The Global Peace Operations Initiative

Andrew J. Shapiro
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
The U.S. Institute of Peace
Washington, DC
February 27, 2012

[Introduced by Tara Sonenshine]

Thank you very much Tara. It is a great pleasure to be here today at the United States Institute of Peace to talk to you about U.S. efforts to support international peacekeeping operations. USIP has long been a leader in this field. Currently, USIP is teaching conflict mediation techniques for African security personnel in peacekeeping missions across the continent. It is also helping train advisors for Afghan defense and interior ministers. Furthermore, as an intellectual leader in studying and evaluating peacekeeping missions, USIP’s numerous reports and studies are helping those of us in government do our jobs better.

Today – I want to talk about three things.

  • First, the larger context and significance of international peacekeeping efforts.

  • Second, I want to talk about U.S. efforts to build peacekeeping capacity.

  • And lastly, I’ll discuss some of the key challenges confronting peacekeeping operations.

Why Peacekeeping is Essential

Now let me turn to the important role peacekeeping plays in today’s world.

Following the end of the Cold War, the international community was awakened to the potential dangers and challenges posed by weak and failing states. Suddenly, the great power politics and rivalries that had long dominated international relations posed less of a threat to the international order than the dangers emanating from weak or failing states. Renewed ethnic and sectarian tensions came to the fore, threatening regional stability and resulting in vicious conflicts. Additionally, in an increasingly interconnected world, the collapse of governance in one state could have a global impact. Terrorists, pirates, traffickers, and other transnational actors were now able to exploit the weakness of one state to cause wider mayhem and instability. We saw the effects of this in Afghanistan prior to September 11th and we see the effects of this now in Somalia.

In response to this challenge, international peacekeeping operations expanded rapidly and have become essential to maintaining international stability. These operations have proven to be an effective means to prevent conflicts from escalating and spreading beyond borders. They help lower the temperature in conflict zones and can create an environment in which disputes can be resolved peacefully. They also help defuse hostilities that could otherwise ignite into a larger armed conflict. Often times the difference that peacekeepers make is simply in preventing a bad situation from getting worse. This is an absolutely critical role. By keeping a lid on conflicts and preventing unstable countries from collapsing, peacekeeping operations decrease the likelihood of a country facing violent upheaval, disease, hunger, or criminal activities.

The important role that international peacekeeping forces play in maintaining international peace and stability often flies under the radar. We often hear about peacekeepers in the news when things go wrong. When their efforts fail to keep the peace or when a scandal emerges, it rightly gets reported. However, we hear much less when things go well.

Yet the achievements are many. For instance, the UN Mission in Liberia known as UNMIL has supported the implementation of a ceasefire agreement, the subsequent peace process and security sector reform. UNMIL’s activities have helped stabilize the country and enabled Liberia to conduct free and fair elections in 2005 and again in 2011. The result of these elections was the first democratically elected, and re-elected, female president in the history of the African continent. Additionally, the UN Mission in Timor-Leste known as UNMIT has helped foster a dramatic improvement in the security situation. As a result, its mission is scheduled to end at the close of this year when responsibilities transition from UNMIT to Timorese authorities.

I myself have witnessed the effectiveness of UN peacekeepers firsthand when I traveled with General Douglas Fraser, the head of U.S. Southern Command, to Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010. There we met with the Commander of the U.N. mission in Haiti known as MINUSTAH – Brazilian General Luiz Paul Cruz – as well as nine U.S. military officers who were serving as MINUSTAH staff officers. Among the many tens of thousands of people lost in Haiti's earthquake were more than 100 members of MINUSTAH, including several members of the mission's top leadership. The earthquake caused the single greatest loss of life in the history of UN operations. Despite losing personnel and being displaced from mission headquarters, MINUSTAH continued its mission. MINUSTAH played a key role by providing security for internally displaced persons, clearing roads, removing rubble, and conducting other vital tasks. Through the contributions of MINUSTAH, the overall security situation in Haiti improved considerably. And this past year, for the first time in its history, Haiti experienced a peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected President to another in 2011.

