As the United Nations commemorates the 70th anniversary of its founding this week, it can claim a major accomplishment in the 69 peacekeeping operations that it has led around the world since 1948. Soon, the U.N.’s “blue helmets” will be receiving a renewed spotlight on Capitol Hill through a Congressional Peacekeeping Caucus recently formed by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a veteran of the Afghanistan War, and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Although peacekeeping operations were not specifically established by the U.N.’s original charter, they grew directly out of the organization’s mandate to de-escalate armed conflicts and stabilize combat zones. The U.N.’s 16 current operations include longstanding missions in Cyprus, Lebanon, India and Pakistan. But peacekeeping forces — which are provided voluntarily by member states and operate under the U.N. flag — are now also active in countries including Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Liberia. With more than 125,000 active personnel, U.N. peacekeepers are currently the world’s single largest deployed military force.
Formation of the new bipartisan Congressional Peacekeeping Caucus was spurred by a visit in late 2013 by Kinzinger and Cicilline to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia. Afterward, in a joint op-ed in The Hill, the congressmen said that “the experience showcased that the U.S. must remain committed to working with the United Nations to tackle international problems.” The new caucus aims to inform members and staff about the benefits and challenges of U.N. peacekeeping operations and how these can advance U.S. foreign policy and national security interests.
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