International Day of UN Peacekeepers - evaluating the conflict-reducing effect | Experts’ Opinions

ByCatalina Russu

International Day of UN Peacekeepers - evaluating the conflict-reducing effect | Experts’ Opinions

Every day, United Nations peacekeepers work to protect hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in the world’s most fragile political systems and strained security situations. Celebrated on May 29, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers honors the men and women deployed in peacekeeping operations to promote stability, security, democratic processes, human rights, and peace. This day is an opportunity to recognize the service and sacrifice of the more than one million personnel who have served under the blue flag of the UN since 1948. Check out more about the meaning of this day by reading some expert opinions below.

Key Takeaways:

  • On May 29, the world marks the International Day of UN Peacekeepers to honor the men and women deployed in peacekeeping operations. The first UN peacekeeping mission was established on 29 May 1948.
  • Since then, more than 1 million women and men have served in 72 UN peacekeeping operations, directly impacting the lives of millions of people and saving countless lives. Today, UN Peacekeeping deploys more than 87,000 military, police, and civilian personnel in 12 operations.
  • Since the end of the Cold War, the UN has attempted to end 16 civil wars by deploying complex peacekeeping missions. Of those 16 missions, 11 successfully fulfilled their mandates and none of the 11 countries has since returned to civil war.
  • Regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, experts mention that if the conflict came to an end sooner rather than later, there could be an opportunity for the UN or any other structures interventions.

Why do you think UN or foreign peacekeepers are necessary? How effective are UN peacekeepers? Give some examples.

Hakan Rapp, Senior advisor in EU affairs, UN Peacekeeping, NATO and civil-military cooperation

“Throughout time, since the dawn of peacekeeping, the UN and other structures have provided substantial contributions to establishing peace in different regions affected by war and conflicts. There are several operations where the outcome and results have been positive like in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). However, there are other examples where operations have been less successful. This can be linked to the changing nature of the conflict. At the very beginning, the operations were executed with consent between belligerent parties. However, when several warring factions are present in the state, each with their own interests, combined with weak leadership or levels corruption, it becomes difficult to create peace and stability. UN operations in the Balkans, West- and Central Africa could be seen in this context, i.e., not very successful due to a complicated environment. As an example, the peacekeepers who are facing severe difficulties to accomplish progress are seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (DRC), (MONUSCO), and in Mali (MINUSMA). Despite the challenges, there is still a requirement for the UN to intervene and support national troops.”

Arlete Francisco, communication consultant

“Bearing in mind that the purpose of the UN peacekeepers is to help countries devastated by conflicts to create conditions for peace to be reached within the country, creating a secure environment and free from social tensions, its existence becomes crucial and necessary. It is important to mention that even if it is necessary, its interventions are not always effective. Let’s see, if we go back in time, we remember the failure of the interventions in Rwanda but, on the other hand, there were notable successes in interventions in Mozambique, which paved the way for peace that has led to a sustained economic growth since 1999 and helped this country become a symbol of hope in Africa. This analysis suggests that the presence of these missions significantly improves the chances of maintaining peace after the end of hostilities, preventing the outbreak of new wars, having a positive effect on the duration of peace when the conflict ends in an agreement.”

Volodymyr Pleshko, professional border guard

“Peacekeeping is one of the most effective tools to end armed confrontations both within individual states and entire regions. The use of peacekeepers can significantly reduce the scale of bloodshed and save many thousands of lives. The use of heterogeneous forces (military, police, etc.) allows the UN to efficiently carry out its peacekeeping tasks in a particular region. Over 70 international peacekeeping operations have been carried out since the inception of the UN in 1945. Among the most successful are operations in Sierra Leone, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Haiti, and Kosovo among others. The presence of a peacekeeping contingent has made it possible to provide basic security guarantees and anti-crises measures, support for political reform, and the establishment of new state institutions.”

