A Monthly Journal of the IDSA
Trends in United Nations Peacekeeping
By Shalini Chawla, Researcher, IDSA
Peacekeeping, a major creation of the United Nations (UN), emerged during the Cold War, as the principal tool through which UN attempted to fulfil it's primary goal of maintaining peace and security. Peacekeeping has gone through phases of rapid growth and inactivity. Today, it has adopted a multidimensional role and stands radically transformed. It carries certain distinctive features. In the previous years, UN has relied on intervention, peace enforcement coupled with peace making for containing and managing conflict situations. Also, various trends are emerging, like, subcontracting peacekeeping, and, the South Asian and African nations standing as major contributors to the peacekeeping troops. Peacekeeping today is in a flux, if not crisis, and if it is to serve as a useful instrument in maintaining international peace and security, it needs conceptual clarity, political support and financial resources.
Peacekeeping emerged during the Cold War, as the principal tool through which the United Nations (UN) attempted to fulfil its primary goal of maintaining peace and security. Peacekeeping does not appear in UN's charter. It is a major creative invention of the UN. It emerged unexpectedly through the imaginative midwifery of Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold and his key aide, Andrew Cordier, induced by the seemingly frozen adversarial relations between Moscow and Washington during the Cold War. It was adopted during the Cold War as a substitute for collective security and in response mostly to the stalemate between the permanent members of the Security Council.
After the initial start-up era in the years immediately following Second World War, there have been phases of rapid growth and of inactivity in terms of peacekeeping operations. The first two expansion periods (1946-56 and 1956-67) saw a significant increase in the number of new peacekeeping operations launched mainly in response to conflict in the Middle East. Tensions between the two superpowers brought these two expansion periods to a close. Both of them were followed by eras in which peacekeeping was confined almost solely to the continuation of ongoing missions. A third cycle of the ebb and flow began with the end of the Cold War. The expansion phase of the most recent cycle was the most ambitious in the UN's history. When failed operations demonstrated how overly ambitious this expansion of peacekeeping had been, the current period of relative inactivity began. 1
UN peacekeeping has declined in the past five years, primarily because the leading members of the UN are not willing to support it financially, politically, militarily or logistically. But the need for peacekeeping in various parts of the world has not declined at all and in the absence of UN activism, other actors have begun to seize the initiative.
Peacekeeping today has adopted a multidimensional role and various trends have emerged. This article aims to study and analyse the various emerging trends in UN Peacekeeping Operations.
Evolution of Peacekeeping Operations
UN Peacekeeping Operations may be broadly classified under three categories. The first is the traditional one where the UN force acts as a fire brigade, mostly between states and essentially to monitor conflict termination arrangements under truces and cease-fire agreements. The second category concerns action by the international community under UN auspices essentially to deal with the circumstances arising out of a partially or fully "imploded state" where the normal institutions of a state are near collapse, or have collapsed, and a state of anarchy exists. The third category, are those which aim to deal with intra-state conflicts and civil wars, to essentially seek their de-militarisation, so that peace and security can be restored. 2
The first form was witnessed in the cold war era and the other two evolved gradually, mainly after the end of the Cold War.
Peacekeeping Operations: The Initial Phase
Peacekeeping has been defined by Boutros Boutros Ghali as "the deployment of a United Nations presence in the field, hitherto with the consent of all parties concerned, normally involving United Nations Military and/or police personnel and frequently civilians as well. Peacekeeping is a technique that of peace that expands the possibilities for both the prevention of conflict and the making of peace." 3
The time when the Security Council stood paralysed by the Cold War, an experiment was initiated with peacekeeping operations as an alternative to collective security actions. Thus, in practice, peacekeeping operations were often ad hoc in nature, undertaken on the basis of a resolution passed mostly by the UN Security Council. Such operations were based on the expressed consent of the parties to the dispute, and were non-coercive in character. The primary objective was to cast the UN in the role of an impartial intermediary in local wars, or situations that threatened international peace and security.
