Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

The Cost of Peace and War through the lens of UN Peace Missions

Wars generate numerous violent crimes, such as mass rapes, mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and, the gravest crime under international law “genocide”. And the 2017 Global Peace Index highlights that the world has become significantly less peaceful over the last decade.

The United Nations (UN) was established on 24 October 1945 in order to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. It is the only international, theoretically independent, entity that has been founded not only to prevent and mediate international conflicts, but also to deal with conflicts throughout their development and with their aftermath.

Knotted gun sculpture at the UN

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations, based at the UN headquarters in New York, deploys missions in war-torn regions after the UN Security Council decides when and where such operations should be sent.

Since its inception, the UN has interfered in 48 conflicts. It has initiated 71 peacekeeping operations, out of which 16 are currently ongoing. After collecting and analyzing several data from the UN website about peacekeeping operations, we can conclude that nine such operations are currently functioning in the African continent, three in the Middle East, two in Europe, and one each in Central America and Asia. The majority of the peacekeeping operations were sent after the end of the Cold War, with 53 (75%) of the operations deployed after 1990, compared to 18 (25%) undertaken before this date. Over half of the operations sent after 1990 were in Africa (28 out of 53), while before the same date, almost half of these operations were registered in the Middle East (7 out of 18). It is very important to highlight that the UN deployed more peacekeeping operations between 1988 and 1999 (72%) than it did in all four previous decades (28%). However, post-2000 the number of operations sent to deal with conflicts has decreased, with the UN sending only 18 operations after this date.

Apart from the UN, there are other bodies that send peace missions, such as the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of Western African States (ECWAS), South African Development Community (SADC), the Organization of American States (OAS). However, the UN remains the biggest operator for peace missions in the world. So, how much they cost?

Between July 1st, 2016 and June 30, 2017, the UN spent on peace operations about 7.87 billion dollars. But the benefits of peace, which are peace agreements that can lead to developed societies, are very volatile. According to Call & Cousens (2008), large scale-conflicts that end in negotiated settlements revert to violence three times as often as do conflicts that end in military victories. In the same line of thoughts, up to 75% of settled conflicts revert to warfare in less than five years. In other words, peace is more difficult to achieve than war.

But war, on the other hand, costs more. The US alone spent 4.8 trillion dollars on the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq only, and the world military spending in 2016 was 1.69 trillion dollars, with an increase in the US and Europe of 0.4 percent since 2015. War helps businesses to thrive, as only in 2015 “the 100 largest arms-producing and military services companies across the globe sold an estimated $370.7 billion worth of arms”.

When we talk about cost, we also need to include the cost of human loss, which is a result of war but not of peace. Nevertheless to say that war creates crimes and chaos, while peace creates stability and leads to progress. One way to increase the chances of lasting peace is to add women at the peace decision table. When women participate as negotiators, mediators, witnesses, and/or signatories, “an agreement is 35% more likely to last for 15 years”.

If we didn’t know it already, peace costs less than war, helps societies to thrive, and if the UN, and other facilitators of peace, would include more women in the peace processes, we could reduce the cost of war by decreasing the number of these conflicts, and minimize the expenditures for peace missions by having long-lasting peace.

Cecilia Popa – Romania

Rotary Peace Fellows – Class 23


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This entry was posted on August 14, 2017 by and tagged , , , , , , .
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