IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Peacekeeping

You have probably heard of peacekeeping.  If you haven’t, here is a good place to start learning about it.  As the U.N. page points out the term “peacekeeping” is not found in the Charter.  They go on to explain that:

“Dag Hammarskjöld, the second UN Secretary-General, referred to it as belonging to “Chapter Six and a Half” of the Charter, placing it between traditional methods of resolving disputes peacefully, such as negotiation and mediation under Chapter VI, and more forceful action as authorized under Chapter VII.”

The idea was that the U.N. could send some (lightly armed) troops to help maintain ceasefires provided both sides agreed to halt hostilities.  This was a very good idea during the Cold War, where superpower sponsorship of one side or another in a conflict might well have turned a very local conflict into a world war.

However, times have changed, and as was recently discussed in a class I am teaching, one might ask if this traditional, or “first generation” peacekeeping is very useful these days.  What has happened, in fact, is that peacekeepers have found themselves, as sometimes the only well organized actor with resources in chaotic situations, involved with more and more non-military elements of “peacebuilding” (I’ll get back to peacebuilding later):  such as organizing elections or providing infrastructure.

It seems clear that the need for this kind of intervention (and even more overtly “peacemaking” interventions–but that’s a different story) is on the rise, and the U.N. is, for a number of reasons, having difficulty meeting the demand.  As the site explains:

“UN peacekeeping continues to evolve, both conceptually and operationally, to meet new challenges and political realities. Faced with the rising demand for increasingly complex peace operations, the United Nations in the past few years has been overstretched and challenged as never before. The Organization has worked vigorously to strengthen its capacity to manage and sustain field operations and, thus, contribute to the most important function of the United Nations – maintaining international peace and security.”

Regional organizations also provide peacekeepers (with mixed results), but the overall impression one gets is that the demand definitely exceeds the supply, and that moving societies from war to peace requires a greater overall commitment to make these operations effective.

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January 6, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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