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Un Peace-Keeping Forces: The Conditions of Change

  • Iris C. Meijer


United Nations peace-keeping was invented as a creative response to the inability of the United Nations to utilise all the possibilities of the Charter mechanism for collective security. To cover its lack of legal basis, over the years a set of semi-legal conditions was developed for peace-keeping. The recent expansion of peace-keeping operations has caused some changes in these conditions, while some of the current peace-keeping forces have moved so far away from the established format that they cannot even be qualified as true peace-keeping operations any longer. For better or for worse, keeping the peace United Nations style has taken its first irrevocable step towards enforcing it.



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1 D.A. Leurdijk, Verenigde Naties, in Nederlands Agenda voor de Vrede, Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, 15–33 (1993) at 24.

2. In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, based on S/RES/795 (Dec. 11, 1992), to avoid the possible spreading of the Yugoslav conflict into this republic as well.

3. N.D. White, The United Nations and the Maintenance of International Peace and Security at xiv (1990).

4. Fora detailed analysis see D. Ciobanu, The Power of the Security Council to Organize Peace-Keeping Operations, in A. Cassese (ed.), United Nations Peace-keeping, Legal Essays 15–53 (1978).

5. Especially since the vehement opposition of the Soviet Union changed into co-operation and China also altered its negative attitude.

6. These conditions have been distilled from various sources. A selection: Urquhart, B., The future of peace-keeping, 36 NILR 4956 (1989); Liu, Fou-Tchin, United Nations Peace-keeping Operations: Their Importance and Their Limitations in a Polarized World, 201 HR 387400 (1987-I); Kooijmans, P.H., Actuele VN-vredesoperaties, 86 Militair Rechtelijk Tijdschrift 4147 (1993); United Nations Department of Public Information, The Blue Helmets. A Review of United Nations Peace-keeping (3rd ed., 1990); Id., United Nations Peace-keeping, The Facts (1987); Higgins, R., A General Assessment of the United Nations Peace-keeping, in A. Cassese(ed.), United Nations Peace-keeping, Legal Essays 1–14(1978); Blokker, N., Muller, S. & Raič, D., VN Vredesmachten na de Koude Oorlog. Operation Enforcing the Peace?, 47 Internationale Spectator 386393 (1993).

7. It is not likely that this situation will change in the foreseeable future, as Member States do not seem willing to put national contingents under UN auspices on a permanent basis.

8. The only two exceptions to this rule were the contributions the United Kingdom and France made to UNFICYP and UNIFIL respectively.

9. See for instance UN Doc. S/l 1052/Rev.l, para. 4(d), with regard to UNEF II: “Self-defence would include resistance to attempts by forceful means to prevent it [-the Force-] from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council.”

10. For an overview of the events leading up to the Yugoslav crisis, as well as the ethnic tensions underlying it, see R. Vukadinovic, The Break-up of Yugoslavia: Threats and Challenges, Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ (1992), and Lendvai, P., Yugoslavia Without Yugoslavs: The Roots of the Crisis, as translated by Parcell, L., 67 International Affairs 251261 (1991).

11. For an overview of the Somali situation prior to, leading up to and during the conflict, see Africa Watch Report, Somalia. A Government at War with its Own People. Testimonies About the Killings and the Conflict in the North (1990); Rondot, P., l'Evolution politique de la Somalie, 47 Défense Nationale 103118 (1992); Clark, J., Debacle in Somalia, 72 Foreign Affairs 109123 (1993); Stevenson, J., Hope Restored in Somalia, 31 Journal of Modem African Studies 130 (1993).

12. UN Doc. A/47/277 - S/24111.

13. UN Doc. S/25859.

14. In his report UN Doc. S/25939, para. 5.

15. UN Doc. S/25993. para. 7.

16. S/RES/733 (Jan. 23, 1992), para. 5. During an earlier struggle with Ethiopia, which was supported by the Soviet Union, Somalia received large quantities of weapons from the United States. There was therefore no shortage of weapons in the region, rendering this ban largely meaningless.

17. J. Stevenson, supra note 11, at 147 and 148.

18. As authorised by the Council in S/RES/794 (Dec. 3, 1992).

19. S/RES/814(March26, 1993).

20. Lord D. Owen, in an interview on Dutch television (‘NOVA’), July 16, 1993.

21. S/RES/743 (Feb. 21, 1992), 807 (Feb. 19, 1993), 815 (March 30, 1993), 847 (June 30, 1993), 870 (Oct. 1, 1993), 871 (Oct. 4, 1993). This latest extension is valid until March 31, 1994.

