Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Speaking of Peace and Lebanon...

Two days into the ceasefire between Hezbollah/Lebanon and Israel – and so far the deal is holding.

Usually in January I do a round-up of multilateral organizations that have as one of their reasons for existing the mission to advance peace and security. This year January came, lingered for the obligatory 31 days, an went – with no entry called “Organizing for Peace.” (In fact, there was no “World at War” piece until May this year.)

But as each day of combat along the Israel-Lebanon border turned into the next and that into the next, it became apparent that the international community would have to become deeply engaged and fully committed for a lengthy period in reframing and then maintaining the terms under which those living near the border would be secure from attack by individuals or groups seeking political changes.

With the expansion of the current UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from its current 2,000 to 15,000, this seemed to be an opportunity to finally begin the 2006 “Organizing for Peace.” Among the barebones statistics that will be woven into the narrative is the total number of UN peacekeeping (“Blue helmet”) operations – 60 – in the UN’s 61 years, virtually one every year. Fully one quarter of these are still in existence. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations also overseas three political or peace-building missions in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, and Sierra Leone.

As of the end of June, 87,707 individuals from 109 countries staffed the 15 primary missions. With the addition of 13,000 troops for UNIFIL, the total number of uniformed troops, international police, and military observes will exceed 100,000. International and local civilians and UN volunteers in these missions number 15,083. Another 2,556 individuals staff the three political/peace building missions.

Estimated. Cost for the 45 completed and 15 on-going missions is just over $41 billion. The current year’s budget (July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007) is $4.5 billion – before the expanded UNIFIL costs are added.

The first UN peacekeeping operation, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was created to oversee the May 1948 truce between Israel and its neighbors. And then the armistice agreed to in 1949. Following the 1973 war, another mission – the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) – was created to oversee the separation of forces on the Golan Heights in Syria. UNIFIL was created in 1978.

UNIFIL has proven to be the most dangerous mission. Of 2,272 fatalities in all UN missions, UNIFIL has suffered 252 from hostile acts.

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