Brazil’s involvement in UN peacekeeping efforts, in numbers

. Nov 25, 2019
Brazil UN peacekeeping Brazilian peacekeeping troops in Haiti. Photo: Marcello Casal Júnior/ABr

In October, The Brazilian Report took a look back on the legacy of Brazil’s peacekeeping mission in Haiti, a 15-year military endeavor implemented by the United Nations and led by the Brazilian Army. Since the stabilization mission (known by the acronym MINUSTAH) began in 2004, much has been achieved. But not peace. 

According to UN spokesperson Marta Hurtado, at least 42 people were killed and 86 were severely injured during a new wave of protests in September. The organization, however, downsized the mission until only a small office remained to guide local Haitian authorities. Therefore, Brazil’s role has been drastically reduced. 

</p> <p>But Brazil’s history in peacekeeping did not begin in Haiti and in fact dates back to the 1940s. Seventy years later, the Igarapé Institute—an independent think tank—published a 20-page report entitled “<em><a href="">It&#8217;s time to reengage: Brazil and UN peacekeeping operations</a>”</em><strong> </strong>which includes data on the Brazilian army’s financial obligations and accomplishments beyond its own borders. </p> <p>The institute told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> that the study was not prepared in response to any request from Brazilian authorities.&nbsp;</p> <h2>51 international peacekeeping missions</h2> <p>Between 1947 and 2019, Brazil has been engaged in 51 peacekeeping missions. The country joined the first UN multilateral mission, the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans (UNSCOB) in 1947. At the time, the country had a significant influence on the global council’s decisions. Diplomat Oswaldo Aranha supported the partition of British Palestine, an event that led to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, but has yet to see the foundation of a fully recognized Palestinian state.&nbsp;</p> <p>The report says, however, that the turning point—representing Brazil’s first step in global cooperation*—happened in 1956 when then Security Council approved the country’s first mission to combat the Suez Crisis in Egypt. From that moment on, Brazil has been involved in 45 peacekeeping missions and four special political missions (MPE), the highest profile of which are the Haitian saga (2004–2017), the Angola Verification Mission I (1989–1990) and the Interim Force in Lebanon (1978–). Since February 2011, the Lebanese mission’s naval force is under Brazil’s command.&nbsp;</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/989785"></div><script src=""></script> <h2>USD 400 million debt </h2> <p>This peacekeeping duty comes with a price. Brazil has been unable to pay its contributions in full, amassing a debt of over USD 400 million, according to the Igarapé Institute report. The most recent UN data, from March 2019, indicated payments of up to USD 302.8 million, equivalent to over BRL 1.17 billion. In both cases, Brazil ranks as the organization&#8217;s second-worst payer, behind the U.S. </p> <p>The lack of payments threatens the country&#8217;s diplomacy, as the government—already out in the cold after its <a href="">radical right-wing shift</a>—could be excluded from discussions to set technical standards or from phytosanitary exports. It could even cost Brazil its right to vote at the UN General Assembly.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/989918"></div><script src=""></script> <h2>54.392 members of the Armed Forces </h2> <p>Between 1947 and September 2018, at least 54,392 members of the Brazilian military served in international missions. This number shot up dramatically in 1990, with more than 47,000 officers serving since then.&nbsp;</p> <p>Brazil’s biggest challenge came in Haiti. During the mission&#8217;s 13 years of duration, 37,500 members of the Brazilian Armed Forces served in the country, with 24 of them dying on duty, including generals Urano Teixeira da Mata Bacelar, who committed suicide, and José Luiz Jaborandy Júnior, who fell ill suddenly while flying.&nbsp;</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/989849"></div><script src=""></script> <h2>8th-largest </h2> <p>Measured against the rest of Latin America, Brazil is the largest contributor to the UN regular budget, with a 2.9 percent share corresponding to over USD 82 million. This is a relatively high volume, due in part to the good performance of the Brazilian economy around the turn of the decade. By simple comparison, Brazil&#8217;s 2019 contribution alone amounts to 40.3 percent of the total contributions planned for all Latin American and Caribbean countries.</p> <h2>Why ‘re-engage’? </h2> <p>Igarapé’s senior researcher Eduarda Hamann and United Nations fellow Wasim Mir, authors of the &#8220;Re-engage&#8221; project, said the report seeks to push an &#8220;unexplored debate&#8221; in Brazil on the &#8220;financial contributions of the member states to the UN peacekeeping budget.”</p> <p>They say that while the country&#8217;s participation is normally measured by its most tangible metric—the number of Armed Forces deployed—it is also important to discuss the financial elements that allow this whole structure to be possible.</p> <script src="" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>“Ignoring this data could endanger the stability of a country or region in crisis and, at worst, expose the very effectiveness of the multilateral system created to solve problems of peace and international security,” they added.&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides public awareness, there is also risk on the horizon. The UN’s financial crisis has snowballed. Brazilian correspondent Jamil Chade <a href="">wrote</a> that the USD 1.3 billion hole in the UN budget has forced the organization to put up ‘energy rationing signs’ next to bathrooms and turn off some of its elevators at its headquarters in Geneva. In the tone of a warning, Secretary-General António Guterres said the contribution is “not optional.”</p> <p>The study points out that the UN’s poor financial situation could generate problems on a larger scale. The cash flow problem may affect the organization’s ability to maintain international peace and security.</p> <p>Peace missions are primarily affected by financial pressure, mainly in two different forms. The first includes cuts to the annual budget of peacekeeping missions approved by the UN General Assembly. The second puts pressure on mission-specific values, making it difficult to create new missions often suggesting their premature termination.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the UN Secretariat report on April 30, the annual budget was USD 6.7 billion, of which USD 2.1 billion (32 percent) had been unpaid by the member states. The U.S. has the highest debt, accounted for 52.7 percent of the unpaid amounts, followed by Brazil with 12.6 percent.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Though Brazil’s role—as one of the founding members of the UN—has been to provide human resources (military, police and civil) to peace missions for decades, the research has identified in recent trends some elements that explain the current disengagement.  The article evaluates that, after changing some of the financial conditions that led to partial default (&#8230;) Brazil&#8217;s re-engagement to significant levels in the near future will be as feasible as it is welcome.”

Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs—specializing Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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