EU Countries Providing Less Than 5 Percent of UN Peacekeeping Troops

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Oct. 25, 2016 –  EU countries are providing less than 5% of personnel for UN peacekeeping missions, according to the latest data from the Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations.

A summit chaired by Barack Obama in Sept. 2015 at UN headquarters was supposed to kickstart a return to United Nations peacekeeping by European countries, whose troops at one stage in the 1980s contributed 40 percent of peacekeeping forces.

But the amount of EU troops serving with UN missions has actually gone slightly down since that summit with less than 5 percent of the currently deployed 100,019 peacekeepers coming from the 28-nation bloc.

Just a little over a handful of EU countries are providing hundreds of peacekeepers for the UN’s 16 current peace operations, with the majority of EU states providing tens or less.

The top EU contributors are:

Italy 1,114
France 867
Spain 613
Germany 432
Ireland 385
Netherlands 358
Finland 340
United Kingdom 337

All other countries are providing less than 100 peacekeepers with most contributing less than 50.

The burden of peacekeeping is shared mostly by African and South Asian nations with six countries providing more than 40% of peacekeepers:

Ethiopia 8,236
India 7,471
Pakistan 7,161
Bangladesh 6,772
Rwanda 6,146
Nepal 5,131

For its part, the US provides a mere 68 personnel to UN peacekeeping, though remains by far the biggest financial contributor accounting for 28 percent of the total peacekeeping budget, which is just less than $8 billion for June 2016- June 2017.

China is by far the biggest contributor of troops among the permanent five members of the Security Council, providing 2,639 personnel. France is next, 867, followed by the UK, 337, Russia, 98, and US, 68.

EU-Turkey Refugee Plan Could Seal UN Cyprus Deal

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A UN peacekeeper observes from the buffer zone dividing Cyprus. (UN Photo)

March 9, 2016 – The plan carved out by Brussels and Ankara on Monday to resettle Syrian refugees, if implemented, could also see a resolution to the four-decade Cyprus dispute, with UN-talks which resumed in May already yielding results.

Under the EU-Turkey plan, Syrian refugees would be returned to Turkey from Greece, and in return for Turkey’s promise to take back refugees, EU countries would agree to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey.

Ankara’s agreement is contingent on the EU liberalizing visa requirements for Turkey’s 75 million citizens and Turkey also wants to reopen EU accession talks. But for this to happen, Turkey will have to recognize EU member Cyprus. It is difficult to see any EU member state agreeing to reopen accession talks and green-lighting visa liberalization for Turks if Ankara refuses to recognize one of the EU-28. Moreover, Cyprus, as a member state, has a veto on accession talks.

The UN-backed Cyprus talks are aimed at reunification of Northern Cyprus, which is backed by Turkey, with the internationally recognized EU member state Cyprus. The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern part following a coup d’etat ordered by Greece’s then military junta aimed at unifying Greece and Cyprus.

The coup and Turkish invasion were preceded by years of tension between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities and a UN peacekeeping force has been in place since 1964, making it the United Nations longest-running peacekeeping mission.

In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot community in the north declared independence from internationally recognized Cyprus, but Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.

Following the 1974 hostilities, UN troops were mandated to monitor the de-facto ceasefire and a 110-mile wide buffer zone was created that runs through Nicosia, Europe’s only divided capital.

While the situation has remained mostly calm since, a political solution has remained elusive and the Security Council has renewed the mandate for UNFICYP every six months.

But the election of a new Turkish leader in Northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci, last April – he campaigned on a peace platform – gave impetus to the talks. The Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, elected in 2013, has long called for a deal.

The talks which began in May have been held at the highest level with both leaders agreeing to six rounds of face to face meetings and both also released video messages in each other’s respective language at the end of 2015 calling for a peace deal this year.

Any peace deal must be approved in referendums by both Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities.

A resolution to the dispute would ease tensions between fellow NATO members Greece and Turkey and would also pave the way for Turkey’s recognition of Cyprus, which in turn would ease the way for Cyprus to withdraw its veto over Turkey’s EU accession process.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has long prized EU visa access and the refugee deal reached on Monday, if it goes ahead, could result in Turks being granted automatic Schengen visas in June, but only with Cyprus’s consent, and that’s why a resolution to the island’s 42-year dispute is crucial.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Germany to Send Troops to Bolster UN Force in Mali

Jan. 28, 2016 – Germany’s parliament on Thursday voted to approve the deployment of a contingent of up to 650 troops to join the 12,000-strong UN stabilization mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The first deployment will begin January 30 and full deployment is expected to be achieved by June and will make Berlin the third biggest European troop contributor to UN peacekeeping, behind Italy and Spain.

