Peacekeeping operations, which were not provided for in the UN Charter, are now one of the United Nations’ main instruments.
More, increasingly complex operations
After the failure of UN operations, symbolised by those in Somali and Bosnia in the mid-1990s, which caused some disaffection among Western countries with regard to blue-beret operations, the number and extent of UN operations have now reached a new record level.
The number of troops involved has grown rapidly: as at 31 May 2010, 101,867 uniformed personnel were deployed in 15 peacekeeping operations, compared with 12,300 in July 1999.
In qualitative terms, the peacekeeping operations take place in more dangerous environments and under stronger mandates.
The first peacekeeping operations consisted of placing forces of interposition between State belligerents and supervising cease-fires. They depended on three principles: consent by the parties, impartiality and non-recourse to force except in self-defence.
Apart from self-defence, the question of the use of force arose in the 1960s (Congo) in order to respond to action taken to prevent the peacekeeping operations from fulfilling their mandates.
The issue took on a new importance in the 1990s, when PKOs were deployed in conflict situations involving militias, criminal bands and other local “trouble-makers” seeking to upset the peace process or threatening the civilian population. The Security Council then gave “robust mandates” to a number of operations, authorising them to “use all means necessary” to prevent any attempt to disturb the peace process, protect the civilian population or help national authorities keep order. In effect, the Security Council intended to give the blue berets the means to defend themselves and their mandates.
UN operations are also increasingly multidimensional: in addition to security, they are tasked with helping build the rule of law, protect human rights, support the political process and provide economic and humanitarian assistance. The police function in particular has been developed in a large number of operations (just over 10,000 police officers involved).
These two changes have expensive financial implications. The total budget for all peacekeeping operations has risen from $0.84bn in 1998/1999 to $7.8bn in 2009/2010.
There is also the question of available resources: scarce military capacities (helicopters), contingents’ professional and language skills, and training. Needs are particularly acute for PKOs in French-speaking countries (where half the United Nations troops are deployed) which lack personnel who speak French, especially police officers.
Of the 118 countries contributing troops to UN-led operations, a dozen emerging countries provide the bulk. These include the Indian subcontinent, which provides 33,000 blue berets, 35% of the total, and is by far the largest reservoir of UN troops.
The Western countries, leading contributors in the early 1990s, have withdrawn to some extent in the last ten years, preferring to intervene in operations mandated but not commanded by the United Nations. The heavy involvement of European countries in UNIFIL, where they provide 6,600 troops, the largest contingent, represents a change of policy, and France, Italy and Spain have now become major contributors. The Europeans also kept some of their EUFOR troops in Chad/CAR when it was relieved by MINURCAT II.
Reform of peace-keeping
In response to criticism of the management of operations and the behaviour of some mission personnel, the United Nations began to reform its conduct of operations, especially following the Brahimi Report in August 2000. This reform also reflected a growing awareness of the limitations of empirical management of operations.
The reform of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) involves the following objectives: professionalisation (with a stress on training); use of an integrated approach (involving security, development and humanitarian players); importance of responsibility (management, personnel behaviour, and zero tolerance for sexual abuse).
The difficulties encountered by some operations, particularly MONUC during the Kivu crisis at the end of 2008, pointed up the need to build capacities for preparing, planning and monitoring operations at the UN Secretariat in New York and the Security Council.
With the United Kingdom, France launched an initiative in the Security Council, during its presidency in January 2009, to improve the monitoring of PKOs along three practical dimensions: improving strategic monitoring, managing resource constraints (cost and volume), and implementing complex mandates (multidimensional missions, protection of civilians, crisis exit and peace building). The Secretariat has produced a report on peacekeeping (called “New Horizon”) to meet these requirements.
Update : July 2010