22. As opposed to UNEF I, which was withdrawn prematurely from Egyptian territory when its president, Nasser, made it clear that the force was no longer welcome there. This has been labelled the ‘Nasserprecedent’, but the recurrence of such a situation should be thwarted by this new practice.

23. Agenda, supra note 12, para. 20, emphasis added. The fact that the host state, or at least its government, the same entity which effectively gives the permission for the force, is in most cases also a party to the conflict, must also be taken into account here.

24. A clear and practicable mandate, the co-operation of the parties in implementing that mandate, the continuing support of the Security Council, the readiness of Member States to contribute the personnel required, effective United Nations command at the United Nations headquarters and in the field, and adequate financial and logistic support. Id., para. 50.

25. UN Doc. S/25859, at 1.

26. See supra note 21.

27. In UN Doc. S/24353, para. 29.

28. B.J. Durch & B.M. Blechman, Keeping the Peace: The United Nations in the Emerging World Order 39 (1992, The Henry L. Stimson Center).

29. UN Doc. S/25859, at I.

30. This was acknowledged by the Secretary-General when he stated that “UNOSOM II will not be able to implement the […] mandate unless it is endowed with enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the Charter.” UN Doc. S/25354, para. 58. As the Security Council referred to this report when it established UNOSOM II's mandate, it must be assumed that the Council agreed.

31. Reproduced in UN Doc. S/25168, Annexes II–IV.

32. UN Doc. S/25354, para. 57.

33. The Secretary-General estimated a need for about 30,000 troops. UN Doc. 25354/Add. 1, para. 1.

34. See also N. Blokker, S. Muller & D. Raič, supra note 6.

35. See also R.C.R. Siekmann, Juridische Aspecten van de Deelname met Nationale Contingenten aan VN-vredesmachten (Nederland en UNIFIL) 211–233 (1988).

36. Para. 5, taken in conjunction with para. 9.

37. See also K. Zemanek, Peace-keeping or Peace-making, in N. Blokker & S. Muller (Eds.), Towards More Effective Supervision by International Organizations – Essays in Honour of H.G. Schermers (to be published in Spring 1994). He calls to mind the famous cry uttered by the French at the beginning of World War II: “Why should we die for Danzig?”, as well as the American embarrassment over Vietnam.

38. Following the ‘all necessary means’ authorisation given to them in Resolution 836 to support UNPROFOR in carrying out its mandate with regard to the safe areas.

39. UN Doc. S/24868, at 5.

40. UN Doc. S/25859, at 1.

41. Agenda, supra note 12, para. 44.

42. The prime question here is indeed whether the Member States are willing to expand the United Nations this far. When one looks at the Somali operation on the one hand, and the Agenda for Peace and resulting reactions on the other, the indication is that future enforcement action by the United Nations with contributions of personnel on a voluntary, ad hoc, basis may be a distinct possibility, while initiating such actions based on standing forces under Article 43 is where Member States currently draw the 1 ine. The lack of enthusiasm about the Secretary-General's suggestion in the Agenda for Peace concerning peaceenforcement units, for which troops would have to be available on very short notice (which would call for earmarking certain national troops for (his international purpose), is another indication that the Member States do not wish to expand United Nations enforcement action without a definite say in the matter – and a lengthy discussion as to where, when, and how.

43. Streamlining and expanding the Secretariat would of course be a prerequisite for this. The Secretariat must be able to effectively control and execute the operation. To further expedite this, it is time that the repeated cry for improved financing, not to mention the payment of accumulated debts, be heeded at last, as this is urgently needed to cope with the expansion of United Nations tasks after the Cold War.

44. In this context, one must keep in mind that the usual delays in deploying forces may be very detrimental to the aims pursued by preventive deployment. For this kind of peace-keeping therefore, the emphasis should be on rapidly deployable troops.

* I.C. Meijer holds a degree in international law from the University of Leiden. She is currently working on a project for the Department of Public International Law of this University. This article is based on her final thesis for graduation in international law. Research for this article was executed until 1 November 1993.


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