Germany was one of 50 countries that pledged some 30,000 additional troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations at a summit chaired by US President Barack Obama in September on the sidelines of the annual General Debate.

The United States is the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, followed by Japan, China, and Germany.

The deployment of the German troops will be the first time in 23 years that a UN peacekeeping mission has had a full German army contingent. The last time was in Somalia in the early 1990s, when a German contingent served with UNOSOM II.

Germany currently contributes small numbers to seven UN peacekeeping missions and one political mission, in Afghanistan, deploying about 250 personnel in total.

The UN force in Mali was established in April 2013 and subsumed an African-led peacekeeping mission.

The Mali mission has become one of the deadliest for UN peacekeepers with 73 troops losing their lives in service there, including 44 through malicious acts up to Dec. 31, 2015, according to information from the UN’s dept. of peacekeeping operations.

On Thursday, four Malian troops were killed in two separate incidents.

Al Qaeda-linked fighters took over the country’s north in 2012, including the historical city of Timbuktu.

A peace agreement was signed in June last year between Tuareg separatists, armed militias and the government.

European countries are keen to stabilize Mali because of the impact it has on the Sahel region in general and Libya in particular, which is a major transit route to EU countries for migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing violence and poverty.

The German troops will be deployed to Gao and will serve in various capacities including intelligence, logistics and force protection, according to information from Germany’s UN mission in New York.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Kosovo Falls Three Votes Short in UNESCO Bid

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Nov. 9, 2015 –  NATO members Spain and Slovakia were among the countries on Monday that voted against Kosovo’s bid to join UNESCO while the United States and Israel were banned from voting because of non-payment of dues to the organization.

Pristina needed 95 votes for admission to the Paris-based UNESCO but fell three votes short of the target with Balkan neighbors Bosnia among the abstaining countries along with EU members Greece, Poland and Romania.

Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt and Tunisia were also among the countries that abstained.

The BRICS countries all voted against Kosovo’s application as did Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and EU member Cyprus.

Serbia, which vigorously opposed the Kosovo bid, voted for Palestine’s 2012 application to join UNESCO, which may be why Palestine voted against Kosovo’s request.

Cyprus, Spain and Morocco likely voted No because of the situations regarding Northern Cyprus, Catalonia and Western Sahara respectively.

The United States stopped its funding to UNESCO after Palestine’s admission, as did Israel.

Iran, Iraq and Ukraine were among the countries that did not attend Monday’s vote.

The recorded vote was 92 in favor, 50 against and 29 abstentions.

Voting NO on Kosovo’s admission to UNESCO: South Africa, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Cyprus, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Russian Federation, Georgia, Guatemala, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritius, Mozambique, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Uganda, Palestine, Paraguay, Philippines, Syria, Moldova, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Lao, People’s Democratic Republic (North) Korea, Serbia, Slovakia, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Voting YES for admission of Kosovo to UNESCO: Afghanistan, Albania, Germany, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, East Timor, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Latvia, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malawi, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Palaos, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Qatar, the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, UAE, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Yemen.

Abstention countries: Algeria, Bangladesh, Barbuda, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Central African Republic, Republic of (South) Korea, Romania, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vietnam, Zambia.

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Risk of Polio Spread in Europe After Ukraine Cases

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Sept. 8, 2015 – While the UN has set 2018 as its target for the global eradication of polio the confirmation last week of cases in Ukraine – which left two children aged four years and ten months paralyzed for life – is worrying proof that if vaccination rates slip then the virus will reemerge.

Ukraine had only a 50 percent polio vaccination coverage rate in 2014 but that had reportedly slipped to 14 percent this year due to low or no availability of vaccine doses and strong anti-vaccine sentiment.

The Global Polio Eradication’s International Monitoring Board (IMB) issued a warning less than a year ago that “the risk in Ukraine is of deep concern.”

The Oct. 2014 warning added that, “The last thing the global polio eradication program now needs is the re-emergence of polio in a place distant from its two epicentres and threatening to reverse the certified polio-free status of a whole region (in this case Europe).”

Polio incidence has been reduced by 99.9 percent since 1988 when there was an estimated 350,000 cases to just 37 cases in 2015 as of Sept. 2.

The two Ukraine cases occurred in the southwest of the country which shares borders with Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. To contain the spread, the World Health Organization says two million children in Ukraine under the age of five must begin to get vaccinated within two weeks of the confirmed cases.

Children typically get four doses of the polio vaccine, at ages two months, four months, 6-18 months and a booster does at 4-6 years.

