Italy’s contribution to UN peacekeeping is of foremost importance. This applies in quantitative terms: leading supplier of “Blue Helmets” among Western and European Union countries and 6th funding country, with nearly 180 million euros in 2009. And it is equally true in qualitative terms, with our multi-faceted engagement in a range of activities, each of them crucial to the success of the peacekeeping operations. Our effort is based on three pillars: participation on the ground (UNIFIL and other missions); training (CoESPU); and logistical support (UNLB, Brindisi).
Since 2006, Italy has been in first place amongst Western and EU countries as a provider of Blue Helmets, and 11th in absolute terms. Our military personnel, unlike many other contingents, enjoy logistical and operational autonomy and so do not weigh directly on UN resources (UN reimbursements cover just a small part of our costs). Italy’s decisive contribution to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) us unanimously acclaimed. Since 2006, Italy our country has provided the biggest national contingent: this currently stands at 1900, while in the past we reached peaks of 2600-2800 units. Italy also led the mission, under General Graziano, until February 2010, while on 1 December 2009 we took over the command, for the third time and for 6 months, of UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force
Established as an Italian-US initiative, the Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) has been operating in Vicenza since 2005. So far, the Centre has trained 2300 police officers from 29 countries (mainly African), with the number set to rise to 3000 in 2010. Following the “train the trainers” philosophy, these units will in turn train a further 4500 police officers in their own countries. They will thus achieve the goal of 7500 units established by the Sea Island G8 Summit in 2004, which approved the initiative. In addition to training activities conducted by the Carabinieri in Vicenza, mobile teams of specialist CoESPU and US trainers, with the participation of representatives of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), visit participating countries as part of their monitoring/mentoring role, to check on the levels attained.
The United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB) has been operating in Brindisi since the mid-1990s. The Base is a globally unique structure on which the entire logistics side of the UN’s numerous peace operations in various continents depends. Initially set up as a storage facility during the fighting in the Balkans, the UNLB has developed over the years into a global support centre for the UN’s peacekeeping operations. In addition to logistical support functions, the Base also houses the strategic reserve of supplies and materials. It plays a key role as a UN satellite communications, training and technical support centre, for the personnel and aircraft engaged in liaison with peace missions. The UN’s Standing Police Capacity (SPC) has also been transferred to Brindisi.
Italy’s contribution to UN Peacekeeping consists not just of a presence on the ground but also of defining strategic lines and drawing up policies. Both in our contacts with the Secretariat, and in debates in the appropriate fora (Assembly General and Security Council), Italy is taking part in the peacekeeping reform process, to which it brings the credibility of its role as a leading country in this sector.