Germán Fandiño Sierra, Internationalist Political Scientist, Master in Human Rights and Democratization. Consultant in Human Rights and Political Affairs

 

“Peacekeeping ops are necessary for the international community, through the UN, to provide support and prevent irreparable damage from violence in countries where the public institutions are quite fragile. At the same time, peacekeepers help to avoid and contain the impact of violence and massive violations of human rights.”

 

 

 

Mariya Heletiy, Deputy Chief of Party at USAID Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity, ISAR “Ednannia”

“Because wars and conflicts have been happening for all time, UN or foreign peacekeepers are important to ensure peace and stability without significant violence. They are an integral part of the international peacebuilding system and they are necessary to resolve some conflicts, particularly internal ones, or ensure access to humanitarian assistance for civilians. Peacekeepers can divide conflicting parties, monitor ceasefires, and disarmaments, contribute to political settlements, etc. While some of the UN missions are successful, many still bring only temporary or insignificant results due to the limitations of the UN peacekeepers’ mandate.”

 

Does Ukraine need UN peacekeepers? Argue your position.

Hakan Rapp, Senior advisor in EU affairs, UN Peacekeeping, NATO and civil-military cooperatio

“The OSCE should have been more actively involved in the security of the region from the very beginning of its engagement in Europe. So far, its impact could be seen as limited and another structure, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has had no visible impact either. At the moment of writing, there are no signs nor incentives that the conflict will come to an end or at least reach a ceasefire agreement. The UN Security Council is the decision-making body of the UN and currently, there are no incentives for international interventions. And another issue is the fact that most of the western countries are being defined as enemies to one of the parties involved. Of course, if the conflict comes to an end, sooner rather than later, there could be an opportunity for UN or any other structure’s interventions.”

Arlete Francisco, communication consultant

“As Russia is a member of the security council and an integral part of the “P5”, with veto power, it is impossible to advance the project to resolve the conflict with Ukraine, due to lack of agreement among the members in the UN Security Council. Therefore, there is a need to assist Ukraine in passive negotiation, preventing further civilian deaths and the destruction of social infrastructure. However, the hostility experienced by both countries leads us to reflect on the possibility that Ukraine is being used to satisfy external political objectives which will make it difficult to end the hostilities between the parties.”

Volodymyr Pleshko, professional border guard

“The deployment of a peacekeeping mission to Ukraine before the outbreak of war (from 2015 to February 2022) could have avoided a hot phase of the conflict. Ukraine’s leadership has repeatedly asked the UN to conduct a peacekeeping operation on the territory of its Eastern Regions but, the Russian Federation, using its rights as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, obstructed this in every possible way. The reason why this was happening became clear on February 24, 2022, after the open invasion of Ukraine by the Russian armed forces with the purpose of seizing the territory. I believe that at present it is not possible to deploy a peacekeeping force on the territory of Ukraine until the Russian Federation, as a side of the conflict, agrees to cease active hostilities.

Germán Fandiño Sierra, Internationalist Political Scientist, Master in Human Rights and Democratization. Consultant in Human Rights and Political Affairs

 

“Currently, with the military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, it has been considered that the UN should launch a peacekeeping operation, but it is very difficult due to Russia being a member of the UN Security Council. Additionally, the involvement of other actors from the international community could cause this conflict between the two countries to escalate, and expand to other countries as a consequence of what could be interpreted as hidden support from NATO.”

 

 

Mariya Heletiy, Deputy Chief of Party at USAID Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity, ISAR “Ednannia”

“The UN can support Ukraine by establishing a special tribunal on Russian aggression against Ukraine. It would also be an efficient instrument for any country experiencing hostility from others. It could also ensure an international presence and monitoring in combat zones and occupied cities during the evacuation of civilians etc. It can be done with the support of the UN peacekeepers or other foreign peacekeepers without Russian and Belorussian engagement. The efficiency of the UN peacekeepers can be ensured by granting an appropriate mandate that allows them to respond to the particular situation (i.e., there is no sense in separating the conflict parties in Ukraine as the biggest danger for civilians is bomb shelling). Finally, the UN should reconsider the procedure for decision-making and ensure that aggressor countries are expelled from the decision-making process.”