The children in Ukraine were infected with a vaccine-derived type of polio. Such cases are rare – there have only been only 500 cases of paralysis from circulating vaccine-derived polio virus type 1 (cVDPV1) from 2001-2011 while the oral polio vaccine has prevented some 3.5 million cases of paralysis – but the most important risk factor for emergence and spread of cVDPV1 is immunity gaps resulting from low immunization coverage.

The European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) in a bulletin last week said, “It is likely that the cVDPV1 strain has been circulating for many months in Ukraine and that the virus could be found in other parts of the country.”

“Based on experiences from other similar events in the past, we can assume that the risk of more children presenting with paralytic poliomyelitis in Ukraine is high and that it will remain high until large-scale supplementary immunisations have been implemented, in accordance with WHO recommendations for the control of polio outbreaks,” the bulletin added.

It said there is risk of the virus being imported into EU countries from border areas but the risk of it resulting in paralysis is low given widespread vaccine coverage. However, the ECDC warned that there are pockets of under-immunized or unimmunized people in the European region, and said Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Ukraine are at high risk for further polio spread.

– Denis Fitzgerald @denisfitz

EU Countries Combined Provide the Same Number of UN Peacekeepers as Nepal

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Aug 24, 2015 – Latest figures from the UN Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations show that 24 of 28 EU member states provide police and troops to peacekeeping missions for a total current contribution of 5,204 peacekeepers.

That’s less than five percent of the current 104,000 troops deployed in 16 missions worldwide and less than the 5,332 peacekeepers that Nepal alone provides.

A majority of EU states provide only tens of peacekeepers while others are in the low hundreds.

The top five EU troop contributing countries to UN peace operations are:

Italy – 1,111
France – 906
Netherlands – 681
Spain – 616
Ireland – 371

Bulgaria, Latvia, Luxembourg and Malta are the four EU countries that are currently not providing any troops to UN missions.

Among those providing the least peacekeepers are Cyprus, 2, Portugal, 3, Belgium, 5, Czech Republic, 13, and Croatia, 15.

Permanent UN Security Council member the UK provides 287 peacekeepers, which is less than fellow permanent member France but significantly more than Russia, 76, and the US, 78. China leads the way among permanent members providing 3,078 troops. The US is the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping.

While Sweden is a strong supporter of the UN, it does not make the top five for contributing personnel to peacekeeping with a total current contribution of 279 police and troops combined. Fellow Nordic countries Finland and Denmark are providing 338 and 49 peacekeepers respectively. Non EU-member Norway is providing 97 peacekeepers.

Germany, which has aspirations of a permanent Security Council seat, provides 175 peacekeepers to current UN missions while neighbors Austria are contributing 191 personnel.

The tiny Baltic countries Estonia and Lithuania are providing four and 43 peacekeepers respectively.

The burden of peacekeeping is shared among South Asian and African nations with Bangladesh currently the top contributor, providing 9,398 peacekeepers, followed by Ethiopia, 8,309, India, 7,960, Pakistan, 7,665, and Rwanda, 5,600.

A summit on providing troops to peacekeeping operations will be held during the 70th General Assembly which opens in September.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Natalia Gherman – Could Moldova’s Foreign Minister be the Next UN Secretary-General?

Moldova's Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman addressing the General Assembly, Sept. 2014 (UN Photo)

Moldova’s Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman addressing the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2014 (UN Photo)

April 30, 2015 – The buzz surrounding the election of Ban Ki-moon’s successor continues to gather pace and this week in New York, 32 member states plus the EU spoke at a General Assembly debate on transforming the way the UN appoints its secretary-general.

Twenty-one of the speakers said it was high-time the UN seriously considered appointing its first female secretary-general. Eight men have held the post since the organization’s founding in 1946 and the UN as a whole – the secretariat, member states and the Security Council – has a less than stellar record on promoting gender equality.

There’s also wide agreement inside the United Nations that the next UN chief should come from Eastern Europe, the only UN regional group that has not occupied the position, whereas three secretaries-general have come from the Western group, two each from Asia and Africa, and one from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Among the female candidates mentioned for the post are current UNESCO chief Irina Bokova and fellow Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva, the EU’s budget commissioner, as well as Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite – who is unlikely to get a pass from veto-wielding Russia.

But there are others.

Of the five female foreign ministers among countries that are members of the Council of Europe, four of them are from Eastern Europe: Croatia’s Vesna Pusic, Georgia’s Maia Pandjikidze, Estonia’s Keit Pentus-Rosimannus and Moldova’s Natalia Gherman.

Pusic has been mentioned as a possible candidate while Pandjikidze and Pentus-Rosimannusis appear to be out of the running as long as Russia holds a veto over the process and, while there are mounting calls for the UN to change the way it elects the secretary-general, at Monday’s debate China, Russia and the US all voiced support for maintaining the status quo.