Don’t get me wrong – there is still much work to be done to consolidate peace in Haiti and other such post-conflict countries. But the role of peacekeeping forces in helping these countries recover and from falling further into disarray is quite clear. As a result of successful missions like these, we have seen a dramatic growth in global peacekeeping operations over the last decade. The growth of international peacekeeping is truly staggering. Currently, there are about 100,000 troops, observers, and police personnel serving in 15 UN peacekeeping operations deployed on four continents. To put this in perspective, just 15 years ago, there were fewer than 25,000 peacekeepers. UN peacekeepers represent the second largest deployed force abroad after the United States. Additionally, today regional peacekeeping forces are playing an important role. The African Union Mission in Somalia or AMISOM will grow from an authorized force size of 8,000 to nearly 18,000 troops.

Over the last decade, demands on these operations have grown. As a result, these missions have also become more complex and challenging. UN and regional peacekeepers are no longer just meant to get in between and monitor an agreed ceasefire line between two sovereign states, as they were for much of the second half of the 20th century. Today, they are engaged in more wide-ranging activities including peace enforcement operations, policing, security sector reform, demining, and election support. Most currently deployed peacekeepers are also operating in some of the world’s most volatile environments such as Somalia, Darfur, South Sudan, Congo, and Haiti.

Strategic Importance to the U.S.

Yet despite the massive expansion in international peacekeeping, little attention is often paid to these efforts. The U.S. press often gives peacekeeping missions little coverage – perhaps in large part because U.S. troops often aren’t deployed in these missions. While that may be understandable, it also means that the importance of these missions to the security of the United States is often little appreciated. International peacekeepers are making a real difference to the security of the United States. To put it clearly: When these peacekeepers deploy it means that U.S. forces are less likely to be called on to intervene. International peacekeepers are often putting themselves at considerable risk for the sake of international peace and security. Last year alone, more than 100 UN peacekeepers were killed in the line of duty. And dozens more Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers lost their lives in the AMISOM mission. By deploying to some of the most intractable conflicts on the planet, international peacekeepers prevent these conflicts from escalating.

UN forces are also uniquely suited for many operations. As a neutral arbiter, UN forces often have tremendous legitimacy. They can pull troops from countries well-suited to the operation, utilizing forces that have the right language skills or appropriate cultural and religious sensitivities. UN and regional peacekeeping operations act as force-multipliers for the U.S. by spreading the burden of maintaining the global order.

These operations are also incredibly cost-effective. Frankly, it is hard to find a better value for the money than international peacekeeping operations. According to a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2006, UN peacekeeping is eight times less expensive than funding a comparable U.S. force. Not only that, but the costs of U.N. operations are spread out across the international community. The U.S. annually contributes roughly a quarter of the overall cost of all UN peacekeeping operations or about $2 billion. And remember that helps support the deployment of 100,000 troops. In addition, the U.S. provides on average $155 million annually to train and equip troops and police for UN and regional peacekeeping operations. As Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted in 2009 on the floor of the Senate, U.S. support for peacekeeping is not only important because these missions “help alleviate suffering around the globe… but also because they are a cost-effective way of managing U.S. security interests.” Not only do UN and regional peacekeeping operations cost taxpayers comparatively little in the present, but their real value is not just in what we spend now. It is in what we don’t have to spend down the road.

This is why the United States is committed to supporting these efforts. At the UN Security Council Summit on Peacekeeping in September of 2010, Secretary Clinton noted that “The United States is…committed to improving UN operations, not just because we think it’s the right thing to do and not just because the humanitarian imperative is so strong in our own value system, but because we actually think it’s smart and strategic as well.” The strategic importance the United States places on international peacekeeping was explicitly recognized in the President’s National Security Strategy, as it determined that we will work to ensure that international forces “are ready, able, and willing.”

GPOI Overview

So let me now turn to some of the ways the United States is supporting these vital operations. Besides our financial and political support, the United States is also playing a critically important role in training UN and regional peacekeepers so that these forces are better able to tackle their demanding missions.

