance of peacekeeping in an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“Over the last ten years, the demands on peacekeeping have grown, and operations have become more complex. It is in all of our interests to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these efforts,” Obama said. GPOI is part of this effort to ensure that we have sufficient numbers of well-trained peacekeepers available to respond to these needs and help create conditions for post-conflict recovery remain a priority.
What kind of training and equipment do you provide under GPOI?
The training we provide through GPOI depends on the requirements and requests of the participating partner country. Supported training spans a wide range of tasks, to include soldier skills relevant to peacekeeping operations, staff training for personnel who will work in mission headquarters, or courses for military observers in peacekeeping missions. As for equipment, it also depends on the requirements and requests of the participating country but can include a wide range of non-lethal equipment, such as uniforms, tents, generators, vehicles, etc.
Does GPOI provide support to regional organizations?
Through various support activities, GPOI seeks to enhance the capacity of regional and sub-regional organizations to train for, plan, deploy, manage, and sustain peacekeeping operations. In Africa, for example, we work very closely with the African Union and regional bodies such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to provide staff training and equipment such as communications gear and information technology, as well as supporting multinational peacekeeping exercises. GPOI has also funded training and the provision of equipment for African Union troops that are currently deployed in Somalia.
How are GPOI programs linked to capacity building activities in other G8 countries?
GPOI program managers coordinate closely with G8 and other international contributors to coordinate efforts and promote complementarities among the many ongoing capacity building initiatives. In particular, participation in an annual G8++ Global Peace Support Operations Capacity Building Clearinghouse is designed to enhance cooperation and avoid redundancies to maximize program outcomes. Through GPOI, the United States also partners with other G8 countries. For example, the United States and Italy have partnered to operate an international “train the trainer” center for stability police units that deploy to peacekeeping missions.
Does GPOI support Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) also operating on the ground in post-conflict countries?
NGOs also play a critical role in peace processes and are particularly essential for providing humanitarian assistance and rebuilding post-conflict societies. In general, GPOI doesn't provide assistance directly to NGOs, as our program is focused on enhancing the capabilities of military peacekeepers. But our programs often do include training for military troops to help them more effectively work with NGOs in a peacekeeping environment.
What are some of the challenges facing peacekeepers?
In terms of the troops we train, primary problems are often related to resource constraints and shortfalls ─ for example, often partner countries lack the equipment they need to train and deploy their troops. With respect to troops deployed to peacekeeping missions, they are often working in very difficult conditions ─ for example, poor infrastructure and insecure environments ─ that complicate their efforts to carry out their missions.
Overall, do you consider the program a success?
We do! The global demand for peacekeeping forces has increased substantially since the 1990s. The UN now has about 116,000 peacekeepers deployed around the world and expects this trend to continue. There are still significant gaps in international peacekeeping capabilities, and we are working hard with our partner countries to address these issues.