The strain of these transnational challenges on the UN system is stretching the organization to its breaking point. There are currently 16 peacekeeping operations deployed around the world – nine of them in Africa, three in the Middle East, two in Europe and one in the Americas. There are currently more blue helmets on the ground than at any time in history. The cost of keeping over 125,000 personnel in the field hovers at roughly $8 billion a year.
The mounting sense of disorder is shaping how the world’s political and military leaders are thinking about international peace and security. Some of them are calling for a return to isolationism: focus on humanitarian relief to global hot spots and little else. Others are clamouring for more muscular forms of intervention, especially to snuff out radical extremism in North Africa and the Middle East. The space for moderation and balance is shrinking.
Faced with this ominous state of affairs, what is the UN to do?