29 May; is the International Day of The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. The day was chosen; in memory of the creation of the first UN interposition force in the Middle East. In the years since; 3,800 have lost their lives. Today there are 14 operations. The most difficult are in Africa; where there has been large scale breakdown of State structures; such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The deployment of U.N. peace-keeping forces; is only one aspect of conflict resolution and peace building. However; The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces are the most visible; (and expensive) aspect of the U.N. peace-building efforts. Thus; our attention must be justly given to the role; the financing; and the practice of The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces.
U.N. Peace operations.
How effective are U.N. peacekeeping operations in preventing and stopping violence?; Are there alternatives to the ways that U.N. and regional organizations; currently carry out peacekeeping operations?; How effective are peacekeeping operations in addressing the root causes of conflicts?; How does one measure the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations?. We must ask questions of their effectiveness; and if these military personnel should not be complemented by other forms of peace-building.
There have been reports of U.N. Peace operations; in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in South Sudan; which highlight the systematic rape of women in the area; and the inability or unwillingness of U.N. Troops to stop the rapes; which have become standard practice; in the areas on the part of both members of the armed insurgencies; as well as by members of the regular army. There are also other examples when “failure” is the key word in such evaluations of U.N. Forces.
BANAIR-13 UN Medal Awarding Parade at Bunia. Province Orientale. Republique democratique du Congo. Mambasa, Democratic Republic Congo (2016).By Sqn.Ldr.Zaman & Faisal, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
The Creation of a Permanent UN Standby Force.
The first reality is that there is no permanent U.N. trained and motivated troops. There are only national units loaned by some national governments; but paid for by all U.N. Member States. Each government trains its army in its own spirit and values; though there is still an original English ethos as many U.N. troops come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Nigeria. Now China is starting to provide troops with a non-English tradition.
There have been proposals by some governments and non-governmental representatives; such as the Association of World Citizens for the creation of a permanent UN standby force. This has been rejected; usually on grounds of cost ( although it would be only a fraction of what is now spent on national armies.) There has also been an alternative proposal of creating within national armies; specially-trained forces for UN use. In light of the fact that the great majority of UN troops come from south Asia; speak English and were originally formed in an English tradition; the creation of such units ready for quick use is a real possibility.
Moreover; there is no such thing as consistency and predictability in U.N. actions o preserve order. The world is too complex; and the UN Security Council resolutions; are voted on the basis of national interest; and political power considerations. U.N. “blue helmet” operations; have grown both in numbers and complexity. Even with the best planning; the situation in which one deploys troops will always be fluid; and the assumption on which the planning was based may change.
To be successful; U.N. Peacekeeping operations need to have clear objectives; but such objectives cannot be set by the force commanders themselves. Peacekeeping forces are temporary measures that should give time for political leaders to work out a political agreement. The parties in conflict need to have a sense of urgency about resolving the conflict. Without that sense of urgency; peacekeeping operations can become eternal as they have in Cyprus and Lebanon.
The International Day of U.N. Peacekeepers.
U.N. Forces are one important element in a peacemakers tool kit; but there needs to be a wide range of peace building techniques available. There must be concerted efforts by both diplomatic representatives; and non-governmental organizations to resolve the conflicts; where U.N. troops serve. Policemen, civilian political officers, human rights monitors, refugee and humanitarian aid workers; and specialists in anthropology all play important roles along with the military. Yet non-military personnel are difficult to recruit.
In addition; it is difficult to control the impact of humanitarian aid; and action as it ipples through a local society and economy; because powerful factors in the conflict environment; such as the presence of armed militias; acute political and ethnic polarization; the struggle over resources in a war economy will have unintended consequences.
As we honor the International Day of The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces; we need to put more effort on the prevention of armed conflicts; on improving techniques of mediation; and creating groups which cross the divides of class, religion, and ethnicity.
Featured image: The impact of the Israeli bombing on a civilian building in Gaza (2021). By Osama Eid, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. The AWC, a Nongovernmental Organization…
October 24 is United Nations (U. N.) Day; marking the day when there were enough ratifications; including those of the five permanent members of the proposed Security Council for the U. N. Charter to come into force. It is a day not only of celebration; but also a day for looking at how the U. N. system can be strengthened; and when necessary, reformed.
