Featured Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
I am confident that if we work together and champion truly bold reforms,
the United Nations will emerge as a stronger, more effective, more just
and greater force for peace and harmony in the world.
US President Donald Trump, 18 September 20017.
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,
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.
Rene Wadlow; President; Association of World Citizens.