A day after 15 United Nations troops were killed by militants in eastern Congo, the organization’s chief of peacekeeping operations described the deadliest assault on UN forces in a quarter-century as retaliation for the mission’s aggressive approach.
The attack came because of the “increasingly robust posture” the UN’s “blue helmets” maintain in the troubled country, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, a former French diplomat who’s the UN’s undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations, told reporters. “We are disturbing them,” he said of the armed groups suspected of being behind the Dec. 7 assault. “They do not like it.”
The battles peacekeepers face in the field come on top of the political and budgetary pressures Lacroix has to manage from the U.S., the UN’s biggest donor nation, as President Donald Trump’s administration continues pressing the global body to rein in costs and end ineffective missions.
After taking office in January, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley led an effort to trim about $600 million from the UN’s $7.3 billion peacekeeping budget for the fiscal year ending in June 2018. The U.S. — which pays 28.5 percent of the peacekeeping budget — had initially demanded $1 billion in savings, citing the high cost of the operations and deployments that were too long. Repeated allegations of sexual abuse by UN forces against civilians further damaged the reputation of the peacekeepers.
“We have to be extremely thoughtful in how we allocate our resources,” Lacroix said in an interview in his office on the 35th floor of the UN’s headquarters in New York. “There is an expectation that we be prudent and use our resources in the most cost-effective way we can.”
Lacroix, who assumed his post in April, is the fifth consecutive French head of the peacekeeping department. In that role he oversees 106,000 blue-helmeted troops across 15 missions. The peacekeeping effort in Congo is the largest and most expensive, encompassing more than 18,000 troops and about 3000 civilians, with a budget of $1.1 billion.
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