During the Cold War, although the mandates of missions varied from case to case, its geo-political task was to ensure that the local conflicts did not spread and drag in larger regional neighbours or the superpowers. In fact, in some situations, peacekeeping operations were an effective tool of crisis management which did reduce the chances of a Greek-Turkish war in Cyprus or an Israeli-Syrian war in Lebanon. A large majority of the peacekeeping forces were deployed in the Middle East, which was outside the sphere of influence of either superpower.
Between 1945 and 1987, the peacekeeping operations authorised by the UN are shown in the table below:
Table 1. Peacekeeping Operations during the Cold War, 1945-1987
Missions Brief Explanation
UN Special Commission on the Balkans Inquire into foreign support for guerrilla
(UNSCOB) 1947-51 fighters in Greece
UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) Monitor ceasefire lines between Israel
1948-present and its neighbours
UN Military Observer Group in India and Monitor ceasefire between India and
Pakistan (UNMOGIP) 1949-present Pakistan in Kashmir
UN Emergency Force I (UNEFI) 1956-67 Act as a buffer between Israeli and Egyptian forces in the Sinai
UN Observation Group in Lebanon Monitor movement of arms, troops and
(UNOGIL) 1958 equipment into Lebanon
UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC) 1960-64 Provide military assistance to the Congolese government and restore order
UN Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) Administer West Irian prior to transfer
1962-63 of territory to Indonesia
UN Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM) Monitor movement of arms, troops and
1963-64 equipment into Yemen from Saudi Arabia
UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) 1964-present Maintain order prior to 1974 and monitor buffer zone after Turkish invasion
UN India Pakistan Observer Mission Monitor ceasefire between India and
(UNIPOP) 1965-66 Pakistan after the 1965 war
UN Emergency Force II (UNEF II) 1974-79 Act as a buffer between Israeli and Egyptian forces in the Sinai
UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Monitor the separation of Israeli and
1974-present Syrian forces on the Golan Heights
UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Act as a buffer zone between Israel and
1978 -. present Lebanon
Source: Stephen M: Hill and Shahin P. Malik, Peacekeeping and the United Nations, (England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, , 1996), p. 27.
So, peacekeeping in the past was in the form of Supervisor /Observers to monitor cease-fire or border areas in areas of conflict, where truce had been brought about by years of peace negotiations. For example, observer groups in Korea, Indo-Pak and Indonesia. Peacekeeping operations undertaken in this period were modest in nature, with the exception of UN Operations in Congo (ONUC), wherein combat forces under UN command had to be applied to enforce peace and restore the integrity of a member state. The traditional peacekeeping carried the consent of the belligerents, and involved the deployment of civilian officials/lightly armed military personnel, after a cease-fire agreement had been signed. The idea was to preserve peace settlements agreed upon between sovereign nation-states. Thus, the overwhelming majority of peacekeeping operations undertaken till 1988 were of the traditional type. Although this form of peacekeeping was witnessed after the end of the Cold War also but the number substantially reduced. This is partly due to decline in the incidents of clearly demarcated inter-state wars.
Transformation in Peacekeeping Operations
With the end of the Cold War, UN peacekeeping operations have gone through a qualitative change and radical transformation. End of the Cold War created a new set of circumstances where pragmatism was left floundering and the accepted wisdom about peacekeeping was called into question. 4 Lately UN operations have been deployed in areas where there are no agreements, where legal governments do not exist or exist with limited authority. Also, today, most of the conflicts take place within states, not between them. Such conflicts are not always fought by armies, but by irregular forces. Civilians are the main victims. Humanitarian emergencies are proliferating and very often, state institutions have collapsed. UN has thus gone beyond traditional peacekeeping. Many of the recent operations have involved demobilisation of troops or armed para-militaries, promotion of national reconciliation, restoration of effective governments, and the organisation for monitoring of elections. Thus UN peacekeeping has become more complex and dangerous. Now there is much more to peacekeeping than military patrols along a cease-fire line and observation of the parties to ensure their separation and compliance with agreements -- what has been called "cooking and looking." 5
In the previous years, UN has relied on intervention, peace enforcement coupled with peace making for containing and managing conflict situations. These are referred to as second generation peacekeeping operations.
