WASHINGTON – At a hearing today to examine reform of United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping operations, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, advocated for greater accountability and effectiveness in peacekeeping missions with an emphasis on preventing instances of abuse by peacekeepers. The committee heard testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte, and Dr. Bruce Jones, an expert in international conflict management at the Brookings Institution.
“I am particularly concerned with recent disturbing reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by certain U.N. peacekeeping troops,” said Corker. “The current U.N. policy is ‘zero-tolerance’ but such abuses continue with disturbing regularity. So, it’s our hope we can find some common sense ways to address these issues and explore these and other topics such as the U.S. peacekeeping assessment.”
In an October letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Corker proposed a series of recommendations for the U.S. to pursue at the United Nations in response to revelations about sexual exploitation and abuse at the hands of peacekeepers. The senator’s proposals include (1) encouraging troop contributing countries (TCCs) to provide appropriate onsite courts-martial for criminal allegations against peacekeeping personnel; (2) establishing a U.N. Security Council ombudsman to oversee peacekeeping operations; (3) instituting standing claims commissions paid for by the TCC to address grievances of the host country nationals; and (4) establishing enforceable benchmarks that TCCs must meet in order to receive bilateral training and assistance benefits and to participate in peacekeeping operations.
Noting the significant interests at stake for the U.S. as the largest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations, Corker, along with members from both parties, called for greater transparency of U.S. funding for peacekeeping given the Obama administration’s pledge of additional resources outside of the U.S. assessed contribution. He also raised questions about how to accommodate the shifting roles and mandates of peacekeeping missions, including the perception of peacekeepers among local populations and the capabilities of the forces provided by TCCs. Traditionally, peacekeeping missions have focused on separating parties within a conflict in fulfillment of negotiated peace agreements. Now these forces are being asked to take on new and difficult responsibilities such as civilian protection, disarming active combatants, and developing the capacity to engage in counterterrorism.