FORCE is 19 | Politics of Peacekeeping

How the West promotes its interests through the UN without boots on ground

Smruti Deshpande

Indian contingent leaving Haiti in 2019

While researching for this story, FORCE spoke to a number of veterans who shared their experiences of being a part of the UN missions in the early and mid-nineties in Africa. After the research concluded, the one thing that stood out was the world’s journey from the prism of the United Nations. From peace keeping the world has now moved to peace enforcement.

The difference?

Under the UN Charter, Chapters VI and VII show the way to the UN Collective Security System. While Chapter VI requires states to settle their disputes by peaceful means, by undertaking negotiation, mediation and confidence-building, Chapter VII enables the Security Council to take coercive action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.

Peace-enforcement, ironically, requires the use of arms and military paraphernalia. While the UN abides by consent of all parties involved before deploying of troops in a country, “Peace enforcement does not require the consent of the main parties and may involve the use of military force at the strategic or international level, which is normally prohibited for Member States under Article 2(4) of the Charter, unless authorized by the Security Council.”

In addition, the UN describes the use of force as, “UN peacekeeping operations are not an enforcement tool. However, they may use force at the tactical level, with the authorization of the Security Council, if acting in self-defence and defence of the mandate.” It was during the 1990s that the term ‘peace enforcement’ came into being. This was to use force against elements who carried out ‘acts against humanity’.

A brief guide on peacekeeping by Thomson Reuters Trust Foundation stated, ‘The Security Council passed several resolutions invoking Chapter 7, including to provide protection for humanitarian aid in Somalia in 1992, and protection for civilians in Bosnia and Rwanda.’ It added that in 2005, the UN World Summit issued a statement saying that if states cannot or will not protect their civilians and there are massive and systematic violations of human rights or denial of humanitarian access, the United Nations can intervene under Chapters VI and VII.

In the decade of 1990s, when in the Central African country, Angola, a civil war was ongoing, and the country saw a power struggle between two former anti-colonial guerrilla movements—the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and anti-communist National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA)—the UN established several peacekeeping operations. UNAVEM I, II and III and MONUA were the operations that the UN carried out. The Bicesse Peace Accords, mediated by Portugal with the assistance of the US and Russia, were signed on 31 May 1991 by representatives of Jonas Savimbi and President Eduardo dos Santos.

Maj. Gen. Pradeep Goswami (retd) of the Indian Army, who now serves as the Deputy Director of the United Services Institution (USI) was deployed in Angola as the United Nations Military Observer (UNMO) in 1991-1992. Recalling an incident that took place in one of the regional headquarters in southern Angola, he says, “The UN troops were housed in the southern part of the country called Mavinga, where the UN’s regional headquarter was based. During one of our patrol duties in the jungles, we found that they had deployed guns in the area. The regional headquarter was close to Savimbi’s area of dominance so we knew that those guns belonged to him. In addition, they were of American make. The situation was such that Savimbi enjoyed indirect support from the US through South Africa, while the government in power was supported by the Russians. After coming back from the recce, we reported the incident to the UN headquarters in New York. The same night, Savimbi’s men surrounded the regional headquarters and made sure nobody was allowed to move out of there for nearly three days. By blocking our entrance, the guns from the jungle were taken to a safe place where no one could reach. While nothing happened to anyone within the headquarters, today the times have changed. Even at that time, after I completed my tenure under the mission, the mission got converted into peace enforcement despite an agreement having been signed by all stakeholders. Gradually, the parties had started moving away from the agreement.”

Regarding peace enforcement operations, he adds, “At the end of the Cold War, the tussle started between smaller powers being supported by the big powers. Before the Cold War, problems were restricted to being intrastate. After the Cold War, many conflicts became interstate. When the problem was intrastate, it was the local communities fighting against one another. After it became interstate, the different actors, even within the same country, were supported by outside actors, which led to interference from outside. Neighbours were supported by different geopolitical powers. That became more complex, which inadvertently posed more challenges for the peacekeepers. One of the reasons why the UN troops are engaged in Congo since 1960 is because of clash of interest between superpowers that lead to the conflict flaring up.”

While these provisions have been in place for decades, the majority of the world’s peacekeeping operations have turned into peace enforcement operations, dragging on for years. Most traditional missions fell under peace keeping and concluded in a few years’ time. However, after the Cold War complexities in missions arose. With more actors involved in a conflict, the long road to peace has become longer.

The only recent operation that drew to a close within a short period of one year, was the one in Colombia from 2016-2017. On 26 September 2017, the United Nations Mission in Colombia, in accordance with the Peace Agreement between the government of Colombia and the FARC-EP, completed its Security Council mandate. Unarmed international observers monitored and verified the disarmament and ceasefire agreement signed in the 2016 peace process.


Unending Deployments

Today, the UN peacekeepers are present in Africa, Europe, Asia and West Asia. While Africa alone is a host to seven peacekeeping missions, West Asia is host to four, Asia and Europe to two each. The ongoing African missions include MINURSO in West Sahara, UNMISS in South Sudan, MINUSMA in Mali, MONUSCO in Congo, UNAMID in Darfur, MINUSCA in Central African Republic and UNISFA in Abyei. The largest UN peacekeeping operations in terms of personnel are UNMISS, MONUSCA, MINUSCA and MINUSMA. UNMISS has 15,299 personnel catering to the operations in South Sudan. MONUSCA has 14,856 personnel, whereas MINUSCA and MINUSMA have 14,000-odd troops. West Asian missions include UNIFIL in Lebanon, UNAMI in Iraq and UNDOF in Golan Heights.

Mission UNTSO, created in 1948, was the first peacekeeping mission created in the world in 1948, tasked with mediating the conflict between Israel and its neighbours both during and after the 1948 Arab-Israel war. This was carried out over five countries—Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Since then, UNTSO military observers remain in West Asia to monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other United Nations peacekeeping operations in the region, including in the Golan Heights (UNDOF) and Lebanon (UNIFIL). UNTSO’s mandate is open-ended and does not require continuous renewal. Europe’s UNMIK is in Kosovo, whereas UNFICYP is in Cyprus. In Asia, Kashmir is host to UNMOGIP and Afghanistan to UNAMA.


Money Matters

Peacekeeping is no longer limited to the military. It now involves several actors, such as the police and judiciary, human rights monitors economists, electoral observers, de-miners, legal experts, and humanitarian workers. Earlier, civilians were not allowed to participate in any UMN peace-keeping mission. The mandates of the UN were limited to monitoring and stabilising the situation on ground. Mandates of gender, human rights and civilian protection began coming into play gradually, demanding changed efforts into peacekeeping. In all, today, over 125 countries are contributing more than 90 thousand field peacekeepers, including military personnel and civilians. Of these, women make up 30 per cent of civilian, 10 per cent of police, and three per cent of military peacekeepers as per the UN data.

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