Support for peacekeeping training is one area that is truly bipartisan. U.S. efforts to train international peacekeepers have been in place for decades. In 2004, the Bush administration sought to consolidate various train and equip programs into a more robust international peacekeeping capacity building initiative, called the Global Peace Operations Initiative, or GPOI. President George W. Bush announced the creation of GPOI at the 2004 G8 Sea Island Summit, as the United States’ contribution to broader G8 capacity building efforts. As then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, noted, the effort to expand peacekeeping capabilities stems from the recognition “that many countries have the political will to participate in peace support operations, but lack the capabilities and resources required to deploy and sustain themselves in the field.”

The Global Peace Operations Initiative was created to help address these shortfalls in capacity. GPOI is a security assistance program managed by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which I oversee at the State Department. And it works to build international capacity in three ways:

  • First, it helps build partner capabilities to train and sustain peacekeepers.

  • Second, it is helping to increase the number of capable military troops and police units available for deployment.

  • And third, it is facilitating the preparation, logistical support, and deployment of military and police units to international peacekeeping operations.

The objectives for GPOI were ambitious. During its first five years, from 2005 to 2009, also known as “Phase I,” GPOI’s primary objective was to train and equip at least 75,000 peacekeepers. Our GPOI teams not only surpassed this target – they did so a year ahead of schedule. By the end of FY2009 the United States had trained nearly 87,000 peacekeepers. To date, GPOI has directly trained more than 153,000 peacekeepers. In addition to this, by training trainers in partner countries, GPOI has also enabled the training of more than 43,000 additional peacekeepers. This means the GPOI program has played a critical role in training nearly 200,000 peacekeepers since 2005 – truly an astonishing total.

But it is not just about training. When we train peacekeepers through our GPOI program, we also help provide necessary equipment and logistical assistance to ensure these newly trained forces are ready and able to deploy. For example, GPOI has provided eight Up-Armored Humvees to support Nepal’s deployment of a battalion to the peacekeeping mission in Darfur. We also provide tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment for countries deploying to Somalia. Without this equipment, peacekeepers would not be able to perform responsibilities effectively in-mission, regardless of the amount of training they receive. As a result of these efforts, the GPOI program has facilitated the deployment of nearly 140,000 peacekeepers from 36 countries to 21 operations around the world. To put this in context, roughly 70 percent of the peacekeepers we train have deployed to serve in peacekeeping operations. And many others have been assigned as staff officers or trainers within their national peacekeeping-related institutions. GPOI is therefore playing a critical role in helping the UN and other regional organizations meet the growing demand for peacekeepers.

With respect to program implementation, GPOI is also a prime example of an effective and productive partnership between the Departments of State and Defense. The collaboration and coordination between the State and Defense has never been better. Currently, DoD implements approximately half of the GPOI program’s efforts to build peacekeeping capacity in partner countries through the regional Combatant Commands. The State Department implements the other half, primarily through the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance or ACOTA program.

Our GPOI programs are also not one-size-fits all. This is not a program which dictates to countries what they need. Rather, GPOI works with partner countries to understand the peacekeeping capabilities and capacities they wish to build. For example, one country may desire to be able to train and deploy a light infantry battalion while another country may seek to train and deploy two engineering companies. Accordingly, GPOI offers assistance across a variety of areas depending on the needs of that country. These range from basic soldier skills to finance, logistics, medical, engineering, demining, aviation, civil-military relations, and human-rights training. For instance, a commander requires a different skill set than a medic or a staff officer or a soldier. It is imperative then that the right personnel are trained on the right skills. That is why our GPOI teams offer instruction on a variety of general or specific functional areas depending on the needs of the training audience. For example, in September 2011, GPOI partnered for a second time with Japan to deliver a course using UN curriculum to train current and potential senior military, police, and civilian mission leaders. Such a multi-faceted approach to training helps make peacekeepers more effective once they are deployed.

Because demand for well-trained and properly equipped peacekeepers is only growing, GPOI’s mandate was renewed for a second five-year period, lasting from FY 2010 to 2014. However, our focus has shifted a bit. In what we call our “Phase II” efforts – we are shifting from the direct training of peacekeepers by U.S. trainers to a “train-the-trainer” approach. We are now working to increase the self-sufficiency of our GPOI partners to train peacekeepers on their own. To put it another way, by training trainers, we are hoping to work ourselves out of a job.

