- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

NEW YORK — U.N. officials are warning that expenses for global peacekeeping missions could jump by at least 50 percent this year, imposing a financial burden on the world body at a time when Congress is threatening to withhold U.S. dues.
Four recently authorized or expanded peacekeeping missions in Africa will account for the majority of the increase, U.N. financial experts said Tuesday.
When individual budgets are completed for each of the organizations 15 missions, officials said the final cost of peacekeeping for the 12 months ending June 30 could rise to $2.6 billion from $1.7 billion for the like period a year earlier.
"There is already significant concern about the cost of peacekeeping and this concern has been heightened because of the changes in the peacekeeping assessment process which increased the number of countries who pay a significant amount," said American envoy Donald Hays, who oversees budget and management issues for the U.S. Mission.
As of July, he said, about 40 countries will pay a significant amount of the U.N. peacekeeping budget.
In an interview yesterday, he said that governments with significant contributions "find anything much higher than that insupportable."
The current peacekeeping budget is $2.5 billion, meaning that the United Nations should be able to absorb much of the anticipated increase.
The Bush administration has proposed spending about $845 million for peacekeeping in the fiscal year that begins in October.
Concerns over the rising peacekeeping budget come at a time of growing anger on Capitol Hill over the recent ouster of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
Some lawmakers have threatened to withhold U.S. dues to the world body as Congress this week takes up legislation to pay $582 million in back dues to the regular U.N. budget.
"It is impossible to foresee whether the human rights [commission] issue that has arisen this week will play a significant role in the [peacekeeping] discussion," Mr. Hays said. "In the past, Washington has taken very seriously its role as watchdog of the purse."
Conrad S.M. Mselle, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, told the U.N. General Assembly Budget Committee on Tuesday that the number of peacekeepers was on the rise.
The peacekeeping department deployed 41,805 troops and observers in March, compared with 29,286 the year before, and 12,461 in March 1999.
Final budgets have not yet been submitted for rapidly expanding "missions in transition" in East Timor, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Congo or southern Lebanon, said U.N. Controller Jean-Pierre Halbwachs.
Planning for peacekeeping is typically fraught with uncertainty
One case in point is the Congo mission, which the United Nations created in December 1999. Although it has an authorized troop strength of 5,537, fewer than 230 personnel were ever deployed.
But with the new government in Kinshasa negotiating peace with neighboring nations that have supplied troops to both sides in Congos civil war, the peacekeeping mission is starting to show signs of life. And that will get expensive.
The Congo mission is currently budgeted at $141 million, a figure that Mr. Halbwachs and Mr. Hays said could increase by $140 million.
"Peacekeeping is an ongoing, never-ending process," Mr. Hays said.


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