A Guide to United Nations Peace Operations
United Nations peace operations refer to the deployment of military and/or civilian personnel, to a conflict zone, under the mandate of the United Nations. It functions to prevent hostilities from arising, or, more frequently, to prevent their reoccurrence. Traditional U.N. peace operations are authorized under Chapter 6 of the U.N. Charter. However, peacekeeping, as we know it today, is not mandated in the same manner. ‘Peace keeping’ is actually a term not used in the U.N. Charter at all. Instead, it is an idea that has been expanded upon over time and place. This widening conceptualization was made possible to incorporate a variety of disputes settled throughout the past decade.
Broadly speaking, there are three relative types of peacekeeping operations. Observer/monitor missions, represent traditional U.N. operations. Involving unarmed soldiers deployed into a conflict zone to observe, monitor and report violations of peace agreements, early missions were not actually considered “peace keeping” at all. Instead they functioned to monitoring and report conflicts, attempting to place political pressure on aggressors. Interpositioning missions, also traditional forms of peace keeping, similarly utilized observers but placed them alongside lightly armed combatants. With the first instance, taking place in the 1956 Suez Crisis, peacekeepers were positioned as much as possible between warring sides. The peacekeepers were not strong enough to stop any side from resuming in warfare. However, what the troops did was stop small conflicts among individuals from
escalating into larger conflicts with potential for creating humanitarian disaster.
Modern robust peacekeeping operations take a variety of forms and functions. “Humanitarian-izing” the form of international assistance (as controversially outlined in the famous Brahimi report) robust peacekeeping attempted to do things that earlier peace operations had never attempted. Robust peacekeeping moved away from neutrality and impartiality, and instead suggested that peace building, transitions, reconstruction and development, were all equally as important as peacekeeping itself. The rationale behind robust peacekeeping stemmed from the report’s claimed need for preventive action to maintain an environment where peacekeepers protected peace. This was so that peace builders could help enable the conditions that would allow for peacekeepers to be taken from the equation.
Peace operations are reflective of their origins of operations. The evolution of peacekeeping can be divided into two distinct periods, those being before 1987 and following. The factors leading to this change came from the political divisions from the Cold War and the opinion-dividing experience from the 1960’s operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Previous to 1987, very few peace operations were enacted of any kind, whereas those that did most often arose in the context of decolonization. Following 1987, and a relatively successful second mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. experienced an influx of mandated operations. Between 1988 and 1993, 20 new missions were set underway. In just the five years following the Cold War, more missions were mandated than in the entire four decades of the U.N.’s previous existence
Several reasons can explain the significant increase in peace operations in this new era. For one, the ending of the cold war led to an international consensus on peacekeeping. Second, given the new success of peacekeeping missions, more contributors and more countries were willing to contribute troops. Thirdly, as more opportunities arose to engage in peacekeeping around the world, countries began to profit from various aspects of operations. Overall, while many different factors have impacted peace operations throughout the last decades, to best facilitate peace operations it will be imperative that practitioners are resilient to the changing nature of conflict and peace.