by Rebecca Berry
The United Nations was formed immediately following World War II as an international organization to promote dialogue among members rather than of war, to administer international law, and to help nations develop and prosper in an atmosphere of world peace. Peacekeeping by United Nations forces plays a vital role in the mission of the United Nations. Troops monitor elections, disarm warring factions, and provide protection for international aid workers helping victims of war, famine, and disease. Peacekeeping missions require many men and women, tight coordination between soldiers who often have arrived from many countries, and large expenditures. The United States, in late 1994, had over 70,000 troops participating in peacekeeping missions in such areas as Iraq, Bosnia, Macedonia, the Adriatic Sea, Rwanda, and the Caribbean. In addition, the United States was assessed by the United Nations for payment of 31.7% of the UN's total peacekeeping budget. This is nearly three times what the next largest contributor pays. These figures clearly demonstrate the importance of United States forces and funding to one of the United Nation's most vital roles, that of peacekeeping. If the National Security Revitalization Act becomes law, this vital function will be severely jeopardized. The National Security Revitalization Act seeks to reduce the United States' commitment to peacekeeping. It does so by placing a restriction on peacekeeping missions by United States forces by stipulating that they may not operate under the command of a foreign military officer. The principle behind peacekeeping missions is that they are multinational efforts, and often require American troops to be under foreign commanders. Additionally, the act requires that the United States effectively reduce its contributions to peacekeeping by setting strict limits on the allocation of money to pay for United Nations assessments to the Unites States for peacekeeping. According to the Act, money may be allocated to the UN only if it exceeds the amount spent the previous fiscal year by the Defense Department to support peacekeeping missions, minus the amount reimbursed by the United Nations for US participation in missions. (The UN reimburses a certain percentage of a country's costs.) For 1994, this act would in all likelihood have prevented the President from allocating the funds for the US UN assessment, as the United States was assessed $1.5 billion and the Department of Defense spent $1.7 billion in order to support peacekeeping operations. Without United States assessments, the peacekeeping program would very likely fall apart. This is particularly dangerous because the United States is also the heaviest contributor to the United Nations overall budget, and often does not receive reimbursement for its participation in peacekeeping missions. Not part of the National Security Revitalization Act, but also a subject of debate in the Senate are the United States contributions to the UN general budget, particularly funds for the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, and the World Food Program. All of these programs work to provide development opportunties for developing countries where wars are most likely to break out over a lack of resources. Such wars in turn lead to a need for costly famine and refugee relief and peacekeeping missions. We have seen many such wars on the African continent, Somalia and Rwanda among the most prominent, but there have been many others, such as the ongoing war in Sudan. The majority of UN peacekeeping missions are in Africa. If United States assessments for peacekeeping are eliminated, and additional cuts are made to the UN budget due to a reduction of United States contributions, the United States will be eliminating programs that help prevent the need for peacekeeping in the first place, and will also be eliminating a program that will suddenly increase in necessity.