Unintended Consequences: Blue Helmet Edition

One of the unintended consequences of paying developing countries to provide peacekeeping is not likely corruption or illegal trade in sex, arms, or drugs. No, we anticipate that threat to the UN’s legitimacy and effectiveness of the peacekeeping mission itself. There’s something else:

Another unintended consequence of peace operations has been the spread of HIV/AIDS…

Soldiers tend to be mainly men of a sexually active age, with money in their pockets well in excess of prevailing per capita income levels, deployed away from home for months at a time, and, by temperament and training, prone to risk-taking behaviour. Often they come into contact with young boys and girls who are poor, unemployed, and with a higher than normal rate of having been sexually exploited as casualties of armed conflict. The Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS referred to a study that showed some 45 per cent of Dutch military personnel serving with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Cambodia in the early 1990s had had sexual contact with prostitutes or other local women during a five-month tour of duty.

According to an International Crisis Group study, troops from countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates account for one-third of U.N. peacekeepers. Some African military forces have infection rates as much as five times that of the civilian population. Some countries, for example Ghana, conduct compulsory testing before selecting soldiers for mission deployment. Others resist for reasons of social and cultural sensitivity; some simply lack testing facilities.