Gold for Arms: More On Peacekeeper Immunity

Here we go again. United Nations peacekeepers act criminally and there is nothing the UN can do but the rhetoric implies there is. This most recent example isn’t about rape or sex slaves, it’s about trading weapons for gold. Maybe the Paks were thinking job security when they conducted their Gold-for-Arms program with DRC militias they were supposed to be disarming. Well, in all honesty, they were disarming them and then selling the weapons back for gold. Seems like a profitable enterprise to me. Perhaps the $1100 / man / month the UN pays Pakistan for their contribution isn’t enough.

Of course, the UN comes out with lofty statements denouncing the act, including this from the Secretary General:

“The Secretary-General looks forward to the early completion of the investigation. He will act upon its findings expeditiously and transparently. If wrong doing is found to have occurred, he will hold those responsible accountable.”

From he peacekeeping operation, MONUC, itself: 

MONUC stressed that it “has an absolute zero-tolerance policy on misconduct and will remain vigilant in preventing egregious and unacceptable behavior.”

All well and good, but a farce. Unlike administrators working with the UN, there’s nothing the UN can do to discipline peacekeepers themselves. The reality is simply this: peacekeepers are above the law, there is nothing that can be done about them in the current regime.

You can’t use market tools like you can with private military companies. If the country or organization is not pleased with the performance of a private contractor, it can fire it and go with another firm. In the world of peacekeeping, not possible. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India are 40% of the total peacekeeping manpower (including all three sectors: police, military observers, and troops). The UN can’t fire them. For example, Nepal simply promises not to send any of its military forces used for domestic human rights violations overseas on peacekeeping operations.

And what happens when the UN finds the Paks truly did get a little too entrepreneurial in DRC? The UN will simply ask Pakistan to rotate out the bad apples. The results of the 319 UN investigations into abuse by peacekeepers from Jan 2004 to Nov 2006?

Two-thirds of the allegations involved sexual exploitation and abuse. Following the investigations, 18 civilian personnel were summarily dismissed and 17 police and 144 military personnel were repatriated.

Were there instances where investigations didn’t take place? You betcha.

Just add more perspective, in the field of private contracting, it is entirely possible to use existing laws to regulate and provide oversight over contractors. In the case of the UN, where they have explicitly stated they are not party to international human rights regimes such as the Geneva Convention (the UN isn’t a state so never signed, and won’t because then it would be a “party” to the conflict), Blue Helmets are truly above and outside the law.

This Gold for Arms will blow over and nothing substantial will come of it. Next topic.