There have been a number of periods when proposals for new or different U. N. structures were proposed and discussed. The first was in the 1944-1945 period when the Charter was being drafted. Some who had lived through the decline and then death of the League of Nations wanted a stronger world institution, able to move more quickly and effectively in times of crisis or at the start of armed conflict.
In practice; the League of Nations was reincarnated in 1945 in the U. N. Charter but the names of some of the bodies were changed and new Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO were added. There was some dissatisfaction during the San Francisco negotiations, and an article was added indicating that 10 years after the coming into force of the Charter a proposal to hold a U. N. Charter Review Conference would be placed on the Agenda – thus for 1955.
The possibility of a U. N. Charter Review Conference led in the 1953-1954 period to a host of proposals for changes in the U. N. structures; for a greater role for international law, for a standing U. N. “peace force”. Nearly all these proposals would require modifications in the U. N. Charter.
The semi-official emblem of the League of Nations, used from 1939 to 1941. Vectors by Mysid, based on FOTW. By The original uploader was Mysid at English Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
When 1955 arrived; the United States and the Soviet Union, who did not want a Charter Review Conference; which might have questioned their policies, were able to sweep the Charter Review agenda item under the rug from where it has never emerged. In place of a Charter Review Conference, a U. N. Committee on “Strengthening the U. N. Charter” was set up which made a number of useful suggestions; none of which were put into practice as such. The Committee on Strengthening the Charter was the first of a series of expert committees, “High-Level Panels” set up within the U. N. to review its functioning and its ability to respond to new challenges. There have also been several committees set up outside of the U. N. to look at world challenges and U. N. responses, such as the Commission on Global Governance.
While in practice there have been modifications in the ways the U. N. works; few of these changes have recognized an expert group’s recommendations as the source of the changes. Some of the proposals made would have strengthened some factions of the U. N. system over the then current status quo – most usually to strength the role of developing countries (the South) over the industrialized States (the North). While the vocabulary of “win-win” modifications is often used, in practice few States want to take a chance, and the status quo continues.
U. N. Peacekeeping Forces: The Blue Helmets.
Now, the Secretary General knows well how the U. N. works from his decade as High Commissioner for Refugees, U. N. reform is again “in the air”. There are an increasing number of proposals presented by governments and by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the U. N. The emphasis today is on what can be done without a revision of the Charter. Most of the proposals turn on what the Secretary General can do on his own authority. The Secretary General cannot go against the will of States – especially the most powerful States – but he does have a certain power of initiative.
There are two aspects of the current U. N. system that were not foreseen in 1945 and which are important today. One is the extensive role of U. N. Peacekeeping Forces: The Blue Helmets. The other is the growing impact of NGOs. There is growing interest in the role of NGOs within the U. N. system in the making and the implementation of policies at the international level. NGOs are more involved than ever before in global policy making and project implementation in such areas as conflict resolution, human rights, humanitarian relief, and environmental protection. (1)
NGOs at the U. N. have a variety of roles – they bring citizens’ concerns to governments, advocate particular policies, present alternative avenues for political participation, provide analysis, serve as an early warning mechanism of potential violence and help implement peace agreements.
Blue Helmet – UNIFIL mission in Lebanon. Peacekeeping forces of Indonesia. By Frea Kama Juno, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
The role of consultative-status NGOs was written into the U. N. Charter at its founding in San Francisco in June 1945. As one of the failings of the League of Nations had been the lack of public support and understanding of the functioning of the League; some of the U. N. Charter drafters felt that a role should be given to NGOs. At the start, both governments and U. N. Secretariat saw NGOs as an information avenue — telling NGO members what the governments and the U. N. was doing and building support for their actions.
However; once NGOs had a foot in the door, the NGOs worked to have a two-way avenue — also telling governments and the Secretariat what NGO members thought and what policies should be carried out at the U. N. Governments were none too happy with this two-way avenue idea and tried to limit the U. N. bodies with which NGOs could ‘consult’. There was no direct relationship with the General Assembly or the Security Council. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Article 71 of the Charter was the body to which “consultative-status NGOs” were related.
Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room of the Palace of Nations, Geneva (Switzerland). It is the meeting room of the United Nations Human Rights Council. By Ludovic Courtès, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
What in practice gives NGOs their influence is not what an individual NGO can do alone; but what they can do collectively. ‘Networking’ and especially trans-national networking is the key method of progress. NGOs make networks; which facilitate the trans-national movement of norms, resources, political responsibility, and information. NGO networks tend to be informal, non-binding, temporary, and highly personalized. NGOs are diverse, heterogeneous, and independent. They are diverse in mission, level of resources, methods of operating and effectiveness. However, at the U. N., they are bound together in a common desire to protect the planet and advance the welfare of humanity.
Wikipedia Workshop for Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communications staffs by Wikimedia Bangladesh. This is our one of big initiative to involve all community radio people to enrich Wikipedia. By Hasive, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
On the Same Wave Length.
The role of NGO representatives is to influence policies through participation in the entire policy-making process. What distinguishes the NGO representative’s role at the U. N. from lobbying at the national level is that the representative may appeal to and discuss with the diplomats of many different governments. While some diplomats may be unwilling to consider ideas from anyone; other than the mandate they receive from their Foreign Ministry; others are more open to ideas coming from NGO representatives. Out of the 193 Member States; the NGO representative will always find some diplomats who are ‘on the same wave length’; or who are looking for additional information on which to take a decision, especially on issues on which a government position is not yet set.
Ms. Emma Ruby Sachs, Deputy Director, Avaaz, Ms. May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org Mr. Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International Ms. Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Our Kids Climate Ms. Usha Nair, Climate Leader, Global Gender and Climate Alliance Mr. Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club Ms. Karuna Singh, Director, Earth Day Network India Mr. Al Gore, Chairman The Climate Reality Project. By UNclimatechange from Bonn, Germany, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
Trans-National Advocacy Networks.
It is probably in the environmental field — sustainable development — that there has been the most impact. Each environmental convention or treaty such as those on biological diversity or drought was negotiated separately; but with many of the same NGO representatives present. It is more difficult to measure the NGO role in disarmament and security questions. It is certain that NGO mobilization for an end to nuclear testing and for a ban on land mines and cluster weapons played a role in the conventions; which were steps forward for humanity. However; on other arms issues, NGO input is more difficult to analyze.
‘Trans-national advocacy networks’; which work across frontiers are of increasing importance as seen in the efforts against land mines; for the International Criminal Court and for increased protection from violence toward women and children. The groups working on these issues are found in many different countries; but have learned to work trans-nationally both through face-to-face meetings and through the internet web.
The groups in any particular campaign share certain values and ideas in common; but may differ on other issues. Thus; they come together on an ad hoc basis around a project or a small number of related issues. Yet their effectiveness is based on their being able to function over a relatively long period of time in rather complex networks even when direct success is limited.
These campaigns are based on networks; which combine different actors at various levels of government: local, regional, national, and U. N. (or European Parliament, OSCE etc.). The campaigns are waged by alliances among different types of organizations — membership groups, academic institutions, religious bodies, and ad hoc local groupings. Some groups may be well known, though most are not.
There is a need to work at the local, the national, and the U. N. levels at the same time. Advocacy movements need to be able to contact key decision-makers in national parliaments, government administrations and intergovernmental secretariats. Such mobilization is difficult, and for each ‘success story’ there are many failed efforts. The rise of U. N. consultative-status NGOs has been continual since the early 1970s. NGOs and government diplomats at the U. N. are working ever more closely together to deal with the world challenges which face us all.
Shellard (centre) with The Baroness Lawrence and S.P. Varma at The 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference in August 2019. By Otisjfk, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
(1) This interest is reflected in a number of path-making studies such as P. Willets (Ed.), The Consciences of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the U. N. System (London: Hurst, 1996), T. Princen and M. Finger (Eds), Environmental NGOs in World Politics: Linking the Global and the Local (London: Routledge, 1994), M. Rech and K. Sikkink, Activists Without Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998); Bas Arts, Math Noortmann and Rob Reinalda (Eds), Non-State Actors in International Relations (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001); and William De Mars, NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).
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