Reassessing the Role of the un peacekeepers in Civil War



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Reassessing the Role of the UN Peacekeepers in Civil War
by
Christina Marie Rocks

History of UN Peacekeeping Action in Civil War:
Over the decades, peacekeeping operations have varied in size and form and have taken on similarly varied mandates.  The United Nations, in its charter delegates the power and responsibility to maintain international security through peacekeeping. Since both peacekeeping and peace enforcement require the use of military personnel, and are sometimes mandated with the use of its military powers, it is easy to confuse peacekeeping with peace enforcement. The United Nations defines “peacekeeping” as “a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace.” Peacekeeping forces of the UN have the mission of monitoring and observing peace processes that emerge in post-conflict situations. They also assist ex-combatants in implementing the peace agreements they have signed. To avoid confusing sovereignty entanglement, the United Nations puts forth effort to not engage in peace enforcement. Peace enforcement requires more occupation of forces and troops. In peace-keeping, the UN can enter into a situation to help resolve it in a natural way, whereas peace enforcement does not necessarily resolve an issue, but forces the physical violent aspects of a crisis to be halted. This often only causes the conflict to go underground and erupt under much more pressure, creating dire circumstances, that would not have been so severe without the “peace enforcement.” Peacekeeping is not explicitly addressed in the UN Charter despite it being a key activity defining the UN today. It was initially adopted during the Cold War as a substitute for Collective Security and in response to the stalemate between permanent members of the Security Council. Also, peacekeeping is not a forceful maintenance of peace, but rather an attempt to minimize violence and avoid military action.

There is a certain ambiguity involved in international peacekeeping. One provision is Peace keeping is only conducted on the consent of the parties and though the UN requires consent from both parties before intervention, who constitutes as a legitimate party can be a difficult thing to decide, especially in cases of civil war. Civil wars have many causes; permissive and immediate causes. In cases of civil war, gaining required consent can prove to be difficult , especially if one group is more in control of the government, or historically has more international legitimacy. International peacekeeping's legal ambiguity was cleared up by the International Court of Justice, establishing the validity of peacekeeping action, basing it partly on the legislative intent of the Chapter Six provisions under the UN Charter, which provides for the peaceful settlement of disputes, but the provisions are not foolproof.

Historically, the United Nations has acted as a mediating party in civil wars, overseeing treaties and agreements to make sure that they are carried out appropriately. Such was the case in 1962 in Yemen, when the UN monitored withdrawal of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who were both fueling the Yemen Civil War. Another example is when in 1963, the UN sent a 6,000 man force to keep the newly independent nation of Cyprus at peace, as they experienced civil war. Although the United Nation’s presence as a peacekeeping entity is often very effective, there have been times when UN presence has not been enough to stop violence. Such as Namibia in 1989 when the United Nations tried to smooth the Namibian independence process.
Current Situation
The United Nations currently has peacekeeping missions in Burundi, Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, East Timor, and other locations in the Middle East. In these areas, peacekeeping troops have been deployed for the specific purpose of stabilizing, and observing to keep peace. The most pressing points of this issue today lie in questions of sovereignty and in finding money within the United Nations budget for their civil war peacekeeping operations. Sovereignty, the question of who has political power and its origin, is often a question in United Nations actions, in cases when the UN has to step in as an international body that in a way is supervising other autonomous administrations. The efficiency of the United Nations peacekeeping is being called into question at a time when the world is utilizing the organization more than at any other time in history. This calls into question whether a standing UN army should be created, whether the UN should work with regional organizations (such as the Western European Union or NATO). It is important to consider these alternatives to the UN working alone on this issue. It is important to consider that each nation has a very specific culture and history, and system of operation that the UN must be aware of and careful not to disrupt when entering an area in an effort of peacekeeping aid.

Questions to Consider:




  1. In the cases of Civil Wars, who is most responsible for taking action; governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, financial institutions, arms manufacturers, social and educational institutions?

  2. Should there be any qualifying characteristics to determine whether a party has enough legitimacy to for the UN to require consent from it before interfering.

  3. Should peacekeeping in civil wars be seen as a separate entity in the United Nations, with missions being delegated to a specialized committee?

  4. Who should control the decision of when to end UN involvement and pull troops out of mission locations?

  5. Weigh the benefits and costs of creating a UN standing peacekeeping force.

Helpful Websites:




  • http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/HRLRes/2002/6/index.html#Heading46

  • http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/timeline_of_united_nations_actio.htm

  • http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/index.asp




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