The new functions performed by the peacekeepers illustrate further innovation and are sufficiently different from classic or traditional peacekeeping to justify a different label of "expanded" or "comprehensive" peacekeeping. 6
UN peacekeeping gained a high reputation in the world by winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988, after the successful operations completed in Namibia and other regions. In the Namibian operation, the mandate went beyond the task assigned to the peacekeepers earlier and was very diverse and complex, involving tasks such as the administration and conduct of elections and referendums. Then in Western Sahara, UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), took up the task of ensuring the release of political prisoners or detainees.
The host of new operations undertaken during recent years, with more complex mandates operating under more difficult circumstances than in the past, resulted in some significant successes but also in major failures. The failures captured far more attention, however, as the scenes of a nation continuing to tear itself apart make more dramatic footage than those of a country trying to rebuild itself. 7 Peacekeeping seems to have given birth to certain distinctive trends in the post-cold war era.
Most of the UN missions deployed in the late 1980s and early 1990s had a significant humanitarian component. In the traditional peacekeeping also, humanitarian work was undertaken like in Cyprus, UNFICYP was mandated to re-create normal conditions and the mission delivered supplies to the small Greek-Cypriot community amidst the Turkish Cypriots living in the south of the island. 8
What makes some of the recent humanitarian actions different is that they have been the main purpose of peace keeping/enforcement and they have taken place when conflict is still escalating. In the face of public pressure energised by media coverage of awful human tragedy, the international community has felt the need to resort to what has been termed as 'military humanitarianism'. 9
The problem with the humanitarian assistance by the international community during a period of violent conflict is that supplies can be appropriated by the warring factions, increasing their ability to prolong the conflict. This has been examined by Prendergast. 10 He brings out, as to how international aid can enhance the status and effectiveness of warlords through direct theft, corruption, setting exorbitant exchange rates for the supply of material, and charging for the supply of fuel and bodyguards. So the humanitarian intervention might actually help in escalating the conflict and is used by the warring factions as instruments of negotiation and sustainability of the conflict.
If humanitarian activities are to be worked as an integrated part of peacekeeping, definitely what is required is a deeper analysis in planning and proper coordination by the authorities in order to avoid the problems.
A new form of peacekeeping operations came up with UN efforts to deal with the intra-state conflicts and civil wars to essentially seek their de-militarisation, so that peace and security could be restored. These have been described as peace enforcement operations, and are difficult for the UN to handle. Some of them have resulted in perceived success like Cambodia while others led to complications and resulted in failures like Somalia and Bosnia.
Fundamentally, in the internal conflicts and civil wars, UN has no role to play and thus the issue of legitimacy becomes questionable. UN was not really designed to address the problem of civil wars to that extent, even where civil wars tended to expand and involved the interests of great powers, the organisation appears to have generally played a passive role. The frequency of UN interventions in civil wars in the name of "peacekeeping" has increased markedly since the end of the Cold War. But this appears to be more a case of misplaced focus of the organisation, unable to deal with inter-state conflicts (which is its primary role) over the years, but attempting to expand its role into an even more complex field of human conflict. 11
UN intervention in Somalia and the former Yugoslav republic began in the name of human rights, but ended up in blood-letting, with the distinction between peacekeeping operations and enforcement action becoming increasingly blurred, in clear violation of the principles of peacekeeping mentioned by Marrack Goulding. 12
UN involvement in Somalia began in 1992, with the passing of as many as six resolutions by the Security Council, emphasising the need for humanitarian assistance, in response to a request from what remains as the government of the state. There were problems operationalising the initially set-up peacekeeping operations, and the Secretary General reported the total breakdown of law and order within the state and of frequent attacks on the UN personnel and relief workers. Against this background, the Security Council had approved intervention in Somalia (Resolution 794), to ensure humanitarian access by a resolution authorising massive military intervention by member states, within the territorial boundaries of another state, without any explicit invitation from the government of that state on the grounds that when a state structure collapses into anarchy, the international community has the right to intervene to restore order. But the UN mission in Somalia resulted in a failure. 13
It was in Bosnia where the UN credibility reached its nadir. Unprecedented ethnic violence in Bosnia in 1992, resulting in the destruction of villages and displacement of civilian communities, on a massive scale, led to UN intervention. Initially, UN was moved by humanitarian considerations, but the continuing brutality of war led to deeper UN involvement and the initial humanitarian intervention came to be supported by the enforcement action under Chapter VII of the Charter. Both in Bosnia and Somalia, the principles of consent and non-coercive action, the hallmark of traditional peacekeeping, were abandoned. The problem was compounded by the fact that there were no legitimate parties to give consent either.
