China has significantly expanded its role in United Nations peacekeeping operations in recent years, a move that offers significant potential as the United States seeks to expand positive, constructive, and comprehensive ties with China on a wide range of shared international challenges.
I recently returned from Beijing, where, I was part of a U.S. delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Holt from the Bureau of International Organizations and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations Jim Schear. We joined representatives from 21 other countries, as well as several international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, and the African Union, for China’s first-ever international conference on UN peacekeeping operations.
Over the last ten years, 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. Our delegation was part of the effort to further President Obama’s stated intent to help strengthen international peacekeeping across many areas. The United States has stepped-up diplomatic efforts to mediate conflicts, and intensified its engagement at the UN and with other international partners to further strengthen peacekeeping capabilities.
In addition to exchanging ideas on how we can strengthen peacekeeping to meet current challenges, the conference was also a great opportunity to catch up with several international colleagues I work with through the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), a U.S.-led effort to build foreign countries’ capacities to conduct peacekeeping operations.
In 2000, China had only 100 troops deployed to UN peacekeeping operations. Today, more than 2,100 Chinese police officers, engineers, medical personnel, and military observers participate in 10 U.N. missions in the Middle East and the Caribbean, but mostly in Africa, where Chinese peacekeepers have contributed to efforts to stabilize Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
While China now ranks 14th among the largest troop contributors, and is among the largest troop contributors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States has long been the world’s top financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, providing on average more than one quarter of the international organization’s budget to support more than 116,000 “blue helmets,” police, and civilians working to secure the peace and protect at-risk populations in 15 peacekeeping missions around the world. In recent years, the United States has also joined in international efforts to meet a growing demand for more trained personnel and equipment to strengthen international efforts to stabilize some of the world’s most challenging hotspots.
That’s where GPOI comes in. Launched following the 2004 G-8 Sea Island Summit in support of the G-8 Action Plan to Expand Global Capability for Peace Support Operations, GPOI currently provides training and other peacekeeping capacity building support to 59 partner countries and regional organizations around the world, about half of which are located in Africa.
For years, many critics dismissed GPOI’s goal to train and equip 75,000 peacekeepers worldwide by 2010 as unrealistic. But this summer, the State Department announced that it surpassed its GPOI goal a year early, training more than 90,000 foreign peacekeepers so far, as well as facilitating the deployment of nearly 67,000 peacekeeping forces to 20 United Nations, African Union, and other regional peace support operations around the globe.
A few weeks before I headed to Beijing, GPOI launched Phase II (running from Fiscal Years 2010 to 2014), where we plan to build on its successful partnerships and shift our focus from direct training by U.S. trainers to activities that increase the self-sufficiency of GPOI partners to train peacekeepers on their own. By doing so, GPOI will further multiply the number of future peacekeeping forces and empower partner countries to strengthen their own roles in the shared global challenge of increasing and sustaining peace.
Over the last ten years, 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. Through GPOI, stepped-up diplomatic efforts to mediate conflicts, and U.S. engagement at the UN to further strengthen peacekeeping capabilities, the United States is ready to continue doing its part.