Global Policy Forum

Washington Takes a Blast From Its Envoy at the U.N.


By Barbara Crossette

TheNew York Times
July 21, 2000

Richard C. Holbrooke, taking aim at both Congress and the Clinton administration, said today that American reluctance to sufficiently pay for United Nations peacekeeping could cost the United States much more down the line in emergency relief and the direct involvement of American troops.

Mr. Holbrooke, who has more often been critical of the United Nations, turned on Washington publicly for the first time in nearly a year as American ambassador here, saying that the administration was asking Congress for too little and Congress was slashing that even further.

He said there was a "disconnect" in budgeting $7.1 billion for emergency relief and only $500 million for peacekeeping and the prevention of conflict. "The tragedy is that by lagging behind in funding peacekeeping operations, we often inadvertently, unintentionally contribute to conditions in which peacekeeping fails and refugee and relief assistance is then required," he said.

The problem is most acute in Africa, where there has been an unwillingness to aid United Nations missions, an issue that re-emerged this week as the United States stalled action on a Security Council resolution that would increase the size of the peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone.

Tactical obstructions are one of the few weapons left to the American delegation here, since United States influence in determining how United Nations peacekeeping is designed and carried out is rapidly declining because of Congressional budget cuts and the reluctance of the Pentagon to put any Americans on the ground.

On Sierra Leone, Mr. Holbrooke said today that he cannot ask Congress for more money for an expanded force until he can show that the troubled mission has been restructured. Officials and other diplomats say that enlarging the force is essential to strengthening it. And, they say, now is the time because the force finally seems to be making headway against the largest rebel group in Sierra Leone.

Appropriations committees in the House and Senate have slashed a $738 million budget request for peacekeeping in 2001 to $500 million and rejected a request for $107 million for current expenses in Kosovo and East Timor. "We asked for too little," Mr. Holbrooke said of the administration's initial request. "Both the secretary of state and I feel we asked for too little.

He said $500 million "is not enough to do peacekeeping worldwide," adding that there would soon be new requests for operations in the Horn of Africa, Burundi and Congo. "In every one of these cases," he said, "if we don't do the peacekeeping, the humanitarian aid will go up."

In the Security Council, no action is likely on increasing the force in Sierra Leone until well into next month. Under an agreement with Congressional leaders, the Clinton administration must give 15 days' notice of any Security Council vote on peacekeeping that could raise costs for the American government.

No notification has been made for Sierra Leone, putting on hold a British-sponsored resolution to increase the size of the force from 13,000 to 16,500 troops as recommended by Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Last Saturday, a contingent of peacekeepers, backed by combat helicopters, freed a group of unarmed military observers and more than 200 troops who had been surrounded by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front at Kailahun, a town in the southeast of Sierra Leone, according to United Nations officials.

The successful rescue -- with the loss of one peacekeeper's life and seven injuries but much larger casualties on the rebel side -- lifted the morale of a mission that had been humiliated when rebels took 500 peacekeepers hostage last May. Those hostages were all subsequently released through the intervention of the Liberian president, Charles Taylor, who has close ties to the rebels.

On July 5, the Security Council banned trading in Sierra Leone diamonds, which are controlled by the rebels and mainly reach international markets through Liberia, enriching that government as well as the rebels. The ban is to continue until the Sierra Leone government establishes a certification system for controlling exports.

More Information on US Policy on UN Peacekeeping
More Information on Peacekeeping Finance
More Information on the UN Financial Crisis


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