Today, the UN mission in Sierra Leone, which is trying to resurrect the shattered region is in a complex situation and UN plans to extend the mandate of the mission to peace enforcement.
But the modification of the earlier peacekeeping role in what has come to be called "peace-enforcement" role has many problems. Peacekeepers were pushed aside as Bosnian Serbs took the 'safe areas' of Srebrenica and Zepa, and again as Croatian forces overran the former UN Protected Areas (UNPA's) in Krajina. Blue helmets stood by in frustrated impotence, constrained as they were by the mandate and ROE (Rules of Engagement), or were taken hostage as atrocities and human rights abuses were committed barely out of ear-shot. Soon thereafter, but adding almost another dimension, NATO, with the endorsement of the UN Secretary General, conducted wide-ranging and disproportionate air-strikes against Bosnian Serb military forces threatening Sarajevo and the remaining safe areas. 14
When the UN does not enjoy the formal consent of the parties amongst which it is deployed then the nature of the ongoing conflict obliges it to confront searching questions about the need to use force in order to be effective, with the concomitant risk that doing so could jeopardise the United Nation's impartiality and thus the very effectiveness it is trying to attain.
Peace enforcement by the UN undermines the credibility of the institution. Peacekeeping and peace enforcement proceed from different premises and enforcement action is not merely one more stage in the 'peacekeeping continuum' as the UN Secretary General put it. Mostly there is no peace to "enforce" and the UN is unable to "impose" peace due to a variety of reasons.
The logic of peacekeeping flows from political and military premises that are quite distinct from those of enforcement; and the dynamics of the latter are incompatible with the political process that peacekeeping is intended to facilitate. To blur the distinction between the two can undermine the viability of the peacekeeping operation and endanger its personnel. 15
Another feature which has emerged in the peacekeeping operations is that external military interventions for conflict management or humanitarian purposes by single states, groups of states and regional and subregional organisations have increased. While many of these interventions have been conducted with the authorisation of the UN Security Council (legally required in the case of enforcement operations and morally desirable in all cases), growing numbers have not. Furthermore, even those operations sanctioned by the Council have frequently been conducted in a questionable manner, with dubious motives. 16
In 1990, for the first time since the operation in Korea, the Security Council authorised a multinational coalition to use all necessary means to enforce peace in the Gulf region. 17 Operation Desert Storm was controlled primarily by the coalitions lead member, USA, and not by the Security Council. The practice assumed various forms, with implementation by ad hoc coalitions (frequently dominated by one member) in Somalia, Haiti, Albania, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, and in the still-born initiative in eastern Zaire, and by regional organisations, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Georgia and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau. In the area of preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, traditional peacekeeping and peacebuilding too, non-UN actors began to assume a greater role. 18
But these actors mostly intervene with selfish motives, very often they have agendas of their own and are rarely completely impartial. For example, in Albania, Italy no doubt feared a massive influx of refugees but also delighted in the opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to lead an operation that could buttress its claim to a permanent seat on the Security Council. 19 In Rwanda, France's much questioned motives for intervention certainly included concern at the perceived attack on its "sphere of influence" in Africa which the replacement of a Francophone Hutu regime by an Anglophone Tutsi regime represented. 20 Then, in Liberia, the Nigerian-led ECOWAS Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) 21 force became a party to the conflict rather than a buffer between disputants and made a contribution to the seven years of fighting in that country.
