Chapter 14—Hugh Smith, ‘Intelligence and UN Peacekeeping’ S 26/3 (Aut ‘94)
Intelligence and UN Peacekeeping
An old United Nations hand once observed that ‘the UN has no intelligence’. Putting aside the deliberate ambiguity of this remark, it is certainly true that the UN does not collect, process and disseminate intelligence in the directed and comprehensive way that major powers do as a matter of course. The UN is reluctant even to use the word ‘intelligence’, preferring the term ‘information’ in order to avoid the usual connotations of subterfuge and secrecy.1 ‘Intelligence’ also implies the existence of enemies or, at least rivals, a suggestion that the UN is naturally anxious to avoid. For these and other reasons that are discussed below, the role of, and need for, intelligence capabilities in peacekeeping operations is rarely debated in either UN documents or the public literature.2 Whatever terminology is used, the problem of determining what information is required, collecting and assessing this information, and disseminating the resultant intelligence is of growing importance to the UN in its peacekeeping activities. During the Cold War, peacekeeping was, by and large, a matter of monitoring agreements or stable cease-fires that had already been negotiated between the contending parties. Apart from the Congo operation (1960-64), peacekeepers were se1dom directly involved in military action. While the UN would have liked better intelligence in its peacekeeping activities, it was able to get by with ad hoc and inadequate arrangements. The situation has changed markedly in recent years.
A second generation of peacekeeping operations has emerged in response to a wide range of difficult problems, particularly internal conflicts or the breakdown of law and order.3 Peacekeepers are liable to find themselves in countries in which no government is in undisputed control, special order has broken down or is on the point of collapse, hostilities are actually under way or imminent and the use of force against UN personnel is a distinct possibility. In these circumstances, roles such as protecting humanitarian aid, disarming factions, monitoring fragile cease-fires, preventive deployment and negotiating agreements among reluctant players have made the requirement for good and timely intelligence overwhelming.
The need for intelligence is being increasingly felt both by the UN and by states contributing to peacekeeping operations. Particularly in more complex and fluid situations, intelligence will be crucia1 in achieving the goals of the mission laid down by the UN Security Council. Intelligence may also be important for the lives and well being of UN personnel on the ground. With more than 200 peacekeepers killed in l993 alone, the greater hazards of contemporary peacekeeping have led governments to demand better intelligence both prior to making a commitment to an operation and during its deployment.4 The anarchical or near-anarchical situations that have created this demand for improved intelligence, however, will also usually make such intelligence more difficult to obtain, keep current and disseminate effective1y.
The UN must come to terms with intelligence. But the problems are not easily resolved. Traditiona1ly, intelligence has been produced and used by a particular state for its own purposes. Much of the intelligence is gathered without the consent or even knowledge of the Target State. Intelligence, too, is normally retained under national control, although it may be shared with friendly governments, up to a point. In the UN, however, intelligence takes on a very different shape. It is gathered not in order to be used against enemies, the UN has no enemies of the kind that national imtel1igence thrives on, but for the purposes of the international community. It is gathered more openly than national intelligence and is unlikely to remain secure in the medium or long term.
The concept of ‘UN intelligence’ promises to turn traditional principles of intelligence on their heads. Intelligence will have to be based on information that is collected primarily by overt means, that is, by methods that do not threaten the target state or group and do not compromise the integrity or impartiality of the UN. It will have to be intelligence that is by definition shared among a number of nations and that in most cases will become widely known in the short or medium term. And it will have to be intelligence that is directed towards the purposes of the international community. Such a system is unlikely to emerge of its own accord. The UN needs to establish a clear conception of how it wants intelligence to develop in the context of peacekeeping, and perhaps also, of preventive diplomacy.