|United Nations University - Work in Progress Newsletter - Volume 14, Number 3, 1995 (UNU, 1995, 12 pages)|
|Between peace-keeping and force - To fill the fatal gap...|
During the Cold War period, peace-keeping operations dealt almost exclusively with governments and with conflicts between states. When they departed from this role - as in the Congo in the 1960s or South Lebanon in the 1980s - they encountered greater difficulties with relationships with non-governmental forces and over the basic question of the limited use of force. During these years, in other words, the limitations of peace-keeping operations and their essential nature and method of operation were understood and, to a large extent, respected.
What is most lacking at present is the capacity for immediate and effective action after a Security Council decision and before the situation becomes unmanageable. To fill this vital gap something new is required: a body of people who are already trained and who can be committed immediately to an uncertain situation without the problem of governmental consent which inevitably qualifies all stand-by arrangements.
Various proposals have been made, starting in 1948, for some sort of UN Legion, UN volunteer force, UN rapid deployment group and so on. A number of intensive studies are now being made to evolve a blueprint of the nature, functioning, make-up, feasibility and wider context of such a group. Clearly, we are not looking for a substitute, either for peace-keeping or for enforcement action. We are seeking rather something that could fill the fatal gap between them.
The functions of such an entity, broadly speaking, would be:
(1) to provide an immediate and convincing UN presence on the ground;
(2) to pin down cease-fires, protect civilians, provide communications and information, etc.;
(3) to determine the nature of the local situation and degree of local cooperation with the UN by those involved;
(4) to protect and assist efforts at negotiation, conciliation, etc.;
(5) to make an informed estimate of possibilities of and conditions for future UN action (including peacekeeping and humanitarian actions), and to suggest essential elements of that action.
In several recent episodes - in, for example, Haiti, Rwanda or Somalia - such a capacity would quite probably have preempted the necessity of later, much larger, more expensive and less effective UN interventions.