To help countries become self-sufficient, we assist our partners in establishing a dedicated national training cadre and written programs of instruction. We also ensure that they have the sufficient training facilities and the necessary equipment. Importantly, we make sure that our partners have the will and ability to sustain these capabilities. We are making great progress in this effort. Just this month I was in Indonesia where I participated in the groundbreaking of the Armed Forces Peacekeeping Training Center in Bogor, West Java. GPOI funding is supporting the construction of the first of two 3-story barracks that will provide beds for a total of 600 personnel being trained at the center. By giving countries their own training capacity, we will further expand the number of future peacekeeping forces and empower partner countries to strengthen their own roles. Increasing self-sufficiency of our partners will result in larger pools of deployable and capable peacekeeping forces.

In addition to expanding global peacekeeping capacity, our GPOI efforts advance U.S. national security in other important ways as well.

One ancillary benefit of our training efforts is that we aren’t simply training future peacekeepers. We are providing training to that country’s armed forces. While peacekeeping training is very specialized, many of the skills in terms of population protection, human rights training, logistics support, and medical training, all have broader application than just to those specific peacekeeping operations. In other words, peacekeeping training is teaching valuable skills that can help professionalize and modernize the practices and approaches of our partner military forces. This can enable these countries to better handle their own security and deal more effectively and appropriately with potential security challenges.

We believe this may also have a much larger benefit. For example, the forces we are training today may be able to play a critical role in combating potential mass atrocities and genocide down the road. In August of last year, the President issued Presidential Study Directive 10 or PSD 10, which identified the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide as a core national security interest of the United States. PSD 10 directed the creation of an atrocities prevention board to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide. GPOI will play a key role in implementing the recommendations of the Board, particularly when it comes to training peacekeepers – which are often the first line of defense in preventing mass atrocities. Our training is intended to prepare peacekeepers on ways to intervene to prevent atrocities and to not stand by as passive observers. Importantly, this training has relevance to these forces whether they are wearing a blue helmet or the helmet of their home country. Our hope is that no matter where these incidents occur these forces will be prepared to do something about them.

Another area of focus in our efforts is to increase the role of women in peacekeeping and to provide training to better protect women in conflict from sexual and gender-based violence. This past December the U.S. released aNational Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security that identifies steps the U.S. will take to advance women’s inclusion in peace and security. This includes a focus on protecting women from sexual and gender-based violence, as well as ensuring women have equal access to relief and recovery. Long before the action plan was released, our GPOI teams began implementing programs to achieve these goals. We are working to increase female participation in GPOI-funded training. GPOI has to date facilitated the training of more than 2,000 female peacekeepers worldwide – the majority of whom are from African countries. We are also incorporating training into our GPOI program that focuses on preventing violence and exploitation of women, as well as training that helps peacekeepers provide relief and support to women following incidents of sexual and gender violence. These efforts will improve the capacity of peacekeepers to better protect women in the field.

Though GPOI focuses the majority of its training efforts on military personnel, it has also worked to strengthen these units. Police units play a critical role in peacekeeping operations by handling crowd control, managing public order, and protecting peacekeeping staff and material. There is often even greater demand for policing capabilities as peacekeeping operations enter their later stages and as the focus turns more to consolidating the gains that have already been achieved. In Europe, we have helped support the Italian-led Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units. Since 2005, this facility has trained over 4,000 police trainers from around the world, thus increasing the number of well-trained police peacekeepers deploying to UN peace operations. GPOI efforts in this area also complement police-peacekeeper capacity building activities managed by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

Another less appreciated benefit of our peacekeeping efforts is the important role it can play in strengthening our diplomatic relations with others. This is something we see at the State Department in our dealings with countries across the globe. The subject of peacekeeping is often an uncontroversial issue that we can discuss with countries with which we are looking to expand our security relationships, such as with Vietnam. By cooperating over a security issue that we may agree on, we can open the door to constructive cooperation in other areas of mutual interest as well.

