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Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Africa: UN's 'strategic ghetto'
Un soldier in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone: Peacekeeping on the cheap?
By world affairs correspondent Nick Childs

The problems of peacekeeping, as highlighted by experience in Africa, is receiving special attention at the UN Millennium Summit in New York.

There is a widespread fear that Africa is turning into what has been referred to as a "strategic ghetto".

The major powers are increasingly reluctant to intervene there, under UN or any other auspices - and those countries which do contribute to UN missions in the region send ill-trained and ill-equipped contingents.

soldier with skulls of genocide victims
The UN remains haunted by the Rwanda genocide
More generally, the United Nations has been charged with not coping adequately with the fact that the nature of peacekeeping has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.

The UN operation in Sierra Leone has been perhaps the most spectacular recent example of the pitfalls of peacekeeping on the cheap.

There have been complaints that many developing countries have been motivated more by a desire to get their hands on albeit limited UN resources than by any political commitment to the missions to which they contribute.

Resistance to change

There is deep resistance, particularly amongst the major powers, to what many in the United Nations advocate - a standing UN army.

A recent UN report recommended a bigger and better-organised peacekeeping department, more robust rules of engagement, and better training and equipment for UN missions. But these will inevitably require greater resources.

And that is down to UN member states themselves, who have actually cut the funding for UN peacekeeping in recent years.

Ultimately, it is also still a question of those member states having the political will to take on tasks which are significantly more challenging than the basic truce monitoring which was the UN peacekeepers' lot for much of the Cold War.

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See also:

07 Sep 00 | Americas
UN reviews role in Africa
06 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Blair calls for UN force shake-up
05 May 00 | Africa
UN failing in Africa
23 Aug 00 | Americas
UN peacekeeping under review
23 Aug 00 | Americas
UN peacekeeping record
11 Aug 00 | Africa
UN chief seeks Horn force boost
16 Dec 99 | Africa
UN admits failure in Rwanda
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