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UN peace missions are a 'shambles'

UNITED NATIONS peace- keeping operations are a shambles and the organisation needs a radical shake-up to cope with a dramatic increase in peace-keeping missions round the world, according to the latest Military Balance, the definitive annual guide to the world's military forces, published yesterday.

The growing number of operations undertaken since 1990 has led to a five-fold increase in UN military staff in New York, the Balance says. The way the UN is organised, with two separate organisations responsible for peace-keeping operations, is replicated at every level, leading to 'extra bureaucracy and, in turn, unnecessary inefficiency'.

The Balance, compiled by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, also criticises the way the media has focused attention on certain parts of the world - like former Yugoslavia - at the expense of others such as Transcaucasia and sub-Saharan Africa, described as 'the region most plagued by conflict and instability'.

The annual review opposes the idea of standing UN forces, because the possible tasks are so varied that no one unit could be trained for every eventuality. It suggests that UN member states should earmark forces for UN peace-keeping missions.

They should provide 'lists of numbers and types of units that they were prepared to make available (and within what time scale) from which the right mix of infantry and support troops, and of traditional peace-keeping versus high intensity trained units can be selected.'

It notes that peace-keeping operations on the ground are the responsibility of the Department of Peace-keeping Operations, while the financial and administrative authority is that of the Field Operations Division of the Administrative Management Department, a division which recurs at every level.

THE Balance also said that Iraq could be in a position to make nuclear weapons again if the UN lifted sanctions, Reuter reports. It said Iraq almost certainly did not have a nuclear weapons capability yet, but it added: 'This situation could change once UN sanctions are lifted, although those countries whose industrial companies are suspected of having contributed in any way to Iraq's nuclear programme will be extra vigilant in monitoring exports.'

UN inspectors who scoured Iraq after it was driven out of Kuwait in February 1991 found it had come within two or three years of being able to make a crude bomb.

The Military Balance 1993-1994, published by Brassey's for the IISS, pounds 36