Peacekeeping Operations: Evolving the mechanism in 21st Century
Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
In September 2000, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty took on the challenge to build a conceptual bridge between matters of intervention and state sovereignty. The twelve-member independent commission sought to conceive an alternative framework that would articulate dilemmas of interventions and forge some sort of consensus on when and how to intervene. This committee was an extensive, worldwide consultation of scholars, policy makers, and civic leaders that fuelled the development of the final report, The Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which was published in December 2001. R2P was universally endorsed at the 2005 World Summit and then reaffirmed in 2006 by the UN. The Commission steered clear of the paths that had paralyzed the debate on humanitarian intervention in the 1990s. The commission reframed its terms in an ingenious way. Rather than revisiting the right to intervene, it explained sovereignty as the states responsibility to protect its vulnerable population. If the state fails to fulfil this duty then it becomes the responsibility of the international community.
…most of the UN members, stating that if genocide occurs, they must act to stop it. Despite of this set standard the international community failed to act in order to stop the genocide of Tutsis.
Some lessons to be learnt
The Rwandan genocide was the biggest genocide to take place in the 1990’s with an estimated 800,000 deaths. It till this date haunts the international community. The internal conflict was ethnic in nature with the majority Hutus killing the minority community of Tutsis. Rwanda, after World War I came under the mandate of Belgium. The colonial rulers favoured the minority Tutsis community which laid the foundations for the ethnic tensions to strike Rwanda. A revolution by the Hutus had occurred in 1959 which caused Tutsis to flee the country making them even a smaller minority than before. These tensions and ethnic violence continued even after Rwanda received independence from Belgium in 1962. On April 6 1994, a plane carrying the president of Rwanda and Burundi crashed and this marked the start of the massacre which was to come. A Hutu president had been killed, this allowed Hutu extremist militant groups to engage in violence and target the Tutsis.
Genocide is a term defined by the United Nations (UN) convention in 1949 after the end of the Second World War. This convention was ratified by most of the UN members, stating that if genocide occurs, they must act to stop it. Despite of this set standard the international community failed to act in order to stop the genocide of Tutsis. The UN had a presence there in the form of a few commanders and peacekeepers but they were ineffective to say the least. There was not enough done by the UN or any other “western” or “developed” county either. The reasons for this lack of action being firstly that the nature of the conflict was of civil war and foreign states should not interfere in such matters as it would be breaching the sovereignty of a nation. Another reason being that there was not enough awareness on the genocide which was ongoing and hence people did not know about it. Lastly the other countries did not intervene because they did not really care what was going on in this part of the world.
Unfortunately the disaster which took place in Rwanda was not the only failure of the UN and the international community but other genocides have also been ignored. The process of ethnic cleansing which has taken place in Iraq, Sudan, Cambodia, and Bosnia went unnoticed and no action was taken in order to stop it. In 1993 when fighting had resumed, the UN sent a traditional peacekeeping mission United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) in order to help reconcile the parties involved. However when fighting resumed in 1994 this force was called back. It is important to understand why the United Nations decided to pull troops out instead of bringing more in. As mentioned earlier, states and organizations do not want to get involved in autonomy issues. It was seen as a civil war between two legitimate groups that were trying to fight for their autonomy. The second reason the UN did not get itself involved was due to issues surrounding its involvement in local politics.
…the fundamental question of whether UN peacekeeping missions should relate only to traditional peacekeeping, or if they should be deployed in peace enforcement roles or to secure humanitarian aid in on-going conflict zones, continue to be contentious.
The United Nations believes itself to be a neutral organization and will go to great lengths to continue maintaining this neutrality; otherwise it might lose some of its legitimacy. The final reason why they usually do not involve themselves very much in conflicts is because the countries do not want to lose their men. As it was seen in Rwanda, when several soldiers were slaughtered by the government troops, Belgium and Bangladesh decided to pull out their troops. United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) started with over 2,500 military personnel, and when fighting broke out in 1994, UNAMIR was directed to mediate a cease-fire, and to evacuate all but 270 UN personnel. The role of these personnel was not to protect civilians but simply to maintain the cease fire. However this time what started was not the civil war but the ethnic cleansing of the Tutsis.
The lessons from Rwanda and in particular Srebrenica once again called into the question the traditional peace-keeping principles, what they meant and how they should be practiced. The Brahimi report took into account all these factors and was submitted to the Secretary General by the UN High-Level Panel on Peacekeeping in the lead up to the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. Among other things, the report entailed suggestions for much more rapid force deployment, increased use of fact finding missions to enable short-term conflict prevention, heavier use of UN police in post-conflict environments and a number of organizational changes. Commenting on the previous decade, the report stated:
“Where one party to a peace agreement clearly and incontrovertibly is violating its terms, continued equal treatment of all parties by the United Nations can in the best case result in ineffectiveness and in the worst may amount to complicity with evil. No failure did more to damage the standing and credibility of United Nations peacekeeping in the 1990s than its reluctance to distinguish victim from aggressor”.
The report recommended that peacekeeping forces to be better equipped and prepared to act as an effective deterrent. It also suggested that the peacekeeping forces are to uphold human rights and take action in order to protect civilians. This would have been difficult to carry out previously due to the adherence to the principle of impartiality. The report affirms two of the classical principles of peacekeeping but amends the third principle to read: non-use of force except in self defence or in defence of the mandate.
Events such as the Syrian civil war, and the recent Russian intervention in the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, have made the international community question the role of peacekeeping in the coming future with such changes in global politics.
This clarification has enabled peacekeepers to use force to carry out their mandates and use force against a specific party in violation of a relevant UN resolution, without the risk of comprising their impartiality. It has helped commanders on the ground to act more confidently and decisively. It can also be seen to resolve some of the contradictions found in the UNITAF and UNOSOM II mandates in relation to the classical peacekeeping principles. However, the fundamental question of whether UN peacekeeping missions should relate only to traditional peacekeeping, or if they should be deployed in peace enforcement roles or to secure humanitarian aid in on-going conflict zones, continue to be contentious.
It is important that peacekeeping operations, whose mandates have a direct impact on both the lives of UN troops and the people they try to serve in field, remain above opportunism and political considerations. Peacekeeping forces constantly deploy into some of the world’s most hostile environments in defence of the UN Charter and a common humanity; telling us that this humanity transcends national borders, and that we are all responsible for protecting that humanity, wherever the need arises.
Today a detailed research and debate is underway, on the issue of peacekeeping and how to improve it. Peacekeeping has continued to play an extremely important role in global affairs and crisis situations. The lessons in Bosnia and Rwanda gathered great international support for the entire concept, developing the idea of Responsibility to Protect. The Brahimi report in 2000 and the New Horizon Process have been important steps in identifying the shortcomings and faults, and then working on them. Events such as the Syrian civil war, and the recent Russian intervention in the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, have made the international community question the role of peacekeeping in the coming future with such changes in global politics.