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May 23, 2005

Fighting for Peace
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Interesting article today about how UN peacekeepers have gotten much more aggressive and willing to use force as they police hotspots like Congo. 

The cowering figures of UN peacekeepers at Srebrenica and elsewhere cast a very long shadow, coloring the organization's credibility for more than a decade.  The problem was two-fold: unwillingness of the Security Council to vote sufficiently robust peacekeeping mandates to allow for effective peace enforcement and engagement in conflicts where necessary, and inadequate training and equipment on the part of troops contributed for UN missions.  As an outgrowth of the 2000 Brahimi Report on peacekeeping reform, both issues are gradually being addressed. 

Its not by accident that peacekeeping ranks as one of the things the UN does well.  Its because a concerted push for change led to real reform.  Let the same be true in areas where the UN does poorly.   Apropos of question 3 below about whether the UN can ever truly become an effective foreign policy instrument, this is one area in which the organization's membership overcame inertia and the reification of sovereignty to strengthen the tools the UN has to do its job.


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» Robust U.N. Peacekeeping? from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
When most of hear the phrase "U.N. peacekeeping" we think of fiascos such as Rwanda or Bosnia, or even tales of sexual exploitation of vulnerable women and children. But could progress be in the air in the Congo of all... [Read More]

» Outsourcing War: the United Nations Troops Get Some Muscle from Daniel Starr
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Apropos of question 3 below about whether the UN can ever truly become an effective foreign policy instrument,


define 'effective'.

I'm not much of a UN fan, but this is further proof that if you put people in harms way, between two or more hostile forces, you had better give them the authority, leadership, training and weapons to kill people and destroy military assets.

Otherwise, they are social workers in berets.

I remember hearing about some UN forces being killed in that region sometime in April on NPR, and how the UN had authorized a response and killed x number of militia. I remember thinking how bizarre it was to actually have reports of UN forces fighting agressively.

The UN can become an effective foreign policy instrument if its members - both large and small - act responsibly. The US needs to become a full and honest member of the international community, and the international community needs to acknowledge the task at hand (not everything is tied to Israel. Really.) and quash some of the more hateful and inaccurate speech that comes from the floor of the general assembly - in other words, offer real censure, and real rules.

But I'm a great believer in the potential power of the world body - and perhaps its time to put the issue to the people of the world. Demand votes from the people it's member states affirming it's rights and responsibilities. Can't hurt.

I can't agree that the "UN does peacekeeping well". It can, given a situation between two state actors, serve as a force for interposition (e.g. UNMEE, Cyprus), as long as the Security Council is willing to let it sit there for 5 or 25 years. It can, when no permanent Security Council member's interests are at stake to impede action (China and Sudan, Russia and Serbia, Russia and France and Iraq) and a Western military will lead, establish conditions for temporary peace (e.g. Central African Republic with the French, Sierra Leone after the British intervention, Cote D'Ivoire with the French, East Timor with the Australians, Liberia with the US enabling Nigeria). But those necessary conditions don't always hold (MONUC anyone?) so to globally say the UN does peacekeeping well is inaccurate.

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