No deal on UN peacekeeping budget, risk of mission freeze: diplomats

·2-min read
UN peacekeepers -- seen here in the disputed Abyei region on the border of Sudan and South Sudan in 2016 -- are facing a budgetary squeeze

The 193 member states of the United Nations have thus far failed to agree on a peacekeeping budget for the year beginning July 1, which could lead to "a freeze on all missions" should a deal not soon materialize, diplomats said Monday.

The roadblock stems from China and African countries making multiple last-minute requests, the sources said.

The budget for the UN's global peacekeeping operations -- about 20 missions worldwide, with nearly 100,000 Blue Helmets mobilized -- amounts to about $6.5 billion and covers a 12-month period starting each year on July 1, which is Thursday.

The UN under secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told a video press conference that already last year, budget negotiations among the member states were complicated.

But those talks ended with a deal on June 23, 2020 -- a week ahead of the deadline.

This year, "the risk is that for a while until a decision on budgets is reached by the General Assembly, our missions will find themselves under strict constraints, to only spend on measures to protect our personnel," Lacroix said.

"This is a worrying possibility, especially in an environment in which most of our missions are operating in very difficult, problematic and dangerous circumstances," he added.

When asked by AFP about the absence of a deal in the UN's General Assembly, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said peacekeeping missions had been advised of the situation, and were asked to make contingency plans should the missions have to be interrupted.

"We await the decision by the member states and hope that they will come to a decision promptly," he said, highlighting that without an agreement, missions would no longer be able to incur any expenditures starting Thursday.

"In the absence of a decision by the General Assembly, the secretary-general can only enter into financial commitments to provide for the safety and security of staff and peacekeeping personnel," and to safeguard UN assets, Dujarric explained.

"Curtailment of operations would limit the ability of the missions to implement their mandate, including, for example, supporting host countries on Covid response, protecting civilians, among others," he said.

The annual peacekeeping budget is separate from the main UN operations budget of more than $3 billion. That budget mandate runs from January to December and also often ends up the subject of complex negotiations.

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