A Budget Unexamined is a Budget Wasted?
Well it happens every year. Most people do not realise it but in July every year the United Nations General Assembly writes a series of very big cheques. These pay for the various peacekeeping operations around the world that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is responsible for. Frankly, its alot of dosh. If it were development assistance money people would fall over a bit stunned as its so much cash. But its quietly tucked away in the obscure proceedings of the UN General Assembly Fifth Committee.
On 13 July 2010 the Fifth Committee committed over $7,000,000,000 in international taxpayers dollars to UN peace operations. The cynics would say well, “that buys about 127,000 UN 4X4 vehicles”. But its more complicated than that.
What is it spent on? There was hardly a peep in the press, and almost no external debate on how, why, where, when, who and what its being spent on. Year in and year out. In many places the annual budget is a wildly publicized, contentious and transparent debate. No so with the Fifth Committee. Despite marching around the planet preaching the UN mantra of “democratic accountability” and “budgetary oversight” to the world’s poor this is one big budget which remains largely unexamined. Its not just the New York crowd who are at fault. International civil society pretty much ignores the budget. Its more interested in the lofty issues of human rights, governance and something to do with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But surely resources are where its at when it comes to policy – and these resources remain largely unexamined.
Little is known about it outside the quirky community of diplomats and peacekeepers that manage it. When I roamed the hallways of DPKO HQ as “peacekeeper” a few years ago the words “Fifth Committee” generated a mixture of disinterest, scorn and fear among those of us that wanted money from it.
Having said that how much of this cash actually helps rebuild countries? Certainly it would be a falsehood to say not much. However, these peace operations and DPKO HQ miss a big opportunity by not thinking of themselves as “buyers” – people and organisations that can buy locally, and create jobs for those young men (Liberian, Congolese, Haitian, Timorese, Sudanese, etc) that once caused a problem in the past – and could again.
Given the weak or non-existent economies in some of the below places – its no wonder that one thinks twice when considering the what the impact of $10,000,000 or so in local procurement in host economies might be. Its pretty simple really, it would be a major economic driver. But it has not yet cottoned on in most places. One ray of hope though; the procurement people in UNMIL seem to be getting into the action.
The grand total is for $7 264 350 500. Yes, that is over 7 billion bucks.
- MINURCAT (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad) is getting $215,000,000.
- MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) is getting $60,038,500.
- MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) is getting $380,000,000, and that just for 6 months!
- MONUC, now MONUSCO (United Nations Organisation Mission in the DRC) is getting $1,369,000,000.
- UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur) is getting $1,808,127,500.
- UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) is getting $47,806,900.
- UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) is getting $58,156,300.
- UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) is getting $518,710,200.
- UNMIK (United Nations Mission Interim Administration in Kosovo) is getting $47,874,400.
- UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) is getting $524,052,800.
- UNMIS (United Nations Mission in the Sudan) is getting $938,000,000.
- UNMIT (United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste) is getting $206,311,600.
- UNOCI (United Nations Operation in Cote D’Ivoire) is getting $485,078,200.
- Support Mission for the African Union Mission Somalia is getting $174,318,200.
- UNLB (United Nations Logistics Base/Brindisi) is $68,170,600.
- Support Account is getting $363,705,300.