But Gherman may well fit the bill. Moldova lies at the crossroads of Slavic and Latin Europe. The tiny republic is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States and also has aspirations of joining the European Union, signing an association agreement with Brussels last year.

Moldova’s ties to Russia are long and complicated. There are Russian troops in the breakaway region of Transnistria, ostensibly they are there as peacekeepers. Russia is also Moldova’s second biggest individual trading partner – behind Romania – and a major destination for Moldovan migrant labor. Their remittances are vital for Europe’s poorest country.

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Gherman met with Russia’s FM Sergei Lavrov when she was in New York last September. (photo/Moldova MFA)

Russia banned the import of Moldovan wine after it signed the EU association agreement and has threatened to cut off the country’s energy supply. Gherman’s party is decidedly pro-EU and she is at the forefront of pushing for the country’s membership in the bloc but it will likely be years before Chișinău fully meets the accession criteria

Its relations with Moscow are far more important currently and while a pro-EU party rules, support inside the country for joining the EU is lukewarm. More importantly, unlike most of its Eastern Europe neighbors, Moldova is not a member of NATO nor an aspiring member. Its constitution enshrines permanent neutrality.

While Gherman, whose father Mircea Snegur was the first president of Moldova, is far from an ideal candidate from Russia’s point of view, given her strong pro-EU orientation, if she puts her hat into the ring for the secretary-general race, she may well find that Russia is far more sympathetic to a Moldovan candidate than one from a neighboring NATO member state.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Breakdown of $1.5 Billion Raised at Syria Aid Conference

Feb. 4, 2013 – Thirty-eight countries plus the European Commission pledged more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria at a donors conference in Kuwait last week.

The amounts ranged from $20,000, from Cyprus, to $300 million, by three countries – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. 

Japan, $65 million; Finland, $4.5 million; Poland, $500,000; and Botswana $50,000 were among the donors.

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About one-third of the funds raised are targeted for the UN humanitarian response plan for delivering aid inside Syria. That plan requires $519 million from January to June 2013 to assist 2.5 million Syrians. More than 50 percent of hospitals inside Syria have been damaged and about one-third are out of service. The National Hospital in Damascus has been completely destroyed, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. There are also shortages of food, fuel and medicines. The disbursement of aid is contingent on donor countries following through on their pledges.

The remaining funds are targeted to assist the ever growing number of refugees in neighboring countries. The number of Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries currently exceeds 750,000, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011 when the government started using lethal force to suppress anti-government protests.

Denis Fitzgerald

57 Countries Urge UN Security Council to Refer Syria to ICC

Jan. 14, 2013 – Switzerland, on behalf of 57 countries, on Monday sent a letter to the president of the Security Council urging the 15-nation body to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Among the signers of the letter were permanent Council members Britain and France as well as non-permanent members Australia, Luxembourg and South Korea. 

Libya and Tunisia were the only Arab countries to sign the letter.

China and Russia, not surprisingly, did not sign on to the letter but neither did Sweden, the United States and current non-permanent Council member Argentina. 

The letter was sent the same day the International Rescue Committee released a report detailing “horrific levels” of sexual violence recounted by refugees who’ve fled Syria in the past 22 months. 

-Denis Fitzgerald 

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$11.8bln Donated to UN Aid Appeals in 2012 – EU, US Top Givers

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The UN’s top aid official, Valerie Amos, meets child refugees in Kabul, May 2012 (photo: UN Photo/Fardin Waezi)

Jan. 6, 2013 – Almost $12bln was donated to UN aid appeals last year with the European Union and the United States contributing more than half that amount.

The European Union (European Commission + 27 Member States) was the largest donor providing $4.9bln while the U.S. was the largest individual donor providing $3.1bln to humanitarian aid appeals in 2012.

A breakdown of the EU number shows that the European Commission – the legislative arm of the EU – donated $1.8bln to UN aid appeals last year while member states provided just over $3bln. The biggest member state donors were Britain ($809mln) and Sweden ($684mln).

Non-EU members Norway and Switzerland donated $493mln and $324mln respectively.

Outside of Europe and the US, Japan was the largest provider of aid to the UN, donating $658mln last year, followed by Canada who gave $496mln, and Australia, $296mln.

Among emerging donors, Brazil provided $54mln to UN humanitarian relief in 2012 while the UAE gave $43mln, Russia, $39mln, China $27mln, and Saudi Arabia $27mln. BRICS countries combined contributed $126mln last year with South Africa giving 3.5mln and India $2.7mln..

The Republic of South Sudan ($792mln), Somalia ($676mln), and Sudan ($588mln) were the biggest recipients of UN aid in 2012.

A tally of the top donors is here.

Denis Fitzgerald