As its name implies, GPOI is a “global” capacity building program. We partner with 59 countries in every geographic region. We also partner with two regional organizations, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS. Africa is a major focus of our training efforts. We actively engage with 16 partner countries on the continent, primarily through the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance program or ACOTA. U.S. Africa Command is also playing an evolving role in executing GPOI capacity building activities. Through these efforts, GPOI-funded activities have facilitated the training of over 168,000 African peacekeepers, and over 140,000 of them have deployed to 13 UN and regional operations around the world.

In fact, USIP is also playing a vital role in Africa by partnering with ACOTA to teach peacekeepers negotiation and mediation skills as well as emphasizing their role in protecting civilians. I had an opportunity to get an invaluable look into the excellent work that our GPOI and ACOTA teams are doing when I traveled to Africa last year. I visited the Djibouti National Peacekeeping Training Center, which GPOI is supporting. There I met with the ACOTA trainers, U.S. Africa Command military mentors, and Djiboutian peacekeeping trainees. I was able to see first-hand the commitment and dedication of the U.S. trainers and Djiboutian trainees alike, as they trained in a location that was relatively austere and provided some difficult conditions.

GPOI is particularly focusing a great deal of its efforts to support the training and equipping of peacekeepers deploying to AMISOM in Somalia. There, peacekeepers are making significant strides as they push Al-Shabaab further from the outskirts of Mogadishu. Somalia is also suffering from a humanitarian crisis, which the volatile security situation has worsened by restricting access for aid workers. However, with the support of GPOI-funded training and equipment, peacekeepers are securing Mogadishu, providing space for the Somali peace process, and improving access for humanitarian workers to bring much needed aid.

But it is not just in Africa. Countries throughout Asia, the Near East, Latin America, and Europe have made significant contributions as well. GPOI currently partners with 15 countries throughout Asia, 12 countries in South and Central America, and six countries in Europe. Our partnership with countries around the world has made peacekeeping an important part of our bilateral security cooperation and has helped strengthen our diplomatic relations with these partners.

The Challenges

While I have discussed many of the benefits and successes of our peacekeeping efforts, there are of course a number of challenges as well. We have to recognize that at times the momentum behind a conflict will be too great and multilateral peacekeeping missions will sometimes fail or prove ineffective. Attempting to bring peace to areas in conflict is not easy work – a fact that Americans have experienced first hand over the last decade. International peacekeeping is not a silver bullet. However, it is an incredibly useful tool and is one that can become even more effective.

One of the major challenges to peacekeeping is that the global demand for well qualified peacekeepers remains strong at the very time that the global economic slowdown has squeezed budgets around the world. Resources simply are not as plentiful as they once were. Yet the need for well-trained, properly equipped peacekeepers and police units is at unprecedented levels. And while some prominent peacekeeping missions may soon wind down, I would just point to the dramatic events of the last year. The world can certainly change suddenly and new crises and new disasters will inevitably unfold. And when they do, the international community knows that international peacekeeping operations are an invaluable resource for potentially handling some of these challenges. Therefore, while I can’t predict the future, it is safe to say that demand for peacekeeping missions will remain robust in the decade ahead.

Unfortunately, there is a systemic shortfall in the supply of well-qualified peacekeepers, which continues to undermine the successful execution of UN and regional peacekeeping mandates. To compound the challenge of supply, peacekeeping missions are also becoming more and more demanding. In 2009 at the UN General Assembly, President Obama noted that “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.” Peacekeepers are being asked to do more than ever, from protecting civilians to taking increasingly forceful actions against those that threaten civilians or seek to spoil peace.

Despite the cost effectiveness of UN and regional operations, there is a gap between the expanded set of mission requirements and the capabilities available to meet them. Since GPOI’s founding the operational requirements for UN and regional peacekeepers continues to evolve and expand. Though GPOI has worked bilaterally and multilaterally to address the gaps, it will take additional time and resources to fully meet the demand.

