UN Peacekeeping Cuts Could be a Disaster for Women and Girls

By Ortrun Merkle and Diego Salama, United Nations University

The United Nations General Assembly has voted to cut US$600 million from the UN’s US$8 billion peacekeeping budget. The measure responds to pressure coming from the Trump administration, which has pledged to reduce the United States’ contribution to the organization.

“I have seen value in the UN,” the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, recently stated. “And at the same time, the UN has fat around the edges.”

Given that the U.S. is the biggest contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping budget link, the policy will be felt across all 15 missions currently deployed, including those 10 missions with a direct mandate to protect civilians, notably girls and women.

The cuts were on the agenda when the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations hosted a conference in New York between 6–8 July, where the deputy chiefs of defense of more than 100 troop-contributing countries gathered to discuss the challenges of peacekeeping and how to adapt to the budget cuts from the military side.

Cutting the budget is not an intrinsically bad policy. On one hand, it will trigger a comprehensive review of all missions deployed and the work of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations as a whole. This is an opportunity for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to fulfill a campaign promise to push through much-needed reform of the UN system, and peacekeeping in particular.

On the other hand, if the cuts are too drastic, they can translate into fewer military and civilian personnel being deployed, which can pose a risk to missions’ effectiveness, particularly in the protection of civilians.

While the impact these budget cuts will have on civilians as a whole is being discussed, the impact on women and girls has once again been absent from the conversation.

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