What are some suggestions to make UN peacekeeping missions even more successful?

Hakan Rapp, Senior advisor in EU affairs, UN Peacekeeping, NATO and civil-military cooperation

“First of all, depending on the nature of the conflict, the deployment should be properly planned and the troops properly prepared.

  • Situational and cultural awareness. The forces should have the means to operate professionally on the ground, that is not the case in several missions.
  • Well-prepared troops. There are countries that are major contributors to missions and some of these are not preparing properly for the context where the operation is executed.
  • Another issue related to this is the willingness to intervene in a complicated and volatile environment. My latest experience, 2021 and 2022, is from MONUSCO, DRC, a complicated environment in terms of several warring factions, a lack of local ownership, poorly equipped and trained UN troops, etc.

This is a very delicate question, the nature of UN peacekeeping is that all UN Member States are invited to participate which is a very good intention. However, Western troops are, in general, better equipped and trained to face the situation on the ground to comply with the mission’s operational requirements. A major issue here is that economic development which should provide prosperity that can offer people a secure environment is lacking. This should be taken into account and is not a mission for the peacekeepers. The peacekeepers can provide security in the short- term, while long-term development is for others, including the leadership of the nation involved. Without evidence of economic progress to provide basic security, operations will fail, or be long-lasting (meaning not following the initial intention when the intervention commenced). Economic development and building an accountable state go hand in hand. It is important to bear in mind that peacekeepers and other interventions in a conflict-affected country are not occupiers.”

Arlete Francisco, communication consultan

“To make the UN peacekeepers’ missions more successful, the following aspects must be taken into account:

  • Peace missions need, in the first instance, legitimacy and credibility, particularly in the eyes of the local population
  • Peace operations need to be dynamic enough to be able to deploy as quickly as possible, be adequately supplied, and strive to maintain a reliable, capable, and unified posture
  • The UN must also maintain its credibility; its missions must have clear and enforceable mandates with their own resources and capabilities to fulfill them
  • Furthermore, missions must have sufficient human and financial resources
  • Involvement and engagement of the parties in the development of the mission
  • There must be clarity in the team’s mission, at the risk of deviating from the central focus.”
Volodymyr Pleshko, professional border guard

“The war in Ukraine has shown that the existing UN peacekeeping mechanisms in the world do not work with such an aggressive country as Russia, which is a permanent member of the Security Council and one of the founders of the UN, that ignores international law and refuses to stop the war and the destruction of the state of Ukraine and its population. The issue of introducing UN peacekeepers to the Eastern Regions of Ukraine has been raised since the very beginning of the aggression, i.e., since 2014. However, Russia, planning to unleash a full-scale war, took advantage of its position in the organization and made this process impossible. Based on the above, I believe that the UN and the entire international community are faced with the task of finding more effective forms and methods of influence on the aggressor country. These should be political, economic, military, and other measures that will make it possible to end a war in a short period of time. Peacekeeping forces can play a great role in this process. Based on the experience of participation of Ukrainian servicemen in peacekeeping operations, I think it is reasonable to carry out advance preparation (before sending the contingent to the region of destination) of the military peacekeepers. During this preparation, it is necessary to practice the tactics of the actions of UN personnel, considering the national, religious, and cultural peculiarities of the region.”

Germán Fandiño Sierra, Internationalist Political Scientist, Master in Human Rights and Democratization. Consultant in Human Rights and Political Affairs

 

“The work of the UN as peacekeepers could be greatly strengthened if analysis work aiming to conflict prevention is prioritized, and if the military component is not only incorporated into its interventions, it is also necessary to offer support for the strengthening of states, and their capacities to respond to specific problems that make it possible to justify violent actions against the authorities, and especially against the defenseless civilian population.”

 

 

See also: Will the war in Ukraine pull international aid from the rest of the world? | Experts’ Opinions

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