We are constantly working to improve our training efforts to meet the growing requirements. Our GPOI teams are continuously updating their instruction programs based on mission feedback – whether from the partner country’s leadership or from other field reports. We also provide assistance to the UN that will help address poor performance in the field through our support of UN-drafted Military Capability Standards. The UN is in the process of approving the first three sets of training standards for infantry, staff officers and medical detachments. These standards will allow for the measurement of troop performance against a uniform standard.

We are also working with partner nations to institutionalize lessons learned and knowledge gained in operations and training. For too long, peacekeeping operations were disconnected and the knowledge and lessons learned weren’t passed on to others. This was the case especially when it came to training. GPOI is working to remedy this by seeking to enhance the capability of national and regional training centers by providing staff training, technical assistance, material support, and facilities refurbishments. To date, GPOI has supported 43 national and regional peace support operations training centers. This effort helps better enhance the preparedness, effectiveness and interoperability of peacekeeping units. And they also enable us to create a uniform standard from which to measure troop performance.

UN forces also face fairly unique logistical challenges. In some missions, there are multiple participating countries and occasionally chains of command and rules of engagement become uncertain. Furthermore, there are force protection challenges and the difficulty of knowing when peacekeepers should use force. The U.N. and the international community are increasingly required to engage in what is sometimes called “robust peacekeeping.” This means deployed peacekeeping forces are able to adopt a posture that enables them to deter and confront, including through use of force when necessary, an obstruction to the implementation of its mandate – especially the protection of civilians.

However, the plain fact is that UN and regional peacekeepers often lack the necessary tools to adopt such a posture or meet their ambitious mandates. It is clear that the UN and other regional peacekeeping efforts face tremendous capacity challenges, creating a number of gaps which need to be addressed.

One significant challenge for peacekeeping operations is mobility. UN operations often struggle to get where they need to go because of a lack of strategic airlift, utility and tactical helicopters, or high mobility vehicles for infantry. One of the greatest challenges facing UN operations today is the critical shortfall in sufficient number of military helicopters. In an effort to address the shortage of helicopter units, GPOI partnered with New York University’s Center on International Cooperation to conduct an in-depth study and international workshop on this issue. We are now developing an action plan to outline the United States’ strategy for moving forward to address this problem. This is still in its early stages, but we hope to identify tangible ways to support the UN’s efforts to increase its access to helicopter assets.

However, shortfalls remain. Missions often demand strategic planners, engineers, experts in logistics, and civilian specialists. UN forces also frequently lack information-gathering tools that allow them to adequately observe their surroundings. Additionally, police units often lack specialized personnel, including trainers, organizational reform experts, and investigators. GPOI is working to address such shortfalls by training peacekeepers in engineering and logistical skills, to name a few.

We are also working to bolster international support for peacekeeping, particularly in the area of civilian protection. This January the U.S. assumed the year-long Presidency of the G8 and we are hosting the G8 Summit in Chicago in May. As the head of the G8, the U.S. is chairing the G8 Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Experts Group. Today I would like to announce that under the United States chairmanship, the G8 plans to pursue a Protection of Civilians Action Plan. This will be focused on achieving concrete outcomes to improve the ability of peacekeepers to protect civilians on the ground in peacekeeping operations. As part of this effort, the G8 will give special emphasis to child protection and the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. Over the last three years, the international community has made tremendous progress on protection of civilians, particularly under the leadership of the United Nations. It is now time to translate this increased consensus into operational reality on the ground.

In closing, UN and regional peacekeeping is a strategic priority for the United States. Our peacekeeping training efforts have played a critical role in building the capacity of countries to prepare peacekeepers deploying to UN and regional peacekeeping missions. Through these efforts, the U.S., with the international community, is helping to save lives and prevent the escalation of conflict. Not only do UN and regional peacekeeping operations help prevent countries and regions from sliding into chaos – but their very presence lessens the likelihood that the U.S. military will be called upon.

In these budget constrained times, when the U.S. government is looking for cost-effective ways to achieve our strategic objectives at home and around the world, there are few better investments than the money we provide to support international peacekeeping efforts. Fundamentally, we provide this assistance not just because it supports our values, but because ultimately these efforts help keep our country more secure.

Thank you very much for having me here today. And I look forward to your questions.