Where does Latin America stand when it comes to contributing peacekeepers to United Nations (UN) missions?
In general, there is a large presence of Latin American peacekeepers in Haiti, which is the only mission in the Western Hemisphere. However, Latin American countries send their troops to many other missions around the world. Their contributions are not highlighted as much as the large presence of Latin American peacekeepers in Haiti. In terms of numbers, Brazil and Argentina send the most troops and police to missions around the world. At the same time, there is a general push to try to get more countries in the region to send peacekeepers through organizations such the Latin American Association of Training Centers for Peace (ALCOPAZ – Asociación Latinoamericana de Centros de Entrenamientos para Operaciones de Paz), based in Rio de Janeiro.
Since 2009, the following countries from the Americas have contributed to UN peacekeeping missions including:
Argentina: Liberia, Ivory Coast, Middle East, South Sudan, Cyprus, East Timor, Haiti, and the Western Sahara.
Bolivia: Haiti, the DRC, Darfur, Afghanistan, Liberia, South Sudan, and the Ivory Coast.
Brazil: Chad, the Western Sahara, Haiti, Darfur, Cyprus, Lebanon, South Sudan Liberia, Nepal, East Timor, and the Ivory Coast.
Chile: Haiti, Georgia, Cyprus, India/Pakistan, the Middle East, and the Ivory Coast.
Ecuador: Haiti, Darfur, Liberia, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, and East Timor.
El Salvador: Western Sahara, Haiti, Darfur, Cyprus, Afghanistan, South Sudan and the Ivory Coast.
Grenada: Haiti, the DRC, Nepal, Lebanon, South Sudan, and Ivory Coast.
Guatemala: Haiti, the DRC, Darfur, Lebanon, South Sudan, Nepal, and the Ivory Coast.
Jamaica: Haiti, Darfur, Liberia. South Sudan, East Timor, and the Middle East.
Paraguay: Western Sahara, Haiti, the DRC, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Liberia, Nepal, South Sudan, and the Ivory Coast.
Peru: Haiti, the DRC, Cyprus, Liberia Darfur, South Sudan, and the Ivory Coast.
Uruguay: Western Sahara, Haiti, the DRC, Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, South Sudan, East Timor, Georgia, Ivory Coast.
Canada: Haiti, the DRC, Afghanistan, Darfur, Cyprus, South Sudan, the Ivory Coast, East Timor, and the Middle East.
The U.S.: Chad, Haiti, the DRC, Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, South Sudan, and the Middle East.
Colombia has only contributed to Haiti (although they have also contributed to Afghanistan with the help of Spain) and Honduras has only contributed to the Western Sahara.
Almost all countries contribute personnel to Haiti and Brazil has dominated the mission from its inception. The large presence in Haiti makes sense. Scholars argue that countries contribute troops to areas where they have the most vested interest.
Despite their large international presence, peacekeepers are no longer welcome in Haiti due to the many issues associated with the mission. Although some argue that peacekeepers have made a real difference, the UN is drawing down forces to pre-hurricane levels. The question then becomes if Latin America will continue to contribute as much worldwide if the Haiti mission is reduced.
Uruguay seems to be an exemplary mission outside of the Western Hemisphere. The country contributes around 1,300 troops annually to the UN mission in the DRC. Unlike Brazil and Argentina that compete with one another to be the main regional power in South America, Uruguay sees peacekeeping as a way to transform and advance their own military. Despite its small size, El Salvador has also increasingly sent more troops abroad. Peru has historically been involved in international peace. It is one of the earliest examples of Latin America’s major involvement in UN peace operations with the “batallón Peru;” from 1968-1974, a unit of the Peruvian army was dispatched to serve as peacekeepers after the war between Israel and Egypt.
Mexico does not participate in such missions. The constitution bans its military from leaving Mexican territory unless war is declared. Since the violence in Mexico has escalated, a group of Mexican business men have called for a UN mission to the border between the U.S. and Mexico to help curb the violence in Juarez. It may be time for Mexico to start reconsidering its decision to refrain from peacekeeping missions. For troop contributing countries, missions serve as a way to train and gain experience while having the UN pay for most of the costs.
Moreover, to be taken seriously as an emerging global power, many countries have to demonstrate their international presence. With its narcotics problems, Mexico may want to keep as much security personnel at home as possible. But, on the other hand, they may want to change their image as a country that needs peacekeepers to one that contributes to global peace. Moreover, training their military and police could translate into loyalty toward the Mexican authorities, something that has been a major problem for the government.
In sum, despite its participation in various missions, Latin America appears to be an untapped resource for UN peacekeeping operations. The hemisphere is at peace and many countries are emerging as global actors. The UN should attempt to recruit more peacekeepers from Latin America both because of its military and police experience in handling conflict and because many countries have invested resources in their security forces. Latin America has a lot to give when it comes to peace and security; the UN should take more advantage of it.
Sabrina Karim is a contributing blogger to AQ Online and is currently living in Lima, Peru as part of a Fulbright Fellowship.