On May 29, the world marked the International Day of the United Nations Peacekeepers, a date chosen in memory of the creation of the first UN interposition force in the Middle East. In the years since, 3,800 have lost their lives. Of the 14 currently active operations, the most difficult are in Africa where there has been large scale breakdown of state structures such as the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan.
How effective are UN peacekeeping operations in preventing and stopping violence? Are there alternatives to the ways that UN and regional organizations currently carry out peacekeeping operations? How effective are peacekeeping operations in addressing the root causes of conflicts?
Individual Governments Train Their Own Soldiers
The reality is that there are no permanent UN-trained troops, only national units loaned by some national governments but paid for by all member states. Each government trains its army in its own spirit and values. There have been proposals by some for the creation of a permanent UN standby force. This has been rejected, usually on grounds of cost (although it would be only a fraction of what is now spent on national armies.) There has also been an alternative proposal of creating within national armies specially trained forces for UN use.
To be successful, UN peacekeeping operations need to have clear objectives, but such objectives cannot be set by the force commanders themselves. Peacekeeping forces are temporary measures that should give time for political leaders to work out a political agreement. The parties in conflict need to have a sense of urgency about resolving the conflict. Without that sense of urgency, peacekeeping operations can become eternal, as they have in Cyprus and Lebanon.
UN forces are one important element in a peacemakers tool kit, but there needs to be a wide range of peace building techniques available. There must be concerted efforts by both diplomatic representatives and non-governmental organizations to resolve the conflicts where UN troops serve.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.
Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens.
Photo Credit: Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – UNAMID under Creative Commons license.