Ensuring international peace and security is a key task for the UN. In June 2015, a high-level panel, led by José Ramos-Horta from East Timor (cf. Nobel Peace Prize, 1996), presented a report on challenges in peace operations and possible choices for the way forward (the HIPPO report ). It was then 15 years since the Brahimi report was published which was the previous evaluation of the UN peacekeeping operations. In the years that followed, it became a leader in how peace operations under the auspices of the UN developed.
- What does today’s conflict landscape look like?
- What challenges does the UN face in its peace work?
- How do you think the HIPPO report will meet these challenges?
- Where does the road go next?
2: Historical background
When the UN was established 70 years ago, it was with the First and Second World Wars as a backdrop. The first chapter of the UN Charter , Article 1, states:
The purposes of the United Nations are: 1. To maintain international peace and security, and to this end to take effective, collective action to prevent and eliminate threats to peace and to suppress acts of aggression or other breaches of peace, and to ensure that international disputes or situations which may lead to breaches of the peace, shall be arranged or settled by peaceful means in accordance with the principles of justice and international law.
The instruments were to be mainly diplomatic , political and economic , with the right to use the military as a last resort. In the following decades, the picture of conflict was marked by wars between states. The first peacekeeping operation was established in 1948, with unarmed observers, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). They were to monitor the ceasefire that followed the division of Palestine (into a Jewish and an Arab part, and Jerusalem under international protection). In 1956, the first armed force, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), was formed to help resolve the Suez crisis.
In these first decades, the ambitions were small and the operations few, with the exception of the UN operation in Congo in the 1960s (ONUC). Abuse within states was seen as an internal relationship , and the great powers were often on either side of the conflicts. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the picture changed: An optimism spread in terms of what the UN could accomplish, especially in the western part of the world. This coincides with an escalation of conflicts in the Balkans, Somalia and Rwanda.
But the UN withdrew from Somalia after 18 American soldiers were killed in an attack and also failed to stop the genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. This strongly contributed to Western member states in the UN in particular withdrawing from UN operations in favor of NATO in the 1990s and 2000s (Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan). The number of UN soldiers in the field declined, but turned around towards the end of the 1990s.
From 1999, a number of new peace operations were launched, including in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in Liberia. With the defeat of the 1990s as a backdrop, they were given the task of protecting civilians, a task they to a large extent actually managed to carry out.
After September 11, 2001, many of the NATO countries chose to send their forces through the alliance, to Afghanistan. This reinforced a divide one had seen in the outlines of the past, namely that it was first and foremost poor countries in the south and east that contributed forces to the UN . The richer countries in the north and west rather contributed mainly with money and equipment and rather send forces as part of a NATO operation.
In an attempt to meet the ever-changing challenges, the operations became more ambitious both in terms of mandate and design, especially visible in the operations in Mali, the DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR). With greater ambitions, the fall height to fail also increases.
3: Different types of peace operations
Traditionally, there is a distinction between peace-making , peace-keeping and political operations (so-called Special Political Missions, SPMs). The UN has not normally carried out peace-building operations itself. When UN forces go in and create peace, one quickly becomes a party to the conflict. For larger, peace-building operations, the UN has chosen to give a mandate to regional organizations such as the African Union (AU) and NATO (they have thus operated with a UN mandate).
Peacekeeping operations have mainly been given the mandate to secure a ceasefire. They should then seek to develop this into a lasting peace agreement, as well as support measures for peacebuilding. Among other things, an inclusive and open state power will be built up by supporting free and democratic elections at national and local level, building up the police and judiciary and local governance.
Political operations have preventive and peace-building work as their goal, among other things through mediation. They are often sent into a conflict to support extensive political transitions. This often happens in cooperation between national actors on the one hand and the UN’s humanitarian and development actors on the other. The latter are organized roughly as peacekeeping operations, but are funded from a different budget.
Many believe that all types of operations must have a plan for a political and long-term solution at the bottom. For this reason, the HIPPO report advises to merge the concepts of peacekeeping and political operation, into peace operations , and that these should receive financial support on an equal basis.
4: A changing landscape of conflict
Most wars today take place within states and not between them. In the last 80 years, civilians have increasingly become victims of war, and there are larger elements of non-governmental groups in conflict. A link between war, terrorism and transnational organized crime is becoming increasingly clear in today’s conflict picture, something that requires integrating military and civilian measures to meet this type of war and conflict, and intervening regionally rather than nationally.
Military support to increase security must be linked to measures to strengthen the police and improve the judicial and prison system. In addition, it means securing access for humanitarian and aid organizations. They can assist in building up national and local capacity for the provision of water, sanitation and other necessary services. What challenges does the UN face in the field? How do we see them in the operations in Mali, CAR and DRC, countrieslocated in Africa according to thefreegeography.com.