Engineers often come at the expense of infantry due to caps placed on troop numbers. In addition, some United Nations Member States do not have engineering contingents to deploy in the first place.
But we can address this problem by creating an engineering capacity that can deploy anywhere and at any time. Composed of engineers from the military, the private sector and the UN, this hybrid contingent would augment – not replace – the work of peacekeepers.
The engineering contingents could lay the infrastructure groundwork for regional and international organizations, enabling peacekeepers to hit the ground running much more rapidly.
Additionally, participants in the engineering contingents could receive on-going field training and mentoring while deployed. This would enable them to fully build capabilities that will both support peacekeeping missions and local communities while also giving them a strong set of skills to use when they return home.
Regional focus for faster deployments
As the UN continues to roll out projects to support engineering, Member States that are part of regional organizations like the African Union should be the focus. Why?
After a Security Council resolution, a peacekeeping mission can take as long as two years to be at full operational capacity – a very long delay when a conflict is raging. For geographical and political reasons, it takes the African Union less time to deploy peacekeepers to a conflict within their region – they can deploy almost immediately after a conflict ignites, though rarely with equipment they need to do their jobs effectively.
For conflicts in the Central African Republic and Mali, for example, the African Union deployed the African Standby Force well before the UN reached required agreements from the Security Council and Member States on UN troop deployment.
This illustrates the changing nature of peace operations. Increasingly, responsibility has become decentralized, moving from global to regional organizations. As such, the efforts to create these engineering contingents should initially focus on regional organizations like the African Union.
Increasingly, responsibility has become decentralized, moving from global
to regional organizations.
About the author
Andrew Reese works for UNOPS in New York, where he is responsible for strengthening and expanding the relationship with the UN Secretariat, as well as UNOPS thematic responses on peace and security. He previously managed complex portfolios of programmes for UNOPS and the UN’s Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, the State of Palestine and Somalia. He has also managed capacity building in support of the African Union Peace and Security Division with DPKO and the European Union.