In 1988, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the Blue Berets—the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. The Nobel committee praised it for its “contributions towards the realization of one of the fundamental tenets of the United Nations”, peacekeeping. More than twenty-five years later, UN peacekeeping forces are at work in many parts of the world, from Haiti to Kosovo to Mali, maintaining armistices, training local law enforcement, and protecting civilians. Notably, however, there remains a large disparity in member nation contributions to the UN peacekeeping force.

Of the approximately 97,000 individuals who were part of 2013 peacekeeping operations, only a small percentage of those were from wealthier nations such as the United States or Europe. This trend of wealthy nations not contributing to UN peacekeeping holds throughout the world as well. Other wealthy nations such as Japan or Russia also contributed little to this international peacekeeping force. The largest contributors to the UN Peacekeepers tend to be comparatively less wealthy nations.

Common members of UN peacekeeping forces include countries in Southeast Asia such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as African nations such as Nigeria, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. In fact, Pakistan alone contributes substantially more personnel than the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and China combined. Though this great disparity in personnel support alone is not in any way an indicator of a nation’s commitment to world peace, the fact of the matter is that a few countries are bearing the burden of an international responsibility.

Many of these wealthier nations, who don’t contribute substantial manpower to the peacekeeping force, make significant contributions to the UN budget as a whole. While most member nations contribute less than one percent to the UN regular budget, the United States alone contributed 22 percent of the entire budget in 2013. This contribution was followed by Japan at around ten percent. The budget for all peacekeeping operations does indeed come from this general budget. This indicates that these nations perhaps provide more in terms of financial support in order to offset their small personnel contribution to peacekeeping.

However, peacekeeping operations carry many of the same risks as military operations. Many times, these peacekeepers are sent into extremely volatile spots around the world, ranging from war zones to disaster areas. Thus, countries that contribute more personnel unfairly shoulder most of the resulting casualties. Even if wealthier nations can provide more financial support, it is still unfair to these nations that have to suffer the bulk of the casualties. These nations would have to care for their casualties as well, in ways that go far beyond the sacrifices of nations that limit their support to UN peacekeeping operations. As many of these wealthier nations also have more personnel and more advanced technology or equipment, the operation would likely achieve its goal more effectively, thus resulting in reduced casualties.

The UN Security Council is responsible for the authorization of many of these peacekeeping operations. The five permanent members of the Security Council, among the wealthier nations in the world, only contribute around 3,000 personnel total, with China making up the majority of this contribution. The contribution of the Security Council is comparable to the contributions made by the nations of Ghana or Jordan. Since these five nations are authorizing these operations, it only seems only appropriate that they play a part in them as well. It is unfair to predominately have other nations carry out what is not just a task requiring international cooperation, but a task authorized by nations that will ultimately not commit troops to the operation. For permanent Security Council members, the magnitude of sacrifice required in peacekeeping operations pales in comparison to the benefits of serving on the Security Council.

Additionally, it is also important to keep in mind other considerations for peacekeeping. Many times nations are assigned to peacekeeping operations near their nation. Geographic contiguity explains the larger amount of contributions made by African or Middle Eastern nations.

However, the discrepancy between troop commitments is simply too large to be simply explained and justified by logistics or international reputation. While non-contributing countries are correct in that it is logical to have a smaller amount of personnel in a distant peacekeeping operation, it is unreasonable for these countries to essentially have none at all. Many of these wealthier nations have military presences that extend beyond their local area. Contributing to something such as peacekeeping is not unreasonable, but appropriate. In addition, peacekeeping is a source of national pride in many nations. Bangladesh, one of the top contributors of peacekeepers to the UN, has gained much international legitimacy and prestige as a result of its prominent role in UN peacekeeping. In fact, the BBC has once called Bangladeshi peacekeepers “the cream of UN peacekeepers,” due to the desirability of their skill and professionalism. By contributing personnel to peacekeeping, nations that have enemies in certain regions may be able to alleviate these negative opinions. A willingness to contribute to UN peacekeeping may improve a nation’s international image.

While it is perhaps true that wealthier nations provide otherwise unavailable financial support, this does not mean that they are justly exempt from providing a minuscule amount of personnel support. Many of these poorer nations do not provide as much financial support because they are unable to, thus the wealthier nations must make up for it. However, this is not usually the case for personnel support. While some wealthier nations do perhaps have smaller militaries or security forces, most don’t. Nations in NATO, for example, have some of the largest combat forces in the world.

Peacekeeping is an international effort that has not become international yet. While there are multiple reasons for the disparity, none of them justify it. Stated clearly in Chapter 7, Article 43 of the UN Charter: “All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council… armed forces, assistance, and facilities…for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.” To fail in this mission by sending such small amount undermines the spirit and purpose of the UN.