Despite this, subcontracting has been heralded as an innovative solution to the operational crisis of the UN. It might relieve some of the financial burden of the UN and also promote wider participation in the maintenance of international peace and security. There is a growing feeling that regional and subregional organisations should play a lead role in peacekeeping and peacebuilding in their respective regions as they know the region better than the UN. Also, their efforts seem less intrusive in many instances. The UN and its member states have increased their efforts to enhance the peacekeeping capacity of the regional organisations, like, Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Due to the growing demand for peacekeeping operations and the ongoing operational crisis at the UN, move towards this form of conflict management is likely to become an established feature of the peace and security landscape. It is essential that more dialogue takes place on how to ensure that it develops in a manner that is coherent, controlled and conducive to conflict management. But, unfortunately, beyond vague encouragements to the Secretary General to enhance cooperation with regional organisations, the Security Council has, until very recently, shown little inclination to meet the challenge of ensuring that subcontracted operations are conducted with appropriate accountability or oversight. 22
Contributors to Peacekeeping and Creeping Apartheid in Peacekeeping
Financing the peacekeeping operations has become a major problem, especially since great powers like the United States do not contribute sufficiently. But, what is more important is the contribution of member states to the peacekeeping troops. Main contributors of peacekeeping troops are the South Asian countries which provide approximately 25 per cent of the peacekeeping troops and India stands with the highest figure. African nations contribute around 19 per cent troops to the peacekeeping troops (as shown in Table 2). On the contrary the developed West remains at the lower end.
Western countries not only lack in their contribution to the peacekeeping troops, but it also seems they have become increasingly wary of the perils of peacekeeping. In disturbed areas outside their own neighbourhood, they leave risky operations to non- white soldiers. The result is that those with the military muscle to mount effective operations lack the courage of their convictions; those with the will lack the military means. Such a tribalisation of peacekeeping undermines the solidarity of the international community and introduces the risk of creeping apartheid in peacekeeping. 23 The hurried withdrawal of UN from Somalia was mainly due to the fact that the Western countries were unwilling to run further risks there following the deaths of 18 US Army Rangers in October 1993. Also, the withdrawal of most of the UN troops from Rwanda at the height of the genocide in April 1994 was necessitated by Western (particularly US) refusal to intervene. This has led to a broader pattern of Western flight from peacekeeping duties in Africa.
Table 2. Summary of Contributors
(Military observers, civilian police, troops)
as of September 30, 2000
Country Observer Police Troops Total
Albania 1 1
Algeria 11 11
Argentina 10 64 490 564
Australia 31 99 1580 1710
Austria 25 119 604 748
Bangladesh 72 156 2134 2362
Belgium 12 5 17
Benin 8 5 13
Bolivia 11 11
Bosnia and Herzegovina 12 12
Brazil 15 18 71 104
Bulgaria 1 118 119
Burkina Faso 2 2
Canada 27 116 189 332
Cape Verde 2 2
Chile 8 6 34 48
China 40 55 95
Colombia 3 3
Croatia 10 10
Czech Republic 14 7 21
Denmark 34 59 2 95
Dominican Republic 15 15
Egypt 54 133 73 260
El Salvador 2 3 5
Estonia 1 5 6
Fiji 7 40 781 828
Finland 33 30 648 711
France 49 180 261 490
Gambia 26 33 59
Germany 11 448 14 473
Ghana 33 301 1572 1906
Greece 10 22 32
Guinea 15 777 792
Honduras 12 12
Hungary 19 39 112 170
Iceland 5 5
India 30 661 3816 4507
Indonesia 20 28 48
Ireland 26 53 739 818
Italy 32 75 62 169
Japan 30 30
Jordan 19 850 2531 3400
Kenya 31 36 1130 1197
Kyrgyzstan 2 4 6
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 4 4
Lithuania 9 9
Malawi 1 1
Malaysia 53 72 20 145
Mali 11 11
Morocco 4 4
Mozambique 2 3 10 15
Namibia 10 10
Nepal 23 124 890 1037
