UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States is urging countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia to commit more to U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world as Washington considers where it might be able to do the same, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Friday.
The United Nations has more than 110,000 soldiers and police in 16 peacekeeping operations around the world in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and in Haiti. While Western countries used to routinely offer peackeepers for blue-helmeted U.N. battalions, the United Nations now relies mainly on developing countries.
According to Ambassador Samantha Power, this is no longer an appropriate model for the 21st century.
"U.N. peacekeeping is increasingly funded by developed countries and manned by developing countries," she said. "This is unsustainable and unfair. It will not produce the peacekeeping forces that today's conflicts and our national security demand.
"When the U.N. created peacekeepers six decades ago, it did not have suicide bombers or IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in mind," she added in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think-tank.
She highlighted areas where U.N. peacekeeping operations can and must improve: "Slow troop deployment, limited mobility ... and the failure to confront aggressors and protect civilians."
It was necessary for countries to offer more.
"We are encouraging European militaries, many of which are drawing down from Afghanistan, to return to U.N. peacekeeping where they played a very active role in the 1990s," Power said.
"We're urging Latin American militaries to deploy outside the Western Hemisphere. And we're asking East Asian militaries to contribute more substantially to peacekeeping, some for the first time."
Some 700 Chinese peacekeepers are expected to join a United Nations mission in South Sudan at the start of next year. U.N. officials say this would be the first time China has contributed an infantry battalion to a U.N. peacekeeping mission.
In September, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden co-hosted a special high-level meeting in New York on the importance of U.N. peacekeeping reform. Power said that, at that meeting, Colombia, Japan, Indonesia and more than two dozen other countries from Sweden to Chile to China made new commitments.
Power's remarks come after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed an independent panel of experts to assess where improvements can be made to U.N. peace operations.
The United States is investing $110 million in improving the military capabilities of six African countries.
Regarding possible U.S. troop contributions to U.N. peacekeeping, Power said: "We are reviewing whether there are gaps that the United States is uniquely positioned to fill."
An internal U.N. study in May found that U.N. peacekeeping missions routinely avoid using force to protect civilians who are under attack, intervening in only 20 percent of cases, despite being authorized to do so by the U.N. Security Council.
Writing by Louis Charbonneau. Editing by Andre Grenon