Netherlands 13 51 99 163
New Zealand 20 24 666 710
Niger 3 26 29
Nigeria 19 219 3201 3439
Norway 20 49 6 75
Pakistan 68 367 774 1209
Peru 5 23 28
Philippines 20 166 595 781
Poland 25 62 990 1077
Portugal 5 222 770 997
Republic of Korea 12 464 476
Romania 16 88 104
Russian Federation 68 124 110 302
Samoa 25 25
Senegal 36 60 96
Singapore 5 40 24 69
Slovak Republic 4 93 97
Slovenia 2 2 29 33
South Africa 1 1
Spain 3 195 198
Sri Lanka 30 30
Sweden 41 115 46 202
Switzerland 16 12 28
Tanzania 25 25
Thailand 20 33 708 761
Tunisia 7 12 19
Turkey 13 165 178
United States of America 36 865 901
Ukraine 7 181 646 834
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 40 206 315 561
Uruguay 61 61
Vanuatu 34 34
Venezuela 4 4
Zambia 31 60 777 868
Zimbabwe 71 71
Prepared by the Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Not an official document of the United Nations
Source: Internet site: <http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/contributors/index.htm>
UN peacekeeping operations have varied in terms of numbers. The peacekeeping operations attained their peak (in terms of numbers) in the years 1991-95 (as shown in the figures) as compared to the previous years. Maximum number of peacekeeping operations were commissioned in this period. There has been a reduction in the number of operations taken up in the years, 1999-2000. This reduction can be attributed primarily to the fact that the leading members of the UN are not willing to support the peacekeeping operations. Their support is lackingfinancially, politically, militarily or logistically.
Majority of the peacekeeping operations have been initiated in the region of Africa, which continues to suffer with poor economy and civil strife.
Peacekeeping today stands radically transformed and carries distinctive features. It is in a flux, if not in crisis, and if it is to serve as an useful instrument in maintaining international peace and security, it needs conceptual clarity, political support and financial resources. Also, it has been argued that there has been a lack of up-to-date and insightful theoretical analysis of peacekeeping. There is a need to produce a stronger conceptual framework for peacekeeping that recognises the new ways it has evolved itself in the conflicts over the last decade. If peacekeeping has to remain effective in the changing world its credibility must not be jeopardised by its application to inappropriate situations, or by the issuance of mandates unsupported by doctrinal consistency or military means. What is required is that the basics of peacekeeping need to be redefined, as stated by Shashi Tharoor. 24
At the turn of the century, UN peacekeeping operations attract worldwide concern by the international community. At the Millennium Summit, the largest ever gathering of the world leaders held in New York in September, peacekeeping was one of the main topics on the agenda. Also, in August, a panel of high-level experts, led by former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, issued a comprehensive report on measures to improve UN peacekeeping. The Brahimi recommendations, while requiring modest increases in UN spending for its political and peacekeeping departments, would allow for better equipment and better coordination between national contingents comprising UN peacekeeping operations. To provide a strong impetus to the rejuvenation of the UN peacekeeping operations, extensive support from the international community is required.
Note 4: Stephen Ryan, "United Nations Peacekeeping: A Matter of Principles?", in Tom Woodhouse and Oliver Ramsbotham, ed., Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution, (London: Frank Cass Pulishers, 2000), p.28 Back.
Note 6: Robert C. Johansen, "Enhancing United Nations Peace-keeping", in Chadwick F. Alger, ed., The Future of the United Nations System: Potential for the Twenty-first Century, (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1998), p.92. Back.
Note 17: From January 16 to February 28, 1991, a coalition of UN member states led by the USA, in accordance with S/RES/678 (29 November 1990 ) but not under the control or direction by the UN, conducted Chapter VII offensive military operations against Iraq to force it's withdrawal from Kuwait. Back.